The Minnesota loss was not something Cardinal fans expected. If you go by the polls, the Cards were supposed to blow through the non-conference schedule of unranked teams with ease. They weren't supposed to lose to in-state little brother Western and especially not to the Tubster. Two was the maximum number of losses expected going into Big East play. Now that is the minimum. I'm here to say that's fine.
Scheduling the game in Arizona with 36 hours to prepare, all the while flying from Cincinnati in bad weather put the odds against the Cards in the first place. Pitino admitted that in hindsight, it was an absolutely horrible scheduling decision by himself. Something else must be wrong, right? Traveling doesn't affect you that bad, does it? What are we going to do? I say calm down and remember what some other memorable teams did early on, before they became great.
What we're going to do right now is go back. Way back. Back into time...
-In 1975 the Cards were 2 free throws away from ending the career of John Wooden with a loss in the semifinals. That team lost to then in-conference rival Bradley and were taken to OT twice in the early going.
-The 1980 national title team took a similar journey out west in the season's early stages and lost to unranked Utah.
-In 1983's Final 4 year the Cards lost to Purdue at home in the non-conference.
-The 1986 national title team started off 11-6 and ended up winnig 17 games in a row to capture the crown with a freshman center who struggled early and a NBA prospect PF having trouble becoming a leader.
-Sweet 16's in '93 and '94 were preceded by losses to Vandy and Virginia Commonwealth resepectively. Both at home. (Not that a Sweet 16 would be gratifying this year, but those were good teams).
-Pitino's Final 4 team in 2005 lost to an Big Ten team, Iowa, on a neutral court before going west to win the Maui. If I remember correctly shooting woes were the cause of that loss as well.
As you can see, the night is darkest before the dawn. Every good team goes through it's struggles (unless you wear Carolina blue this year). Coach Pitino is going to tweak a few things - including different combinations in the backcourt to generate more scoring and different practice methods to toughen up Samardo Samuels - he said it so himself. These guys have been told how good they are since Earl Clark decided to come back in May. Now they sit on the brink of being unranked and a 7-2 record with the tough part of the non-conference schedule yet to come. I, as everyone should, have confidence that Pitino will get the best out of this team. This team's best could be very dangerous when it is reached. Everyone knows the talent is there, but the execution isn't. Don't fret, the necessary changes will be made and this team will get the ball rolling soon.