NCAA Breakdown: Louisville-California

Louisville has been preparing all week to play California's talented trio of perimeter players in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. breaks down the Cardinals matchup with the Golden Bears.

Cards Focused on Cal

California has Louisville's attention. Edgar Sosa said the Cardinals have been very attentive to the scouting report during practice this week and his teammates understand they're in for a tough test Friday night in Jacksonville against the Pac-10's regular season champions.

Louisville enters having lost it's opening round Big East Tournament game to Cincinnati, a contest the Cardinals let slip a double-digit lead.

"We're confident," Sosa said. "Everybody starts off fresh. We know that one more loss our season is over. We have to go out and play hard, stick to the game plan and just leave it all out on the floor."

Sosa expects a major challenge from Cal's talented trio of guards, a team the senior guard compared to Marquette, which beat the Cardinals by 21 points late in the season.

"Offensively they're as good as anybody," Sosa said. "I always want to play against the best guards. I go into those games with a lot of confidence and I definitely don't back down. They're like Marquette. They're guards put it on the floor and they can also shoot. They have a big man that's like Lazar Hayward...he shoots 15 footers. That's something we have to play for."

In three previous NCAA Tournament appearances, Sosa has helped the Cardinals to a 7-3 record, including Elite 8 appearances the last two years.

"It's not like a regular-season game," Sosa said. "The atmosphere is crazy. Everyone's watching on CBS, fans from both sides. The atmosphere is what I love the most."

Pitino's Teams Hard to Stop in First Round Games

Give Rick Pitino a week to prepare for an opponent and he usually comes up with a way to win. In 14 previous NCAA Tournament appearances at Boston, Kentucky and Louisville, Pitino owns a 12-2 record in the first round.

At Louisville, Pitino is 5-1 in NCAA Tournament openers, losing only to Xavier in 2004 in the first round. Pitino's only other first round loss came at Boston University in 1983. Last season, as the No. 1 overall seed, Louisville beat Morehead State 70-50 in the first round.

Louisville needs a solid performance from Samardo Samuels against Cal.

Smith Expected to Play

Jerry Smith didn't play in Louisville's last game against Cincinnati because of a hand injury and the Cardinals missed their starting guard, especially on the defensive end of the court. Smith returned to practice this week and Rick Pitino said he expects him to see 'limited' action against California.

"Jerry's doing better and he'll definitely be playing," Sosa said. "We need Jerry. I think we missed Jerry against Cincinnati. He's our defensive leader and guards the other teams best guard. He gets all of us going on the defensive end and I just think we need Jerry out there."

Samuels Key to Louisville's Success

California isn't big and doesn't have much depth inside, particularly with forward Omandi Amoke suspended for Friday's game. That could bode well for Samardo Samuels, Louisville's 6-9, 260 pound starting center. Samuels led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding this season and has the ability to take control of the game with his scoring around the basket, evidenced by his 36 point effort against Notre Dame.

Rick Pitino decided to shuffle his lineup against California in an effort to provide Samuels room to operate in the lane. Though Terrance Jennings started 10 of the Cardinals last 13 games, Pitino plans to start 6-8 sophomore Jared Swopshire against the Bears. Swopshire can play out on the perimeter at the power forward, something Jennings can't do at this point.

"We're going to try to open it up a little bit with Jared," Pitino said this week.

Late Start

Louisville will have a long wait Friday for tip-off. The Cardinals are scheduled to start at 9:45 p.m. That could be a bad thing for UofL, a team that hasn't fared well in late night games this year. The Cardinals had late starts against both Marquette and Cincinnati in recent weeks and lost both games.

"We're definitely going to have a walk through, but I think it's irrelevant," Sosa said. "The game has to be played and we just have to be prepared. What time we play really doesn't matter. We have to come out and play the way we know how."

South Region Notebook

* The South Region saw its share of upsets on the first day of action, something Louisville hopes to continue Friday night against higher seeded California. Thursday, 10 seed St. Mary's beat 7th seeded Richmond 80-71, while No. 11 seed Old Dominion knocked off No. 6 Notre Dame 51-50.

* California's Theo Robertson (44 percent), Jorge Gutierrez (42) and Jerome Randle each shoot better than 40 percent from the three-pointer line. Randle made 88 three-pointers this season and has deep range on his jump shot.

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