Despite losing arguably the best point guard in Louisville history, as the 2013-14 season approaches, Louisville fans are as excited about the backcourt as they’ve ever been. Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Anton Gill have never played a division one college basketball game, but considering how highly regarded each player is, the expectations are high. With Kevin Ware, Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear all returning, this may be Pitino’s deepest backcourt ever at Louisville. Cardinal fans have been saying as much for the past few months, but hearing Pitino praise the backcourt on Tuesday is just another reason for fans to believe the hype.
“I’ll tell you right now this is a very, very strong backcourt,” Pitino said at Tuesday’s press confrence. “You can overcome weakness in the frontcourt, but you can’t overcome weakness in the backcourt to maintain the level that you want to maintain.”
There simply is no way you can replace what Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng provided during Louisville’s championship season in 2013. The newcomers in the backcourt don’t have the experience and leadership that Siva had, but when it comes to ability and talent, they’re not far behind. In fact, there are probably certain things that Chris Jones and Terry Rozier can give you that Siva couldn’t.
“When you lose a Peyton Siva, you not only lose a great player but you lose a great attitude,” Pitino said. “I don’t know if we can replace that attitude of Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva, but I think we can replace the abilities of those athletes.”
One of the biggest question marks for Pitino’s team in 2013-14 will be how Chris Jones and Russ Smith will coexist. Both players are at their best when the ball is in their hand. However, Pitino said earlier in the offseason that the point guard and the two guard will basically be the same position in 2013-14. Both Jones and Smith are interchangeable in the backcourt. Team chemistry is also a question mark, but at this point, it certainly doesn’t appear that will be an issue.
“Russ and Chris going at it is something to behold,” Pitino said. “I put them on opposite teams just to make Russ better, make Chris better.”
It all depends on how the new pieces fit with the returning players, but it’s totally not out of the question to think that Louisville could be better in 2013-14 than they were last year.