Cards face tough challenge from West Virginia

It will be a contrast of styles this afternoon at 4:40 p.m. when future Big East Conference mates Louisville and West Virginia tip it off in the Elite Eight in Albuquerque.

Questions from the media prior to the Cardinals last two tournament games have been directed at the coaches of Georgia Tech and Washington and how they would prepare for Louisville's 2-3 zone defense. This week, the questions have turned to U of L head coach Rick Pitino.

The Cardinals Elite Eight matchup against future Big East Conference mate West Virginia will provide a constrast in style, as the Mountaineers frequently utilize the rarely used 1-3-1 zone defense.

"We haven't faced a 1-3-1 all year," said Pitino. "We've played 36 games and we've not faced a 1-3-1. The good thing is we have practiced it throughout the year and this is the best 1-3-1 that you'll face."

The unique Mountaineer defense has been effective throughout the season, helping WVU to impressive postseason wins over Boston College and Villanova in the Big East Conference tournament, as well as Creighton, Wake Forest and Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament.

"They are very good at that time they try to keep the ball on one side of the floor they try to stop it from going to the middle," continued Pitino. "We know this is a great basketball team. We know they play a unique defense."

However, as WVU proved during it's double-overtime win over Wake Forest, the Mountaineers also run an effective offense.

"They have centers that step out and shoot the three," Pitino said. "We've seen that a lot lately. We saw it with Louisiana-Lafayette, we saw it with Washington. But now it takes it to a new level they're a great shooting team. They run. They're a Princeton with much better talent in their offense and they speed it up a little bit more. They're very tough to play against at all phases of the game. Any team that beats Wake Forest gets your attention right away, forgetting the fact that they beat Creighton, Boston College, Villanova, all top-20 teams. They're an excellent basketball team."

For WVU head coach John Beilein the 4th-ranked Cardinals present a number of matchup problems, including Ellis Myle's ability to effectively distribute the ball.

"I'm really impressed with their assist numbers," said Beilein. "Their center (Myles) has 100 assists. That might be the only center type in the country with 100 assists."

WVU starting forward Mike Gansey says that the 32-4 Cardinals are dangerous offensively, both from outside, as well as inside the paint.

"They're a great team," said Gansey. "They're well coached and it's going to be a real tough battle tomorrow because they can not only shoot but they can drive to the hoop. They've got good big men, they can rebound; they do everything great."

No Slipper?
While most throughout the country have been quick to label West Virginia as a Cinderella story, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and his players feel differently.

"This is not a Cinderella story and they don't have a Cinderella coach." said Pitino. "They have one of the premiere coaches in the game."

5th-year senior Ellis Myles agreed.

"We have a lot of respect for them as coach said they had knocked off about five top 20 teams so we have a lot of respect for them," Myles said. "I guess it is just two teams with respect for one another."

NOTES:

  • Louisville leads the all-time series between the two programs 2-1. The two teams last met on Feb. 14, 1980, when the Cardinals defeated the Mountaineers, 90-78, in Morgantown. WVU's lone victory against Louisville came in the Final Four of the 1958-59 season when the Mountaineers defeated Louisville in the semifinals at Freedom Hall.
  • WVU is 19-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points in a game.

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