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Five reasons the Providence game is important for Louisville

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1. It's not quite the Villanova/Notre Dame/Pittsburgh stretch of mid-January, but tonight's game is the first of three against middle-of-the-pack teams every bit as desperate for a big-time win as the Irish were six days ago.

We can debate which of the three is the most dangerous, but the fact is that tonight's game is the only one that will be played in Freedom Hall. Taking a loss against a hungry team in a hostile environment at either Cincinnati or Georgetown would be disappointing, but somewhat understandable. A loss tonight would not.

2. It's not exactly a secret that this team needs Terrence Williams playing his best basketball in order to have any shot at making a run to Detroit. T-Will is reportedly as healthy as he's been since the Connecticut game, so seeing the return of his usual bounce as well as a couple of knocked down jumpers would be a very encouraging sign for the next couple of weeks.

3. Providence is another one of those enjoys scoring but would just as soon not run down to the other end afterward teams that the Cards have struggled with over the last two seasons (Seton Hall, Notre Dame and, to a more extreme extent, North Carolina). Being one of the best defensive teams in the country allows you to hang around with just about anybody, but in order to capture a regular season, tournament or national championship, you're going to have to win at least a game or two with offense, and tonight is an opportunity for Louisville to prove that's something they're capable of doing.

Confidence plays an enormous role in hot shooting, so it'd be nice to see some of the guys who lit it up against Depaul keep the ball rolling (so to speak) this evening.

4. The Friars may actually be the best in the league when it comes to matching Louisville's depth, so this probably isn't going to be one the Cards can win by wearing down the opponent with constant pressure. Efejuku, Curry, Xavier and McKenzie are all very good, so it will be a challenge for U of L to get points off of turnovers without having the luxury of facing a thin backcourt.

5. There's a chance, a chance, that Jonathan Xavier will wander out onto the court and berate an official.

That's not really big for Louisville, but it'd be awesome.