Louisville will try to avoid looking ahead when it continues its early American Athletic Association slate at Rutgers on Saturday. The 10th-ranked Cardinals, who throttled Central Florida 90-65 in their AAC opener New Year's Eve, have a home matchup with No. 18 Memphis - one of the few teams given a chance to contend with Louisville in the league - on the horizon. Before that, they must continue to ride senior leader Russ Smith in the first matchup with the Scarlet Knights as AAC opponents.
The Cardinals dropped their first encounter with Rutgers when the two were members of the Big East in 2006, but Louisville won the next seven, all by at least 12 points. Another runaway win could be in the making Saturday, but the Scarlet Knights have been playing improved basketball of late, picking up their third straight win with a 71-66 triumph over Temple in their AAC opener on Wednesday. Kadeem Jack, who was limited to one point in 18 minutes against the Cardinals last season, topped Rutgers with 18 points in the win over the Owls.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (12-2, 1-0 AAC): With the recent dismissal of forward Chane Behanan and now word that guard Kevin Ware will be shut down for the remainder of the season, Rick Pitino's ranks have been diminished. However, Smith - who scored 24 points against Central Florida - has continued to make massive strides and will perhaps be the AAC's most important player through league play. The Brooklyn native has increased his shooting percentage to 45.1, compared to 38.7 through his first three collegiate seasons, and has a 2.09 assist-to-turnover ratio, a sharp rise from the 0.98 mark he posted through his junior year.
ABOUT RUTGERS (7-7, 1-0): While they can hang on the offensive end with most teams due to the play of Jack and fellow standout Myles Mack, the Scarlet Knights have given up points in bunches at times, much of it when teams exploit them on the perimeter. Rutgers has allowed opponents to hit 116 3-pointers at a 38.2 percent clip, easily the highest numbers in those categories among AAC teams and a troubling trend against a Louisville squad that ranks among the nation's leaders in 3-point tries. Even during their three-game run, the Scarlet Knights have allowed teams to make a respectable 26-of-66 from beyond the arc.
1. Cardinals G/F Wayne Blackshear had a season-high 19 points in the visit to Rutgers last season.
2. Scarlet Knights F Wally Judge is averaging 13.7 points, eight rebounds and two blocks during his team's winning streak.
3. Smith needs 12 points to move into 20th on the school's all-time scoring list and 21 to hit the 1,500-point mark.
PREDICTION: Louisville 85, Rutgers 77