The Cardinals open the Maybin Classic, named in honor of the former Louisville star who was tragically paralyzed in a motorcycle accident several years ago, Saturday afternoon against Indiana State. Louisville will play Ohio (3-1) Sunday and Lamar (5-1) Monday night.
"All of these teams can beat you," Rick Pitino said. "It's no different than Northern Kentucky or Georgetown."
Though Indiana State hasn't won in five games this season, four of the Sycamores five losses have been by seven of fewer points, including a 75-70 setback against DePaul.
"Indiana State is 0-5 but they run their plays and they've got excellent talent," Rick Pitino said. "They shoot it at all five positions from the three point line."
Pitino was none too happy about his team's 68-54 loss to Western Kentucky last weekend in Nashville. The Cardinals shot 26.8 percent from the floor, had just eight assists and were out-rebounded by the smaller Hilltoppers 48-36. Pitino wants to see improved rebounding from his team this weekend.
"We've got to do some things to shore up our rebounding and to enhance the mental aspects of the game," said Pitino. "And we've got to check our ego's a little more at the door."
Louisville's guards haven't been rebounding particularly well early this season. Getting those guys snagging some boards would be a good place to start the improvement process.
"The guards aren't rebounding," said Pitino. "If you look at Edgar (Sosa) and Andre's (McGee) career they're averaging like 1.6 (rebounds). So they're probably not going to rebound. We're going to make some changes to get more rebounding."
One of those backcourt changes could be Jerry Smith for Preston Knowles at the two. Smith was benched in favor of Knowles in Nashville but has given better effort in practice this week and, according to Pitino, earned back his starting job. Smith has been a solid rebounder from the guard position throughout his career, and could help the Cards on the boards.
"Jerry had a bad week of practice from an effort standpoint and Preston had a good week from an effort standpoint," Pitino said, explaining why Knowles got the starting nod against WKU. "Jerry will start this week. I don't think he's been burning the nets or playing terrific basketball. He hasn't been playing real well and we hope it turns around with this tournament. I think he's had a great week of practice and I expect it to change."
Louisville's rebounding concerns can't be underscored enough, though. Not only were the Cardinals beaten on the boards against Western Kentucky, they were also out-rebounded by South Alabama 41-38. Louisville out-rebounded Morehead State just 42-38.
"We can't get ready for the teams we're about to play and not rebound the ball," said Pitino. "We've got to do things to boost our rebounding. And we certainly will."
That could mean increased effort and focus on the boards from 6-foot-8 freshman center Samardo Samuels. Though Samuels leads Louisville in scoring at 17.7 points and averages six rebounds per contest, Pitino wants his talented newcomer to be more active around the basket.
"I don't think he was a good rebounder in high school," Pitino said. "That's his weakness. I don't think he's ever going to be a great rebounder but I think he could someday be a good rebounder. But he should be a very good shot blocker because he's got long arms and he should get up and challenge shots.
"We know he can score. But he should get up and challenge people and he's not doing that. Rebounding I'm hoping he'll average 6,7 or 8 – go like that. He draws charges. For a freshman he's doing a fine job. He's doing more than can be expected from a freshman."
With three days in three games, Pitino will likely turn to his bench often to keep his players fresh. While Pitino has a lot of players at his disposal he said his freshmen aren't progressing as quickly as he'd hope. That could force him to shorten his rotations and play Terrence Williams more at the four when Earl Clark needs a rest.
"I don't necessarily think that we don't have depth I just think that some of our freshmen aren't ready to play," Pitino said. "They have a very difficult time picking up the system. So it's going to take a little bit of time.