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Can't rule out Cards in East Regional

Early exit or Final Four - Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he wouldn't be surprised by either this season.

Early exit or Final Four - Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he wouldn't be surprised by either this season.

Well, how 'bout another Sweet 16 for the Cardinals, a team the coach doesn't compare with his best but refuses to give up on, either.

Terry Rozier had 25 points and seven assists, and Pitino coaxed the undermanned, fourth-seeded Cards to a 66-53 victory Sunday night over Northern Iowa in an East Regional game in Seattle.

"Tonight, we played our best game of the season," Pitino said.

The fifth-seeded Panthers (31-4) were a popular pick in this one, trying to recreate their 2010 victory over a different blueblood (Kansas) and make another trip to the second weekend.

But Pitino's harassing defense that morphed from the 2-3 zone to man-to-man and back again made life rough on UNI's best player, Seth Tuttle, holding him to seven shots and 14 hard-earned points.

Now, the Cardinals (26-8) find themselves in the Sweet 16 for a program-record fourth straight year, and in the free-for-all that is now the East Regional, it's silly to count them out for a third trip to the Final Four since 2012. Louisville will play eighth-seeded North Carolina State on Friday in Syracuse. A win in that one, and it could be Pitino vs. Tom Izzo, whose Michigan State team is on the other side of that bracket.

Not bad for a team playing with an eight-man rotation - one that took a hit with the dismissal of starting guard Chris Jones last month.

"We had to rally around it," Pitino said. "We have a short bench. But these guys don't take a play off, and that's unusual in this world."

Trimble OK

Point guard Melo Trimble flew back to College Park with the rest of the Maryland team Monday morning.

The star freshman left the Terps' 69-59 loss to West Virginia Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, with what the team termed only a "head injury." He was not taken to a hospital after the game, the spokesman said.

Trimble was knocked out of the Terps' third-round game twice.

He was dropped by a hard screen from West Virginia forward Nathan Adrian early in the second half.

He returned but left again for good at the 8:25 mark after he was accidentally kicked in the back of the head by teammate Damonte Dodd.

Tournament ratings

The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament drew the highest ratings in 22 years for CBS Sports and Turner Sports.

The networks announced that the weekend's third-round coverage across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV delivered a 7.3/16 overnight rating/share.

That's a 7 percent increase from last year.