Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Big East Preview: #2 Louisville

Posted by Zach on October 30, 2008

2. Louisville Cardinals– Coach: Rick Pitino (8th season)

PG- Andre McGee (SR): Along with K.C. Rivers of Clemson, McGee is one of the more underappreciated guards in the country. Hopefully observers of what should be a hyped Louisville team will notice all that this 5’10 senior provides as point guard and floor leader. McGee is the polar opposite of Edgar Sosa- he’s not nearly as explosive offensively, bur Pitino feels much more comfortable with McGee running his offense (and that’s a huge understatement). McGee broke out during his junior season by setting career highs in assists, steals, points and minutes played. Over the final nine games for Louisville with McGee entrenched at the point guard slot, he turned the ball over just nine times. He’s smart, unselfish, rarely makes crippling mistakes, and also plays better defense than Sosa. McGee is precisely the type of intelligent point guard championship teams need, and his emergence has made the Cardinals much deeper by bringing Sosa off the pine.  

SG- Jerry Smith (JR): Smith is the perfect player for Rick Pitino: he defends exceptionally well and can knock down the three-pointer. While his shooting percentage dropped from an uncanny 48% to a stellar 38% from his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smith became more of a complete player in the process. He notched 62 steals on the year and transformed offensively from a stationary three-point popper to someone who flies around the court and can drain jumpers on the move. While Smith could be a stronger passer, Pitino knows his role and will surely find plenty of minutes for an above average defender that can hit around 40% of his threes. Not many programs can rotate four guards as multi-dimensional as McGee, Sosa, Smith and Preston Knowles.

SF- Terrence Williams (SR): The Cardinals need Terrence Williams to recover from his knee injury in time for the Big East season (which he’s expected to easily do) in order to complete their squad. Williams is a super-athletic NBA prospect that scores efficiently, dominates on the glass, and passes with the vision of a point guard. It’s not an overstatement to say Williams can go off for a double-double, or even a triple-double, on any given night. Oh, and he also happens to be Louisville’s best defensive player. He’s beginning to cover up some holes in his game as his college career progresses. For one, he took way too many outside shots early in his career for someone with a below-average jumper. In his junior season, Williams took less threes and improved his FG% to 41%. Now, he’s focused on scoring closer to the paint and working for second chance opportunities. The real question: Can he improve his dismal 57% from the charity stripe as a senior? If he does, you have one of the best players in the country.

PF- Earl Clark (JR)
: Much like Williams, Clark projects to be a lottery selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. His athletic abilities are off the charts and his wingspan is an NBA scout’s dream. After a somewhat surprising return for his junior season in Louisville, Clark is looking to become one of the most feared forwards in the nation and lead the Cardinals to new heights. Clark showed his future stardom in the NCAA Tournament when he exploded with 14.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG in Louisville’s four games. Pitino hopes Clark can maintain that scoring ferocity the entire year while continuing to rebound and block shots, two of Clark’s clear strengths. He’ll need to adapt more playing inside as a four and continue to mature as a defender. 14 PPG and 9 RPG are reasonable expectations for the talented forward.

C- Samardo Samuels (FR)
: The emergence of Samuels as a Kevin Love-type producer for Louisville is the wild card. As talented and hyped as Samuels is (and he deserves the accolades, including being named USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year), he’s still going to be expected to bang down low with the best of the Big East like Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Harangody and DeJuan Blair. Can he handle the workload and expectations? I’d say yes. Samuels is an advanced scorer and rebounder for his age who will take pressure off Clark and Williams on the glass. He’s extremely powerful in the Eddy Curry mold and may be a one-and-done for Pitino. Luckily for him, this is the year Louisville fans expect a ticket to Detroit, and Samuels should be a huge part of that run. I have Samuels finishing a close second to DeMar DeRozan in terms of Newcomer of the Year.

Bench: Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles will serve as depth in the backcourt for Louisville. Sosa expected to be the next great Louisville guard after dropping 31 on Texas A&M in the second round his freshman year. Instead, the guard who Pitino calls “immature mentally” will have to battle for playing time over those who are more mature mentally, namely McGee and Knowles. Sosa is a hard-nosed player who penetrates and defends well, providing explosiveness for Pitino off the bench. He could see more time at the 2-guard this season. Knowles is more of a complimentary piece who does the little things efficiently and will find minutes even with the talent on the roster. Freshman Terrence Jennings from Notre Dame Prep should help defensively right away with his shot-blocking and rebounding skills. He’ll need to develop offensively, but the Cardinals don’t really need more scoring in the frontcourt with Williams, Clark and Samuels. Mississippi State transfer Reginald Delk should also see minutes.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: A+
Bench: B+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line:
There’s not much to dislike about this Louisville team. They’re perennially one of the top defensive teams in the nation and nobody expects that to change this season. They have the shooter in Jerry Smith, they have the intelligent point guard in McGee, the athletes and rebounders with Clark and Williams, the phenom in Samuels, and a bench that surely will provide enough insurance in case of injury. The only real question is if a team leader will emerge following the graduation of David Padgett. If Louisville stays mentally focused and scores enough points, which I expect will happen, they’ll be a Final Four team. I have them pegged for Detroit along with North Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/18 vs. Ole Miss, 12/20 @ Minnesota, 12/27 vs. UAB, 12/31 vs. UNLV
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/2 vs. Connecticut, 2/12 @ Notre Dame, 2/23 @ Georgetown
Most Valuable Player: Terrence Williams
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Final 4)

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One Response to “Big East Preview: #2 Louisville”

  1. […] by Zach on November 3, 2008 Here are all of my previews: 1. Connecticut, 2. Louisville, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Pittsburgh, 5. Marquette, 6. Georgetown, 7. Syracuse, 8. Villanova, 9. West […]

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