Monday, February 12, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Louisville @ Pittsburgh

February 12, 2007

Louisville travels to Pittsburgh for ESPN's Big Monday match-up tonight. The Cardinals are still looking for their first signature win of the season, home or away, and a win over Pittsburgh will certainly get the nation's attention. The Panthers fought off a pesky Providence ballclub on Saturday in a similar situation and they will look to stay ahead on the conference tonight against Louisville.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found on the internet:

U of L Hopes Williams Ends Bad Spell (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Cardinals Venture in the Pitt (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Cardinals Dance Card Needs Games (Herald-Leader)
Now Cards Need a Signature Win (Courier-Journal)
Louisville Making First Trip to Pitt (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Cook Breaks Slump in Time for Louisville (Beaver County Times)
Pitt's Reserves Look to Key Long Run (The Tribune Democrat)
Freshman Center Gives Louisville a Boost (Post-Gazette)

To read our brief preview of the game and to see the NBE Blogger's prediction on the outcome, click 'Read More' below.

Also, we'd love to see the reader's thoughts and predictions on the game in the comments, so feel free to add your toughts!

It is a big week ahead for Louisville as the Cardinals try to position themselves for one of the four Big East Tournament 1st-round byes and solidy their chances to gain entrance to the Big Dance in March. The Cardinals take to the road to meet Pittsburgh and Marquette in search of their first signature win, let along impressive road victory. To date, Louisville's most impressive win away from home was at DePaul, 59-50. Their only other two wins outside of Freedom Hall have come against Cincinnati and South Florida. They have already lost on their home floor to Marquette and Georgetown, so the Cardinals have not come close to proving they below in the top tier of the conference, but they still have a shot to at least prove worthy of the final bye and a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but at some point, they have to come up with a quality win.

Pittsburgh is playing for a regular season conference championship and high NCAA seed. The Panthers are definitely the hunted as each and every bubble team that comes up against Pitt knows how impressive a victory, especially on the road, will look to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. They will be taking the best shot from everyone here on out and have to avoid looking ahead to bigger things and take care of business on hand.

Louisville presents an interesting challenge to Pitt as the Cardinals will look to force tempo and pressure Pitt all over the floor. Louisville is an athletic group, especially in the backcourt where freshmen Jerry Smith Edgar Sosa, along with senior Brandon Jenkins and sophomore Andre McGee log most of the minutes. McGee and Jenkins have battled injuries all season long and have yet to hit their stride offensively, but Jenkins is one of the better defensive guards in the conference.

On the wing for Louisville is the explosive Terrence Williams. However, the sophomore is mired in a shooting slump, but it doe snot keep the sophomore from trying to shoot his way out of it. Freshman Earl Clark has been getting more and more time of late as he gets used to the system at Louisville and junior Juan Palacios still is at the other forward spot. Palacios always seems one big game away from taking off, but that take off continues to be something Louisville fans, and his coach Rick Pitino, is still waiting for.

When playing Pittsburgh the area of concentration is always in the paint where Pitt's Aaron Gray resides. On Saturday, Gray was the difference for the Panthers as he scored 22 pts in 25 minutes after sitting most of the 1st half with two fouls. Gray took a nasty fall after a two-hand shove in the back on a dunk attempt, but he practiced with the team yesterday. For Louisville, the Cards might not be as lucky as the oft-injured David Padgett missed most of the game against South Florida after injuring his ankle. However, freshan Derrick Caracter is back, once again, in the fold and in just 18 minutes against the Bulls he scored 16 pts and grabbed 10 rebounds. It remains to be seen what kind of game shape Caracter will be in with the short turnaround, but he will certainly be tested on the defensive end by Gray and the Panthers will likely test his decision-making on the offensive end with some double-teams.

Both teams are deep and the Cardinals have a tendency to rotate players in and out, which might have had a cause in their offense not being able to find a rhythm this season. The talent is there, but they just seem to be coming up short in putting it all together. They are young and several injuries have limited their ability to become an effecient team. Pittsburgh starts three seniors and is one of the best (percentage-wise) three-point shooting teams in the country. So, if you try and limit Gray inside, he is experienced enough to find the open man and the Panthers move the ball very unselfishly to find the best shot, and, they knock them down.

Louisville will play Pittsburgh tough as, in terms of their season, the Cards have a lot riding on it. However, they have yet to show the offensively consistency to win a game of this magnitude, especially on the road...so, as they say in Missouri, they have to Show Me first.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 68 Louisville 61


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