Big East Showdown
As this season winds down, the seventh-ranked Cardinals are again fighting for the conference's top spot - while the Hoyas are simply battling for their postseason lives.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Louisville -1 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Georgetown. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 58% of more than 218 bets for this game have been placed on the Louisville -1
One of four teams in contention for the No. 1 seed in the Big East, Louisville goes for its fourth win in a row Monday night when it visits Georgetown, which can ill afford another loss if it hopes to earn a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth.
The Cardinals (21-5, 12-2) and Hoyas last met March 8 at the Verizon Center, with Georgetown winning 55-52 in a defensive struggle to claim the Big East regular-season title.
Louisville is once again in position to clinch the conference crown while remaining a fixture in the top 10 of the AP poll, but the Hoyas (14-11, 5-9), ranked ninth on Jan. 12, now can't even crack the top 10 in their own league. They've lost eight of 10, most recently falling 78-72 at home to No. 10 Marquette on Saturday that prompted John Thompson III to refer to this as his toughest season as a head coach.
"Period. Not just at Georgetown,'' Thompson said. "But we'll get through this. Yeah, it's trying. But we're going to do what we do. We're going to try to get better from the top on down.''
The Cardinals haven't faced nearly the same level of adversity as Thompson's team, but lost two of their first three games in February in lopsided fashion. The first was a 17-point home defeat to then-No. 1 Connecticut, followed by a stunning 33-point loss at Notre Dame that led coach Rick Pitino to confiscate his players' practice gear with team logos.
Louisville responded with home wins over DePaul and Providence by a combined 63 points before heading to Cincinnati on Saturday. Despite the two preceding blowout victories, Pitino was more impressed with the Cardinals' 72-63 win over the Bearcats behind Terrence Williams' 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
"I think our passing has gotten better,'' Pitino said. "We made some excellent passes. We executed great against their full-court pressure. We just played a terrific game.''
Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh and Marquette all have two conference losses.
Williams is part of a balanced Louisville frontcourt that features junior Earl Clark (13.0 points per game) and freshman Samardo Samuels (12.2), but the Cardinals seem to be at their best when Williams' all-around talents are on display.
The senior averages 8.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.1 steals in addition to being second on the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game. He's the only player in the nation with averages of at least 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
"I think Terrence is one of the best players in the country," Pitino said. "This young man is a freak athlete who has learned how to play the game. He's a great passer, defender, and has a great IQ of the game."
Williams had 14 points, five boards and three assists in the loss at Georgetown last season, but he's averaging 10.0 points on 35.3 percent shooting in three career meetings with the Hoyas.
Two players that were in high school during the March 8 matchup will make up a key battle Monday. Center Greg Monroe is Georgetown's second-leading scorer (13.0) and leading rebounder (6.8), and he's reached double figures in points in 16 straight games.
He'll also be trying to slow down Samuels, who's scored in double figures four times in his last nine games.
Posted: 2/23/09 1:30AM ET