We’re past the point of remarking on Louisville’s fine season – 17-5 overall, 6-3 in the Big East – as a surprise. Yes, coaches picked them to finish 8th in the Big East. Basketball Prospectus had the Cards 7th.
But I’m more interested in how Rick Pitino’s coaxed this type of performance out of the Cards. And if it’ll continue.
According to Eric Crawford of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pitino’s mostly been all about positive thinking, which has resulted in a breakout season for sophomore guard Peyton Siva, consistent play from senior Preston Knowles and everyone else filling a need.
Until now. A 62-59 loss to Georgetown Monday night sent Pitino into what Crawford calls the opposite of a “warm and fuzzy message.” Moral victory? That’s for losers.
“You’ve got to hate losing,” Pitino said. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, but that was unbelievable, another great comeback,’ and be satisfied with a comeback and a moral victory. … That’s the message I wanted to get across to them at the end. Don’t tell me we had great heart. Don’t tell me we had great character. You’ve got to win the game. Nobody remembers the great heart and character. They just remember the ‘L.’ ”
This is to be expected of Pitino, who rolls out more motivational tactics than Troy Gillenwater than takes shots. And with good reason. The Cardinals play host to DePaul on Saturday. The last thing Pitino wants is a sub-par effort against the Big East’s worst team.
A lazy effort won’t prep Louisville for upcoming games against Notre Dame, Syracuse and Cincinnati, all in a seven-day span. Given that second-place in the Big East is up for grabs – dig those efficiency margins – maybe Pitino should keep pushing his Cardinals as much as possible.
A few lucky breaks and they’ll reach 10 conference wins by mid-February. And that could be the difference between a No. 3 seed and a No. 5 seed in March.
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