Clearly on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a 15-8 record, Louisville's two recent wins have put them back into the tournament field according to ESPN.com. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Louisville into the tournament as a 12-seed, which means the Cardinals were one of the last four teams in the field. That makes their two-game road trip this week through New York vitally important.
After facing St. John's Thursday, a game Louisville will be favored and can't afford a slip up, the Cardinals will travel to Syracuse to face third-ranked Syracuse. Rick Pitino's team is still looking for a signature win this season after blowing chances against Pittsburgh and West Virginia and will have a great chance to get one against the Orange at the Carrier Dome.
** Samardo Samuels is starting to live up to the expectations of Louisville fans. The 6-9 sophomore center is starting to become a force at both ends of the court and posted 14 points and 11 rebounds against Rutgers. Samuels has averaged nearly 15 points and 6 rebounds in the Cardinals last four games and scored a season-high 25 points at Pittsburgh last month. Samuels leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks and ranks in the Top 16 in four Big East categories, including field goal percentage.
** Sophomore forward Jared Swopshire has averaged 8.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in Louisville's last three contests. Swopshire had 8 rebounds against West Virginia and Rutgers and nine vs. UConn. Though he's struggled with his outside shooting this season, Swopshire made 3-5 threes in the Cardinals past two games.
** Jerry Smith has typically started slow and finished strong. This year has been no different. Smith has struggled with his shooting most of the season but appears to be gaining confidence in his shot the last few games. Smith had one of his best outings of the season against Rutgers, scoring 16 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting. Smith has made 9-18 field goals, including 5-9 threes in the Cardinals past two games. He also made 7-9 free throws in wins over UConn and Rutgers.
** Edgar Sosa has enjoyed a solid senior season. Sosa has scored at least 13 points in six of the Cardinals past seven games and has dished 22 assists in Louisville's last three contests. Louisville's captain has hit two three's in each of the last seven games and has had more assists than turnovers in the Cards last three games.
** Reginald Delk has picked up his play recently and has made a positive impact as Louisville has won three of their last four games. The senior forward is shooting 60 percent from the field and has averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in the last four games.
** Freshman point guard Peyton Siva is developing into a key reserve off the bench. He scored a career-high 14 points in a narrow loss at West Virginia and has connected on 12-of-16 shots from the field in Louisville's last four games, including 6-9 threes.
** Louisville's defense has shown signs of improvement during it's two-game winning streak. While the Cardinals are allowing 42.2 percent shooting – the worst defensive effort in eight years, the Cardinals held UConn to 37.5 percent and Rutgers to 38.3 percent last week. Louisville ranks third in the Big East in steals and sixth in rebound margin.
GAME FACTS - Louisville (15-8, 6-4) vs. Rutgers (12-10, 2-8)
Date: Thursday, Feb. 11
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Site: Madison Square Garden (19,786), New York, N.Y.
TV: ESPN2 will televise the game with Jon Sciambi (play-by-play) and Tim Welsh (analyst)
Radio: WHAS (840 AM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (analyst)
SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Ch. 122 (XM Ch. 203)
Series History: U of L leads 8-3 all-time (5-0 in Louisville, 2-2 in New York, 1-1 neutral) Last Meeting: U of L 75, St. John's 68 (Jan. 9, 2010 in Freedom Hall)
Next U of L Game: Feb. 14 at Syracuse, 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)