There's a reason no Louisville team since the Eisenhower administration has played that many games in that few days – it's hard to do. Louisville will open with Hartford Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Las Vegas Invitational, then play Jackson State Sunday in the second round. Then it's off to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Wednesday, BYU next Friday in the Las Vegas Invitational and possibly North Carolina next Saturday.
How will Rick Pitino's sixth-ranked team respond to playing so many games in so few days?
"I've never played five games in eight days so I don't know," Pitino said. "I'm more concerned with getting out of shape than the five games in eight days because certain guys aren't going to play in those eight days. You go eight days without playing and you're going to be out of shape. So we're going to have extra practice time out in (Vegas) to get some extra work."
Hartford enters 2-3 on the season. Hartford defeated Sacred Heart 70-55 in their last outing and opened the season with losses to St. Francis and Quinnipiac.
"You can't stop kids from being excited about going to Las Vegas to play but they know to take care of business," Pitino said. "We're going to have to make shots against Hartford because they play a lot of 1-3-1, 3-2. If you're not ready and you don't shoot the ball well they can give you fits. They will hang in there with you. So you've got to stay tough defensively. We're looking for dramatic improvement from our team in the first two games."
While Louisville doesn't expect a difficult time this weekend against Hartford and Jackson State, the competition figures to be tough when the Cards travel to Las Vegas.
"You have to be mentally prepared because the competition is going to be very keen early in the year," Pitino said. "I've already watched Las Vegas, Brigham Young and North Carolina. All three are outstanding teams. We've got a tough road. This team better be as good as its ranking to play these teams."
thrown his way often this weekend.
"Based on all of our charts and we film every practice I'm not overly pleased with our team right now," Pitino said. "I love them as people they are a great group of guys but we need to play a couple of games right now to judge where we are."
Depth could play a factor during Louisville's opening stretch of games. Juan Palacios' knee injury, combined with the unexpected ineligibility of freshman forward George Goode, has helped create a lack of depth for the Cardinals at the forward positions.
"Our depth bothers me right now," Pitino said. "We need Tello Palacios back. That's the missing ingredient to this basketball team. We need him because he was the backup to T-Will at small forward and Earl Clark at the power forward and now we don't have a backup at either position. So we go from a very deep team to a thin team."
"He's doing quite well," Pitino said. "He's walking on the treadmill now and he has 100 percent flexibility in his knee. Swelling is still there which is to be expected. You have to go six weeks before you can start playing and it's been five weeks now. So in six weeks he'll start training and getting back on the court with Fred Hina. His goal is to play Dec. 15 against Purdue.
"Andre is winning the battle right now," Pitino said. "They are probably going to split starting opportunities and you'll know who I think is better by who plays the last five minutes. Andre is winning the battle because he is getting more out of the other defensively and that's what we need more than anything else. Andre is doing a much better job pressuring the ball and in our full court press."
Louisville's size could play a major factor this weekend. While Hartford's tallest starter is just 6'7, Jackson boasts only one starter taller than 6'6. That means the Cardinals will be feeding the ball into 6'11 David Padgett and 6'9 Derrick Caracter early and often against both teams.
"We're a little more inside than we've been in the past," Pitino said. "We are much more of a postup team now than any team that's been at Louisville. We go inside quite a bit to Derrick Caracter and David Padgett. We work inside to out very hard."