Louisville defeated South Florida Saturday at home in the KFC Yum! Center. Connecticut upset Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., earlier in the day Saturday.
With the Cardinals and Huskies meeting Monday night at the XL Center in Hartford, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was asked about the quick turnaround during Thursday’s Big East coaches’ conference call.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Pitino said. “I spent eight years in the pros and we would have four games in five nights. None of this affects me in any way. Today in college we have chartered flights and it shouldn’t bother you.”
Pitino may have a different answer after Sunday’s travel development – or maybe not. Louisville was unable to fly because of heavy fog in the Hartford area. The Cardinals revised their plan and, according to a Louisville athletic department spokesman, will practice at home Monday morning before flying to Hartford. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The impact of that alteration remains to be seen, but regardless it should be a very interesting day for Louisville (15-1, 3-0 Big East). With No. 1 Duke losing to North Carolina State Saturday and No. 2 Michigan falling at Ohio State Sunday, the Cardinals jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in The Associated Press poll released Monday.
Now the college basketball world will watch to see how they handle that lofty position as they play the Huskies (12-3, 2-1).
UConn, coming off its most impressive victory since the season-opening win over Michigan State, traveled home after the Notre Dame win Saturday and practiced Sunday in Storrs. But having just one day of preparation for a team many favor to win the 2013 national championship remains a huge challenge for first-year coach Kevin Ollie and his players.
The Huskies, written off by so many at the start of the season because of the NCAA-imposed postseason ban, could pull into a tie with Louisville in the Big East standings with a third consecutive conference victory. UConn’s only Big East loss remains the 82-76 decision at Marquette, which was followed by apologizes from the conference office after the officials admitted to their now famous mistake at the start of overtime.
Junior forward Tyler Olander had a career-high 16 points and teamed with guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to lead the Huskies past No. 17 Notre Dame Saturday. Ollie continues to emphasize and praise the total team effort he is receiving from his shorthanded squad.
“Good things are going to happen to a team that sticks together and a team that plays for each other,” Ollie said after the Notre Dame win. “Our ultimate goal is us. We wrote it on the board that our ultimate goal is us. It was a good job by our coaching staff and a good job by our players to come out and get a great road victory. We want to keep building on this. We have a little time to celebrate but after that we have to flush it in the toilet and go on to the next one."
UConn is 2-6 all-time against No. 1 teams in the AP poll. That includes a 1-1 record at home. UConn lost to Kansas 73-65 at the Hartford Civic Center on Jan. 19, 1997 but defeated Texas 88-74 at Gampel Pavilion on Jan. 23, 2010. UConn’s other win came against Duke, 77-74, in the 1999 national championship.
Louisville, coming off a Final Four season in 2012, features one of the top backcourt combinations in the nation in Peyton Siva (11.9 ppg, 5.7 assists) and Russ Smith (18.7). They are joined in the starting lineup by center Georgui Dieng and forwards Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear. Behanan had 12 rebounds and seven points against USF Saturday, just five days after injuring his left ankle in practice.
The Cardinals have 10 straight since losing to Duke 76-71 when Dieng was out with an injury.
As of Sunday afternoon, UConn officials said tickets were still available for Monday’s game. About 13,000 tickets had been sold.