College Basketball Preview: Louisville vs. Butler

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The first road test for the Cardinals this season comes in the form of the two-time defending NCAA tournament runners-up, the Butler Bulldogs.

The Cards return the trip to Indianapolis after Butler served as the first opponent for U of L in the KFC Yum! Center. Brad Steven’s Bulldogs don’t appear to be quite as talented as the teams that made giant-killing runs through the NCAA Tournament, but historic Hinkle Fieldhouse still promises to provide a rowdy backdrop for the contest Saturday afternoon.

The battered Cards are coming off a two-win weekend in downtown Louisville to open the 2011-12 campaign that saw Mike Marra fall as the latest injury victim with a torn ACL. The rumors have been confirmed that Peyton Siva is now doubtful for this game after spraining his ankle in practice this week. With Rakeem Buckles and Stephan Van Treese still recovering from injuries and Kevin Ware still a month away from joining the team, Rick Pitino is going to need nearly everyone on the bench to be ready to play the next few weeks. After this contest, the Cards, however, don’t hit the road again until the New Year’s Eve showdown with Kentucky in Lexington.

Butler returns only two starters from a season ago, center Andrew Smith and guard Chase Stigall, and has already suffered their first loss of the season, an overtime contest at Evansville to start their campaign. (They also lost their first exhibition of the season, falling to Northern State, 53-50.) Smith has scored 21 and 16 points in the first two games this year and has added the three-point shot to his repertoire, hitting 3-of-5, after attempting only one in his first two years. The 6’11” Smith also bangs down low. In 59 minutes this year, he has over three times as many free throw attempts (19) as anyone else on the team.

Sophomore guard Chrishawn Hopkins has attempted more three-point shots (18) than anyone else on the team has attempted field goals. He also has more assists (10) than anyone else on the team and has also played all but eight minutes through two games. The Cards will have to contain Hopkins if they are to leave Hinkle Fieldhouse with a victory.

Through two games, Gorgui Dieng has nearly as many blocks (9) as Butler does as a team (10). Chane Behanan will be looking for a third straight double-double to start his collegiate career. With Siva likely out for this contest, Elisha Justice is going to have to figure out a way to run the offense smoothly and keep his composure in a tough environment.

Louisville fans would like another bit of revenge against the Butler program for forcing U of L’s early exit in the 2003 NCAA Tournament. The programs last played at Hinkle in 1973 and the Bulldogs last beat the Cards during the regular season in 1937, a 28-23 barn burner at Hinkle. This is not the Butler team we’ve seen the past two years with guys like Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard. The Cards will need to contain Smith and Hopkins and hit open shots when the opportunities are there if they are to hit I-65 back to Louisville with a win.

Date – Saturday, November 19, 2011
Location – Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000), Indianapolis, Ind.
Time – 2:02 p.m.
Television – ESPN3, Jim Barbar (pbp), Mark Adams (color)
Radio – WKRD (101.7 FM), Jim Kelch (pbp), Bob Valvano (color)
Series – 5-5 tie (last: U of L 88, Butler 73, 11/16/10 in Louisville)
Officials – Jamie Luckie, Mike Eades, Mike Roberts