#8 Louisville Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Louisville Cardinals
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #3 ACC
Louisville missed out on the NCAA Tournament last year due to sanctions, which was quite disappointing for a few players who transferred in for their senior seasons. Regardless, Coach Rick Pitino has a talented group returning. There are some major questions, but the Cardinals have the pure talent to compete for an ACC title. And this time around they will be able to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Quentin Snider will handle the point guard duties again after dishing out 3.5 assists per game. At 9.4 points per contest, Snider is also the team’s top returning scorer. Snider is a very good outside shooter, but could be more efficient attacking the basket.
2015-16 Record: 23-8, 12-6
2015-16 Postseason: None
Coach: Rick Pitino
Coach Record: 391-132 at Louisville, 745-260 overall
Who’s Out:
Damion Lee and Trey Lewis both were graduate transfers who came to Louisville for their senior seasons. And both played very well. Lee led the team with 15.9 points per game and in three-pointers made and free-throws made. He proved to be a very dynamic scorer who could compete at any level. Lewis was the team’s second leading scorer and another dangerous outside shooting threat. The surprise loss was Chinanu Onuaku, who opted to try his luck professionally after his sophomore season. The 6-10 big man averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Those will be tough numbers to replace.
Who’s In:
The backcourt needs shooters and they should have one with Tony Hicks. The graduate transfer from Penn did not play last season, but back in 2014-2015 he averaged 13.2 points per game for the Quakers. Whether he starts or not, Hicks can provide a nice offensive spark. V.J. King is not a great shooter, but few players will be better than the freshman in the open floor. If he starts knocking down three-pointers with a little more consistency to go along with his athleticism and ability to finish above the rim, it will not be long before King is one of Louisville’s best players. Redshirt freshman Ryan McMahon and walk-on Tyler Sharpe will look to add more depth to the backcourt.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt appears to have reloaded very effectively. The frontcourt will need to do the same with Mangok Mathiang, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud and Jaylen Johnson leading the way. Mathiang was playing very well last year before a broken foot ended his season after just ten games. He averaged 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in those ten games. Adel did not see much playing time as a freshman, averaging just over a dozen minutes per game in 22 contests, but he has talent when healthy. The 6-7 forward is a superb slasher and could play either forward spot. Spalding had a promising freshman season too, averaging 5.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. He still needs to add some bulk to his 6-10 frame, but he has proven to be effective in the paint. Johnson started 22 games last season and should get the first shot at the starting power forward spot, but there is a lot of competition. If the frontcourt can stay healthy, this is a group that can replace Onuaku and Louisville fans may not miss him much at all by January.
Final Projection:
Three-point shooting could be what keeps Louisville out of the hunt for an ACC title. Hicks can shoot and so can Snider, but he needs to worry more about running the point and creating good looks for his teammates. Sophomore Donovan Mitchell is the other option on the perimeter. However, he connected on just 25.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Mitchell can be a very good scorer even without hitting the long ball, but this team needs him to shoot. It will be difficult to start Mitchell, King and Johnson when all three of them want to attack the basket. Coach Pitino does not need his team to connect a ton of three-pointers, but he needs some threats out there so the defense cannot pack into the paint.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Quentin Snider, Junior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Donovan Mitchell, Sophomore, Guard, 7.4 points per game
V.J. King, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Jaylen Johnson, Junior, Forward, 5.0 points per game
Mangok Mathiang, Senior, Center, 7.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.0 (136th in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.1 (6, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.9 (40, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.0 (9, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.0 (273, 12)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.7 (164, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.0 (203, 12)
Rebound Margin: 6.5 (27, 4)
Assists Per Game: 13.5 (154, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.4 (62, 9)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#28 V.J. King