Weekly Louisville basketball notebook

Cardinal Authority's weekly look at some notes surrounding the University of Louisville basketball program and the Big East Conference.


University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said one difference this coming season is that his team will be tested early.

The Cardinals played a lot of ho-hum home games last season but this year Pitino said the "early part of our schedule is a challenge."

U of L will open against Manhattan and former U of L assistant coach Steve Masiello before heading to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, which is a tournament that features six teams that will likely be ranked.

"We have to be ready," Pitino said. "Look, Steve Masiello was begging us to play him the first game of the season. He won 20 something games last year, he has a all five of his starters back and he know we are not ready early.

"I know the game that he's up too. And then we head to the Bahamas, so we have to be ready to go early. This is a team that I think can handle that."

Pitino said he didn't believe last year's team could have handled it and that's why he "didn't want to leave home," early in the season.

"There's a reason for that type of scheduling," he said. "It all depends on the type of players that you have. This team should be able to play a tough schedule and handle it early. But it's still going to be a test for us for sure."


The Big East Conference is once again expected to be loaded with talented teams this season. But Pitino believes three teams stick out in the league this season

"Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville will be the top three in the league," he said. "Notre Dame has all five starters back. You can't go ahead and say now that's going to be an overtime or double-overtime game. It always is.

"Syracuse is going to be really good. If you look at it our non-conference schedule is going to be much tougher than last year and our conference is just as tough. The conference is going to be tough like it always is."


Russ Smith admitted it's been a great offseason.

The Cardinals made it to the Final Four last season, there's been a lot of hype and the junior guard has drawn a lot of attention from the fans.

"When I think back to last year, it's just a great feeling," Smith said. "I always think about it and I get the same feeling, like we were still there."

But now, Smith is ready to get rid of that feeling.

The native of New York and fan-favorite said he's anxious to get the season going, even if that means tough pre-season practices.

"I can't wait," Smith said. "We've all been working hard and I am just so ready. We have a lot of work to do, we know that but I just want it to get here."


It appears that Pitino has already started to make sure his players realize the Cardinals have to keep working hard to reach their goals.

Sophomore Chane Behanan said last week in an interview that the key to the season isn't ranking but "how hungry we stay."

"We have to swallow out pride, stay humble and get it done," Behanan said. "We know how much work it took last year, now we need to do more."


U of L announced five additional game times and television appearances for the upcoming season that weren't part of the original schedule release.

Each of the five games will be televised on the Big East Network and will air locally on WHAS.

The new game times are Jan. 2 hosting Providence at 7 p.m.; Jan. 12 hosting South Florida at 4 p.m.; Jan. 22 at Villanova at 8 p.m.; Feb. 6 at Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 23 hosting Seton Hall at noon.

There are still other game times to be released.


New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco was in Louisville recently and spoke with the media. During his 10-minute Q&A with the local media gave Rick Pitino and his basketball program some major props on several occasions.

At one point, Aresco caught himself and said, "Oh, I don't want to jinx them."

The commissioner was talking about the state of the conference and how the basketball portion was still "the strongest in the country" when he mentioned several programs and said:

"Coach Pitino and the Cardinals are probably going to win the national title, but I don't want to jinx them," he said with a smile.


Senior point guard Peyton Siva flashing his new Final Four ring gave Pitino some props for designing the ring:

"I guess Coach P does have a little style when it comes to jewelry," Siva said.

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