"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, August 27, 2018

Louisville Preview

Louisville Cardinals
November 23, Barclay's Center (Brooklyn, NY)

Coach: Chris Mack (0-0 at Louisville, 215-97 overall)
3-Year RPI Average: 20.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 18.0
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 44
Projected Starters: PG Darius Perry (6'2" So), SG Khwan Fore (6'0" Sr), SF V.J. King (6'6" Jr), PF Jordan Nwora (6'7" So), C Malik Williams (6'11" So)

Quentin Snider & Anas Mahmoud graduated, Ray Spalding & Deng Adel left early to start pro careers, & new coach Chris Mack has an incredibly depleted roster. V.J. King is the most prolific returning player, having averaged 8.6 ppg/3.3 rpg last year. No one else played more than 16 mpg.
After missing out on numerous grad transfer options, including Marquette's own Joseph Chartouny, Mack was able to flip Richmond grad transfer Khwan Fore from Tennessee to the Cardinals. Even still, their roster is undersized, untested, & less talented than the Louisville faithful are accustomed to.

Frankly, this team has far more questions than answers. Who will be the go-to scorer? What style will Mack go with? What are reasonable expectations?

My guess for the first question is Nwora with help from King & Perry. Nwora took the highest percentage of shots while on the floor of all returning players, he's the best three-point shooter on the team, & he can get to the line.

For years, Louisville was known for their suffocating press that threw waves of players at opponents. With a depleted roster, expect Mack to slow it down, as he did when Xavier first transitioned to the Big East & again when Edmond Sumner went down with injury two years ago. On defense, Mack's teams generally close out quick and hit the boards hard. I expect they will probably mix some zone in because they don't have a ton of big depth inside.

When Mack took over, most experts had Louisville as a top-25 team & solidly in the tournament. Spalding & Adel were legitimate all-conference type players & losing them without adequate replacements will likely mean a long season in Louisville. I think the T-Rank score is overoptimistic & it will probably take a couple years for Mack to rebuild this into a tournament team. This was a NIT team last year that lost arguably their four best players. If Marquette runs into them in Brooklyn, anything less than a relatively comfortable win would be disappointing.

Marquette Connection: It's hard to pick one, but one game that really stands out was the Buzz Williams "Walk it Out" game in 2010. Coming off a run of 8 wins in 9 games, including 3 straight road overtime victories, Marquette was closing in on securing a NCAA berth after starting just 11-8 and 2-5 in Big East play. Lazar Hayward took an open three that rimmed out, but Darius Johnson-Odom launched himself above the Louisville bigs & threw down a vicious rebound dunk. On the sidelines, Buzz did the "Walk it Out" dance to the delight of players & fans alike. That win secured a 20-win season & even the most skeptical Marquette fans knew that Buzz wasn't the only one that would be Dancing. For a great look at the history of the rivalry, check out Card Chronicle's Ten Most Memorable Louisville vs Marquette Games.

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