New Era in Louisville Set to Begin
It’s been a rough year for Louisville, to say the least. A year ago to the day, the Cardinals began the process to fire Rick Pitino as their head men’s basketball coach. 365 days later they’ve fired Pitino, let interim coach David Padgett leave, and hired Chris Mack as their new head coach. After a tumultuous year, Louisville is hoping for a fresh start, and a clean slate.
Louisville and Mack have their chance at a fresh start, but it won’t come easy. The Cardinals lose four of their top five leading scorers. What was a team filled with size and experience a year ago is now thin up front. Between Deng Adel, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud, Louisville loses their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. Add in the loss of Quentin Snider and they lose their leading assist man too.
Good luck, Chris Mack.
As big as the losses appear, there is reason of optimism. The Cardinals have potential, but they are relying on a number of players to make leaps forward. First and foremost is junior VJ King. The Hoop Group alumni is a former Top 100 recruit; he came to Louisville with high expectations and some would say has yet to meet them. King will not only have to lead his team in scoring, but he will have to nearly double last year’s output (8.6 ppg) for success. And while that may seem like a lot, he’s more than capable.
After King, two players who will need to have increased roles are Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch. Nwora played last season and showed an ability to space the floor with his three point shooting. He showcased glimpses of scoring ability and will need to do that more so than not this season. Enoch is a UConn transfer who, along with Malik Williams, will be tasked to fill the major holes left in the front court. While Louisville graduates four seniors, they are not a young and inexperienced team. King is a junior, Enoch is a junior in his second year with the team, Riley McMahon is a junior who played 15 minutes a game last season.
Another difference a year and head coach make can be seen in recruiting. Last year, Louisville was losing recruits as more and more negative headlines popped up. Now, it's a bit different. Chris Mack hasn't made a major splash in the recruiting world yet, but he has gotten three graduate transfers this season who will help ease the pain of losing four productive seniors. These players will bridge the gap between this year and when Mack is able to bring in "his guys" next season, which already include thrree ESPN Top 100 players.
Last year, Louisville was dealing with scandal and an unproven head coach. It’s a new era now though, and Chris Mack is running it. Louisville will certainly be back sooner than later with Mack on the sideline. The pieces are there this year, they just need to all fall at the right place and the right time.The Cardinals will likely be a NIT team this season, but they have the coach and enough talent to surprise people this year.