Coach: Rick Pitino (200-73 at Louisville, 552-197 overall)
Earl Clark and Terrence Williams were really the heart and soul of Louisville during the 2008-2009 campaign. Not only did those two led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, but they also combined to average 3.3 steals and 2.2 blocks per contest. Coach Rick Pitino may have a lot of talent on the roster, but this team will not be the same without Clark and Williams.
Key Losses for Cardinals: F Earl Clark, G Andre McGee, F Terrence Williams
Edgar Sosa could handle the point guard duties after dishing out 2.4 assists per game last year, but Siva should be able to bring a steady hand to the position. Meanwhile Sosa and Jerry Smith can score from the wings. Smith is the better outside shooter of the two, but Sosa is a pretty smart player who will take what the defense gives him. Those two will be seeing a lot more minutes this season and they both have to be more consistent with their scoring output. Preston Knowles was a pretty good sixth man last year and should be again this season. Most of his shots will come from beyond the arc and he connected on 43.2 percent of his attempts.
Without Clark and Williams, a lot of pressure will be put on sophomore Samardo Samuels. He was quite impressive as a freshman, averaging 11.8 pionts, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest. While he may not have to score too much more, he will need to be the defensive presence under the basket and do a better job on the glass. The only other returning forward who averaged over ten minutes per game last season was Terrence Jennings. The 6-10 sophomore was very productive when he was given the opportunity to play and if he can be just as productive while playing more minutes, the Louisville frontcourt is in good hands.
Who’s In for Louisville:
This may not be the best recruiting class to step foot in Spokane, but it is a big group. Coach Few has three redshirt freshmen, six incoming freshmen and one transfer that will all battle for minutes. Mangisto Arop is arguably the most talented of them all. The 6-5 wing is already becoming stronger than he was while playing high school in Canada and should provide an offensive spark off the bench. Sophomore Bol Kong, a native of Sudan, is also an intriguing prospect on the wing. Point guard G.J. Vilarino was on his way to Kentucky until the coaching change and is expected to be the point guard of the future and a contributor as a freshman. However, unless the Cardinals play small, Sam Dower may be the most important newcomer this season. The 6-11, 228 pound freshman could step immediately into a starting role and is at least the most likely big man among the newcomers to play significant minutes off the bench.
What this team needs is depth. Reginald Delk, Jared Swopshire and George Goode all averaged six minutes or less per game last year, but they will have to compete with the newcomers for important minutes off the bench. Swopshire and Goode, both 6-8 forwards, were just freshmen last year and should be able to carry a bigger load this season. If not, the Cardinals will have to rely heavily on unproven freshmen to provide depth in the frontcourt.
Final 2009-2010 Louisville Projection:
Having a true point guard in Siva is a very good thing for Louisville, but he is a freshman who may need some time to adjust to playing in a tough conference like the Big East. If Siva lives up to his lofty expectations, the Cardinals could compete with anybody in the conference. If not, Coach Pitino will have to try and hold this young team together with the help of seniors Sosa and Smith.