The Floyd Street Tribune: 20 observations and predictions before the season officially starts
Inside: What I learned from Louisville after two exhibitions and how it applies to the 2021-22 season. Plus, recruiting is afoot and I have Oklahoma State thoughts.
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Two exhibitions are in the books, and Louisville is now readying for its season opener on Tuesday against Southern. After watching three preseason practices, an intrasquad scrimmage and two exhibitions, here are 10 observations and 10 predictions ahead of a critical 2021-22 campaign that is Year 4 under Chris Mack.
1. The pace and space are noticeably different. They still have to make shots and make the right decisions, but the Cardinals have opened up the floor so much more this season. There’s serious determination to get into transition and get early looks. One of Louisville’s biggest problems last season was the inability to score easy baskets, resulting in a stagnant offense that really had to work through the shot clock. I’d imagine Louisville took among the highest number of contested shot attempts in recent program history last season, if not the highest. That’s going to change.
2. Defense is a work in progress. Louisville may struggle defending drivers, which is why Malik Williams staying healthy is really important. He is the primary shot blocker on the team and can erase or alter shots at the rim. This is perhaps where some of that token pressure can help create some turnovers and rush opposing offenses a little more, too. Louisville got better as the game progressed, and Mack pointed out how little his players saw of West Georgia’s offense before the matchup, but the gap help in driving lanes and on-ball defense wasn’t ideal in the opening 5-10 minutes. Opponents will only get more explosive and athletic from here.
3. The early-season depth chart looks like …
C: Williams/Curry or Traynor
Gabe Wiznitzer is a month behind after the wrist injury — curious to see if he ends up redshirting or returning. I do wonder if Roosevelt Wheeler catches up to the rotation at some point, but Sydney Curry is clearly ahead at this point and JJ Traynor is an intriguing option as a 4/5. I’m also very, very curious to see how Mason Faulkner plugs in when he’s ready. That’s 80 minutes to split among four guards.
4. There is much more leadership/veteran savvy on this team. Louisville was young last season — and not just young in age but young in basketball experience. This group is far from that, with Faulkner, Noah Locke, Jarrod West and Williams all seniors or fifth-year guys and Jae’Lyn Withers and Sam Williamson in their third years. That should help overcome some of the weaknesses of the team.