A very interesting Rick Pitino radio show this Thursday as he began very obviously perturbed, but sounded cautiously optimistic by the end of the program.
The coach started the show off by discussing how, after reviewing the game tape, U of L only had two good possessions in the entire game against South Florida. Pitino signaled out Kyle Kuric in particular as someone he is unhappy with. He then said that "significant changes" were made in practice in an attempt to get things straightened out.
The show's other main theme was Wayne Blackshear. Pitino said assistant coach Kevin Keatts challenged Wayne today to start playing without fear, and that he responded by finally practicing "like the player I recruited." He then said it's become apparent to him that Blackshear has to play and that he hopes he can become an additional scoring threat. My guess is this means we might also be seeing a little of Kyle at the two on Saturday (or at least next week), something Pitino himself alluded to after the game on Wednesday.
I'll admit it: last night was the lowest I've been at any point this season. I don't care how much clock USF burns, scoring 51 points and looking completely incapable of asserting your will in the second-to-last game of the regular season is incredibly disheartening.
To me, this is sort of like the moment in any bad movie where the situation looks completely dire before a "longshot" success plan is discovered. The news that Wayne is going to play more and that Kyle might see some time at the two shouldn't have anyone researching flights to New Orleans, but it's a shot...dammit.
You can say that Pitino should have tinkered with the lineup earlier or that Blackshear is still too green to play significant minutes, but the fact of the matter is that it was embarrassingly apparent last night that what this team had been doing was not going to get it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. These "significant changes" could result in an even worse performance at Syracuse and then again in New York four days later, but this is a shot Pitino has no choice but to take at this point.
A few other quick tidbits from the show:
--Pitino acknowledged that the team is probably not going to get a great seed in the NCAA Tournament now, but also noted that it's capable of playing with any team in the country.
--He said that the team morale is good "because everyone knows how upset I am." He said the team had a great practice today.
--Again talked about the need to stop committing careless turnovers. He said the team's poor assit-to-turnover ratio has been the biggest disappointment of the season.
--In news that might cause yet another divide amongst the fan base, Pitino acknowledged the need to sign high quality players who will develop before their junior and senior seasons. He did not specifically use the term "one-and-done."
--He ended the show answering some questions from the folks at Buckheads and said despite Wednesday's performance he still has a lot of confidence in this team and believes they'll bounce back.
I didn't have the stomach to be this guy last night, but beat Syracuse with these changes and I'm back to being barely covered from the waist down excited about the postseason.