Louisville was picked to finish second to last in the eight-team Big East, according to the pre-season media poll released Tuesday.
Coach Charlie Strong said at the conference's Media Day in Newport, R.I., that defense will be key if the Cardinals want to prove the voters wrong.
"If you can't play defense, you will be giving up 60 points a game, and you won't be winning many games," Strong said during an interview on the Big East Web site during which he was asked about Louisville's offensive struggles since 2006. The team went 12-1 and averaged almost 38 points a game that year.
Strong said the key to that defense will be Greg Scruggs, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound senior who started six games last season.
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"In order for us to be good, Scruggs has to lead our defense," Strong said.
But Scruggs couldn't speak for himself because he, running back Victor Anderson, kicker Chris Philpott and wide receiver Josh Chichester never made it to Newport.
The players got stuck at an airport in Washington, D.C., Monday night because of bad weather that eventually canceled their flight.
Strong said Tuesday he spoke with the players the night before, and one of them told him, " 'So much for the clam bake.' They were at McDonald's or somewhere with a bag in their hand."
The league's annual dinner party featured lobster as the main course.
West Virginia was picked to win the Big East, with Pittsburgh and South Florida also receiving first-place votes. WVU has won or shared the Big East title five times in eight years and received 21 of the 24 first-place votes and 188 points.
■ The Big East is still considering expansion as it prepares to negotiate a TV-rights deal that Commissioner John Marinatto called the most important in its history.
The league will add Texas Christian for football in the fall of 2012. The move gives the Big East another huge television market, along with New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but it could further complicate the relationship between the schools that play football and those that don't. Football members would like to add another school, but that has to appease the basketball members, too.
"There is no magic number for us," Marinatto said. "We want quality. We're a non-traditional conference. We find ways to make things work. We keep defying the odds."
The Big East has separate TV deals for football and basketball with ESPN. Each expires in 2013.
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