Louisville prepares for NCAA Sweet 16

INDIANAPOLIS - The University of Louisville basketball team practiced on Thursday morning for a couple of hours at the Indiana Pacers facility. The Cardinals then had a shoot around at Lucas Oil Stadium in preparation for Friday's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Oregon. Here are a few notes from the U of L camp.

THE DEBATE HAS STARTED

Walking into Lucas Oil Stadium brought back some bad memories for University of Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee.

He was a player on U of L's top-seeded team in 2009 that beat Arizona in the Sweet 16 round at Lucas Oil and then were upset by Michigan State in the Elite Eight round that season.

With the Cardinals back in Lucas Oil and playing another Pac-12 team, many are debating which of the U of L teams is stronger 2009 or 2013?

"I'm a little biased," McGee said. "I think Jerry and I would have worn these guys (Peyton Siva and Russ Smith) down.

"Remember, we have four guys who wore an NBA jersey on that team."

U of L junior guard Russ Smith said about McGee, "he would say that."

"I think we would get them," Smith said. "But that's just me. I don't want to get into that too much but I think the whole team feels that way."

Junior center Gorgui Dieng had a strong feeling.

"(McGee) just likes to talk," Dieng said. "We would beat them by 20."

CARDS NOT ON THE ROAD THIS YEAR

One year ago, U of L was shipped out West and made it to the Final Four by going through Portland and then Phoenix.

Coach Rick Pitino kept the team out West between sessions, saying he wanted to make sure they stayed focused.

"Don't get m wrong, I liked last year being on the West Coast," sophomore Chane Behanan said. "But it's nice being closer to home. Our family and friends get to come and see us play. Instead of against us, the crowd is with us."

Kevin Ware said the players went back to classes and worked out at the Yum Center practice facility after winning in Lexington last weekend.

"I am kind of the normal, low-key guy," Ware said. "Coach kind of felt last year he didn't want us to be distracted. This year, we're very focused."

Dieng agreed: "We feel like we're playing a home game and that's fun. I think we are focused. I think we really are. We are very focused and we are very humble."

CARDS COMPARED TO THE DUCKS

Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman was asked about U of L's pressure defense and style of play and compared the Cardinals to Oregon football.

Altman noted the Cardinals are tough to prepare for because of the defensive pressure and their fast pace.

"We've made the comparison that it's almost the same situation that our football team runs into when teams are trying to prepare for them," Altman said. "They play so much faster and their team speed is different.

"I don't think teams can really get ready for our football team."

U of L guard Kevin Ware said the comparison was "big."

"Oregon is one of the top teams in the country," he said. "For him to put that on us, that's some pressure."

SMITH EARNS ANOTHER HONOR

Russ Smith said he "never really thought it about," but noted some of the postseason honors he's received have "been an honor."

The latest was being named a third-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

"I think it means more to my high school coaches, my prep school coach and coach Pitino," Smith said. "I've come a long way."

THE BEARD KEEPS GROWING

Junior guard Luke Hancock still has his "playoff beard" growing and as a fan of the hit reality TV series Duck Dynasty, he's hoping it keeps growing.

"I hope it gets there," Hancock said, referring to the beard looking like his favorite member of the family, Uncle Si.


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