#4 Louisville Cardinals
Last Year In A Nutshell:
31-6 (16-2 Big East)
Lost in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament to Michigan St. (were a #1 seed)
Coach: Rick Pitino
If I Were Coach Pitino I Would Start:
Edgar Sosa (G, Sr.) – Quick guard can take you off the dribble. Played the point a lot last year which was probably out of position for him. Not a great shooter.
Jerry Smith (G, Sr.) – Lock down defender and dead-eye shooter. Pretty scrappy on the boards as well.
Samardo Samuels (F, So.) – Had a fantastic freshman year last year. Was extremely strong around the hoop, and will most likely improve this year.
Terrence Jennings (F, So.) – Very long and athletic for a power forward. Very strong around the hoop, though and has some terrific post moves.
Peyton Siva (G, Fr.) – Freshman is a pure point guard. Excellent decision maker. Sees the court well. Not sure how he’ll translate in the college game.
Other Key Contributors:
Preston Knowles (G, Jr.) – Was the first man off the bench last year. Pretty good shooter, but a defensive specialist. Good hustle guy.
Jared Swopshire (F, So.) – Long and very fast for a big guy. Needs to get a little bit stronger to play in the Big East.
Mike Marra (G, Fr.) – Incoming freshman. Scouting report says he’s a great shooter with unlimited range.
Stephan Van Treese (F, Fr.) – Another new guy who needs to prove himself. Runs the court well (a must for a forward in Pitino’s system) but can also get on the glass a bit.
George Goode (F, So.) – Struggled with injury and academics last year. Very physical guy, but not very skilled down in the post.
Louisville had a rather rough offseason with a ton if distractions. Lucky for them, I don’t believe in distractions hurting a team. It’s more about talent. On the court, the Cardinals another in the long list of Big East teams that lost a lot to graduation last year. The Cardinals will have to do without Earl Clark, Terrence Williams and Andre McGee. The difference with Louisville is that they have another class behind them that showed a lot of potential last year while getting their feet wet, and are poised to step in right away. In the frontcourt, Samardo Samuels was one of the best freshmen in the Big East last year. Terrence Jennings also showed some good things down low. The backcourt has Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith coming back, so they should be in good shape. I’m not sure if Pitino will go with experience in the starting lineup in Knowles or potential in Siva. My guess is Siva. The only issue I see here is that the Cardinals bench will be young and unproven. But in this conference this year, that’s a small problem to have.
Coach Pitino loves to gather a lot of really long bodies who are really athletic and just run the floor with them. They pressure on defense and they turn the game into a track meet on offense. They do not, however, force things. There is a fine line there. If you show that you can run with them, they won’t put up stupid shots. They are very capable of running an offense and getting an open look. They also benefit by having a lot of offense come out of their extremely aggressive defense. They play a really tight half court defense that is always looking to double team and/or steal. They are one of those teams where everyone on defense is in constant frenetic motion so it forces the opposing offense to get antsy and make bad decisions. And that’s assuming that you get the ball up court. They’re also very famous for playing a very good press. If you let them score or take an out of bounds in the backcourt, you can bet that Louisville will make it difficult for you to cross the time line. This team should play the exact same way with the exact same type of players. Pitino is one of those coaches who has a formula that works and just recruits players that fit the system. It’s a big reason why they reload much more often than they have down years.
In my humble opinion, there’s a definite break in talent in the Big East between the top 4 teams and everybody else. You’ll see from here on out that the holes (inexperienced depth for Louisville behind a proven starting 5) are not that big. I think all 4 will have fantastic years that are mostly spent in the top 25. Louisville is no different. I guess the main reason that I have them at number four instead of somewhere higher is the influx of guards in the conference. A lot of teams got a lot smaller this year, and although the Big East will still be a physically demanding league, a lot more teams will most likely be able to handle Louisville’s pressure. But that’s just a hunch. It’s so unusual that a lot of teams may still get tripped up by it. But that’s the fun of basketball. They don’t play the games in theory. In any case, it should be a nice year for the Cardinals and I would be shocked if they weren’t a high seed in the tournament.