12:00 PM ET, February 24, 2008
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
The math is getting easy for Rick Pitino.If No. 18 Louisville wins just two of its final four games, the Cardinals (21-6, 11-3 Big East) will likely earn a top-four seed in next month's Big East tournament and the all-important bye that comes along with it.Not that Pitino is ready to look ahead. The Cardinals know they can't afford to on Sunday when they play at Pittsburgh (19-7, 7-6). The injury-ravaged Panthers have struggled at times this season but remain one of the most dangerous teams in the conference."They're a tough team, they always are," Pitino said. "I honestly couldn't tell you right now if you gave me a choice, who I'd like to play (in the Big East tournament) if you say I can pick any team to play, I don't know who I'd pick that's how tough it is."Maybe, but it's a road that could be a little easier if the Cardinals can get some much-needed time off when they get to New York for the tournament. Pitino said a month ago he thought Louisville would need to win eight of its final 10 to get a top-four seed. The Cardinals have won six straight, and now running the table doesn't seem entirely out of the question."Obviously our first goal is to win the regular season championship, to win all 4 games," Pitino said. "The second thing is, if you don't achieve that, is to get a bye."Louisville should be well-rested following a 61-50 win over Syracuse on Monday. It was a game the Cardinals may not have been able to win two months ago. Do-everything center David Padgett got into early foul trouble, but the Cardinals survived despite Padgett taking just one shot in 17 foul-plagued minutes.In Padgett's place stepped reserves like Derrick Caracter, who scored seven points in the first half to keep the Cardinals in it."He got a couple of offensive rebounds and putbacks and just to have guys like that who can come in and do something like that -- you don't, you don't have to try to squeeze it out until halftime," Padgett said. "You can stay aggressive with your game plan and keep doing what you wanted to do. It is just a luxury that we really enjoy having. A lot of teams don't have that."The game also featured just how far Louisville has in the last six weeks. The team that looked lost at times when Padgett wasn't on the floor has found a way to play well even without Padgett helping run the offense from the high post."We can endure some hardships throughout the course of a game and we did it against Syracuse," Pitino said. "We made them take difficult shots the whole night and that was the key. They never really got clean looks at the basket, regardless of what happened to us."Pittsburgh is coming off a tough 82-70 loss to Notre Dame on Thursday and will be trying to avoid losing three straight for just the second time during coach Jamie Dixon's tenure. The Panthers, though, are getting healthier. Guard Levance Fields returned during a loss to Marquette after missing 12 games with a broken foot. He joins Sam Young and center DeJuan Blair as the nucleus of one of the Big East's most physical teams.While Pittsburgh has made the Petersen Events Center one of the toughest venues in the Big East to play, the Cardinals haven't been intimidated by going on the road this season. Louisville is 7-2 in games played on an opponent's home floor."To win on the road you have to pretty much do everything perfect so we are going to go in there and keep playing the same defense that we've been playing because that has been our staple all year," Padgett said. "We are going to have to win the backboard, but we are going to have to win the backboard for every game. It is going to be a tough test for us, but I think we are looking forward to it."
|Avg Points Allowed||61.3||65.2|
|Conference||Big East||Big East|