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Pitino brands Louisville’s next four games as essential ‘W’s’


Mike Miller

Louisville’s lost two straight, but they’ve been to two of the nation’s top teams – Georgetown and Kentucky. For a team that’s dealt with myriad injury issues and is still waiting for freshman Wayne Blackshear to play, sitting at 12-2 overall ain’t too bad.

The upcoming schedule – at St. John’s, vs. Notre Dame, at Providence and home against DePaul – is a series of four winnable games. At the least, the Cardinals should be 15-3 after that run.

That’s what worries coach Rick Pitino.

“These next four games are crucial to us of where we’re going to be,” Pitino told the Louisville-Courier Journal. “When these four games are over, if we don’t come away with ‘W’s’ it’s going to be a fight to the finish like we’ve had a lot of years. So we have to get these four games.”

Is he worrying too much? Trying to properly motivate his team to avoid any letdowns? Go with the latter.

Many observers (Rob Dauster’s one of ‘em) will say Louisville wasn’t worthy of its Top 10 ranking. Now the Cards are 11, but even that might be a bit much given their offensive issues (an over-reliance on 3-pointers, particularly when they only make 31.4 percent of those shots and too many turnovers) and the recent struggles of Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith (Pitino voiced concerns about “not playing to their skill level”) and Tuesday’s game against St. John’s may very be a nail-biter.

The silver lining? Louisville’s defense is still nasty as hell.

Georgetown’s one of the few teams who’ve scored more than a point per possession against the Cards (Kentucky managed just .86) because they force so many turnovers and don’t allow anything easy inside. (That Gorgui Dieng is everywhere!)

If Kuric and Smith continue to miss shots and make mistakes, it’s the defense that’ll produce wins the next four games. But even if that’s the case, those guys have to find their games soon before the meat of the Big East schedule starts.

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