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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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The only thing Scarlett wants more than a win over Pitt is to be on Card Chronicle. Hopefully, this is the day both of those things happen.

I_medium Spread check: Louisville by 7.5.

I_medium The Louisville women will be going for their 10th straight victory Thursday night when they travel to Charlottesville to take on Virginia. Your game preview is here.

I_medium One of the greatest images to ever grace the virtual pages of Card Chronicle was this baby (Annalyn Samuels) in a Gorgui onesie lying in the middle of a giant Sunny Will Stein banner:

The mastermind behind this piece of art, Louis Samuels, is back with the ever-rare successful sequel: a more grown up Annalyn in the middle of a giant blanket of Jerry Smith's towels.

She even rocked the blanket in the cold at the Music City Bowl.

I cannot wait for the day this poor girl becomes an angry teenager forced to pose with some 2027 concoction by Louis inspired by the most recent Card Chronicle ridiculousness.

Incredibly awesome.

I_medium The latest from Kyle Kuric is that the former Cardinal great hopes to be back running next week.

I_medium Louisville-Pitt is being dubbed by the folks up North as "The Battle of the Graduate Tranfers."

Pitt signed three graduate transfers and starts two: guard Sterling Smith and center Rafael Maia. Their veteran leadership has helped lift the Panthers (14-1, 3-0) into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in two years.

Louisville (13-3, 2-1) signed a pair of graduate transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who not only start but also have emerged as the Cardinals' leading scorers.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, noting how the rule has impacted both teams, adopted a phrase for the 9:05 p.m. matchup at KFC Yum! Center.

"The grad transfer championship," Dixon said. "That's the story."

The story highlights how the rule can enhance the right teams under the right circumstances.

Pitt needed a veteran guard to replace Cameron Wright and found one in Smith, who has started every game and averages 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds and shoots 49.1 percent from 3-point range. Maia and another graduate transfer, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, fill a void at center that was a weak spot in the Panthers defense last season.

Lee and Lewis have more than adequately replaced Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell, who were Louisville's leading scorers last season. However, when Lee and Lewis don't play well, the Cardinals struggle.

I_medium Luke Winn's latest power rankings for Sports Illustrated have Louisville all the way down at No. 28, which seems harsh.

I_medium Rodger Sherman has a great breakdown of why Alabama's onside kick worked so well against Clemson in particular.

I_medium Sheldon Rankins is the No. 11 overall prospect on Roto World's latest NFL Draft big board.

11. Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins

Where He Wins: A true interior disruptor. Rankins was asked to play next to the center, guard and outside of the tackle this year. He's at his best getting upfield off the snap with explosion and agility. He's quite strong for a compact defensive tackle. Disruptors like Rankins can be difficult to find in any class. Rankins was on the field for 79.4% of the school's snaps.

I_medium I can take losing Des Fitzpatrick to another program, but losing him to Syracuse would be both brutal and hard to fathom.

I_medium James Burgess appreciates our man Keith Wynne's hard work.

I_medium SLAM has a great feature on Samaki Walker, who keeps trying to talk to people about his experience in Syria but can't seem to find anyone who wants to listen.

I_medium In large part because of Lamar Jackson, expectations are on the rise for Louisville football.

I_medium The NCAA actually passed a rule yesterday that benefits its student athletes.

The NCAA has approved a proposal that will push back the date for when men's college basketball players must declare for the NBA Draft, the organization announced. Prospects will now have until 10 days after the NBA Draft combine to remove their name from draft consideration and maintain their eligibility.

This year, the NBA Draft combine runs from May 11-15 in Chicago, so the early-entry date will be May 25. Prospects will be allowed to attend the combine and go through one team workout before making their decision. They can do this as many times as they want.

The previous declaration date is the day before the start of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period in April, while the NBA Draft combine is typically held in mid-May. That arrangement benefited college coaches, but was not favorable to players because they needed to make up their minds before they could be fully evaluated by NBA teams. Now, they can at least go through the beginning of the draft process before making the ultimate decision to forego their college eligibility.

I_medium Backstreet Boy Nick Carter got arrested last night after getting into a bar fight. A person who had success as a young man struggling to adjust to life as an adult. Is he original? Is he the only one?

