2012-2013 Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 Big East Conference
Louisville Team Page
The Louisville Cardinals are not the most talented team in the country. They have holes, perhaps more holes than any of the other title contenders in fact. They also play in a very tough conference, the Big East, in what could be the last ever season of “tough conference” being a descriptive adjective for Big East. But even with their holes and their perilous schedule, the Cardinals have one of the highest ceilings in the country thanks to Head Coach Rick Pitino and his system. Coach Pitino is a bulldog of a coach, hardnosed and uncompromising. He has succeeded at many places in basketball, including right here in Louisville as evidenced by his multiple trips to the Final Four. One of the most important elements he brings to his teams is the full court press. The number of college basketball teams who press is small. The number of teams who exclusively press is even smaller. Louisville has one of the best defensive basketball teams in the country thanks to their all-the-time onslaught of other teams’ offenses through a full court press. It not only forces mistakes and easy baskets for the Cardinals; it also tires out opponents, both physically and mentally. With this roster, Pitino could lead Louisville back to the Final Four, aided by the ultimate test of an opponent’s will: the press.
2011-2012 Record: 30-10, 10-8
2011-2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Pitino
Coach Record: 262-99 at Louisville, 616-227 overall
One of the main holes on this year’s Louisville club will be outside shooting and overall offensive prowess. A giant gap was created with the graduation of seniors Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith. The two were first and third respectively on the Cardinals in scoring. They grabbed their fair share of rebounds as well. However, the most glaring loss will come from behind the arc where Kuric and Smith were the team’s leaders in three point makes and attempts, by a healthy margin. As a whole, the team made 233 threes last year. Kuric and Smith alone accounted for 143 of them: nearly 62% of the team’s total. There are some returning players who are capable of shooting from distance but no one on the roster is proficient at it. In fact, no one returning this season shot better than 30% from three point range a year ago; a dreadful omen for a team in desperate need of scoring.
Luckily for Cardinals fans, the rest of the contributing players from last season’s Final Four squad have all returned. Pitino’s charge will be led by guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Neither an efficient shooter, both Siva and Smith are good ball handlers and can create shots for teammates. They both turn the ball over too much. Russ Smith especially was prone to making many mistakes in very few minutes of game action. He will need to grow as a player with his inevitable increase in playing time. Siva, on the other hand, will look to flourish in his senior season. The conference preseason Player of the Year, Siva has shown the ability to literally take over entire games without scoring. He grabs tons of steals and dishes out assists at a high clip. If his outside shooting improves, this team will be scary good. And that is because, besides the two guards, Louisville will also see the return of forwards Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear and Gorgui Dieng. Behanan is a capable scorer and great rebounder; Blackshear, coming off of a bad injury, will look to take a giant leap forward as a sophomore. And Dieng, at the back of the press and on the inside of the defense, is pretty much the best shot blocker in the nation now that Anthony Davis has moved on to the NBA. The big man swatted 128 shots a season ago, good for 3.2 per contest.
Who to Watch:
Even with the boom or bust potential of Louisville’s starting guards, their regular lineup should be stellar. Five men return with playing experience and lots of skill at their disposal. The question surrounding the Cardinals may be about their bench talent and depth. Other than Luke Hancock, a good transfer player who is eligible this season, most of the production from the second unit may come from a freshman. Montrezl Harrell, one of the top power forward recruits in the country, has already experienced a lot without having played a single minute of college basketball action. Having been recruited and signed to play at Virginia Tech, Harrell was heading to Blacksburg to be their number one inside option. He would play starters minutes right away and be Erick Green’s second banana. However, once the Hokies fired their head coach, Harrell wanted out and was granted it, allowing him to move on to Louisville. Here, with a starting five already set, the second unit will rely almost exclusively on him and Hancock.
If the shots don’t fall and the Cardinals struggle to score, they may fall early in the postseason. It is hard to advance on defense alone. However, the ceiling for this team is still the National Championship. With a defensive anchor like Dieng, and the full court press at their disposal with quick guards heading it, teams will struggle to ever pull away from Louisville. Assuming Blackshear comes back fully recovered and Peyton Siva does vie for conference Player of the Year honors, Kentucky should watch out. They may not be the best team in the state any longer.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Peyton Siva, Senior, Guard, 9.1 points per game
Russ Smith, Junior, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Shane Behanan, Sophomore, Forward, 9.5 points per game
Wayne Blackshear, Sophomore, Forward, 2.5 points per game
Gorgui Dieng, Junior, Center, 9.1 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#85 Wayne Blackshear
#87 Peyton Siva
#90 Gorgui Dieng
Madness 2012 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#100 Terry Rozier