What's buzzing:

The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Louisville in jeopardy of falling out of contention in Big East as losing streak hits three

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

View photo

.

Otto Porter and Georgetown upset Louisville (USA Today Sports Images)

The first loss to top-five Syracuse was forgivable. The second loss to previously struggling Villanova was a bit more alarming.

And now that Louisville has fallen for a third straight game, this time 53-51 at Georgetown on Saturday, the level of uneasiness over the Cardinals' midseason slump is gradually rising toward full-fledged concern.

A Louisville team seemingly streaking toward a Big East title and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament barely over a week ago now no longer appears certain of attaining either goal. At 16-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big East, the Cardinals are in a seven-way tie for third in the Big East and will surely drop out of the top 10 for the first time this season when the new AP Top 25 poll is released Monday.

There's ample time for Louisville to recover, but the Cardinals have to regain the identity they forged the first two months of the season.

Up until this recent skid, Louisville was a defensive juggernaut with a surprisingly effective offense that overcame erratic outside shooting by scoring off its defense in transition or thanks to the creativity of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva off the dribble. In the last three games, however, the Cardinals have been less dominant on defense and downright ineffective on offense.

They shot 40.9 percent from the floor against Syracuse and got nobody in double figures besides Smith. They shot 39.7 percent against Villanova, dragged down by Smith's anemic 2 of 13 shooting. And they saved their worst for last against Georgetown, sinking just 34.8 percent of their shots.

A foul-plagued Siva had one of his worst games of the season, going scoreless and tallying three turnovers. Wayne Blackshear missed all five of his 3-point shots and went 1 of 9 from the floor. Smith, coming off the bench for the first time all season, lacked the borderline reckless aggressiveness that has made him an All-American candidate this season, scoring a quiet 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting.

Improved defense kept Louisville in this game, but Georgetown made defensive stops when it mattered to seal the victory. The Cardinals did not score a field goal the final four minutes and Siva and Smith both missed contested potential go-ahead jump shots in the final 40 seconds.

What's especially worrisome for Louisville is the schedule doesn't get much easier in the coming weeks. Home games against Pittsburgh and Marquette await next week, with road games against improving Rutgers and Notre Dame to come the week after.

That makes the challenge facing Louisville simple: Either emerge from this slump in a hurry, or watch a league title and a favorable NCAA tournament seed slip away.

College basketball video from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
LeBron talks competition with Dwyane Wade, takes shot at Kobe
Ray Lewis, a polarizing figure, is the Ravens' driving force
Dr. Phil lands big Manti Te'o hoaxer interview
NASCAR superstar Danica Patrick is a fierce rival of new beau

View Comments (19)
  • Waratahs leave Crusaders' playoff hopes hanging by a thread

    The New South Wales Waratahs virtually ended Canterbury Crusaders' proud playoff run by beating the New Zealanders 32-22 on Saturday in a pulsating repeat of last year's Super Rugby final. Hulking Fijian Taqele Naiyaravoro scored two tries, with … More »

    Reuters - 3 minutes 55 seconds ago
  • Renard quits as Ivory Coast coach, clearing way for Lille move

    Renard quits as Ivory Coast coach, clearing way for Lille move

    Herve Renard has stood down as coach of African Nations Cup winners Ivory Coast to pave the way for a move to Ligue 1 side Lille, the Frenchman announced on Friday. French media reports have heavily linked Renard with a move to Ligue 1 side Lille … More »

    Reuters - 7 minutes ago
  • Pakistan beat Zimbabwe for emotional victory on home soil

    Pakistan beat Zimbabwe for emotional victory on home soil

    Pakistan marked international cricket's return to the trouble-torn country with a five-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the first Twenty20 International at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on Friday. Openers Mukhtar Ahmed (83) and Ahmed Shehzad (55) added … More »

    Reuters - 9 minutes ago
  • Pirelli ready to bid for new F1 contract

    By Alan Baldwin MONACO (Reuters) - Pirelli will seek to extend their Formula One tyre contract from 2017 provided they are happy with the regulations and costs are affordable, chief executive Marco Tronchetti Provera said on Saturday. Formula … More »

    Reuters - 18 minutes ago
  • I was frozen out at Real Madrid, says Khedira

    I was frozen out at Real Madrid, says Khedira

    Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira has accused the La Liga club of freezing him out by dropping him from the team after talks on a contract extension broke down even though he was fit to play. Germany international Khedira, who joined Real from … More »

    Reuters - 42 minutes ago