Overall Rank: #6
Conference Rank: #2 Big East
2007-08: 27-9, 14-4, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Louisville won 27 games last year and that might have just been a precursor to what is to come. The Cardinals and Coach Rick Pitino have some weapons to replace in the frontcourt, but the backcourt has a ton of talent that can lead the team to a Big East title.
David Padgett led the team with 11.2 points per game and added 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. His scoring presence in the paint will be missed and the lack of options to replace him is a concern. Not only does Louisville have to live without Padgett, but Derrick Caracter, Juan Palacios and Terrance Farley are also gone. Caracter, who started 12 games last year, is pretty much an addition by subtraction, but his depth will still be missed. Palacios was a great player when he was healthy, but that did not happen too often by the end of his career. Farley only averaged 6.5 minutes per game, but a team can never have too many big guys. Stuart Miller and Josh Chichester are also gone after seeing limited action last year.
The frontcourt needs some help and this class has plenty of options, including the highly touted Samardo Samuels. Samuels might not immediately replace all the production of Padgett, but the 6-8, 240 pound Jamaican is a scoring threat around the basket. George Goode, Terrence Jennings and Jared Swopshire will have to provide the depth up front. At the beginning of the year those three should at least be solid rebounders and defenders, but somebody could emerge as a decent scoring threat off the bench by the end of the 2008-2009 campaign. Goode is a strong defender, Jennings brings some much needed athleticism to the frontcourt and Swopshire is really a wing who can mix it up in the paint if he needs to do so. The backcourt adds Kyle Kuric and Reginald Delk. Delk, a transfer from Mississippi State, is a fine outside shooter and will provide some very quality depth to an already deep and talented backcourt.
Who to Watch:
Andre McGee is the steady ballhandler of the team. The 5-10 senior is not flashy or much of a scorer, but he does do a good job taking care of the ball and will always play tough defense. Jerry Smith was Louisville’s best outside shooter a year ago, hitting nearly two per game. Smith is a lot more than just a shooter though; he can use his quickness to get to the basket. Smith even tallied 1.7 steals per game and that was the best on a team that has a quite a few great defenders. Junior Edgar Sosa has yet to reach his full potential after averaging 7.6 points per game and earning nine starts a year ago. He has the shooting range and the speed to be a dominating guard, but he has to do it more consistently. If he does, this will not just be a one of the best backcourts in the Big East, but also in the nation. Preston Knowles and Will Scott will join the newcomers providing depth at the one and two spots.
If you count Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, the backcourt is even better. Clark is a very complete player who can score inside and out. However, it is the 6-9 wings ability to hit the glass that makes him so valuable. He averaged a team high 8.1 rebounds per game on top of his 11.1 points. Clark does not really look like a wing at his size, but he plays like one and Williams is nearly the opposite. He looks like a wing, but he plays like a point guard and a power forward. Williams averaged 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks as a junior. Whatever the team needs him to do, Williams can do. The key to the frontcourt will be the development of Samuels. If the freshman can do a little scoring in the paint, it will take a huge effort to stop the Cardinals offense. However, Williams’ health could cause some problems. The senior may miss some time early in the year while recovering from knee surgery (though he returned to practice this week) and if he is not back in full form, Louisville could struggle.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Andre McGee, Senior, Guard, 6.5 points per game
Jerry Smith, Junior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Terrence Williams, Senior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
Earl Clark, Junior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
Samardo Samuels, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season