Memphis, No. 11 in the AP’s preseason poll, dropped out of the top 25 this week with its 76-72 home loss to unbeaten Murray State. The Tigers (5-3) return all five starters from last year’s 25-10 team and was the preseason pick to win Conference USA
Sophomore guard Will Barton leads Memphis with 20.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. The fast-paced Memphis attack is 16th in the nation at 81.1 points a contest.
Saturday’s contest will be the 86th meeting in the testy rivalry that dates back to 1949. The last time the teams met was a 75-74 classic on March 12, 2005 that saw Louisville win the C-USA tournament thanks to two missed free throws by UM’s Darius Washington with no time left on the clock. It was the Cardinals last game in the conference before moving to the Big East.
Pitino said Thursday not to expect a chippy affair, similar to last week’s Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry that sparked a brawl, due to the two team’s playing styles.
“Anytime you have up-tempo teams playing against each other, it generally brings out the best in people,” Pitino said.
Louisville (9-0) is off to its best start in 15 years but Pitino gave his club only the slightest of edges, due only to playing on its home court.
“This game’s a 50/50 game. Anybody could win,” Pitino said.
1 v. 1: Pitino said Louisville’s ability to stop the Tigers off the bounce would be the key to picking up a victory.
“That’s been our weakness, one-on-one defense. So now we’ve got to do something about it for this game in order to win,” he said.
“They’re very underrated defensively,” Pitino said of the Tigers. “They really get after you. Because they’re so good one-on-one they’ve become very good one-on-one defenders.”
Kevin Ware debut
Freshman guard Kevin Ware will make his debut for Louisville after not qualifying academically to begin the season. Pitino called the 6-4 guard from Conyers, Ga. a “pleasant surprise” and that he will likely see game action Saturday.
Ware will backup point guard Peyton Siva and small forward Kyle Kuric.
“He gives us something that we don’t have: he gives us great length at the guard spot,” Pitino said.
Photo: Courtesy University of Louisville