Pitino wary of un-orthodox Mountaineers

When Providence and West Virginia play Wednesday night in the first-round of the Big East Tournament, Rick Pitino and second-seeded Louisville will probably being rooting for the tenth-seeded Friars. That's because, as Pitino explains, the Cardinals matchup better against the Friars than they do the un-orthodox Mountaineers.

When Providence and West Virginia play Wednesday night in the first-round of the Big East Tournament, Rick Pitino and second-seeded Louisville will probably being rooting for the tenth-seeded Friars. That's because, as Pitino explains, the Cardinals matchup better against the Friars than they do the un-orthodox Mountaineers.

While Louisville has already played and beaten Providence this season, the Cardinals didn't face No. 7 West Virginia (21-8) because of the un-balanced Big East schedule. But just because Louisville didn't face the Mountaineers this year's, the two programs have had some memorable games the past two seasons.

Two years, the Cards staged a miracle second half comeback to down West Virginia in the NCAA regional final to advance to the Final Four. Last season, the Mountaineers exacted some revenge, knocking off the Cardinals 84-80 in Morgantown.

"We've played Providence, but we don't match up well with West Virginia at all," Pitino said Monday. "We would have to play them man because they run a fast version of the Princeton offense. That would be a lot of fun for Jerry Smith, Earl (Clark) and Derrick (Caracter) – they would be knocking into each other falling down."

With four freshmen playing major roles this season, Pitino has opted to play mostly zone defense in the half court to compliment his full court press. Against Providence, that strategy worked well as the Friars committed 26 turnovers and shot just 40.4 percent from the floor in Louisville's 78-63 win Jan.13.

But while the 2-3 zone worked against Providence, it's probably not a strategy that would work well against the three-point shooting Mountaineers. More than half of 1,603 West Virginia's field goal attempts this season have come from behind the arch. The Mountaineers have made 297 three's this season.

"Scouting is very important against West Virginia because we have not played them," Pitino said. "They would be a very difficult match up for our young team. You not only have to prepare for their (1-3-1) defense which we have not seen this year, but then you have to prepare for an offense that is the most difficult to prepare for.

Louisville hasn't faced an opponent this season that plays West Virginia's brand of defense that has held opponents to just 60 points and 29 percent shooting from the three-point line this season.


Padgett was named second
team All-Big East.

"Not that we're rooting for Providence College, but (they) would be more suited for our freshmen in terms of strategy because they wouldn't have to go against the 1-3-1 with Providence, and they wouldn't have to guard (West Virginia's) offense," Pitino said. "You can see how well we played West Virginia zone-wise in the Elite Eight – we had to go man-to-man the whole second half."

West Virginia and Providence play Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and the winner will face Louisville Thursday night at 7 o'clock. Providence beat West Virginia 64-61 Feb. 20.

"I watched the Providence game the last time they played and I think that's the game (West Virginia) took 41 three's," Pitino said. "They take an incredible number of three's."

Cards climb in the polls

On a six-game win streak, Louisville continued to climb in the national polls this week. The Cardinals, who beat Seton Hall 86-71 Sunday, moved up three places to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and four spots, to No. 15, in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

Four other Big East teams are also ranked in the AP poll – No. 9 Georgetown, No. 13 Pittsburgh, No. 18 Marquette and No. 20 Notre Dame. Louisville went 2-3 against those four teams this season, defeating Pittsburgh and Marquette and losing to Georgetown, Notre Dame and Marquette.

Pitino: Georgetown the favorite

Rick Pitino said Monday that top-seed Georgetown, the Big East regular-season champion, is the favorite to win the 2007 Big East Tournament this week at New York's Madison Square Garden.

"I think Georgetown is the favorite going in," Pitino said. "They're playing great basketball and they have two guys that are probably going to be lottery picks. So they stand a little bit above everybody else's shoulders. But it's very even and I wouldn't be surprised to see any of us win it."

Pitino's team enters the tournament as the league's hottest team, having won six straight games and figure to be one of the Hoyas top challengers. Louisville, though, hasn't fared well recently in Madison Square Garden, having dropped four games in the historic arena the past two seasons, including a loss to Pittsburgh in last years Big East Tournament.

"I've played there so many times it feels like a home game," Pitino said. "As far as us not playing well there that's all relative to the talent that you have. I think everybody's heart will be pounding, not only because you're in the Garden, but you're playing in the Big East Tournament."


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