Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Geno's Preseason Top Ten- No. 9 Louisville Cardinals

                                             Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch- USA Today Sports

No. 9 Louisville Cardinals
2013-14 Record: 31-6 overall (15-3 American Athletic Conference)
Result: 74-69 loss in the regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8-seeded Kentucky.
Key Games:
Dec. 2 vs. Ohio State (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Dec. 27 vs. Kentucky
Jan. 10 at North Carolina
Jan. 17 vs. Duke
Jan. 31 vs. North Carolina
Feb. 7 at Virginia
Feb. 18 at Syracuse
March 7 vs. Virginia

Key Losses: Russ Smith (18.3 PPG) and Luke Hancock (12.3 PPG)

Out with the old and in with the new will be Louisville’s creed this season as it makes the jump from the American Athletic Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The move will be the Cardinals’ third different conference in as many seasons (Big East 2012-13, AAC 2013-14 and the ACC 2014- ).
Don’t expect the talent level in the backcourt to drop off in Louisville’s first season in the ACC as the departure of guard Russ Smith will open up an opportunity for sophomore Terry Rozier to fill the void.
Rozier averaged 7.0 points in 19 minutes per game off the bench last season.
Guard Chris Jones is expected to be more of a leader for Louisville this season. The senior finished second on the team last season with an average of 3.1 assists.
The Cardinals will rely heavily on its frontcourt with Montrezl Harrell expecting to be the top threat on offense.
Harrell is the leading returning scorer with 14.2 points per game in the 2013-14 season. The junior’s free-throw shooting will be something to keep an eye on as he went 46 percent last season.
Named to’s All-America first team on Oct. 7, Harrell isn’t fazed by the increased hype and pressure to perform on a high level this season.
“I try to not let myself think about it too much,” Harrell said in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal on Oct. 16. “If you start thinking about those things and worrying about those things, you stress yourself out.”
Wayne Blackshear and Mangok Mathiang are expected to see more playing time in the frontcourt to make up for the loss of long-range specialist Luke Hancock.
Blackshear averaged 8.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.6 minutes, while Mathiang averaged 3.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14.7 minutes.
Freshman Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti High School- Ypsilanti, MI) highlights Pitino’s recruiting class this past off-season.
The 6-9 power forward averaged 13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.3 blocks and 4.1 assists as a senior last season as he led Ypsilanti to a 21-3 record before falling in the Class A regional finals.

Expected Starting Lineup:
G Chris Jones 5-10 175
G Terry Rozier 6-1 185
F Wayne Blackshear 6-5 230
F Montrezl Harrell 6-8 240
C Mangok Mathiang 6-9 215

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Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.