What's wrong with Louisville?

What's wrong with Louisville? That's the question Louisville fans are asking after a 31-point loss to Providence Tuesday night - the Cardinals fourth loss in five games. InsideTheVille.com examines the problems and possible fixes.

What's wrong with Louisville?

That's the question Louisville fans are asking after a 31-point loss to Providence Tuesday night - the Cardinals fourth loss in five games.

After starting the season 12-0 and rising to No. 4 in the national polls, Louisville has been in a virtual free fall since the start of Big East play. Losses to Georgetown and Notre Dame at home and Providence has dropped the Cardinals to 1-3 in the Big East. Rick Pitino's team has their backs against the wall and the schedule doesn't get any easier with No. 1 Syracuse looming twice.

Why is Louisville sputtering in the new year? Where to start?

Without Preston Knowles, Louisville has been offensively challenged all season. Rick Pitino's system is designed to take advantage of the three-point shot. The problem is, Pitino's roster doesn't have many dead-eye shooters. Besides Kyle Kuric, who foes are keying to stop, Louisville doesn't have its typical assortment of long range bombers.

Unable to consistently put the ball in the basket from the outside, Louisville's offense, especially in the half court, has bogged down. That means Louisville isn't able to consistently apply Pitino's patented full court pressure to force turnovers and wear foes down with its deep bench.

Somehow, Pitino has to figure a way to up the tempo if his team is going to bounce back and make the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season.

What's the solution? This is the question keeping Pitino, who has taken three different teams to the Final Four, up nights trying to find answers - and there don't appear any quick - or easy - fixes. Maybe the answer starts on defense for an offensively challenged bunch.


Can Rick Pitino solve Louisville's problems?
The 2-3 zone defense Piitno has adopted late in his career doesn't seem the answer to speed the game up. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Besides, Louisville hasn't been particularly effective in the zone this season because they lack the requisite length on the wings and in the backcourt to cause foes headaches. That's why opponents have had consistent success finding open shots from deep this season against Louisville's zone.

One solution to speeding up the game might be to scrap the zone in favor of old fashioned man-to-man defense. There are some risks involved with that strategy, especially considering Louisville's problems containing the dribble. But desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

Two other developments could help.

This Louisville team goes as its best player - Peyton Siva - does. The talented point guard has been struggling since sustaining a serious ankle sprain in November and so has Louisville. If the Cardinals hope to halt their losing streak and turn things around, Siva has to step up his play and lead the way.

The other potential solution involves the return of injured players Wayne Blackshear and Stephan Van Treese. Louisville needs reliable reserves for center Gorgui Dieng and forward Kyle Kuric. Presently, there's a major drop off in the team's play when the 6'11 Dieng goes to the bench and Rakeem Buckles, coming off ACL surgery, replaces him. Van Treese, a banger who was slated to spell Dieng before injuring his knee, could improve the situation. The Cardinals also could use Blackshear, UofL's top recruit, to provide depth behind Kuric, who has been forced to play too many minutes this season. Blackshear could return this month after undergoing his second shoulder surgery in late November.

If there are solutions to be found for Louisville's problems, now is the time for Rick Pitino to find them. Otherwise, the Cardinals might dig themselves a hole they won't be able to dig out of against a tough Big East schedule.


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