It's a big game, too. Two Top 10 teams. ESPN2. Two great coaches on the sidelines and lots of talented players on the court. 20,000 crazed fans clad in red. What more could you ask for?
"I'm definitely looking forward to Big East play," Louisville guard Brandon Jenkins said. "We've been talking about the Big East for awhile and it's finally here. Villanova is our first game and we have to take it one game at a time. They have some tough guards and we better be prepared."
"It's fun to get prepared to play all of these great teams," freshman Terrence Williams added.
Jenkins has enjoyed a breakout season as a junior. He's second on the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game, and has drawn the toughest defensive assignments all season. Saturday, he shut down Miami's talented junior guard Guilermo Diaz, holding the Hurricanes leading scorer scoreless for just the second time in his career. Thursday night, Jenkins will have his hands full trying to stop Villanova's talented guards.
"They can all go one-on-one at any time on you and we have to be ready for that," Jenkins said. "Our big men have to be ready to know that someone is going to get beat and to make the rotation. All four of their guards are pretty good. They are pretty athletic guards."
"They get it after it," said Williams. "They are very quick. All four guards rebound the ball. All four guards shoot very well. They are going to get up and guard you full court."
Villanova's guards account for nearly 80 percent of the teams scoring. They're averaging 82 points, make 10 threes a game, and shoot 48 percent from the field, including 43 percent from three-point range. How do the Cardinals plan to throttle the Wildcats?
The Cardinals need a big effort
from freshman Terrence Williams
Jenkins said the Cardinals will need everyone to take their games to a higher level now that Big East play is about to get underway, including freshmen like Terrence Williams and Andre McGee.
"Everybody's got to step up," Jenkins said. "Villanova is No. 3 in the country and everybody has to step up their play from what they've been playing. This is a pretty big game and they have never seen Freedom Hall like they will see tomorrow."
The Cards could use a big effort from the 6-6 Williams. He's been inconsistent this season, scoring 16 points one night against College of Charleston, then scoring just one three days later against Detroit. Williams is averaging 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, but said Wednesday that he's capable of much more. "I'd grade my play a D because I feel that I can work harder," Williams said. "I have to play hard every possession no matter what,"
The Cardinals should be somewhat prepared for Villanova's guard dominated attack after facing Miami's three-guard line up Saturday.
"It should help a little bit, but (Nova) has an extra guard," Jenkins pointed out. "They go with four guards and that's primarily their offense. It's sort of like Miami, but these guards are a little bit tougher. The Big East is a little bit tougher. We just have to come out ready to play."
"I kind of like Kyle Lowry's game," Jenkins said. "He's a sophomore and he's kind of a leader on their team already and that's one of their guards that we really have to step up and stop."
Louisville has been much maligned for a softer than normal non-conference slate, especially after losing their only game against a Top 25 opponent (Kentucky) this season. Williams said he's hopeful the Cardinals are better prepared this time around.
"Hopefully we are going to get after it in practice and hopefully be prepared for tomorrow," he said. "Time will tell if we are ready or not, but I feel that we have a great coaching staff and a great group of guys that have prepared to take on the Big East."