This is the HoopsReport Preview for Louisville next season.
Last Season: 20-13 (11-7)
Key Losses: Samardo Samuels, Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Reginald Delk
Head Coach: Rick Pitino
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Peyton Siva 6-0 So.
SG: Preston Knowles 6-1 Sr.
SF: Roburt Sallie 6-5 Sr.
PF: Jared Swopshire 6-8 Jr.
C: Terrence Jennings 6-10 Jr.
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuric 6-4 Jr. SG, Mike Marra 6-5 So. SG, Rakeem Buckles 6-8 So. PF, Gorgui Dieng 6-10 Fr. PF, Justin Coleman 6-4 Fr. SF
After a tumultuous offseason for Rick Pitino, the Louisville head coach will try to lead a team that lost a ton of talent from last season. Guards Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk all graduated and big man Samardo Samuels left early for the NBA, but did not get drafted. Pitino had to deal with losing both Terrence Williams and Earl Clark to the NBA last year and the season didn’t go too badly, as the Cardinals won 20 games and reached the NCAA tournament, but it may be a bit tougher this season, as there isn’t as much talent left behind.
This Louisville team could be deep but will be young. Five of the likely 10 rotation players are freshmen or sophomores. And there is no sure-fire go-to guy on this team. Instead, the roster is full of some guys who were expected to turn into stars but it still remains to be seen if they do or not.
One of the most important players could be Terrence Jennings. The 6-foot-10 big man has a lot of potential but has yet to develop into a great player. He is long and athletic, so he is able to block shots and grab rebounds, but he needs to develop a post game on the offensive end and add some muscle. Jennings averaged 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. He never had more than 11 points or seven rebounds in a game. If he can turn into a leader on this team, it would be a major boost for the Cardinals.
Down low with Jennings will be Jared Swopshire, who isn’t really a low post player. But at 6-foot-8, he will have to fill that need for the Cardinals. Swopshire averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. He can rebound the ball well, but he is more comfortable on offense on the perimeter than he is down low. Hopefully for the Cardinals, Swopshire will be able to cause matchup problems and force opposing big men to come out on the perimeter to guard him. Despite only averaging 7.5 points per game last season, he is actually the leading returning scorer on this team.
Although Swopshire is the leading returning scorer, there is a player on this team who averaged more points per game than him last season. That was Roburt Sallie, who played at Memphis but transferred to Louisville and was granted a waiver by the NCAA to allow him to play immediately for the Cardinals. Sallie averaged 10.5 points per game for Memphis last season while shooting 41 percent on 3-point attempts. He is an excellent 3-point shooter who once scored 35 points and made 10 3-pointers in an NCAA tournament game during his sophomore season for Memphis. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
In the backcourt, the Cardinals will have Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva both running the point. Knowles averaged 7.2 points and 2.3 assists per game last season, while Siva averaged 3.9 points and 1.8 assists per game. Knowles is a solid lead guard who likes to shoot 3-pointers but only shot 29 percent from beyond the arc last season. Siva is a fast, athletic guard who can finish above the rim.
Kyle Kuric is a 6-foot-4 wing who will likely come off the bench to give the Cardinals a scoring punch. Kuric showed his potential when he scored 22 points against Syracuse last season.
Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra are two players who didn’t do much last season as freshmen but will have more opportunities to contribute as sophomores. Buckles will be backing up Jennings and Swopshire down low, while Marra will be logging minutes at both wing positions.
Louisville will gain two top-50 recruits in freshmen Gorgui Dieng and Justin Coleman. Dieng is a 6-foot-10 long, athletic big man who can block shots and back up Jennings at center. Coleman is a 6-foot-4 scoring wing who is very strong.
This Louisville team may not have the star power that it had the past few years with the likes of Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa and Samardo Samuels. But there is plenty of depth, shooting and athleticism. Knowles, Sallie, Swopshire and Kuric can all knock down jumpers consistently. The biggest question marks will be how well Knowles and Siva can run the point and how much of an inside presence Jennings will be. If a solid point guard and center emerges from this group of players, the Cardinals will find themselves back in the NCAA tournament.
This obviously was written before Coleman and Sallie were declared ineligible. With that being said, Louisville would probably be ranked much lower without those two on the roster.