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SI's Top 20 Scouting Reports

7. Louisville Cardinals
 Williams sets the tone for the team in games and in practices.
Williams sets the tone for the team in games and in practices.
Bill Frakes/SI
Nonconference Schedule
Nov. 17 Hartford
Nov. 18 Jackson State
Nov. 21 at UNLV
Nov. 23-24 Las Vegas Invitational (vs. BYU; plus North Carolina, Old Dominion)
Dec. 1 Miami (Ohio)
Dec. 8 Dayton
Dec. 15 Purdue (in Indianapolis)
Dec. 18 Marshall
Dec. 22 New Mexico State
Dec. 26 Morehead State
Dec. 29 Iona
Jan. 5 at Kentucky
A lot depends on what happens in Vegas: UNLV and BYU could prove dangerous, and all eyes will be on a potential showdown with No. 1 UNC. The Iona game features a matchup between Pitino and former Cardinals assistant Kevin Willard, who "is going to become another Billy Donovan," says Pitino. The rest of the schedule is soft, with one huge exception: Pitino's return to Rupp for a showdown with Kentucky. Grade: B-
Fast Facts
Coach: Rick Pitino (7th year)
2006-07 record: 24-10
Big East record: 12-4 (T-2nd)
NCAA tournament: 2nd round
Starting Lineup
PG Edgar Sosa* 6' 1" Soph. 11.4 ppg 2.6 apg
SG Jerry Smith 6' 1" Soph. 8.0 ppg 3.6 rpg
SF Terrence Williams* 6' 6" Jr. 12.4 ppg 7.0 rpg
PF Juan Palacios* 6' 8" Sr. 8.9 ppg 5.5 rpg
C David Padgett* 6' 11" Sr. 9.5 ppg 5.6 rpg
Key reserve
F Derrick Caracter 6' 9" Soph. 8.1 ppg 3.9 rpg
*Returning starter

The Cardinals get serious about winning a title, but they still have work to do on defense

After Louisville beat Stanford 78-58 in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March, the Cardinals behaved like middle schoolers. They giggled through TV interviews, cracked up at booger jokes, mocked big man Derrick Caracter for his prodigious appetite and acted shocked when fans asked for autographs. Not surprising, really. More than half of them -- including the team's two leading scorers -- were freshmen and sophomores who had never been to the Big Dance before.

The joyride ended two days later with a 72-69 loss to Texas A&M, but with its seven top scorers back and everyone a little more mature, Louisville should go deeper into the postseason next March. The key? Maintaining that youthful energy while playing with more poise and discipline.

That energy was lagging early this fall, however, prompting coach Rick Pitino to run a tape of one of the team's first practices. He harped on the lack of effort at the defensive end, pointing out players who dropped their hands, failed to box out and didn't recover in transition. "We have enough offensive talent to be outstanding," says Pitino, "but the biggest test will be to become a great defensive team."

Junior Terrence Williams is up for the challenge. Pitino calls the 6' 6", 210-pound swingman "the best athlete in college basketball" and seldom has to send him off to do sprints on the treadmill during practice (the punishment for being lazy). "I'm being held to a different standard now because I'm older," says Williams. "I want to be like Coach P, the general on the floor."

Likewise, the 6' 9" Caracter, who missed seven games as a sophomore for violating team rules, has grown up. "Last year he gave me 100 percent [effort] 25 percent of the time," Pitino says. "Now [he gives 100 percent effort] 75 percent of the time, and the other 25 percent is damn good."

But this doesn't mean Louisville is all work and no play. "After every practice we turn the music up full blast and dance," says sophomore guard Jerry Smith. "We're pretty goofy. We like to be a big loving family, always having fun." For this talented bunch, there should be plenty of laughs this year. -- Julia Morrill

Issue date: November 19, 2007