Louisville will take the court for the first time since defeating Northern Kentucky 83-66 Oct. 31 in a game that saw the Cardinals play well for a half before struggling defensively and with turnovers down the stretch.
While Northern Kentucky pushed the Cardinals in the second half, Pitino expects Kentucky Wesleyan, which returns four starters from last season's 29-5 team, to provide a good test for his young team. KWU lost recently to Evansville (71-69) and South Carolina (71-58). The Panthers out-rebounded both teams.
"Kentucky Wesleyan is going to give us really good competition," Pitino said. "They don't have a deep bench, but they lost on a tip-in at Evansville and played South Carolina real tough."
Pitino said Kentucky Wesleyan will help prepare the Cardinals for next weeks game against Butler.
"Their defensive philosophy is similar to Butler," Pitino said. "So it will be good experience for us. We're putting them through a scouting report the same routine that we'll put them through next week."
Pitino is hoping to see his team improve defensively in the second exhibition this season. Louisville defended North. Kentucky well in the first half, holding them to just 24 percent shooting, but allowed the Division II opponent to make 50 percent from the floor after the break.
Pitino said that his second unit has been getting the better of his starters more often than not in practice. That's one reason Pitino plans to start Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese and Chris Smith against Kentucky Wesleyan. Point guard Peyton Siva and small forward Kyle Kuric will be the other two starters.
"I'm going to play different combinations to see if we're starting the right combinations," Pitino said. "Stephan Van Treese doesn't care about scoring. He cares about rebounding, getting up and down the floor and setting up screens. He's a selfless player that helps the team win. He may be better with certain people. He plays very well with Gorgui."
Another reason the reserves have enjoyed success against the starters in practice? Better passing, especially from big men Dieng and Van Treese.
"The reason the White team beats the Red team is Gorgui, Van Treese and Marra...have much more assists than Buckles, TJ and Kyle [Kuric]. Gorgui and Van Treese get a lot of assists and the other guys don't. That's the difference."
Dieng showed lots of promise in Louisville's first exhibition game, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in reserve of junior center Terrence Jennings.
"From a defensive standpoint he doesn't know a whole lot," said Pitino. "He's very offensively gifted in terms of his knowledge, but he's limited from a defensive standpoint. He doesn't know how to get through screens or fronting the post. From the first day of practice he's been an impact player for us offensively. But defensively he has a long way to go. He's very hungry and humble to be the best player he can be."
Pitino also sounded pleased with Siva's development since his five point, five assist, four turnover outing against North. Kentucky.
"The only guy I see right now who has made dramatic improvement the last two weeks is Peyton Siva," Pitino said. "He's not turning the ball over, being very careful, thinking more, acting more like a point guard."
With the season opener looming, two Cardinals remain sidelined with injury. Junior forward Jared Swopshire has missed all preseason practice with a strained groin, but began light rehab this week. Russell Smith, a freshman point guard, remains out with a fractured right foot.
"Jared is out for the long haul," Pitino said. "Russ probably will be back on the basketball court by Thanksgiving."
That's great news for a team looking to play at a much faster pace this season. The Cardinals have been practicing with a 24 second shot clock and have considered it a turnover if they don't cross halfcourt in three seconds. That style led to 237 points in two scrimmages, and 83 in the first exhibition game.
"This is a team that will get better every week," Pitino said. "Whether that's enough to beat Butler remains to be seen. I don't think you'll know too many things about this basketball team until January because they have great potential and upside. They can all get better, every position can get significantly better."
Pitino believes his team's new uptempo pace has rejuvenated things on the court for his program.
"Everybody is going to have fun, the players are having fun, I'm having fun, and [fans] will enjoy watching us," Pitino said. "Now we've got to put it into wins. We've always run, just not at this pace."
GAME FACTS - Louisville vs. Kentucky Wesleyan
Date: Thursday, Nov. 11
Time: 7:07 p.m. ET
TV: WHAS (Ch. 11 in Louisville) will televise the game, with Drew Deener (play-by-play) and Roger Burkman (analyst) calling the action.
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) will broadcast the game on radio, with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Doug Ormay (analyst) calling the action.
Last Meeting: U of L 93, Kentucky Wesleyan 68; (exhibition on Nov. 19, 2006, in Louisville, Ky.)
Satellite Coordinates: Galaxy 16, Transponder 12, (C band; downlink frequency 3940 vertical; data rate: 40.461470Mb; symbol: 29.27)
Next U of L Game: Tuesday, Nov. 16 vs. Butler in the KFC Yum! Center, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)