USF faces a daunting task on Wednesday, when defending national champs Louisville visit the Sun Dome. With the Cardinals joining the ACC next season, Wednesday's game will be the last time the Cardinals visit the Sun Dome as conference mates with USF. The two programs have shared a conference since way back in 1991, when they were in the Metro Conference. That might actually be a good thing for USF, as Louisville has dominated the all-time series 27-4. (Who am I kidding, take us with you Rick Pitino!)
The Cards (16-3, 5-1 AAC) are ranked 12th and sit second in the American Athletic Conference, coming off a 76-64 victory at UConn, while the Bulls (10-8, 1-4) are coming off a spirited loss at Cinncinati. All three of Louisville's losses (Memphis, UNC, Kentucky) have been against teams that were ranked at the time.
The Cardinals line-up has been weakened somewhat with the Dec. 30 dismissal of forward Chane Behanan, who registered a double-double in last season's title game. Sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell has picked up the rebounding slack, averaging 9 rpg during Behanan's absence. Still, Pitino sees the frontcourt as a weakness:
What’s our biggest weakness?
Let me give you an analogy of our front court knowing who they are. It’s like having Christina Aguilera to sing at a concert, she comes out, ignores her great voice and dances for two hours. That's our front court. I remember as if were yesterday asking Rodrick Rhodes, who played for me at UK, this question. You are a great defender, slasher and passer -- why are you trying to show everyone the 3pt shot is your thing?
People come to watch Christina sing.
(As an aside, click that link for some of the best beats you'll ever hear on a basketball site, and definitely on a coach's blog. I've been rocking them for the last hour. God damn I'ma miss you Coach P.)
As against most teams, USF will have a size advantage up front, but an experience disadvantage. A key to the game will be how well John Egbunu and Chris Perry rebound, especially on the offensive glass, and whether they stay out of foul trouble, which will keep Victor Rudd at the three position.
It may not matter however, since Louisville has a Russdiculous Russ Smith and 5-10 jitterbug Chris Jones pushing things in the backcourt. The two combine for 29.7 ppg and while turnover prone they also force almost four steals combined. They'll have an experience edge if Anthony Collins is still out.