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Preseason Preview: Louisville

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(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 18-19 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: Louisville Cardinals
17-18 Record: 22-14 (9-9 in the ACC)
Postseason?: Mirrored Marquette, earned a 2 seed in the NIT before falling to the 4 seed in the quarterfinals
17-18 KenPom: 38
Date: Possibly November 23, 2018
Location: Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)
Coach: Chris Mack (1st Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 50-100
Projected Conference Finish: 12/15 in the ACC

Departures from 17-18
Quentin Snider: Starting PG: 32.1 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .397 FG%, .416 3P% (Graduated)
Deng Adel: Starting SF: 33.1 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .448 FG%, .350 3P% (Declared for draft, went undrafted)
Ray Spalding: Starting PF: 27.6 mpg, 12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.7 bpg, 1.7 tpg, .543 FG%, .263 3P% (Declared for draft, drafted 56th overall by Philadelphia, then traded to Dallas)
Anas Mahmoud: Starting C: 23.4 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.9 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .551 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduated)
Lance Thomas: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 12 games (Transferred to Memphis)
Brian “Tugs” Bowen: Appeared in 0 games (Transferred to South Carolina, then declared for draft, then withdrew from draft and went overseas)
61% of scoring, 59% of rebounding, 65% of assists, 49% of steals, 83% of blocks, 45% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Christen Cunningham: Grad Transfer PG from Samford
Akoy Agau: Grad Transfer PF from SMU
Khwan Fore: Grad Transfer PG from Richmond
Steven Enoch: Transfer C from Connecticut
Wyatt Battaile: Walk-on SG

Probable Starters:
PG: Christen Cunningham: 6’2” 190 lb RSSR: 34.7 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 6.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.2 tpg, .422 FG%, .354 3P% (16-17 stats for Samford)
SG: Ryan McMahon: 6’0” 170 lb RSJR: 15.6 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.0 tpg, .422 FG%, .408 3P%
SF: Dwayne Sutton: 6’5” 200 lb RSJR: 15.2 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.5 tpg, .445 FG%, .354 3P%
PF: VJ King: 6’6” 190 lb JR: 25.5 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .398 FG%, .320 3P%
C: Jordan Nwora: 6’8” 215 lb SO: 12.0 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .464 FG%, .439 3P%

Probable Bench:
Darius Perry: 6’2” 170 lb SO PG
Malik Williams: 6’11” 215 lb SO C
Akoy Agau: 6’8” 235 lb RSSR PF
Khwan Fore: 6’0” 175 lb RSSR PG
Steven Enoch: 6’10” 250 lb RSJR C

Probable Benchwarmers:
Jo Griffin: 6’1” 175 lb SO PG
Jacob Redding: 6’1” 165 lb SO PG
Wyatt Battaile: 6’4” 180 lb FR SG

Notes:

• How the mighty have fallen. Only a few short seasons ago, Louisville was the national champion and being in mentioned in the same breath as Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina as the next possible school to make the jump to blue blood. Since then, multiple scandals involving strippers, $100K payoffs, and a self-proclaimed escort queen has cost Louisville its championship, its coach, and has quite possible put its future in jeopardy. The Cardinals missed the big dance last season, lost four starters, and bring in zero freshmen in the class of 2018. New skipper Chris Mack is certainly better than the interim they had last season. They also bring in a quartet of decent transfers. But it is going to be an uphill battle for Louisville to stay out of the bottom half of the ACC, much less make the NCAA tournament.
• First, Louisville’s awkward roster needs to be addressed. They only feature ten scholarship players and seven of them are perimeter players. Of the remaining three, one likes to spend at least half his time roaming beyond the three point line and the other two were only okay at their last stops. So while Darius Perry is definitely one of the top five players on Louisville’s roster, he gets squeezed to the bench in our projection to make room for Jordan Nwora. Nwora himself certainly isn’t a center, but he is a much more talented than either of their three true post players. Their lack of depth in the frontcourt will likely force the wing to play the 4 and 5 in a small ball lineup for a significant part of next season.
• The best illustration of Louisville’s size problem is VJ King. King was the starting SG for the Cardinals last season but will likely have to spend a significant portion of 18-19 playing as an undersized PF. Rumor is that King has put on some good weight in anticipation of the role. He projects to be Louisville’s best player next season. His quickness should allow him to take advantage of some matchups against bigger opponents who will be facing at the 4 position. However, King shot a very substandard 44% eFG% last season and that was as the fourth scoring option. King will need to find a way to increase his efficiency if he is going to carry the scoring load next season.
• With no freshmen willing to brave the stench currently surrounding the program, Coach Mack turned to the grad transfer market and came up with a pair PGs with opposing styles. Christen Cunningham is a pass first PG who spent most of last season sidelined with an undisclosed illness. As a junior, he led a very good Samford team and was one of Division 1’s assist leaders with 6.3 a game. He is the all time assist leader at Samford and has started every game of his career. His passing ability will likely ensure that his starting streak will continue. The other PG is Richmond’s Khwan Fore. Fore is more of a scorer than a passer and comes with Dominic James like hops. Despite being six foot nothing, the kid can throw down monstrous dunks. He originally committed to Tennessee but it only lasted about a week before he turned in his orange for red. His lack of shooting and defense will likely hold him back but he should play an important role off the bench.
• Rounding out the starting lineup will be two of a trio of role players from last season. Three-point specialist Ryan McMahon is second behind VJ King in returning minutes but is a bit of a one trick horse. 42 out of his 54 made FGs were from range and he only found his way to the free throw line 32 times. Dwayne Sutton is lead returning rebounder from last season. He was a star at UNC-Asheville before transferring to Lousville. He’s undersized at 6’5” 200 lbs, but will likely see time at the 4 in small ball lineups. Rising sophomore Darius Perry has the most upside of the three and showed a lot of promise towards the end of last season.
• Anchoring the post for the Cardinals will be two former top prospects who have yet to live up to their lofty rankings. Malik Williams was a 5-star prospect in some services finishing ranked #27 in the 247 Composite. He certainly showed some of that potential as a freshman, making 20 three pointers as a near seven-footer. Despite his size and shooting ability, he was limited to 10 minutes a game because he lacked the strength and post moves to be an effective inside player. The other post is incoming transfer Steven Enoch. He was a consensus top 100 player as a high senior but never made an impact at UConn. In his last season he only carved out 12 minutes a game and shot 41% from the floor, criminally low for a post player. And this wasn’t for the UConn teams of old, this was a for Husky team that finished below .500. With such limited depth in the frontcourt, Louisville fans are banking on at least one of these two to play more like their high school ranking.

Prediction:
• As much as I hope that Marquette will be able to knock off their first-round opponent, Kansas is a top 5 team next season, meaning Louisville will be the likely foe in the third-place game. Marquette should have the advantage in both size and talent at every position. Unless Coach Mack is a miracle worker, Marquette wins this one going away, somewhere in the realm of 12-15 points.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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