Cards set for run toward NCAAs

LOUISVILLE — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said Friday the Cardinals need to win six of their final nine games of the regular season to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Pitino said during his regular news conference that inconsistencies in the lineup have hurt Louisville in its past four losses, but the rotation and the lineup are now set.

The Cards (14-8, 5-4) host Rutgers (11-11, 2-8) on Saturday at 4 p.m. Louisville is in sixth place in the Big East.

The Scarlet Knights enter the game on a two-game winning streak, defeating Notre Dame and St. John's.

Louisville's current ranking in the standings isn't solid. Only one-half game separates sixth place from 10th place.

"When you look at it right now, there are five locks for the NCAA Tournament," Pitino said. "And then there are four or five other teams vying for those two or three other spots that become available. We played against Cincinnati, we beat them. We're going to play against Notre Dame, they're one of the teams, we beat South Florida, they're one of the teams, Marquette, who we haven't played yet. So we have the teams coming up who we need to beat."

Pitino said if the Cards play the way the have in the past few games, they will win.

"We always get better in February because when you play a lot of people, guys don't mesh as early," Pitino said. "That's probably the problem with playing a lot of people is you don't mesh as quickly as teams that play seven people. And we're just starting to mesh well offensively."

A key to Louisville's drive to consistency and success could come with the play of its forwards, Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings.

"Those two guys, the good thing about both of them, is that they have so much growth," Pitino said.

Pitino also said guard Preston Knowles has been battling a stomach bug for the past few days but will play against Rutgers.