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Rick Pitino, Russ Smith Both Offer High Praise For AAC

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite this being Louisville's only season in the American Athletic Conference, two of the biggest names associated with the program aren't holding back in offering up significant praise for the league.

''You look at it, and Memphis will be a top 10 team, Cincinnati a top 20 team, Temple a top 30 team. SMU's on the rise. We're probably a top 5 team preseason,'' Rick Pitino said during the AAC's media day on Wednesday. ''So you have highly ranked basketball teams, outstanding coaches, great fan support, and there's places for me I have not coached at and I'm looking forward to.''

Louisville, which was the runaway choice as the league's preseason favorite, will play just one 18-game schedule as a league member before bolting for the greener pastures of the ACC. That doesn't mean the Cards can't have any conference pride between now and then.

"I feel like we're a top three league in the country," said Russ Smith. "Arguably right there with the Big Ten and the ACC."

In the end, though, Louisville's one season in the American is more about the Cards than it is about the conference.

''If it's a good one, they'll remember us as the team that won the last two years of the Big East, had a great year in the American league and now is going to start a new legacy in the ACC,'' Smith said. ''If we take care of business as we're supposed to, we're definitely going to be a dynasty to be reckoned with.''