Behind Enemy Lines: The Louisville Cardinals

Cardinals vs Wildcats coverage

I had the chance to catch up with Mike Rutherford from the excellent Louisville Cardinals blog, Card Chronicle. Mike appears to have even less help than I do over there, and runs a great site, so kudos to him.

We had the chance to talk about Preston Knowles emergence, replacing the legendary Freedom Hall, and wrapping up the Rick Pitino scandal. It's all below, enjoy!

Can we finally close the book on the Rick Pitino sex scandal? How (if it has at all) has that affected the program?

Much to the chagrin of Ms. Sypher – who, by the way, was found guilty on all six charges she faced – I think it is. It was certainly an embarrassing ordeal for Pitino personally and, to a lesser extent, the university, but its impact on the program has been even more minimal than I thought it would.
 
Since news of the tryst broke, Louisville hasn’t had a stretch rough enough to allow the media to play up a "Pitino’s off-the-court issues affecting his team" angle. Recruiting also hasn’t suffered; in fact it’s been the complete opposite. Pitino’s 2011 and 2012 classes figure to be the better than any other he’s had during his time at Louisville.
 
Still, I fear the 15 second jokes will persist…as well they should.

More Q&A after The Jump.

I was surprised to see Preston Knowles leading the team in scoring - what has he done to elevate his game this season?

He’s definitely looking for his own shot more than he ever has, and he needs to, because this team is more lacking in pure scorers than any of the others he’s played on. He also no longer has Jerry Smith starting and eating up the bulk of the minutes at the two spot.

What would you classify as the biggest strength of this Cardinals team? How about the biggest weakness?

Depth is definitely the team’s biggest strength. There are about 11 guys of comparable skill on this roster, which has been huge for this team given the number of injuries it has already had to endure.
 
Along the same lines, the team’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have any superstar talent. These  guys are all good, and capable of being great on a particular night, but there’s not a cant-miss NBA player on the roster. The only two Cardinals who have any shot at playing in the league are Peyton Siva and Terrence Jennings, and both will have to improve significantly in order to make that happen.

Is there a sense of revenge about this game after Villanova came back to stun Louisville on their court last year?

Not really. To be honest, I had forgotten that we were even up that much in the game until I read this question.
 
I think the lasting memory of last year’s Villanova game is definitely the fact that involved somewhere around 500 free-throws and took almost three hours to play. About halfway through the second half I stopped caring about whether we won or lost and just wanted it to be over. Not really, but yeah, it was almost impossible to watch.

If I had to focus on one Cardinals player Wednesday night, who would it be?

Knowles is easily Louisville’s most important player, but since we’ve already talked about him I’ll say Siva. He played very well against ‘Nova last year before fouling out (naturally), and his play generally makes or breaks us against teams with great guards.

Do you miss Freedom Hall? How is the new arena in comparison?

Absolutely. Freedom Hall was the cute girl with the great family who made being in a serious relationship unbelievably easy. The Yum Center is unfathomably hot and your friends are all very impressed, but she shops a bit too much and you have the sneaking suspicion that being married to her might not be as sexy as it appears to the outside world. Still, the benefits of the relationship are pretty self-explanatory.

How do you see Wednesday's game playing out?

It’s a terrible answer, but I really have no idea what to expect Wednesday night. Louisville has responded well both times it’s had to play on the road, but the competition hasn’t nearly as stiff as what the Wildcats present.
 
I think they’ll at least give you guys a scare.
 
Villanova 71, Louisville 67

Thanks again to Mike for the time! Make sure to head over to Card Chronicle for more pregame coverage!

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