Louisville has basically turned into a basketball machine and this year should be more of the same, but there are some questions, particularly in the back court. Russdiculous is gone and he was basically the team's rock (not to mention leading scorer at 18.2 per game), and Luke Hancock is gone from the back court as well and he was the team's third leading scorer (12.3ppg) is gone as well. Those two hit 138 threes between the two of them last season, almost half the Cardinals' total.
Chris Jones is back though, and he's a nearly perfect guard for a Rick Pitino team. He's absurdly quick, and if the Gophers play a lot of zone he's going to absolutely murder them by getting into the lane over and over - you watch. He also ended up with the 8th best steal rate in the country, so he could wreck some shit, particularly against a Gopher team that struggles taking care of the ball. Wayne Blackshear returns as well and should jump into Hancock's role as wing bomber.
Then there's the newcomers who can help fill in - PG Quentin Snider and
In the paint the Gophers will probably get physically murdered by Montrezl Harrell who could have gone to the NBA and right now I wish he would have. He's an absolute monster at 6-8, 240 lbs. of pure muscle who averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last year while shooting north of 60%. He doesn't exactly have a jump shot, but when you look like Mr. Sandman you don't need one.
|This is basically him.|
Basically Louisville has the size advantage and the speed advantage (the Gophers are getting better, but they aren't there yet), and their pressing, attacking defense causes a whole boat load of turnovers (#2 in the country last year) while the Gophers, despite an experienced back court, were a turnover machine last season. But I still think our favorite team has a chance. Louisville has a solid foundation in Jones and Harrell, but they're folding in a lot of new pieces this year while the Gophers are relatively stable. In order to run the kind of system both Pitinos like you need good communication and a good grasp of where to go and where to be, especially against another team who is willing and able to run and gun, or you end up out of position and giving up easy shots in transition (remember the lay-up line that was Arkansas last year?). The Gophers best hope is probably to run with Louisville and hope they're better prepared than the Cardinals.
Will it happen? Although it's possible I don't see it. The two teams want to play the same way, but one team has the better athletes, more size, the better coach (FOR NOW!), and simply fit the system better. The Gophers only advantage is more continuity, but much of that is negated by Pitino Sr's coaching, because he's still one of the best. I keep picturing that Arkansas game I mentioned above, but I keep seeing the Gophers as the Gophers, not as Arkansas.
Louisville 88, Minnesota 74.
[note: just learned Shaqquan Aaron is not eligible as of yet for Louisville. This changes nothing, except for how this preview now looks stupid like your face and your mom.]