LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Andre McGee walked into the locker room at Louisville's practice facility the day after the Cardinals were embarrassed at Notre Dame last week and wondered what in the world coach Rick Pitino was up to now.
Gone were the team's usual crisp white and red practice jerseys, T-shirts and shorts. Even the Adidas socks were missing as Pitino purged the locker room of everything with the word ``Louisville'' on it.
In their place hung plain T-shirts, practice shorts that may have been from the discount rack at a lower-end department store and the kind of socks normally reserved for dusting.
This was a new one for McGee, even after nearly four years of watching Pitino play psychologist whenever things went awry.
``He explained to us that when you lose, this is what happens,'' McGee said. ``No one is on your bandwagon. You can't afford great, name brand wear. When you lose you become generic and this is all you can afford.''
to practice in the gear until the seventh-ranked Cardinals (20-5, 11-2 Big East) can win on the road, what Pitino considers ``a true test'' of a team's mettle.
Even relatively easy wins over DePaul and Providence haven't been enough to get things back to normal. Instead, McGee and company will have to win on Saturday against surprising Cincinnati (17-9, 7-6) to reclaim their goodies.
The irony is, the Cardinals don't even care anymore. McGee, for one, doesn't think the Cardinals need to get their practice stuff back.
``I think since we've been wearing the (practice) jerseys, guys have been coming in, different approach and attitude and work hard,'' McGee said. ``It doesn't really make a difference to me. We could be out there in shirts and skins and I would go out there and lace them up and go as hard as I can.''
McGee probably doesn't have to worry about going shirtless, though Pitino's point appears to have been delivered. To be clear, he doesn't view the stripping down of the team's practice duds as a punishment.
Call it a wake up call instead.
``The penthouse and the outhouse happen sometimes in a 24-hour period,'' Pitino said. ``I want them to understand that great effort, extraordinary effort, must be consistently given each night out, that good effort isn't enough to play in the Big East.''
end the regular season. Louisville follows the Cincinnati game with a date at Georgetown on Monday before wrapping things up with home dates against No. 10 Marquette and Seton Hall and a road game at West Virginia.
``This is the toughest part of our schedule right now,'' Pitino said.
While Cincinnati may not be part of the Big East's elite - not yet - the Bearcats are much improved in Mick Cronin's third year. The former Louisville assistant has put together a nice mix of veterans like junior guard Deonta Vaughn and youngsters like freshman Dion Dixon.
The Bearcats - who beat the Cardinals by a point in their only meeting last season - already have wins over Notre Dame and Georgetown and would love to add one more big name to their NCAA tournament resume.
Not bad for a once proud program that was left reeling by the sudden departure of Bob Huggins three seasons ago.
``It's very difficult rebuilding in the Big East,'' Pitino said. ``The normal time it takes to rebuild in other conferences, it's just not the same in the Big East. It takes a good 3-4 years to see significant change and Mick's doing it the right way.''
The Cardinals understand a win on Saturday would move them one step closer to getting one of the top four seeds when the Big East tournament begins next month.
``For all the seniors, this is our time to make our mark in college basketball,'' McGee said.

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