I_medium Corey Ray is awesome and Louisville baseball is loaded.

I_medium It would appear as though the Vanilla Godzilla takeover of Japan is right on track.

I_medium Louisville has offered a scholarship to Hunter Rison, a 4-star wide receiver who is the son of former NFL star Andre Rison.

I_medium The Crunch Zone evaluates Louisville's defensive roster for next season.

I_medium ESPN's Andrea Adelson says that Clemson, Florida State and Louisville could make up the strongest Atlantic Division in the history of the ACC.

So divisional imbalance is everywhere. But the Atlantic in 2016 could feature its best top-three teams ever. Though Louisville also finished 2014 ranked in the Top 25 with Clemson and Florida State, its team this year has more potential, at least on paper.

The Cardinals return 18 starters -- more than Florida State and Clemson. That includes dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson and linebacker Devonte Fields, who flourished in the second half of the season and finished with 22.5 tackles for loss. They do lose key players in Sheldon RankinsPio Vatuvei and James Burgess, but for the most part coach Bobby Petrino has high expectations for 2016 and so do many who have closely followed this program.

But what to do about the two Atlantic giants that have stood in the way? Unfortunately for Louisville, both Clemson and Florida State return dynamic players and talented teams, too. There is a reason both are going to be ranked in the preseason Top 10.

Florida State has 17 starters back, including Dalvin CookDeMarcus Walker andDerwin James. Clemson has fewer, though it does return eight starters on offense, including Deshaun Watson, leading rusher Wayne Gallman, leading receiver Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett. Plus All-ACC receiver Mike Williams, who missed 2015 with a neck injury.

Those two programs have an edge, simply because they have been recruiting at a much higher level than Louisville has over the last seven years. The top recruiting classes Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney have signed are the reason why Florida State and Clemson are now consistent Top 10 programs. The Tigers played in the national championship game after losing eight starters on defense, after all.

I_medium Cardiac Hill, SB Nation's Pitt site, displays some irrational exuberance for the Panther basketball team.

I_medium Dillon Avare range.

I_medium U of L is No. 23 in the latest Directors' Cup standings.

I_medium I hear you, Jaquay.

I_medium Cardinal QB commit Tylin Oden has set up an official visit to USC.

I_medium Speaking of USC, College basketball folks wrote off Andy Enfield as a joke hire when the Trojans brought him in from Florida Gulf Coast three years ago, but the mayor Dunk City is currently proving all those people wrong.

I_medium Not sure I could not pull these off.

I_medium So Clemson followed up its upset of Louisville with a win over Duke last night because apparently a temporary arena in Greenville 45 minutes away from the Tigers' campus is the biggest home court advantage in the ACC. Raise your hand if you had Clemson and Virginia Tech off to 4-1 and 3-1 ACC starts with Syracuse at 1-4 and NC State at 0-4.

Put your hand down, Hot Hot.

Here's how the league stands heading into tonight's games:

This is a biggie for the Cards.

I_medium Campus Insiders is riding with the upset tonight.

Why Pitt Will Win

Michael Young and Jamel Artis combined for 44 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field against Notre Dame. Artis was especially dangerous from three, as he knocked down 5-of-9 triples on the Fighting Irish. If Artis can space the floor against Louisville, that'll create more opportunities for Young near the basket. Pitt needs to keep a hand in Lee's face at all times and hold the Cardinals off the offensive boards — specifically Onuaku.

What's Going To Happen?

Artis has been shooting the ball really well the past couple of games, and that will continue against Louisville. He and Young will each hit double figures. The entire team will do a solid job of keeping Onuaku off the offensive glass by boxing out and snagging the ball above the rim. Lee will shoot better this time around, but he won't knock down enough threes to separate Louisville from Pitt. Onuaku will flirt with a double-double but fall just short, as the Panthers steal one on the road.

Louisville vs. Pitt Prediction

Prediction: Pitt 84, Louisville 82
Line: Louisville -7

I_medium Dream Backfield (a Pitt site) likes Louisville by 4.

I_medium John and I will spend the bulk of this afternoon's show talking about tonight's game. You can listen from 3-6 live on 93.9 The Ville (FM), online here, or by calling 605-477-9680 and streaming through your phone without using any data.

I_medium And finally, beat Pitt.