Louisville Basketball Preview: #27
Overall Rank: #27
Conference Rank: #5 Big East Conference
2008-09: 31-6, 16-2
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Pitino (200-73 at Louisville, 552-197 overall)
Earl Clark and Terrence Williams were really the heart and soul of Louisville during the 2008-2009 campaign. Not only did those two led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, but they also combined to average 3.3 steals and 2.2 blocks per contest. Coach Rick Pitino may have a lot of talent on the roster, but this team will not be the same without Clark and Williams.
Key Losses: F Earl Clark, G Andre McGee, F Terrence Williams
Rakeem Buckles and Stephan Van Treese are both versatile forwards who will attempt to help replace Clark and Williams. Buckles is 6-8 and 215 pounds and great in transition. Like his predecessors, Buckles can make plays off the dribble and get up and down the floor in a hurry for a big man. However, the best newcomers may be in the backcourt where sharpshooter Mike Marra and Peyton Siva hope to make an impact. It is Siva who is expected to be a major contributor as a freshman. The Cardinals lack a pure point guard and Siva is the answer for the future and the present.
Edgar Sosa could handle the point guard duties after dishing out 2.4 assists per game last year, but Siva should be able to bring a steady hand to the position. Meanwhile Sosa and Jerry Smith can score from the wings. Smith is the better outside shooter of the two, but Sosa is a pretty smart player who will take what the defense gives him. Those two will be seeing a lot more minutes this season and they both have to be more consistent with their scoring output. Preston Knowles was a pretty good sixth man last year and should be again this season. Most of his shots will come from beyond the arc and he connected on 43.2 percent of his attempts.
Without Clark and Williams, a lot of pressure will be put on sophomore Samardo Samuels. He was quite impressive as a freshman, averaging 11.8 pionts, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest. While he may not have to score too much more, he will need to be the defensive presence under the basket and do a better job on the glass. The only other returning forward who averaged over ten minutes per game last season was Terrence Jennings. The 6-10 sophomore was very productive when he was given the opportunity to play and if he can be just as productive while playing more minutes, the Louisville frontcourt is in good hands.
Who to Watch:
What this team needs is depth. Reginald Delk, Jared Swopshire and George Goode all averaged six minutes or less per game last year, but they will have to compete with the newcomers for important minutes off the bench. Swopshire and Goode, both 6-8 forwards, were just freshmen last year and should be able to carry a bigger load this season. If not, the Cardinals will have to rely heavily on unproven freshmen to provide depth in the frontcourt.
Having a true point guard in Siva is a very good thing for Louisville, but he is a freshman who may need some time to adjust to playing in a tough conference like the Big East. If Siva lives up to his lofty expectations, the Cardinals could compete with anybody in the conference. If not, Coach Pitino will have to try and hold this young team together with the help of seniors Sosa and Smith.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Peyton Siva, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Edgar Sosa, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Jerry Smith, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Terrence Jennings, Sophomore, Forward, 4.2 points per game
Samardo Samuels, Sophomore, Forward, 11.8 points per game
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