Countdown to College Basketball: #49 Louisville Cardinals

The Top-50 team countdown rolls on today as there are now exactly seven weeks until College Basketball begins, so let’s dive into the Louisville Cardinals. With extortion, bribery, and all that came of the Dino Gaudio exit, Louisville now looks to move past this with a successful season but it won’t come without a six-game suspension for Chris Mack. On the court. this team is fresh off of being the first team out a season ago, Louisville comes into this season right again in position to potentially be on the bubble this year. 

The Cardinals lose their two best players from a year ago in Carlik Jones and David Johnson who both opted to turn professional but their backcourt should still be pretty good. A trio of transfers sharpshooting of El Ellis, Jarrod West, and Noah Locke will fill in at the guard spot to try to replace that production. All three of these guards shot over 40% from three at their previous stops. JUCO standout El Ellis seems most likely to step in and start at the guard spot, Ellis is a quick guard that can shoot it at a high level from beyond the arc, and he has the ability to use a variety of moves to score inside as well. Jarrod West is probably the best true point guard, while West isn’t a great scorer, his shooting ability will keep defenses honest while he excels as a passer and defender. Noah Locke comes in with the most high-major experience of this trio, Locke is a true shooting guard but a good one at that, as he is a sniper from deep, although he is someone that hasn’t been a takeover scorer to this point. 

The Cardinals will look towards a trio of Jae’Lyn Withers, Samuell Williamson, and Dre Davis to improve from a season ago. Withers was an effective option inside, oftentimes being the go-to option on that front, his ability to score at an efficient rate was key for the Cardinals. While Samuell Williamson hasn’t quite lived up to his high expectations, he has been a solid contributor and showed himself to be a good rebounder playing as a small-ball four-man, but he’s nowhere near reaching his star potential. Bulky wing Dre Davis is everything you’d imagine of a mid-major four-man, he’s a good defender, capable shooter but will have to be more consistent this year.

Malik Williams hopes to have a big season a year after being a potential breakout candidate. Williams is a perfect modern-day big man that can score inside with ease and grab rebounds at a high level. Miami transfer Matt Cross hopes to come in and contribute at the four spot for this team as he’s a solid 3-and-D player. JJ Traynor hopes to get more of a role this season as a scorer but will almost certainly start on the bench. Sydney Curry and Roosevelt Wheeler will be competing for backup minutes at the 5 spot. 

Louisville has a high ceiling this season but will need a lot of things to go right to achieve high levels of success. El Ellis will need to emerge as the clear bucket-getting guard that he was at the JUCO level for that success to happen. While a duo of Noah Locke and Jarrod West is solid, it is not enough to carry the Cardinals. Malik Williams and Jae’Lyn Withers will be solid in the frontcourt but not elite either. 

This team won’t bottom out, there are enough pieces to avoid that fate but I just don’t think they are good enough to sneak into any Top-25 this season. Most likely this team will be right back on the bubble, maybe this year with a different NCAA Tournament committee (unlike one where Kentucky’s athletic director could choose not to include them), and no Covid pauses to interrupt any positive momentum, Louisville will make the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the Chris Mack era.

Projected Rotation

PG: El Ellis

SG: Noah Locke

SF: Samuell Williamson

PF: Jae’Lyn Withers

C: Malik Williams

B1: Jarrod West

B2: Dre Davis

B3: Matt Cross

B4: JJ Traynor

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