No time for a full game preview (and who reads all of those anyway?) so I thought we'd cover the most blatantly obvious, generic keys to the game possible in order to have something to talk about for the next hour or so.
Let's do it.
1. Forcing 'Nova to turn it over
The Wildcats have multiple capable ball handlers, but turned it over a season-high 23 times against Marquette's pressure D on Monday. Stat stuffer Dante Cunningham and the always erratic Scottie Reynolds were the main culprits, giving it away six times apiece.
Reynolds is undoubtedly one of the most talented player in the Big East, but he still goes through stretches where he plays wildly out of control. He's turned the ball over at least once in every game this season, and has given it away at least three times in 18 of 'Nova's 27 games.
If the Wildcats spot Louisville as many free points as they did Marquette, then this one will never be in doubt.
2. Limiting 'Nova's number two
Reynolds is a player capable of going for 30 every time he sets foot on the court, and he's likely going to get his this afternoon. What Louisville must avoid is having a second VU player go off for well above their average.
One of the more likely candidates to have a career game is freshman guard Corey Stokes, who is playing his best basketball of the season. The former McDonald's All-American has scored in double figures in four straight games, and has connected on 11 of his last 23 three-point attempts. The other guy who still scares me is reserve guard Reggie Redding, a player who has seen his court time dwindle to the point where he's only playing about 13 minutes a game. Still, I keep waiting for the kid to have a breakout game, but having it come this afternoon would certainly be poor timing.
3. Taking advantage of the Wildcats in the paint
Shane Clark and Antonio Pena are both fine players, but it's safe to say that Louisville should have a pretty sizable advantage in the front court. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams present matchup issues for just about anyone, but they have the chance to be particularly effective this afternoon, especially on the glass where 'Nova has been taken advantage of by bigger teams.
Pitino talked this week about the way that 'Nova consistently fronts the post, which is something I never noticed. This makes crisp and calculated outside-in passing extremely important for Louisville. It'd be nice to see some big man-to-big man passing, as long as guys like Earl and Derrick don't force the issue.
4. Postseason dreams vs. Senior Day
There should be plenty of emotion on both sides this afternoon. Villanova is looking for a signature win that - coupled with a strong performance in New York - would give them a shot at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. A loss by the Wildcats today would likely make four wins in four days their only possible ticket to the dance.
Louisville, meanwhile, is looking to both honor its seniors, and keep its eight-game winning streak in tact. These games are always packed with emotion, but the Cards must put everything aside and get after it once the ball is tipped.
5. Our good friend Jimmy Burr
Jim Burr heads today's officiating crew and he's joined by John Higgins, whose cluelessness was on full display in the West Virginia game on Jan. 10. My first initial reaction was of course to cringe, but this could actually play to Louisville's favor. Nobody in the Big East has had more disqualifications than 'Nova, and only 28 teams in the country have committed more total fouls. It may make the game a little harder to watch, but a whistle-happy crew could improve U of L's odds of winning No. 24.
6. Card Chronicle making a prediction
CC Prediction: Louisville 76, Villanova 63