#56 Louisville: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #9 Big East Conference
2009-10: 20-13, 11-7
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rick Pitino (220-86 at Louisville, 572-210 overall)
The offseason could have gone better for Louisville. Samardo Samuels left early for the NBA, unwisely in retrospect, and a couple newcomers are not eligible to play this season. That leaves what was already going to be a young and inexperienced team even younger and more inexperienced. However, their level of talent cannot be denied and Coach Rick Pitino should, eventually, be able to get the best out of this team and when that happens this will be a dangerous group.
Key Losses: F Reginald Delk, F Samardo Samuels, G Jerry Smith, G Edgar Sosa
Not long ago this class looked a lot better, but a couple players are not eligible this season. Still this is a pretty good group led by Gorgui Dieng. The 6-10, 215 pound center is ready to contribute right away which is rare for a big man at this level. He may not score a ton of points, but he can hit the glass hard and swat away a ton of shots. Walk-on redshirt freshman Richie Phares is the only other forward who will be seeing his first action this season. Elisa Justice and Russ Smith are both scoring point guards who can play multiple positions. Justice is the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky and can fill up the stat sheet, but at 5-10 he will likely spend most of his time at the point guard position as a backup this season. Smith has a little more size and could spend a few minutes at the two spot. Chris Smith, a walk-on transfer from Manhattan, has two years of experience with the Jaspers and averaged an impressive 13.4 points and 5.7 rebounds during the 2008-2009 campaign.
Peyton Siva had to work through a wrist injury during his freshman season, but by the end of the year he was a capable point guard. He only averaged 11.3 minutes per game, but this should be his team now as long as he is ready. If not, at least Louisville has Preston Knowles. Knowles, who started eight games last season, is a quality ball handler and a good scorer as well. Ideally, Siva and the newcomers can handle the point so Knowles can spend more time off the ball and turn into the big time scorer this team needs. Knowles certainly needs to improve his shooting, but he does have the ability to score in bunches when he is connecting on the long ball. Mike Marra is coming off of a relatively successful freshman campaign and should be able to fill in some minutes on the wings. At 6-5 he has plenty of size, but he needs to spend more time attacking the basket and less time taking poor three-pointers.
The lone returning starter is Jared Swopshire. The forward earned 20 starts a year ago and averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. While he has been a productive player, Swopshire is not the most dangerous forward in the Big East, but he is a decent outside shooter and can at least stretch out the defense and do his job on the glass. If Terrence Jennings ever lives up to his potential, this could be a very good frontcourt. Jennings, a 6-9, 220 pound forward, is a superb athlete who can run up and down the floor. By the end of the year Jennings was a regular in the starting lineup and he showed plenty of potential when he was on the floor. Consistency will be the key for Jennings this year and having a big man who can put up ten points a game will do a lot for this offense. Rakeem Buckles is only a sophomore, but he will be a great backup to Swopshire and Jennings. Add Dieng to the mix and this frontcourt is talented, albeit young.
Who to Watch:
Kyle Kuric did not garner much attention last year and he may not this year either, but he needs to turn into the type of player who can hold this team together from the three spot. He is a decent all-around scorer, but is also a solid rebounder and defender and can do a lot of things for this team that will not show up in the stat sheet.
As usual, this is a talented Louisville team, but after losing four starters from a squad that was not exactly the model of consistency a year ago, it is hard to imagine that they will be any better. Coach Pitino will get the most out of his players, but the youngsters will be inconsistent and that will be a big problem as the Cardinals try to work their way through a tough Big East slate.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Peyton Siva, Sophomore, Guard, 3.9 ppg
Preston Knowles, Senior, Guard, 7.2 ppg
Kyle Kuric, Junior, Guard, 4.0 ppg
Jared Swopshire, Junior, Forward, 7.5 ppg
Terrence Jennings, Junior, Forward, 5.1 ppg
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