LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -One of Rick Pitino's favorite motivational tools during a Louisville film session is to dim the lights, point to an opponent and turn the kid - no matter how anonymous - into the best player in the country.
Most of the time, it works.
The only difference between most film sessions and the one the 20th-ranked Cardinals held before Saturday's showdown with No. 1 Pittsburgh?
This time, Pitino might be serious.
``They're deserving of their ranking,'' Pitino said. ``Their frontcourt is as wide and strong as any we'll face this year and their backcourt obviously with their floor general who makes them better any time down the court. We know we have our work cut out for us.''
that has only allowed two opponents to get within single digits all season.
The Panthers have sniffed about getting a lack of respect even as they've rolled through the first two months of the season. Louisville (12-3, 3-0 tumbled out of the polls after nonconference losses to Western Kentucky, Minnesota and UNLV.
But Louisville looks ready the challenge.
The Cardinals have won four straight to take some of the sting out of a so-so nonconference schedule, and they are doing it with defense and grit: two things they'll need in large supply against one of the most physical teams in the nation.
``Those three losses really brought us back down to reality,'' said Louisville guard Andre McGee. ``Looking at teams and knowing that we're underdogs going in, that fuels you a little bit. Pitt being a great team, undefeated, is the ultimate challenge trying to be the one team that can give them their first loss.''
The two have developed a particularly nasty rivalry since the Cardinals joined the Big East in 2005. Louisville holds a 2-1 edge during the regular season, but things change when they meet at Madison Square Garden, where the Panthers have knocked the Cardinals out of the Big East tournament three straight years.
``The last couple years, they've been able to get the rebounds and get the stops towards the end that we haven't,'' McGee said.
Blair has blossomed into one of the best post players in the country as a sophomore, using his ever-expanding 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame to create space in the lane and open things up for the sharp-shooting Young. Blair is averaging 14.7 points and 13.0 rebounds per game, getting most of his points on offensive putbacks after bulling his way to the boards.
The Cardinals will try to counter with freshman center Samardo Samuels, who is starting to develop the thick skin necessary to deal with the sometimes brutal play in the Big East.
Samuels had 18 points, six rebounds and two assists while playing against reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody on Monday, though he hasn't faced anyone nearly as wide as Blair.
The 5-10 McGee only knows one thing: when those Samuels and Blair meet in the lane, he'd rather be elsewhere.
``Those two guys are going to bang, I just hope I don't get hit in between them,'' he said.
Louisville is just 2-4 all-time against top-ranked teams and Pitino brushes aside talk that the winner becomes the early favorite in the crowded Big East. There are too many games, too many roadblocks, too many things that can happen over the next six weeks to anoint anyone just yet.
``It's foolish talk,'' Pitino said. ``All these teams can play. You can't project three, four games into the Big East schedule who is going to be good in March.''
being good on Saturday night will be enough for now.

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