Saturday, October 25, 2008

No. 4 Louisville: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 27-9, 14-4 Big East (t-2nd)

Key Losses: David Padgett (11.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Juan Palacios (6.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Key Returnees: Terrence Williams (11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.5 apg), Earl Clark (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Edgar Sosa (7.6 ppg)

Newcomers: Samardo Samuels, George Goode, Reginald Delk, Kyle Kuric, Jared Swoopshire, Terrence Jennings

Louisville returns most of the major pieces from a team that won 27 games, finished tied for second in the Big East, and made it to the Elite 8. Their back court is the same group of guys that have been around for two years. Senior Andre McGee and junior Edgar Sosa split time at the point guard position. McGee is a much better distributor and defender than Sosa, and he protects the ball better (54 turnovers vs. 33 turnovers in around the same number of minutes). Sosa had lofty expectations after an impressive freshman season, but found himself in Rick Pitino's dog house because of lackadaisical effort defensively, poor shot selection, and poor decision making. Senior Jerry Smith, who is Louisville's best perimeter shooter, will also return. Louisville adds Reginald Delk, a two year starter at Mississippi State who sat out the last year. Add in sophomore Preston Knowles (who is one of the best on ball defenders in the Big East) and senior Will Scott to the mix, and Louisville has one of the deeper back courts in the conference.

The Cardinals front court will be talented, albeit inexperienced. Terrence Williams and Earl Clark do return. Williams is a very talented player on the wing. He is a tremendous athlete and the best passer on the Louisville team, but he is an average shooter and has a tendency to force tough shots and passes. Clark is a 6'9" combo forward. He has long arms and is very athletic, and while his ball skills are still developing, he has a knack for slashing to the basket and finishing at the rim. He is also versatile enough to play both forward spots. Both Williams and Clark are excellent defenders as well.

The rest of the Cardinal front line is going to be freshman. Samardo Samuels, a top 10 recruit, will probably slide into David Padgett's role as the starting center. Samuels is 6'8", 240 lb and strong. He is very aggressive on the block, both offensively and going for rebounds, and has a nice set of post moves. Terrence Jennings is 6'10" and a fantastic athlete. He is raw offensively, but goes to the glass hard and gets a lot of easy buckets that way. Gerald Goode was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school, but had to sit out last year due to eligibility issues. Jared Swopshire is more of a wing than a post, but he is a good offensive player with an above average jump shot.

Outlook: There is no question that Louisville is loaded. Between Williams, Clark, Samuels, and Jennings, the Cardinals front line is as good as any in the country. Their back court has a bunch of solid players that get after it on defense. Their are two major question marks that will determine how good Louisville can be: which Edgar shows up this year, the one that made the all big-east rookie team as a freshman or the one that spent much of the year in Pitino's dog house; and how will Louisville handle the loss of David Padgett, the guy who they basically ran their offense through last year.

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