Wednesday , Mar , 08 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Cardinals and Panthers meet in opening round of Big East Tourney

(Sports Network) – The 15th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers and the Louisville
Cardinals will square off tonight in the final of four Big East Conference
Tournament opening-round games. Awaiting the winner is a date with third-
seeded West Virginia in the quarterfinal round on Thursday. Louisville
earned the 11th seed because of its disappointing 6-10 conference record, and
the club has not put together back-to-back wins since early January. The
Cardinals are one of five new teams in the league, and they have fallen well
short of expectations.

As for Pittsburgh, the sixth seed, it captured the program’s only Big East
Conference Tournament crown back in 2003, and the squad owns a 16-22 record in
this event. Consecutive losses to close out the regular season cost the
Panthers a shot at an opening-round bye, and a lack of offense was the key to
defeat in both of those tilts. Pittsburgh posted a 61-57 road win over
Louisville back on January 15th, and both teams have now won a game in the
brief series.

Louisville will be forced to play this tournament without the services of
injured standout forward David Padgett, as he had surgery on Monday to end his
season. Padgett averaged 11.8 ppg and 6.1 rpg in the 24 games that he played,
and his contributions will be missed. Fortunately, there are some talented
players for the Cardinals who are capable of picking up the slack. Taquan Dean
is a Second Team All-Big East selection who is averaging 16.5 ppg to go along
with 5.8 rpg and 96 assists. Brandon Jenkins adds 11.8 ppg to the mix, and
Juan Palacios is netting 10.8 ppg. Louisville is netting 70.3 ppg on 42.3
percent shooting from the field, and it is surrendering 64.8 ppg to opponents
on 40.9 percent efficiency.

Pittsburgh is not short on star power, as Aaron Gray and Carl Krauser were
both recognized by the league’s coaches for their play this season. Gray, a
7-0 junior center, earned a spot of the prestigious All-Big East First Team,
while Krauser was a Second Team selection. Krauser paces the squad in scoring
with 15.3 ppg, and he is also tops with 127 assists and 47 steals. As for
Gray, he is posting 14.0 ppg on 55.3 percent shooting from the field, and he
also leads the Panthers with 10.4 rpg and 41 blocks. Nine players average at
least 11 minutes of action per game for Pittsburgh, which is scoring 73.6 ppg
while limiting opponents to just 63.5 ppg on 40.6 percent shooting.