The Zips (3-1) were picked to finish second, behind Ohio, in the Mid-American Conference East Division by the leagues media members. They're coming off a 123-52 thrashing of Division III Denison Wednesday, but have lost their last three road games dating back to last season.
Akron figures to pose some problems for the Cardinals defense today. They've shot over 50 percent from the field in their last two games, including 50.9 percent at California last weekend. Three of their five starters, including forward Romeo Travis who leads the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game, average double-figures.
"They're really impressive," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I've never seen a team that has as many offensive sets as they have. So we've had a lot to prepare for."
"They have outstanding talent, they're deep and well drilled," said Pitino. "They have the preseason player of the year in the MAC (Travis), they shoot it well, and they shoot it sometimes from the five spot out to the three-point line. This is a tough ball game."
Akron coach Keith Dambrot isn't afraid to use his bench. The Zips have routinely used a nine- or 10-man rotation this season, with eight averaging 15 or more minutes per game. The Zips have also been unselfish on offense, averaging 20.8 assists-per-game.
Cards need big effort from David Padgett
today against Akron.
Akron reserve center Rob Preston has given the Zips a huge lift off the bench this season. He's averaging 10.5 points, and scored a career-high 18 points in 20 minutes off the bench last Saturday at Cal.
"We've got to play great defense," Pitino said. "They challenge you to think and play on every pass because they are so dangerous from the three-point line and inside. And they bring a big guy off the bench that plays a lot like Kevin Pittsnogle. So they cause a lot of problems for anybody's defense."
The Cardinals are coming off a grueling three game in three day stretch that culminated with Monday nights 53-45 win over Richmond. The Cardinals overcame a 10 point second half deficit against the Spiders, largely because of Taquan Dean's 30 points. Forward Juan Palacios and center David Padgett combined for just eight points.
"We understand we're not the fifth-ranked team," said Pitino. "All we're trying to do is get in shape. We don't pay attention to the rankings because we didn't earn those rankings. Last year's team earned those rankings. These guys are concerned about where we're going to be at the end of the year, not where we're ranked in the polls right now."
Pitino said Friday that he wasn't too concerned by Palacios and Padgett's lack of offensive production against the Spiders.
"It didn't concern me that our interior people didn't score because they're both getting into shape," explained Pitino. "Tello and David are not in good condition right now, nor should they be from the amount of times they've practiced."
Pitino sounded pleased with the progress his team has made in recent days, and said he expects his young squad to improve immensely in the next few weeks before Big East Conference play begins.
"I think our progress is good," Pitino said. "We've only been practicing fully healthy three or four days. When we get into the inter-session period, get into double-sessions and guys aren't in school and we can practice, that's when you'll see the most improvement. Right now we're just trying to get David, Tello, and Brian into shape so they can practice."