No. 24 Louisville hosts San Francisco

Louisville (6-0) moved into the Top 25 this week, ranks sixth nationally in scoring, and has limited opponents to 34.5 percent field goal shooting. Still, Rick Pitino has a lot of unanswered questions about his team heading into tonight's game against San Francisco.

Louisville moved into the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week for the first time this season and take a 6-0 mark into Wednesday's game against San Francisco at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cardinals are averaging 87.5 points per game and have beaten their first six opponents by an average of 25 points.

Still, Rick Pitino has a lot of unanswered questions about his team.

"We have guarded optimism," Pitino said. "The reason it's guarded optimism is we just don't know what to expect. The coaches are having a lot of fun with this team and I think the fans are enjoying the basketball team."

Though six games, all five Louisville starters are averaging double figures scoring. Sophomore forward Mike Marra leads the team in scoring at 13 points per game, while junior center Terrence Jennings and sophomore guard Peyton Siva have the lowest scoring average of the five starters at 10.7 points.

"I'm very optimistic with this basketball team," Pitino said. "But there are days in practice when I can't tell you who the best basketball player on this team is. This is the first time I've ever seen that. I think they're all good basketball players. It's just a very close basketball team in terms of talent and skills."


Pitino wonders about his team's undeniable balance.

"Are they all just average players? Are they all very good players?" Pitino said. "We may know tonight and Saturday. We'll find out a lot more about our basketball team."

Despite a good win over Butler to open the season, Louisville has feasted on a schedule that ranks 216th-best nationally. That's a major reason Pitino still isn't sure how good his team really is heading into tonight's game against the Dons, who are ranked No. 250 in the RPI.

"Every single game out they have gotten the job done," Pitino said. "They've passed every test but that doesn't mean they're a great basketball team, a good team or a mediocre basketball team."

Pitino will find out more about his team this weekend against No. 20 UNLV. The Runnin' Rebels are 8-0, and rank as the second most proficient shooting team in the nation, connecting on 53.9 percent of its shots. UNLV also plays defense, limiting opponents to 36 percent field goal shooting, ninth-best nationally.

"The schedule will get very difficult starting this week," Pitino said. "We're going to have to make great strides. We're nowhere near where we need to be to open up the Big East schedule, but these guys are willing to pay the price to make those strides. So they're fun to coach."

Though Louisville has been blowing out the opposition to date, Pitino knows the scores are going to get closer, particularly with UNLV heading to town for Saturday's Top 25 showdown.

"There are going to be a lot of close games coming up," Pitino said. "How we execute down the stretch will be interesting."

Offense appears to be Louisville's strong suit. The Cardinals are the sixth highest scoring team nationally. All five starters average double figures. And Louisville's bench is averaging 33 points per contest. The Cardinals rank sixth nationally with 19 assists per game and also average 8.2 three's per game, second-best in the Big East conference.

"We're very happy with our offense," said Pitino. "There are a lot of things that we're happy about. We're happy with the unselfishness, the assist-turnover ratio. There are a lot of positive signs, but we have to improve a great deal."

Pitino especially wants to see his veterans step up their play. Specifically, he wants senior guard Preston Knowles to play great defense like he did as a sophomore, and junior forward Kyle Kuric to do a better job on the offensive boards.

"I've still got to get a lot of veterans playing better," Pitino said. "I'm very pleased with the young guys, I'm not as happy with the veterans. It's the opposite for the first time in a while. I'm really happy with Peyton Siva. He's very fast in the open court and making much better decisions and playing good defense."

Though his team ranks fourth nationally in steals, sixth in field goal percentage defense, seventh in blocked shots and tenth in three-point shooting defense, Pitino wants his team to continue improving its defense.

"We've got to get a lot better defensively with our press, as well as our half court," Pitino said.

As for San Francisco, the Dons use an unusual1-3-1 zone defense and will challenge the Cardinals on the boards. The Dons are out-rebounding their opponents by seven for the season.

"That's different than anybody plays," Pitino said SFU's zone. "It's a little unique what they do defensively. You've got to make sure you take good shots. We've got to create a lot of movement against it."

Pitino said Kuric won't play because of a concussion sustained last week against FIU, but should be available Saturday against UNLV.


Cardinal Authority Top Stories