The Cardinals, decimated by injuries, will be without reserve forwards Mike Marra and Rakeem Buckles and freshman wing Wayne Blackshear. But an ankle injury to starting point guard Peyton Siva could make road life difficult on Pitino's Cardinals.
If Siva can't play – and it appears doubtful that he will – Pitino isn't sure how he'll proceed. He could go with Elijah Justice, but the sophomore is nursing a groin injury that has limited his quickness. He could elect to experiment with Russ Smith at the point, despite the sophomore's questionable decision making and penchant for hoisting shots.
"This is the type of game you throw a lot of things against the wall and hope something will stick," Pitino said. "Player-wise, as well as strategy we're going to do a lot of different things in this game."
Pitino is concerned about the health of Siva, Louisville's top player and leader. After missing eight days of practice with a concussion, Siva now appears on the shelf with a badly sprained ankle suffered in practice this week when he stepped on Justice's foot.
Though Pitino said Siva could see spot-duty in an "isolated situation" at the end of the game, the UofL coach expressed doubt he'll play Saturday – or even next week when the Cardinals play three games at the KFC Yum Center.
"We're not sure about Peyton Siva," Pitino said. "I would say he's doubtful unless he practices tomorrow and makes a big recovery -- we don't expect him to play. Who we're going to use in his place I have no idea right now."While Pitino fully anticipates Siva returning in the near future he does worry about the missed practice time as a result of his two recent injuries.
"The main thing is he's got to get back to practicing," said Pitino. "He's missed almost three weeks of practice. That's a lot."
Without Siva in the lineup, Louisville won't be as good at either end of the court. The junior point guard leads the team in assists and is third in steals.
"We're not as fast or athletic," said Pitino. "He's our best basketball player and whoever you put in for him is not going to be as good offensively or defensively."
Further complicating matters at the point for Louisville is Butler's senior point guard Ronald Nored, a defensive ball-hawk and key contributor to the Bulldogs national championship appearances the past two seasons.
"He's one of the premier defensive point guards in the country," Pitino said. "Any time you're in this scenario you just have to put the players on the floor and see what works best."
Butler, which is replacing star guard Shelvin Mack, has struggled a bit to start the season. The Bulldogs lost an exhibition contest to Northern State, and dropped their season opener at Evansville in overtime. Butler beat Chattanooga on Tuesday.
"They're always different early on," said Pitino. "Teams like Butler and Louisville are not on all cylinders. They have a young team. We're banged up and injured. We both hope as the year goes on we're on all cylinders."
Butler coach Brad Stevens still has plenty of talented pieces to work with. Nored is an experienced guard who plays stingy defense. 6'11 center Andrew Smith and wings Chase Stigall and Khyle Marshall have Final Four experience. Sophomore guard Chrishawn Hopkins has emerged as a big-time scoring threat who is averaging 17 points per game.
"He's got a very young team that is going to get better and better as the season goes on," said Pitino. "They have a lot of very good shooters. They play excellent defense. We're really excited because this is a true road game."
Hitting the road this early in the season wasn't something Pitino wanted to do, but the Cardinals had no choice after Butler agreed to play the first game in the KFC Yum Center last season.
"I didn't want to play a true road game third game of the season even if we didn't have an injury," Pitino said. "I'd like it to be the fifth or sixth game. They were nice enough to open up our arena so we're at their call. But for us it's a great game. We like playing teams that play great defense and challenge you every possession. This team will."
The game also provides an interesting coaching contrast between one of the game's top all-time coaches (Pitino) and one of college basketball's rising stars (Stevens).
"He's not only done it with great execution, he's had good fortune which doesn't happen too often," Pitino said of Stevens. "I think with a good attitude comes good fortune. He's done a remarkable job and hasn't been tempted to go elsewhere. He's very content. He's got it going on all fronts. Although he's a young coach, he's wide beyond his years."
Though Louisville is dealing with injury issues, Pitino will welcome back junior center Stephan Van Treese. The 6'9 Van Treese has missed six weeks because of a strained knee, but could make his debut against Butler.
"What we try and do with guys like Stephan is make sure he's 100 percent strength wise," Pitino said. "He's ready to play right now, he could even start in this game. He's ready for that." Van Treese will help provide needed frontcourt depth for the Cardinals, especially with Rakeem Buckles still sidelined with an injury.
"I feel in pretty good shape," Van Treese said. "I feel like I hustle and play balls to wall all the time. I've just got to do my best and get rebounds."
With his lineup in flux, Pitino is imploring senior forward Kyle Kuric to step his game up and become a "great" player for Louisville. Kuric, who is averaging 10 points per game, scored just six points against Lamar. Pitino wants to see more diversity from Kuric's game.
"Kyle has to step out of his comfort zone and do more things," Pitino said. "If he wants to be good he'll stay in it. If he wants to be great he'll come out of it. The other night, Kyle went after greatness in the first half and then the defense went to stop him and he did nothing about that. That doesn't mean he's got to be scoring all the time, but he should have had 2 or 3 rebounds, 2 or 3 steals. He should have done other things to get out of that comfort zone."