"I look at the RPI," Rick Pitino said. "I think we were 44-46. We have the fifth toughest schedule in the nation. I don't look at Bracketology, but Joe Lunardi is always on the money. We got to play our way in. Right now we should be 6-3 in conference and 16-6 overall but we are not. We just have to take accountability for it and move forward."
That makes Louisville's nine remaining games vitally important, including Saturday's matchup against Rutgers. The Cardinals have virtually no wiggle room to play with if they hope to reach a fourth straight NCAA Tournament. Needing as many victories as possible down the stretch, Louisville has just four games left at home and still must play No. 4 Syracuse twice and No. 9 Georgetown.
Louisville can't afford a missed step against the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is just 11-11 this season, but has won their last two games against Notre Dame and St. John's. They had dropped nine straight before winning the past two games. The Scarlet Knights are led by guard Mike Rosario, who leads the team in scoring, and center Hamady Ndiaye, who ranks third nationally in blocked shots.
The Cardinals have shown signs of improvement of late, despite late game falters at Pittsburgh and West Virginia. After winning only three of eight games last month, UofL had one of their best performances in a 82-69 win over Connecticut Monday night.
They'll need a big month to crash the Big Dance and history suggests they're capable of stringing multiple wins together in the regular-seasons final month. UofL has won 19 of their last 21 games played during the month of February.
"Our team knows we are playing well," Pitino said. "You take Pitt to the wire , Seton Hall to the wire and WVU to the wire on the road and you know you are playing good basketball regardless of the disappointing outcome. It is unfortunate that we didn't convert them to wins. But we are playing good basketball."
With Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings in the lineup together, Pitino has made a few adjustments recently to Louisville's offensive sets. The Cardinals executed well against UConn and it resulted in one of their best offensive performances. Four players scored in double figures, Edgar Sosa dished out eight assists and the team connected on 10 of 21 three-point tries.
"We had to change our offense drastically," said Pitino. "With TJ and Samarado we had to go to three-four-five new sets. Abandoning the old sets is not easy to do. The guys did a good job of executing that. We had good shots and good ball movement. I thought they played excellent half court offense."
GAME FACTS - Louisville (14-8, 5-4) vs. Rutgers (11-11, 2-8)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 6
Time: 4:04 p.m. ET
TV: BIG EAST Network (WHAS-TV, Ch. 11 in Louisville) will televise the game with John Celestand (play-by-play) and Eamon McAnaney (analyst)
Radio: WKRD (790 AM, 101.7 FM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (analyst)
SIRIUS: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Ch. 122 (XM Ch. 203)
Series History: U of L leads 7-1 all-time (3-0 in Louisville, 2-1 in Piscataway, 2-0 neutral) Last Meeting: U of L 78, Rutgers 59 (Jan. 21, 2009 in East Brunswick, N.J.)
Next U of L Game: Feb. 11 at St. John's, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN or ESPN2)