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Louisville-Eastern Kentucky preview: Cards host Colonels in 2016 Billy Minardi Classic


2016 Billy Minardi Classic

Game Time: 12:05 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Regional Sports Networks (Fox Sports South locally)

Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) and Mike Gminksi (analyst)

Officials: Tim Comer, Jerry Heater and Jeff Pon

Favorite: Louisville by 25.5

All-Time Series: Louisville leads 51-22

Last Meeting: Louisville won 78-63 on Dec. 30, 2004 at Freedom Hall

Series History:

Billy Minardi Classic History:

Probable Starting Lineups:


Relevant Videos:

About Eastern Kentucky:

Coached by former Louisville assistant Dan McHale, Eastern Kentucky had won four straight games before falling 91-86 in overtime at Ball State on Dec. 10. The Colonels notched their biggest win of the season two weeks earlier with a 78-59 thrashing of arch-rival Western Kentucky. 

Forward Nick Mayo is fourth in the OVC in scoring (19.3 points-per-game) and ranks 20th in the nation in total points
(212). Asante Gist, a three-time OVC Freshman of the Week this year, leads all freshmen in the OVC in scoring (14.4 ppg), assists (3.9 apg), assist/turnover ratio (1.0) and minutes played (28.8 mpg).

Eastern Kentucky is second in the OVC and 16th in the nation in total three-pointers made (102; 9.3 per game). The Colonels rank No. 111 in the RPI, 174 in the Sagarin Ratings and 201 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings heading into Saturday's game.

About the Billy Minardi Classic:

The Billy Minardi Classic originated in 2002 to honor the memory of Billy Minardi, best friend and brother in-law of UofL Coach Rick Pitino who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Louisville has won 13 championships in 14 years in the event, in which UofL has an 18-1 record.

The Cardinals won the inaugural event in 2002 in Freedom Hall, defeating Manhattan 89- 62 in the championship game of the four-team tournament. Reece Gaines was honored as the tournament's MVP while Cardinals Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia both earned recognition on the all-tournament team.

In 2003, the event was a single, truly classic game as the Cardinals captured the Minardi Classic title with a 73-65 victory over top-ranked Florida in the second annual event. Francisco Garcia, who produced 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, was honored as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The event returned to a two-day, four game tournament each of the next two years. Louisville beat Austin Peay 77-49 in the championship game in 2004 when Taquan Dean was named MVP after averaging 18 points and 4.5 assists in the two games. Francisco Garcia, Larry O'Bannon and Juan Palacios made the all-tournament team.

In 2005, UofL beat College of Charleston 78-63 in the tournament championship game. Brandon Jenkins was the MVP when he averaged 16.5 points with nine assists and just one turnover in the two games. UofL suffered its first defeat in the event in 2006 when Massachusetts won 72-68. The Cardinals bounced back in 2007 with a 70-65 victory over New Mexico St. in the single-game.

U of L opened its 2008-09 season with the Minardi Classic, defeating Morehead State 79-41 and South Alabama 81-54 to claim the title. Terrence Williams was named MVP with all-around totals of 14 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists and 7 steals in the two games. Teammates Samardo Samuels and Earl Clark also made the all-tournament team.

Edgar Sosa scored 17 points and handed out five assists as the game's MVP as U of L beat Western Ky. 102-75 in the 2009 Minardi Classic. The Cards beat No. 20 UNLV 77-69 in the 2010 event as Chris Smith earned MVP honors. UofL beat Western Kentucky 70-60 in 2011 as Russ Smith scored 23 points to grab MVP laurels. UofL beat FIU, a team coached by Pitino's son Richard, 79-55 in the 2012 event. Louisville beat Western Kentucky 79-63 in 2013 as Chane Behanan was the MVP with 11 points and seven rebounds. Louisville beat UNC Wilmington 68-57 in 2014 as Montrezl Harrell won MVP honors with 19 points and 17 rebounds.

The Cardinals beat UMKC and Utah Valley in last year's event, which featured a two-day doubleheader. Senior guard Trey Lewis was honored as the Most Outstanding Player, averaging 19.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the two games.

Minardi worked as an equities trader for the brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald, located high in the North Tower of the WTC. During the 2001-02 season, UofL players wore a uniform patch bearing a black "B" in memory of Minardi and those that lost their lives in the terrorist attacks


--Louisville owns an 18-1 record all-time in the Billy Minardi Classic, and has won the event in 13 of the 14 years it has existed.

--Eastern Kentucky is Louisville's fourth most-played all-time opponent at 73 meetings. The Cardinals have only faced Cincinnati (99), Memphis State (89) and Western Kentucky (79) more times.

--Eastern Kentucky assistant Reece Gaines was an All-American player at Louisville, where he starred from 1999-2003, playing his final two seasons for Rick Pitino.

--Former Louisville walk-on Dillon Avare is a scholarship player for EKU, where he's averaging 6.8 ppg as a junior.

--Louisville's win over Texas Southern last Saturday was Rick Pitino's 400th at Louisville.

--Louisville has a 29-4 record during the month of December over the last four years, winning 17 of its last 20 in the month.

--Louisville has won 52 of its last 53 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center.

--Donovan Mitchell leads the ACC and is 13th in the nation in steals (2.6 per game).

--Louisville leads the nation in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency through Dec. 11. The Cardinals are eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.360), 11th in scoring defense (59.7 ppg), eighth in blocked shots (6.4 per game), 24th in three-point field goal defense (.283), 20th in turnover margin (+5.0), 20th in rebound margin (+8.6), seventh in rebounds per game (44.8) and 20th in scoring margin (+17.9).

--Seven of Louisville's 10 opponents this season have shot below 36 percent from the field and four have shot below 32 percent.

--Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games in each of the last 14 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

--Louisville has opened with an 11-1 record each of the last four seasons.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 85, Eastern Kentucky 61