Saturday, January 17, 2009

10 Keys to Beating PITT

As I'm sure everybody knows now from the buzz surrounding Louisville and even nationally, the Cards face the #1 team in the country, PITT, tonight at 6 on ESPN. The Panthers have been the Cards' nemesis lately - eliminating UL in the BIG EAST tourney the last couple years in a row. The Cards will look to get revenge and keep clawing up the rankings. I have seen them anywhere from 1-3 point underdogs. On a day where the 1983 Final 4 team will be honored at halftime, here are 10 ways the Cards can take out the nation's best...

1. Limit Offensive Boards - Coach Pitino has said over the past few days when talking about PITT that they might be the premier offensive rebounding team in the country. It isn't a case of Coach trying to inflate an opponent this time. Their frontline of Tyrell Biggs, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair averages 10 offensive boards a game with Blair pulling down close to 5. Samardo Samuels has had trouble with bigger guys especially on the offensive glass, but if he can remember to putt his butt on somebody every time a shot goes up - the Cards should be successful.

2. Force Outside Shots - The Cards shouldn't have a problem doing this playing their extended zone. F Sam Young and G Levance Fields do most of the outside shooting and neither shoot over 40%. As a team, the Panthers shoot only 35% taking an average of 17 a game - making 6. I would feel a lot better seeing PITT launching trifectas all night instead of pounding it inside to Blair, Young and Biggs.

3. Don't Fall for Sam Young's Head-fake! - If you don't know what I'm talking about you will 2 minutes into the game. PITT coach Jamie Dixon and Young talk to the refs before every game to explain Young's alleged "head/shot fake". It looks like he's traveling (coming off his feet), but supposedly he's on his tip-toes. Seems pretty bogus to me, but Young uses it to his advantage and dominates the mid-range game because of it. I guess if you look like an old man, you have to have sleazy old man moves.

4. Keep Samardo Out of Foul Trouble - I know that's easier said than done going up against a beast in Blair and a turkey in official Ed Hightower, who like Tim Higgins just hates Pitino for some reason. Mardo should be more worried about Blair, as he almost makes Mardo look small. Samuels' biggest problems have been defense and rebounding. If either of those areas aren't up to par - Blair will have a field day

5. Run,Run, Run - Louisville's depth crushes PITT's and it needs to be exploited. The only way is to run the Panthers to death and force them to go a little deeper down the pine than usual. The Panthers have 2 solid bench players - G/F Gilbert Brown & G Jermaine Dixon. After that, there is a significant drop off. As we know, the Cards can go as much as 12-deep. The press needs to be tenacious and the Sosa/McGee combo must push the ball up the court to create the uptempo pace.

6. Make Shots - Pretty simple, but the stats don't lie. In their 3 losses, the Cards have shot 30.6% from the field. That percentage goes well over 40 in the 12 wins. Not only the fact that it adds to the score, but putting the ball in the hole is the only way Pitino can throw on a press. Our depth will become a wash if the team can't press-and-run nearly the whole game. As Pitino preaches relentlessly, the Cards need to limit their contested shots and make the extra pass. With that usually comes a high shooting percentage.

7. Don't Believe the Hype - This team seems to be at it's best when people are doubting them. After the 3 early losses, all the national prognosticators were wondering if the Cards were overrated. Now that they are back in the national spotlight, the squad needs to work hard to stay there. They can't let this 5-day build-up make them over think what they have done during this current 4 game winning streak. I'm not saying they shouldn't be confident - they just need to be humble as well.

8. Get Jerry Smith Involved - PITT could be an opportunity for Jerry to take a few more shots. He loves the Freedom Hall rims - hitting 6 of his last 7 threes at home. If PITT decides to collapse on UL inside, Smith will be open for the kick-out-three. Jerry is known for his crazy defense, but his shooting is just as good. with all the talent surrounding him, it's hard to get looks. Tonight may be the night he gets a few more cracks from deep.

9. Dr. Jekyll and E5 - Which Earl Clark is going to show up? Is it going to be the one that like putting SPALDING logos on All-Americans' foreheads or the TO machine from the end of the UK game? Clark is known for getting up for big games and this is about as big as it gets. If the Cards get the mature, intense, lottery-pick Clark things will work. If they get the immature, sloppy Earl - they won't.

10. That Freedom Hall Spirit - I have been to games where it seemed as the crowd gave the Cards 5-10 points. I've also been to games where things aren't going good and the socializing ensues until we make a run. If you're going to the game, continue cheering through the rough spots and keep the faith. There won't be many more opportunities (if any) to host the #1 team at the world's greatest arena to watch a game. The place should be electric as usual and the Saturday afternoon start gives the fans some time to have a couple cocktails to get ready for battle. worked last year against Georgetown, hopefully it will work again this year.

Keep it locked all day for more on the clash with #1...

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