CRAWFORD | Ten things to know before Louisville's Senior Night g - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Ten things to know before Louisville's Senior Night game against Virginia

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 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Ten things to know about the University of Louisville's season finale in the KFC Yum! Center at 6:30 tonight against No. 2-ranked Virginia.

1. The Cavaliers opened as a one-point favorite and the line has moved to 2 1/2. They'll be playing without No. 2 scorer Justin Anderson, who has been out since suffering a broken finger in the first meeting against Louisville. He was expected to return to play Saturday, but underwent an appendectomy on Thursday and now is questionable for next week's ACC Tournament.

2. What's this defensive change Rick Pitino is talking about? Don't expect the scrapping of the 2-3 zone altogether. Pitino talked about “dumbing down” or simplifying his defense as his team prepares for the postseason. It's hard to see him chucking the zone entirely, but don't expect to see the kind of changing defenses the Cards have employed the past several seasons.

CRAWFORD | Pitino says he's scrapping the matchup zone

3. It's a red out. U of L has encouraged fans to wear red for Saturday's game. It's also Senior Night, with Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell being honored. Senior pregame festivities will begin at about 6:10 p.m. The 1980 and 1975 U of L teams are holding reunions in town this weekend, and both will be recognized at halftime Saturday.

4. What's at stake? A win would give Louisville the No. 4 seed and a double bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament. A loss means the Cards will be the No. 5 seed. Either way, North Carolina and Louisville are the 4-5 seeds. All that's left to be determined is which will get the double-bye. If the Cards lose and wind up as the No. 5 seed, they would play Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Greensboro against the winner of No. 12 seed Boston College and probably No. 13 Georgia Tech. The winner of that would face North Carolina Thursday at 2. If the Cards get the No. 4 seed, they'd play in that Thursday 2 p.m. spot, most likely against the Tar Heels.

5. Pitino on the ACC, and Virginia. The Cardinals' coach said he has enjoyed his first season in the ACC: “Well, we always say the season went by fast, but this year seems like it's been faster than most. First year in the ACC has been a fun experience. I'm not sure playing Virginia is fun. I just did a TV show and we always have the three keys to the game, and the first key for us was shut down the airport and make sure they don't get in here.

“. . . It's been a unique year in the ACC. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would because I really like the conference a great deal and what they stand for. Enjoyed playing on the road, enjoyed getting to see different places and this will be a great challenge for us going into Senior Night. We like to win on Senior Night, but we're going against a team that's 28-1, so we'll see what happens.”

6. Cards can't repeat their lack of offensive discipline. Pitino said upon reviewing the Notre Dame game, he was every bit as upset as he was after the game.

“I was extremely disappointed in our performance against Notre Dame, not physically but mentally,” he said. “Because what we wanted to do against Notre Dame was make sure we moved the basketball, got paint touches, so we'd have a chance to offensive rebound. We did it in the first 8-10 minutes of the game, and then in the second half, the one thing we did not want to do was shoot threes on the break. And in two crucial moments, Quentin (Snider) took one on the left and Terry (Rozier) took one on the right. Terry was wide open and he said, 'Coach, I'm wide open,' and I said, 'Yes, but the way to beat Notre Dame is to have a chance to offensive rebound because they're playing four guards. You're playing into their hands; they're better in that type of game.' And in those crucial moments, it gets away from us, (then) they make their free throws and we don't. Ballgame over. 

“And the reason I bring that up is, against Virginia, we said, stay away from the one-on-one play because they're great at defending one-on-one. And the first half (in Charlottesville) we went one-on-one, the second half we did not and we wound up losing the game because we gave up second shots at the end of the game.”

7. Pitino says Blackshear is one of his all-time “nice guys,” and notes the program is saying goodbye to the last pieces from its 2013 NCAA title team.

“He is playing terrific basketball, and moreso in practice than even in the games, but the games count, obviously, much more than practice,” Pitino said. “Wayne is one of the nicest young men, I put him in the class of Peyton (Siva) and Gorgui (Dieng), that I've ever coached. He's nice to everybody. He never has a bad day. He's a gentleman at all times, he's been a true credit to coach. And these two players, Montrezl and Wayne, are the last remnants of a championship team. So, it's over. There's nobody left from the championship team after this year, so we're going to miss these guys. They're part of three straight conference tournament championships and multiple league championships and the most wins in college basketball in the last three years. So pretty special guys to our program.”

8. Rozier not going through Senior Night doesn't mean he's necessarily coming back to school.

“Somebody asked me why, if Terry is going to leave how come we don't recognize him?” Pitino said. “We don't recognize sophomores. We do make an exception for a junior. So, that's one of the reasons why.”

9. Virginia perspective. With the ACC regular-season outright title already locked up and the No. 1 seed in their pocket, Virginia coach Tony Bennett was asked if his team might treat the final game like an exhibition game. No change.

“We're not built like that,” Bennett said during his weekly radio show. “You want to be as sharp as you can heading into the conference tournament.”

Bennett called U of L “one of the best defensive teams we've played against.”

10. Odds and ends. U of L has won 21 straight home games against teams they faced earlier in the season on the road. . . . U of L has won 12 of its last 13 Senior Day games, including an 81-48 win over eventual national champion Connecticut last season. . . . The Cardinals are 25-5 in March over the past four years. . . . Dave O'Brien and Dick Vitale will call the game for ESPN. . . . Officials for the game are Mike Eades, Roger Ayers and Tim Clougherty.

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