Cards show improvement with one week to play

Louisville gave perhaps their best back-to-back efforts of the season last week against DePaul and West Virginia. With two games remaining, and needing to win its way into next week's Big East Tournament, the Cards have one last chance to salvage their season.

You certainly can't be disappointed with Louisville's effort over the weekend against West Virginia in a 68-64 loss. The Cardinals played the Mountaineers tough and got big performances from their two best players – Taquan Dean and Juan Palacios.

Palacios is playing his best basketball of the year. His movement and assertiveness on the court is much better than it was earlier in the season, no doubt a sign that his ankle is back to full strength. Had he been able to give the Cards 14 points and 11 boards all year like he did against WVU, Louisville's season might have turned out much better.

Since missing some games with an ankle injury early in the Big East schedule, Dean has played well for the Cardinals. Once again, the 6-3 senior had a monster game with 25 points against the Mountaineers. It's hard to believe Dean will play his last game in Freedom Hall this Wednesday against Marquette. Time really does fly.

For the first time all season, Louisville put together two good efforts last week – a 65-53 win over DePaul and, of course, the loss to WVU. Ironically, the Cards played some of their best ball without 6-11 David Padgett. While Louisville loses some offensive firepower without Padgett in the post, Brian Johnson and Terrence Farley provide more athleticism on defense and something the Cards lacked all season long – rebounding.

With Johnson and Farley splitting the minutes at center, Louisville out-rebounded both the Blue Demons and Mountaineers. The two also give the Cards a shot blocking presence in the lane, rejecting 6 shots in the two games combined. While it won't help Rick Pitino's squad reach the NCAA's this year, the experience these two gained will be invaluable next season.

Now it comes down to this. Louisville probably has to win one game this week against either Marquette or Connecticut - and root against some league foes to falter - to secure a spot in next week's Big East Tournament. The only way the Cards could beat the Huskies in Storrs would be if Jim Calhoun's team didn't show up. Since that's not going to happen, Wednesday night's game against the Golden Eagles figures to be make or break.

Beating Marquette has never been an easy chore. This time around won't be any different. The Golden Eagles have proven they can beat anyone in the league on a given night. Just ask UConn how dangerous Marquette and Steve Novak can be. Dean and Co. will have to put it all together to have a chance. If they get the ‘W,' it's probably safe to pack your bags for New York.

If not, the Cards better start doing a whole lot of praying.


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