Louisville gets Cincinnati in Big East opener

Louisville opens the 2010 Big East Tournament Wednesday night against Cincinnati at New York's Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals, defending Big East Tourney champs, knocked off then No. 1 Syracuse in the regular-season finale last weekend.

Louisville enters the 2010 Big East Tournament on a high-note after beating then No. 1 Syracuse Saturday in their final game at Freedom Hall.

That win likely secured an at-large NCAA bid for the Cardinals, who will open defense of their Big East Tournament title Wednesday night against Cincinnati, who beat Rutgers 69-68 in the first round.

"Now the fun starts," Rick Pitino said. "I'm really proud of our team. We set a goal and our guys accomplished it in a very unusual way beating teams they weren't supposed to sweep. Getting 11 wins in conference our players should be very pleased with that type of season."

The Cardinals could be without starting guard Jerry Smith, who injured his thumb in the win over the Orange when he slammed down a monster dunk on the break. Louisville's senior captain, Smith started strong against the Orange, scoring eight quick points before going to the bench for the final half.

"He's probably going to miss the tournament," Pitino said. "I think he'll be ready for the NCAA but I think he'll miss the Big East. It's all swollen. [Trainer] Fred [Hina] said it could be two days or two weeks. The good thing is it's all black and blue already."

If Smith can't play, Pitino might play point guards Edgar Sosa and Peyton Siva together, though Pitino said that set up would work best if Rutgers had won. Pitino tinkered with Sosa and Siva in the backcourt together during Monday's practice and has no worries offensively when those two are on the court.

"I toyed with it yesterday playing Peyton at the one and Edgar at the two," Pitino said. "Offensively it's no problem. Defensively is where it's the problem."

Louisville beat Cincinnati 68-60 in January.

"Keeping [Cincinnati] off the glass is a major problem and we've got to stop Lance Stevenson better than we did in the first half last time," Pitino said. "The toughest thing about getting ready for this game is you can't guess [who it is going to be]. We're going to stay up real late and put them to bed real late just to let them sleep in late so they don't have to wait around until 9:15 before this game starts."

Louisville has struggled against smaller, quicker teams this season. The Cardinals lost handily to teams like Villanova and Marquette that feature small, quick guards who can create problems for Louisville at both ends of the court. Fortunately, Cincinnati doesn't fit into that category.

"I think we play better against size than we do quickness," Pitino said. "Quickness hurts us, especially like a Greg Monroe-type of player hurts us more than the two big guys from Syracuse."

While Louisville cruised to the Big East title last year, they will have to win four games in a row to defend their title.

"I think our team did the best they could this year [because] in a lot of areas we're very limited," Pitino said. "But they did much better than I anticipated before the season. We improved and kept getting better. Guys like [Jared] Swopshire and Samardo [Samuels] kept improving so we got better as the season went along. Getting 11 wins our guys should be very happy with that season."

Pitino says it's a wide-open tourney that several teams could get hot and win.

"I couldn't tell you who will win it this year because there are eight or nine teams that could win it," Pitino said. "South Florida could win it, Seton Hall could win it, West Virginia, Syracuse, Villanova, us. So many teams could win this thing.

"I don't feel good about this team winning anything because you don't know what to expect from them. I know one thing if this team shoots the ball well, they play defense better, they rebound better. Our emotional immaturity is our achilles heel."

2010 BIG EAST Championship presented by New York Life
Madison Square Garden - New York, N.Y. (all times Eastern)

Tuesday, March 9 - First Round (ESPN2 and ESPNU)
No. 9 USF vs. No. 16 DePaul (ESPN2) - Noon
No. 12 Connecticut vs. No. 13 St. John's (ESPN2) - 2 p.m.
No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 15 Providence (ESPNU) - 7 p.m.
No. 11 Cincinnati vs. No. 14 Rutgers (ESPNU) - 9 p.m.

Wednesday, March 10 - Second Round (ESPN)
No. 8 Georgetown vs. USF/DePaul winner - Noon
No. 5 Marquette vs. Connecticut/St. John's winner - 2 p.m.
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall/Providence winner - 7 p.m.
No. 6 Louisville vs. Cincinnati/Rutgers winner - 9 p.m.

Thursday, March 11 - Quarterfinals (ESPN)
No. 1 Syracuse vs. 8/9/16 winner - Noon
No. 4 Villanova vs. 5/12/13 winner - 2 p.m.
No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. 7/10/15 winner - 7 p.m.
No. 3 West Virginia vs. 6/11/14 winner - 9 p.m.

Friday, March 12 - Semifinals (ESPN)
Thursday afternoon winners - 7 p.m.
Thursday evening winners - 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 13 - Championship (ESPN)
Semifinal winners - 9 p.m.

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