Pitino: NIT important for future success

With four starters expected to return next season, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said the upcoming National Invitational Tournament will provide valuable experience for his young team.

As Louisville prepares for their NIT opener Friday night at Freedom Hall, the Cardinals will have an eye on tonight's Northern Arizona/Delaware State game. The winner of that game will earn a trip to Louisville to face Rick Pitino's Cardinals later this week.

"We'll just work on ourselves today in practice, but we'll have scouting reports ready to go on both teams," Pitino said yesterday.

Louisville finished the season 18-12, bowing out in the first round of the Big East Tournament to runner-up Pittsburgh last week in New York.

"We've had a very difficult year, more difficult than most," said Pitino. "At this point, you have to say to yourself what can you accomplish? You look at Memphis and they didn't go to the NCAA last year and now they're a No. 1 seed. So they gained a lot of experience with last years NIT."

The Cardinals lose just one senior this year – four year starter Taquan Dean. With four starters expected to return next season, Pitino said the added experience the NIT will provide his young team should provide dividends down the road.

"For us, it's the development of Terrance Farley, Andre McGee, T-Will, and Juan Palacios," Pitino said. "So you can only get better in the (NIT), you can't get worse. With the added practice, we can go another two weeks."

Louisville is coming off a strange performance against the Panthers. The Cardinals struggled offensively in the first half of that game, falling behind 33-5 at one point. Instead of folding, though, the Cardinals made a strong second half comeback, cutting the lead to three late in the game.

"The Pittsburgh game was as bad as it gets in the first half, and as courageous as it gets in the second half," Pitino said.

The immediate goal for the Cardinals is simple, Pitino said. If his team can manage to put together a three game winning streak, they'll earn a ticket to New York for the NIT semifinals later this month. Though it won't be an easy road, the Cards would have the benefit of playing all three games at home.

"We just need time to continue to play and get better," Pitino said. "And the NIT is perfect for a team like ours. Whether we can get to New York remains to be seen. I want to see Freedom Hall sold out because we have an opportunity for three more home games. This NIT is very important to us. It means a lot to our future growth."

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