Underachievement: Cards Non-Conference Schedule Complete, Next Test Big East

gary agrulioCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2009

The Louisville Cardinals basketball team got a much needed win on Sunday night against in-state rival, the University of Kentucky. Thanks to a 28 foot three-pointer by Edgar Sosa with only 2.8 seconds left in regulation, the Louisville Cardinals (9-3) pushed back a late surge from the Wildcats (11-4) to avoid home court destruction for the second straight game. The win came after a very disappointing home loss to UNLV on December 31st, where the Cardinals came up short to the Runnin' Rebels, losing 56-55. 

The biggest surprise to Louisville's home win was the fact that freshmen star Samardo Samuels was plagued by foul trouble and saw little to no minutes in crucial points in the game. This could be foreshadowing events to come in the star-filled Big East Conference that boasts big men like Hasheem Thabeet, Greg Monroe, and Luke Harangody.

This season hasn't started favorably for Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and Cardinal fans everywhere, however much anguish of a rocky start was all but forgotten after Sosa's big three sent the Wildcats back to Lexington. After starting the season preseason ranked third in country, the Cardinals had early setbacks on neutral courts against Western Kentucky and Minnesota before falling to the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV last Wednesday.

The Cardinals have shown signs of the preseason ranking, when more than not they have shown signs of sluggish offense and more importantly lack of leadership. One of the biggest issues facing the Cardinals, is the lack of dominance most expected from junior forward Earl Clark, who has been doing nothing but missing in the Cardinals' three losses and again against Kentucky.

For the Cardinals to make a dent in the Big East, they have to block everything they have done out of their mind and start focusing on what they can do. The Louisville Cardinals have been by far the most talented team on the court in all of their twelve home games, however they have shown a lackluster ability to overcome rough challenges during the first half of the season.

The Big East will be the complete opposite with eight teams in the top 25, all of which have very tough environments to play in.

If the Cardinals can have the spark they showed during most times during the Kentucky game, and revive the Earl Clark of old, the Cardinals should be able to regain the respect of the league that they once had before the season. Right now, the best thing the Cardinals have going for them is time. 

It is time for the Cardinals to develop the powerful Samuels and get this team to gel as one unit, instead of as a bunch of individuals.

Pitino is a longtime master of the game, and he should be able to get the Cardinals where they need to be.  He must do so quickly. Louisville plays Villanova, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame in the next two weeks, and Cardinal fans expect nothing less than to win those games.