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preGame: Villanova vs. Louisville

In the rugged Big East. the motto is win and move on to the next big game, because each night is a battle.  Tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center represents the next tough test for Villanova, as the Louisville Cardinals invade Philadelphia with a ranking of 18th nationally. 

Rick Pitino's squad was supposed to have a down year by Louisville standards, but with only 2 losses thus far, the Cards have been impressive for the most part.  They notched solid home wins against Butler and UNLV to go along with a road victory at Western Kentucky.  Losing to Kentucky was not a terrible blemish on the resume, but their mid-December loss to Drexel certainly qualifies as an upset.

Both Villanova and Louisville are undefeated in conference play, with the Cats at 3-0 and the Cards at 2-0.  The lone common opponent up until now is South Florida, who both squads beat on the road in Tampa, Fla.

Preview of the game after The Jump.

Media Coverage

Time: 7 PM ET

Location: Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA

TV: ESPN2 with John Saunders and Fran Fraschilla calling the action

About the Cardinals

After a turbulent preseason, headlined by the Rick Pitino sex scandal, Louisville has went about its business very quietly to date.  The Cards lost key players Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa to graduation, while Samardo Samuels departed for the NBA, but this year's team may be better without any superstars. 

On a team where 10 players average over 10 minutes/game, the unquestioned leader is senior Preston Knowles, who leads the team in scoring at 14.9 ppg.  Sophomore Peyton Siva is producing for Louisville, as he averages 11.1 points and almost 5 assists a game.  Louisville has a solid frontcourt as well, which will test the Nova big men; Terrence Jennings stands at 6'10" and is scoring at a rate of 9.2 points per game, while Rakeem Buckles rebounds the ball 7.5 times a contest.     

Last year, Villanova trailed by 20 on the road in the first half, but a heroic 36-point performance by Scottie Reynolds allowed the Cats to rally for a 92-84 victory.   

What to Expect

Although most people don't like Rick Pitino, especially after his antics with Karin Sypher, the guy can certainly coach.  Without a true NBA prospect on the roster, which they always seemed to have in recent years, Pitino has gotten the most out of his players so far.  But how will this inexperienced squad react to a hostile environment against a top 10 opponent?  I'm sure Pitino is wondering the same thing, so this game will be a measuring stick for the visitors.

A staple of Louisville is their full court press for the entire game, and it will be interesting to see how Villanova handles this aspect.  On Sunday against Cincinnati, when only one of Fisher and Waayns were on the floor, the Cats had trouble dealing with pressure.  I would bet Louisville watched the tape, and so expect them to make Villanova take care of the ball for the full length of the court.  

While it's only the 4th Big East game, this could be a crucial win moving forward.  Next week, the schedule really gets tough with road affairs at UConn and Syracuse, so providing some cushion before then is vital.  In addition, the atmosphere at the Wells Fargo Center should be stellar, weather-permitting, with students back from break.       

Pregame Links

-Louisville Game Notes

-Rick Pitino pregame press conference

-Nova seniors lead the way

-'Villanova gets ready to face Louisville' video clip (this link takes you to the video page for CSN Philly; click on the NCAA tab on the left in the middle of the page and the clip is from 01/11/11)

-Card Chronicle