Louisville enters the game having won four straight and 11 of the last 13 games. Villanova, meanwhile, enters having dropped two straight, a 66-63 loss to #21 Notre Dame and a 65-59 setback at home against Pittsburgh. While the Cards only had two days to prepare for Villanova, the Wildcats haven't played since Monday. That has Louisville coach Rick Pitino a little concerned.
"We're a little tired right now. For the first time this year, we were very tired yesterday at practice. But I gave them off individual instruction (Friday) and we'll be much better (Saturday)," Pitino said.
Villanova figures to present plenty of challenges for Louisville defensively. The Wildcats rank third in the league offensive, scoring 77.5 points. Unlike last season, when the Wildcats employed a four guard lineup, they're much more balanced this season. While forward Curtis Sumpter patrols the paint, averaging a team-high 18.3 points, guards Mike Nardi and Scottie Reynolds, one of the top freshmen in the league, combine for better than 25 points per game.
"Our defense is probably going to be tested more in this game than it has been because they have great inside and outside threats. "They do a fabulous job in the low-post ducking it in," Pitino said. "I think they have one of the top freshman guards in the country the way he pushes the ball and gets by people. They're a very good defensive and pressing team."
The Cardinals will need another solid defensive performance to come away with their fifth straight Big East win and fourth straight away from Freedom Hall.
from Terrence Williams (ITV).
"I felt that looking at our schedule this would be our toughest game in the Big East because they've had a long time to prepare and we're coming off a road victory with less time to (prepare)," said Pitino. "They've got excellent talent that we've got to be concerned about, especially staying out of foul trouble."
If Louisville wins, they would surpass their Big East win total from last year. A win would help the Cards keep pace with Pittsburgh, who, at 8-1, currently sits alone in first place in the conference standings. Louisville is currently tied with two teams – Marquette and Georgetown – for second place.
Despite his team's current hot-streak and lofty place in the Big East standings, Pitino warns that it's not time to look ahead.
"I want to caution everyone. We're much better than we were a month ago, but we're only at the halfway point right now. We still have a lot of improvement to make as a basketball team playing against a very difficult February schedule," Pitino said.
Louisville probably can't count on 6-9 forward Derrick Caracter for help, either. Caracter has played sparingly this season and has missed Louisville last four games. He likely won't play against Villanova.
"I thought he would have been back a week ago and the fact that he's not is quite disturbing," Pitino said. "His self motivation is lacking and Ellis (Myles) will deal with that because I'm not."