Can Pitino turn things around with Cincinnati coming to town Sunday afternoon? Here's a few key problems he'll have to solve if hopes to get the Cardinals back to their winning ways:
Problem: Lack of senior leadership. Senior captains Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith aren't getting it done for the Cardinals. Sosa might be having his best season at Louisville, but he missed crucial free throws at Pittsburgh that cost the Cardinals a win and committed a costly turnover in the final minute of a one possession game against Seton Hall. Strangely, Smith has struggled all year. A career 40 percent three-point shooter, Smith is shooting just 25 percent this season. Smith was scoreless against Pitt and hasn't scored in double figures during Louisville's three-game losing streak.
Solution: Recruiting. Pitino is trying to land five-star SF Justin Coleman and promising PF Gorgui Dieng for next season. In the short term, Pitino might try moving Samardo Samuels to power forward and inserting Terrence Jennings into the starting lineup at center. Small forward is more problematic. Maybe it's time to experiment with Jared Swopshire at the three and play zone.
Problem: Poor team defense. During Louisville's three-game losing streak, opponents have collectively shot 50.9 percent from the floor, including 52.9 percent (18-34) from the three-point line. For the season, the Cardinals field goal percentage defense is the highest in eight years.
Solution: As mentioned above, more minutes for Jennings, Siva and Knowles. Jennings is Louisville's best interior defensive presence, Siva has 18 steals and Knowles might be the best perimeter harasser on the team. Jennings nearly leads the team in blocked shots but plays only the seventh most minutes on the team and only played 16 total minutes in the Cardinals past three games. Knowles is second on the team in steals and is Louisville's best rebounding guard at 3.7.
Problem: Subpar three-point shooting. Louisville is shooting just 31 percent from the three-point arch this season and that's a problem because Pitino's offenses have always relied heavily on the three ball. When the bombs aren't falling, Louisville's offense can sputter. Jerry Smith, Peyton Siva, Jared Swopshire, Kyle Kuric and Mike Marra are each shooting below 30 percent. All five have attempted at least 24 three-pointers this season.
Solution: Stop shooting so many three's. Pound the ball inside more to Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings. Samuels is shooting 54 percent from the field and leads the team with 138 free throw attempts and has made 71 percent from the foul line. Jennings leads the team in field goal percentage at 63 percent. Samuels only got six shots against St. John's, four against Villanova with Taylor King trying to defend him in the post and seven vs. Seton Hall. That's not enough looks for Louisville's best offensive weapon. Mike Marra almost has as many field goal attempts this season as Jennings (65-63).