Louisville opens its season Friday night ranked ninth in the country, with Coach Rick Pitino on the brink of his 600th victory and about to pass a Cardinals icon.
The season opener against Tennessee-Martin at the KFC Yum Center will start a stretch of 12 of Louisville's first 13 games at home.
The Cardinals return 11 players from last season but are trying to get over a rash of injuries.
Rakeem Buckles (right knee) and Stephan Van Treese (left knee) have not practiced this fall, while Mike Marra (back) is a week or two from rejoining the team. Peyton Siva, the team's starting point guard, is expected to play on Friday after sustaining a concussion on Oct. 27.
"We've struggled with leadership and Peyton's the most vocal," Pitino said. "He's an energy guy. He brings it. Everybody has a different leadership style and when Peyton's around, just everything goes better."
Siva said he finally began feeling better over the last few days and has been symptom free.
"It just rattled me up a little bit," Siva said. "I've practiced four times already and I felt pretty good out there playing and running. I feel really good now."
Siva also said he's excited to help Pitino reach the 600-win milestone, but the coach himself is less enthused.
"I wish it was 200. That's what I wish rather than 600, because I'd be 33, 34," the 59-year-old Pitino said. "It's just great to accomplish it at the University of Louisville, certainly, but it's like turning 50. Forty was more important."
The milestone is coming earlier than expected.
Pitino had won 597 games and a national title over stops at Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville. But it was a 2-4 stretch credited to Pitino in 1976 after he took over Hawaii as an interim coach that will make him the 38th or 39th Division I coach to reach the 600-win plateau. Western Carolina's Larry Hunter also has a chance for the milestone win at South Carolina on Friday night.
"To be honest with you, I've never thought in terms of wins," Pitino said.
But if the Cardinals beat the Skyhawks, Pitino will reach 600 wins one game faster than longtime Louisville coach Denny Crum did.
"As quick as he can get there would be better for us," Siva said. "Because, you know, when you win around this place, it's a better mood for everybody."
Cards sign guard
Terry Rozier, a point guard from Shaker Heights (Ohio) High School, signed with Louisville on Thursday.
Rozier, a cousin of U of L freshman center Zach Price, chose the Cardinals over Cincinnati, Illinois, West Virginia and Cleveland State.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Rozier averaged 18.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a junior last season.
"Terry is the perfect fit for not only our style of play, but what we want to do at both ends of the floor," Pitino said. "He's a combo guard, capable of playing two positions, that is equally as good on defense as he is on offense. He passes the ball well and is an outstanding scorer off the bounce ... . He is fundamentally sound and is capable of coming in and playing as a freshman."
Rozier is rated the No. 88 overall prospect in the class of 2012 by ESPNU and No. 112 by Rivals.com.