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Pitt Vs. Louisville: Panthers Enter Hostile Territory Against Cardinals

With just three games left, Pitt is looking to finish strong. They may face their stiffest test for the rest of the season when they travel to Louisville for a game on Sunday. Louisville has been nearly as dominant at home as Pitt has been this year, going 17-2 at the ridiculously-named KFC Yum Center. The Cardinals are undefeated against the Big East at home and Pitt will have its hands full in this game.

Not only does Pitt need to deal with playing on the road, they'll be doing it against a skilled and balanced team. Louisville doesn't have a superstar per se, but eight players average at least six points per game. This isn't head coach Rick Pitino's best team, but to lead them to a 21-7 record in the Big East conference without a star should get him at least some consideration for Coach of the Year.

Pitt also has a history of struggling against the Cardinals. The Panthers are only 3-3 against Louisville over the past four seasons and Pitt had to win in overtime in their last two victories. Last year's game was one of those OT thrillers as Nasir Robinson's career-high 26 points fueled Pitt's victory.

This year's Louisville team plays some defense as well and while they've been a bit inconsistent, opposing teams can have problems with their zone. They've kept opponents under 50 points five times this year and two under 40 points. The Cardinals completely shut down Rutgers in their last game, holding them to only 37 points at the RAC. Pitt's offense stepped up in a big way against West Virginia in their last game, and this contest will be a good barometer in determining if the offense is getting back on track.

And while it may be relatively minor in terms of offensive production, Pitt is missing one of its key bench players in Talib Zanna, who was broke his thumb in somewhat of a freak accident last week. Zanna hasn't been a big contributor in most of Pitt's Big East games this season, but his loss will hurt the team's depth. J.J. Richardson and Lamar Patterson will be pushed a bit more into action and while Patterson played extremely well in Pitt's win on Thursday against West Virginia, he can't be counted on for that type of production all the time.

To be honest, I'm not entirely optimistic about this game. Pitt is a better team than Louisville this season and is certainly capable of winning. But it's going to be a tough one nonetheless and I'm expecting a close contest.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.