Pitino and Smith will renew acquaintances on Saturday when No. 13 Louisville (6-1) hosts No. 9 Kentucky (6-1).
Pitino, 19-1 all-time against former assistant coaches and players, is 7-1 against Smith, with the loss coming in 2001. Louisville has won the last two matchups in the series, including a 65-56 victory last season in Lexington.
However, this meeting could be entirely different. Kentucky has a serious height advantage up front in 7-foot-3 Shagari Alleyne and 6-10 Randolph Morris, while Louisville doesn't have anyone taller than 6-8.
The Cardinals also know they have to play much smarter than they did in Tuesday's 85-51 win over North Carolina A&T.
Though 6-4 swingman Larry O'Bannon shot 10-of-14 and had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Louisville was mediocre from the floor, connecting on just 43.2 percent (29-of-67). The Cardinals were just 18-of-33 from the free-throw line and committed 22 turnovers.
The Cardinals won the rebounding battle decisively (58-40) and forced 24 turnovers, but Pitino said his players got away with a lot of things against inferior North Carolina A&T that they will not be able to pull against Kentucky.
"We called a timeout to specifically talk about blocking out, and the very next time down the floor, we didn't do it," Pitino said. "We're still not blocking out like we are supposed to. We got a 'W' but we didn't play our 'A' game."
Otis George could provide some help on the boards for the Cardinals as he may return from a right foot injury. The 6-8 senior forward averaged 8 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games before suffering a pre-stress fracture in his right foot at practice on Nov. 28.
"It's going to have to be there for us for us to have a chance to win," Pitino said of the importance of rebounding. "This is the deepest, the most talented Kentucky team we will have faced. Whether it's the best or not remains to be seen because last year's team was quite extraordinary. But they've got more challenges this year than we had last year. We didn't have to worry about their size last year as a factor."
In addition to the lackluster effort in their last game, the Cardinals are also dealing with a bit of off-the-court turmoil. On Wednesday, Pitino dismissed 6-10 freshman center Terrance Farley from the team for a violation of team rules. However, on Thursday, Pitino said Farley may be able to return to the team at a later date.
Kentucky is playing its second straight game at Freedom Hall. Last Saturday, the Wildcats used their strong interior presence to defeat Indiana 73-58. Chuck Hayes, Morris and Alleyne combined for 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting as the Wildcats won their second straight game following a loss to then-No. 9 North Carolina on Dec. 4.
Alleyne has 14 blocked shots in the last three games and is shooting 15-of-21 from the field.
"We feel like that's one of the things were doing better," Smith said about his team's interior play. "I just mentioned we're not shooting the ball well from the outside. We're shooting it better inside. We'll have to find ways to maybe get the ball to our post players."
Kentucky leads the all-time series 23-12.