South Florida-Louisville Preview
The Bulls stunned the Cardinals on the road last season, and it will be even more surprising if they end the nine-game win streak of Pitino's third-ranked club in Saturday's rematch at Louisville.
The Cardinals (14-1, 2-0) have bad memories of South Florida from Feb. 29, when their 10-game win streak in the series ended with a 58-51 loss that also snapped their 10-game run in home finales.
"USF beat us last year on senior night, we haven't lost too many senior nights at Louisville," Pitino said. "They came in, they controlled the tempo, they used the clock, they play an old-school style of play where they play possession basketball."
The Bulls (9-5, 0-2) ended up making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in 20 years by recording 12 Big East wins after entering conference play with a 7-6 record. They need a similarly big effort in the Big East this season but also know that opponents will be more ready for their style of play.
"I think we're going to face a very angry Louisville team," Heath said. "I'm sure Rick is going to remind them of last year's game."
Louisville shot 34.0 percent in that contest - its worst mark at home in the past two years - as South Florida closed the game by scoring 17 of the final 27 points.
"I think the one thing that people make the mistake is if you try to rush and try to speed them up and you take bad shots and you're down 12-4, now you're feeding their style," Pitino said. "I think you've got to understand that certain nights you have to play slow and you've got to be better at playing their game than they are."
The Cardinals are forcing 20.3 turnovers per game to rank third in the country. The Bulls are averaging only 10.9, with point guard Anthony Collins drawing raves from Pitino for his ability to handle pressure.
"The one thing that Louisville wants to do is try to speed you up and get you playing a lot quicker and a lot faster than you normally play," Heath said.
Louisville figures to have an edge in the frontcourt behind 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng, who averages 9.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. The Cardinals are outrebounding opponents by 5.1 per game while the Bulls rank 13th in the conference with a minus-1.6 margin.
Dieng had 16 points and 14 boards and forward Montrezl Harrell added 14 points in a 73-58 victory at Seton Hall on Wednesday.
That same night, South Florida fell 61-53 at home to Villanova. Collins scored 11 points and tied a season low with four assists - he's second in the Big East with 7.5 per game.