Getting Inside :Louisville

This isn't a Cardinals team that is inspiring confidence heading into the postseason. Louisville has lost three of its last four games, can't control the tempo, and is still tinkering with its lineup and rotation. It's one of those teams that could easily go quietly in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.

But it's also a team that could make a deep run in either tournament, if its shooters get hot at the right time.

Unlike most Rick Pitino's teams, the outside shot is this squad's Achilles Heel. It made just 30.8 percent of its attempts in Big East play, ranking 11th out of the 16 teams. That's bad because it still counts on that as a key part of its scoring attack, and it takes a ton of them.

So far this season, they haven't gone in. But Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith and Chris Smith all are capable of getting on a roll and scoring points in bunches. But it's been mostly one-at-a-time in 2011-12, with only one hot hand for opponents to key on. And against Syracuse in the regular-season finale, none of them could throw the ball in the ocean -- the trio combined to go 1-for-18 from long range.

The concern is whether the Cardinals can dictate the pace to help make that happen. Pitino would love it if his guys could speed up the game, but it hasn't been able to dictate to the opposition. When it gets trapped in a half-court game, it looks disorganized and is constantly scrambling around, particularly on defense. But it's also been in every game, and had a few balls bounced the other way, could be coming off a sweep of Syracuse.

Of course, that's not how the ball did bounce. And the flip side is that it could be a lot worse. Since blowing out Connecticut on Feb. 6, the Cardinals have lost four times, needed overtime to beat last-place DePaul, and squeaked past West Virginia and Pittsburgh by three points apiece. It's certainly one of those teams that enters the postseason with more questions than answers.

NOTES, QUOTES Kuric, Behanan earn conference honors

--Louisville did not have a player named to the All-Big East first, second or third teams. However, Kyle Kuric earned honorable mention status, and Chane Behanan made the All-Rookie squad.

--Coach Rick Pitino said after the loss to Syracuse that he would try to keep Peyton Siva off the Internet this week. The junior point guard has been the subject of criticism among the Cardinals faithful, and Pitino is concerned the negative commentary is getting into his head.

--The Louisville coaching staff was looking to give C Gorgui Dieng some rest down the stretch. Instead, the sophomore played all 40 minutes against Syracuse, thanks to Zach Price being sidelined by illness. Had Dieng been in more foul trouble or had to sit for other reasons, Jared Swopshire would have seen time at center.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The number of assists for Louisville in its loss to Syracuse. It marked the third game in a row that the Cardinals had been held to fewer than 10 assists, and it came accompanied by 14 turnovers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're all we got, coach P and us, and we're going to go out there and play hard. My teammates believe in me and I believe in my teammates; so we're going to continue to play hard and continue to play for each other and not worry about anything outside and continue to be for us." -- Louisville G Peyton Siva, to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Seton Hall, Big East tournament second round, March 7

KEY MATCHUPS: The Cardinals probably would have rather seen No. 15 Providence, since Louisville feels it owes the Friars one after sleepwalking through a 90-59 shellacking back on Jan. 10. But instead, the Cards will face a desperate Seton Hall team that may need a win to secure its NCAA Tournament future. Pirates G Jordan Theodore will present a challenge for Louisville G Peyton Siva.

FUTURES MARKET: Chane Behanan has come off the bench in March, replaced by senior Jared Swopshire. Far from complaining, Behanan has maintained a good attitude about it, in part because he continues to see a majority of the minutes.

PLAYER NOTES

--Wayne Blackshear got the start in place of Kyle Kuric against Syracuse. In part, that was to send a message to Kuric that coach Rick Pitino wanted to see him do more than stand outside and look for three-pointers. But the message Pitino gave the media after the game was that from here on out, Blackshear would likely return to being a role player.

--Zach Price missed the loss to Syracuse after being sidelined by flu-like symptoms during practice late in the week.

--Jared Swopshire was in the starting lineup in each of the past two games heading into the postseason. That moves Chane Behanan to the bench.


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