Commentary

Louisville about to be tested

Cardinals should show true colors during upcoming gauntlet

Updated: December 24, 2011, 9:47 AM ET
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Rick PitinoDavid Butler II/US PresswireRick Pitino's Cardinals shout "title contender," but December's games will reveal their true strength.

I really miss Rick Pitino's blog. The Louisville head coach temporarily (I hope) suspended his blogging activities in September, at the height of the Big East's latest reshuffling. ("I can't wait for my next recruiting trip to New York to find out [if] the Yankees are moving to Chapel Hill.") In a profession plagued by bland coach-speak, Pitino is almost always tart and interesting. I wish he could keep the blog going during the season, but I guess the coach is pretty busy.

Pitino may be as good at coaching as he is at blogging. As proof, allow me to direct your attention to the 2011-12 Louisville Cardinals. This team's top two scorers are Kyle Kuric and Gorgui Dieng. Fine players, to be sure, and indeed I'm about to direct some well-deserved praise toward both. Still, I think it's fair to say these particular fine players are not exactly nationally renowned. Too bad: Here are the Cardinals, 11-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation.

You can say that's merely a default ranking, of course. Louisville's played 10 of its 11 games in the friendly environs of the KFC Yum! Center. Then again, default rankings can turn out to be correct. If you're a blue-chip Big East program coached by a legend and you reach the holiday season still undefeated, you'll likely be ranked in the top five nationally. It's a presumptive ranking, but not necessarily a presumptuous one. This isn't Pitino's first barbecue.

Anyway, the question's about to become moot. Next week, the Cardinals will host Georgetown in the Big East opener for both teams. Three days later, Pitino's men will head to Lexington to take on Kentucky in Rupp Arena. I'll go out on a limb here and say that two-game stretch will advance our knowledge of Louisville dramatically. We're on the eve of discovery with this group, but in the meantime, here's how the Cards look to me:


To see why Louisville's upcoming tests will reveal much about the Cardinals and why John Gasaway believes they can go deep in the NCAA tournament for the first time since March 2009, sign up for ESPN Insider.