Pitino: Cards will play fast; Blitz opponents

Fast. That's how Louisville coach Rick Pitino expects his team to play this season. With lots of talent and depth on the perimeter – and a big rule change to the three-point line - the Cardinals will look to pick up the pace using an all-out blitzing press in 2008-09.

Rick Pitino's basketball teams have always been known to play fast. This season, Pitino expects his team to turn it up a notch and play at something approaching warp speed.

"One thing I'm going to try and do this year is make a couple of subtle changes," Pitino said. "Because of the three-point line (moving back) and what I think is going to happen with the three-point line we're going to try to play a lot faster and utilize our depth."

Louisville returns four starters and several key reserves from last season's 27-9 squad that lost to North Carolina in the Elite 8. The Cardinals also welcome several talented newcomers, including the nation's top big man recruit Samardo Samuels and Mississippi State transfer Reggie Delk.


Pitino says his team will pick up the pace this
season using an all-out blitzing press.

"In order to utilize 10 or 11 players you've got to play much faster and not only tire your players out but to fatigue your opponent," Pitino said. "So we're going to try to play faster than we've played. We're going to pick up the pace a lot more because of our depth and the three-point line and try to take advantage of our opponent's lack of depth."

For the first time since its inception in 1986-87, the three-point line will move back from its original 19'9 distance to 20'9 this season. That's a difference that Pitino believes will change significantly the way the game is played.

"I think the three-point line is going to bring down shooting percentages and it's going to bring down scoring," Pitino said. "So we're going to take the opposite approach. We're going to try to really pick up the pace and utilize our athleticism. We're going to press a lot more – it's going to be an all out blitz press."

Pitino also expects a broad array of team's across the nation to rely heavily on zone defenses that his team's have employed effectively in recent years.

"I think the whole country is going to play zone defenses because of the three-point line," said Pitino. "We have played our share of zone and (its) been very effective for our defense. We're just going to make sure we attack it – attack any defense we face quickly."

Pitino sounded especially excited about his team's depth, specifically mentioning top position battles at point guard between Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee, shooting guard between Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles and center between freshmen Samuels and Terrence Jennings.

"They're inexperienced and they're both very different," Pitino said of his two precocious big guys. "Samardo is a tremendous low-post player who has a good face up jump shot and Terrence is like an Amari Stoudamire-type. He's an unbelievable athlete and shot blocker but not as polished offensively as Samardo."

Selected by many preseason publications as a Top 5-10 pick this season, Pitino looks forward to challenging his team against a schedule that features 6-7 Top 25 Big East teams and a non-conference schedule that includes Kentucky, Minnesota, UAB, UNLV and Mississippi.

"I think this year we could have the (nation's) toughest schedule," Pitino said. "There's no big heads in this group because all they have to do is look at the schedule. We're going to pick up our preseason more than any time I've been here at Louisville because of that."


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