No. 13 Louisiana prepares to battle angry No. 4 Louisvillequote>

NASHVILLE - No one here thinks Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns have a chance to knock off No. 4 seed Louisville today in NCAA Tournament first-round play.

Other than coach Robert Lee, his No. 13-seeded squad, and some diehard fans, many think the Cardinals are Final Four bound and should have been a higher seed, and so should march past Louisiana in short order.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his players voiced respect for the Cajuns on Thursday, so apparently they figure they won't get a bye to the next round.

Either that, or they're saying all the right things on the eve of the opener.

"They're impressive," Pitino said. "They're the toughest first-round matchup I've ever had in the NCAA Tournament.

"They have four players who play multiple positions. They're extremely athletic. They've got a 6-11 center who shoots 3's like a guard, so you can't lay off of him. They have a veteran club that's won 20 games four years in a row.

"They're all seniors and juniors. They're experienced, talented and great athletes. That's what happens when you get a No. 4 seed."

"I believe them when they say they respect us," said Cajun senior Tiras Wade. "I don't think they overlook any of their opponents. At the same time, that means they don't get surprised, so that makes it more difficult for us.

"We have to match their intensity. Coach Pitino's teams always play real hard, so we have to come out with a sense of intensity and urgency. We have to do the right thing at the right time."

The last time Louisiana notched an NCAA victory was 1992, when they were also No. 13 and knocked out No. 4 Oklahoma 87-83 in Tempe, Ariz., so it can be done.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity for us," Cajun coach Robert Lee said. "I feel we have the team that's capable of it. We've been in the NCAA three of the last six years, and been to the NIT twice in that time, so we've shown we can get to postseason.

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Bruce Brown