Today we take a look at the Louisville Cardinals. Personal issues aside, Pitino is a great coach and he got the most out of his roster last year. He took a rag tag group that no one expected much from (they were picked 8th) and managed to finish 3rd in the always tough Big East. They unfortunately were upset in the first (second) round of the NCAA tournament by Morehead State.
So what does next year hold for the Cardinals?
Graduating: Preston Knowles (14.6pts, 3.9rbds, 3.1assts), George Goode (2.9pts, 1.4rbds) (Goode still technically has eligibility left, due to a couple redshirts, but he's never been able to stay healthy and he confirmed to me he will not be back with the team next year)
Early Entry: Terrence Jennings (9.6pts, 5.2rbds)
Seniors: Chris Smith (9.4pts, 4.6rbds, 2.5assts)(red shirt senior), Kyle Kuric (10.8pts, 3.9 Rbds),
Juniors: Jared Swopshire (Injured last year 7.5pts 6.1rbds as a soph; red shirt Junior), Peyton Siva (9.9pts, 3.1rbds, 5.2assts, 2.0stls), Rakeem Buckles (6.8pts, 6.1rbds), Mike Marra (6.4pts 2.1rbds, 2.0 assts), Stephen Van Treese (2.9pts, 3.5rbds)
Wayne Blackshear 6'5" SG 36 Rivals, 16 Scout, 26 ESPN
Chane Behanan 6'7" PF 21 Rivals, 23 Scout, 27 ESPN
Zach Price 6'10" C 67 Rivals, 65 Scout, 56 ESPN
Angel Nunez 6'7" SF NR
The Cardinals will return one of the deepest rosters in the Big East. They are losing their leading scorer in Knowles and their most productive post player in Jennings. But Louisville's game plan is built on pressure defense and depth so those losses should be offset by fresh legs. They return stud PG Peyton Siva who will run the show as well as sharp shooters Kuric and Marra. They also get Jared Swopshire back from injury. Buckles is also recovering from an injury, but should be back for the start of next year.
Louisville will add 2 McDonald's all American's to an already potent line up. Chane Behanan is an undersized PF but is strong, aggressive, and a good finisher. Blackshear is a great scorer and 3pt shooter. He currently lacks the handle to drive consistently though. They also bring in Zach Price who will provide a post presence to replace the departed Jennings. Price is similar to Jennings in that his defense is well ahead of his offense. Nunez is a talented wing prospect, but his potential so far exceeds his production, but could be very dangerous down the line if he is capable of putting it all together.
Louisville should be the favorite for the conference crown in my opinion although most outlets will give the nod to Syracuse. I like Louisville's roster a lot more and think they emerge atop the Big East. Louisville defends and can put points on the board. They've got tons of talent. There's not much not to like about the Cardinals in 2011-2012.