2014 Louisville Cardinals Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 11/4/2014
The Louisville Cardinals won it all two years ago, but they were unable to repeat last year. Obviously, there's no shame in not being able to repeat since it's virtually impossible in today's environment, but the fact that the Cardinals lost in the Sweet 16 when they were considered one of the favorites by many people was a bit disappointing. The fact that Louisville lost to in-state rival Kentucky in that game was the most maddening part for fans.
Last year's team won 31 games, but the veterans who have led this team for so many years are no longer around. Rick Pitino is a coaching legend, and he's obviously one of the best in the country at his job. Pitino says this year's team is just as talented as the team's he has fielded in the past three years. Can they reach the same heights without those key veteran leaders? The loss of Peyton Siva after the 2013 title hurt last year's team significantly in terms of lost leadership. Pitino hopes that someone on this year's team steps up and leads this talented group of players. One thing is for sure, the Cardinals are going to keep playing with lots of intensity and bring the pressure. Louisville will be fun to watch, but how far can they go in the 2014-15 season? Don't forget that the Cardinals will be a part of the ACC this year.
2014 Louisville Key Losses & Additions
Russ Smith was the main man in the backcourt for Louisville last year. Smith led the team with 18.2 points per game. He also averaged 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Pitino called Smith "an unguardable offensive weapon." His lightning-quick style fit well into Louisville's tempo. Smith was a type of player who is hard to replace. Luke Hancock didn't get quite the same publicity as Smith, but he was a huge part of the team's success in the past couple years. Hancock was the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player. When he transferred in from George Mason, not many people thought he'd make an impact. They were wrong. Pitino called Hancock, "the glue of the team." In fact, Pitino believes to this day that Hancock getting into foul trouble against Kentucky was the undoing of the Cardinals at the end of last season. Stephen Van Treese worked hard in the post, and though his stat lines weren't necessarily impressive, he helped the team in a lot of ways.
Pitino always recruits well, and this year was no different. Chinanu Onuaku is the most ready to play of the freshman. His brother, Arinze, played for the Syracuse Orange. Pitino said, "I liked his older brother, but if Nanu is not better than his older brother, I'd very disappointed." He is a physical specimen inside, and Pitino thinks he might start by the end of the year. Quentin Snider is great at pressuring the ball on defense at the point guard spot, which means he fits perfectly at Louisville. Shaqquan Aaron has a high upside, but he's not as physically ready as the other two.
2014 Louisville Backcourt
Chris Jones is a guy that Coach Pitino thinks can take over where Smith left off. Jones was too similar to Smith when they played together, and it caused some minor problems offensively. Pitino believes Jones can double his point production from last year. Terry Rozier had a great summer at the big camps, and the NBA scouts are really high on him. He is the type of guy who is set up for a breakout season. He had 67 assists and only 22 turnovers last year, so he makes good decisions with the ball, too. Wayne Blackshear has been too passive in his first few years in the system. Blackshear clearly has the potential to be great, but his inconsistency has been maddening. If he can play with some more intensity this year, he could be very good. Anton Gill and Snider give Pitino two excellent guards to plug into the full court press from the bench.
2014 Louisville Frontcourt
There's no doubt that the main man up front for Louisville is Montrezl Harrell. Harrell was expected by many to go pro, but he stuck around for another season. He is a preseason All-American, and his physicality on the inside is something that nearly every team on the schedule will struggle to contest. Harrell can take over games with his dominating paint presence, and if his offensive moves improve even further then this is a kid who could be the best big man in the nation. Mangok Mathiang wasn't quite ready as a freshman last season, but the coaching staff expects a lot from him this year. Mathiang is at his best on the defensive end of the floor, and he is a good passer out of the blocks on the offensive. Onuaku is going to get a bunch of time, and he should be very good right away. The frontcourt isn't as deep as normal, but the guys here are ultra-talented.
2014 Louisville Futures Odds
Louisville is ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason polls. The current odds at Bovada have Louisville set at 25/1 to win the NCAA Championship. Sportsbook.ag has the Cardinals at +3,000 to cut down the nets.
2014 Louisville Cardinals Predictions & NCAA Basketball Picks
Louisville moves to a much tougher conference and has only one starter from last year's team back. It's clear that Pitino likes the potential of this team, but the tougher schedule is going to make it difficult for them to excel throughout the course of the year. Louisville's isn't quite as deep as some of the other top teams in the country. The Cardinals aren't going to be a bad team, but I do think they are slightly overrated to start the season.
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