Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals are back in action tonight at 9 pm as they welcome in the Marshall Thundering Herd to the YUM! Center. Coming off a laugher vs. Jacksonville State in which they won by 50 points, the Cards should receive more of a challenge from Marshall, although the Cards are still favored by nearly 30 points.
After finishing the 2013-14 season 11-22, Marshall fired Tom Herrion as its head coach and replaced him with Dan D’Antoni, brother of former Suns, Knicks, and Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. The 67-year old D’Antoni has never been a head coach in the collegiate or professional ranks, but he is both a West Virginia native and as a point guard for the Thundering Herd in the late 1960s, he was elected into the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990 and is considered a school legend. He also had a successful 30-year stint as a professional high school coach in South Carolina, accumulating over 500 wins.
Despite not having head coaching experience in college, he has Marshall off to a 3-0 start and an average margin of victory of 20 points. Granted, their opponents have not exactly been among the upper-tier teams in college basketball (Jacksonville State, Savannah State, and West Virginia Tech), but on paper at least, they appear to be a better team than the last couple of years.
The Herd lost 3 of their top 4 scorers from last season, including last year’s leading scorer and Kentucky native Elijah Pittman. They also lost a backcourt leader in guard Kareem Canty, who transferred to Auburn to play for Bruce Pearl for his final year of eligibility. They will give Louisville a tall backcourt to face as well with both starting guards standing at 6-4.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for three Marshall players. Two of the team’s forwards, Tamron Manning and Jay Johnson, are natives of Georgetown and Versailles, respectively, but it is the third name that Cards fans will find most familiar. Starting small forward Ryan Taylor was originally a member of Rick Pitino’s 2011 recruiting class, and at one time, was considered a top-50 player (although he finished ranked right around the top 150). The Indianapolis native played at Western High School in Louisville his senior year and attempted to remain loyal to the Cards despite the strong indication that Louisville had moved on. As it turned out, he would not make grades to attend any college, and he instead attended Hargrave Prep for a year before signing with Marshall. After redshirting his first year, he averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds last season and he leads the team this year averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds throughout his first three games.
Player to watch for Louisville
Chinanu Onuaku. He looked good against Jacksonville State, but that team was so bad a player would have to exert an incredible amount of effort NOT to look good against that team. Marshall will give him a little more competition in the paint, and as someone who Louisville is going to need to step up this season, he will be one to keep a close eye on.
Still no Aaron
Louisville had hoped to hear something from the NCAA today regarding the status of highly touted freshman Shaqquan Aaron, but as of this moment, nothing has been reported. I would expect him to be in sweats again tonight.
Louisville 96, Marshall 63. The starting 5 will just be too much for this Marshall team. While they are surely happy with a 3-0 start, they are going to jump up several levels in competition and should be overwhelmed by Louisville’s speed and smothering press early on. The Cards win this by 30+, and the most intriguing portions of the game will be watching for who steps up off the bench.