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Louisville/Stanford News and Notes

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Stanford coach Trent Johnson has started to prepare his team for its "road game" against Louisville by starting practice at 7 a.m. to get his players ready for a first-round matchup that will commence at 9:40 a.m. their time.

The game starts at 9:40 a.m. PDT -- an hour when many of Stanford's players are typically just getting out of bed or even still sleeping.

"Dang, that's early," Stanford forward Fred Washington said Monday.

On top of the time, they will play at Kentucky's Rupp Arena, capacity 23,000 and one of college basketball's most cavernous venues. It's only some 70 miles from Louisville's campus, too.

"Lucky draw, I guess," Washington said of his opponent. "I'm not going to complain -- we're in. It doesn't matter where we play. ... They're probably going to have the majority of the fans. We've got to deal with it and treat it like a road game."

The early feeling on the SU campus is that Louisville is an athletic team that can get to the hoop and turn them over much like the Southern Cal squad that beat them in overtime in the first round of the PAC-10 Tournament.

The Cardinal is feeling a bit more confident now that guard Anthony Goods and forward Lawrence Hill have both said they're ready to go for Thursday. Goods has a tender left ankle and Hill hurt his lower back and hip in a hard collision with USC's Lodrick Stewart late in Thursday's loss to the Trojans.

The atmosphere on Thursday in Lexington, which Jackson believes will be more hostile than what they saw in road wins at Virginia and Fresno State, has some on the Stanford campus nervous and some on the team adopting the ciched "us against the world" mentality.

"Big-time environment," Goods said. "I imagine it will be crazy."

Crazy enough that even students on The Farm weren't getting their hopes up for a deep tournament run -- despite offering congratulatory greetings to the players. Freshman 7-footer Brook Lopez sat behind someone in a psychology class Monday whose bracket was visible on his laptop and Lopez saw that he'd eliminated the Cardinal in the first round. Lopez and his twin brother, Robin, have played a key role in Stanford's return to the tournament.

"I told my friends we'd bust his bracket," Brook Lopez said. "Hopefully we can get some of the Kentucky fans there, since it is Rupp Arena -- get Kentucky booing for Louisville. I guess it doesn't get any harder, but it doesn't get much more fun either."

Recent history suggests that the last bubble teams to make the field of 65 are successful because they want to prove to everyone that they belong, and because their first-round opponent takes them lightly due to all the speculation they hear from the media over whether or not they even deserved to make the tournament.

This might not bode well for the Cards considering that Stanford was not only one of the last teams to get in, but the very last to hear their name called.

After 35 anxious minutes in front of a locker-room television Sunday, Anthony Goods couldn't bear to look any longer. His head down, the Stanford point guard knew the Cardinal's chances of making the NCAA tournament were down to one spot.

Yes, one spot.

Then, suddenly, pandemonium erupted.

Stanford's name appeared on the screen. Seeded 11th in the South regional, it will play No.6 seed Louisville on Thursday in Lexington, Ky.

Goods and Brook Lopez hugged and then picked up coach Trent Johnson -- a man who rarely smiles but, according to his players, cracked a "smirk" for this occasion. With everyone around them hooting and hollering, the 7-foot Lopez and 6-4 Goods paraded Johnson around the room.

"It was crazy," Goods said. "Everybody was hugging and pushing."

The fact that they could see instantly that they were going to be facing an opponent playing just an hour away from their home wasn't enough to dampen the mood of a team on pins and needles moments earlier.

Within an hour of the selection show, Stanford was back at work, preparing for a Louisville team that was ranked 12th in the country and finished third in the Big East. The Cardinals (23-9) are led by a pair of second-team all-conference players, 6-11 junior center David Padgett and 6-6 sophomore forward Terrence Williams. They also have a coach who knows a little about winning in March.

Johnson called Rick Pitino "one of the top five guys in this business."

"It's a great challenge for us," he added, "and is even more so because Louisville should enjoy a significant home-court advantage.

"We can play them in Jamaica for all I care," Johnson said.

Johnson echoed similar sentiments to Brian Bennett for his piece in the Courier-Journal this morning.  

"We could be playing at 4 in the morning and that would be OK by us," Johnson said. "The game could be anywhere or any time, and we'd be ready to go. You can look for a million reasons to make excuses, but these are 18-to 21-year-old kids playing in the NCAA Tournament. We're very excited."

Johnson set the no-excuses tone for his players before the season, telling them that their youth - six of the Cardinal's top seven scorers are freshmen or sophomore - couldn't be used to justify poor performance.

Johnson also focused on his team's ability to take care of the ball as one of the focal points of Thursday afternoon's game.

Johnson prefers a halfcourt game that keeps opponents out of transition. He worries about his team's ball-handling; the Cardinal was last in the PAC-10 in turnover margin.

"Inexperience has something to do with it," Johnson said. "We also have a lot of turnovers in the post. When you have two freshmen in the post getting double-teamed by people like UCLA and Washington State, that's going to happen."

Johnson called U of L (23-9) scary because of its depth, athleticism, and ability to pressure the ball. Not to mention that it could be like a home game for Louisville.

Much more on Stanford and how they matchup with our beloved Cards forthcoming.