Once again, an elite team dominated Louisville’s undermanned 5-spot and made all of the Cardinal big men look lost. While each of them have shown glimpses of potential on the defensive end, there’s simply no half court (or “any” court most times) offense to work with. So what does Coach Pitino need to do? The simple answer is – of course – to recruit better. It’s puzzling to see how out-classed Louisville’s centers are against the top teams, but that’s the case when so many project prospects are taken.
Mangok Mathiang: While it won’t be the case going forward this season, Mathiang should never start a game for Louisville again. The abuse he took from Duke’s Jahlil Okafor was tough to watch. Granted, he’s a consensus Top 3 NBA Draft pick, but if Mangok can’t keep from looking like a matador on defense against opposing big men, what’s the point of him playing? It’s one thing if he could score in the post, but that’s not happening. It’s staggering to watch him continuously lose his man, not block more shots, and give up so many points in the paint at 6’10”. Coach P loves that he gives 100% effort at all times, and he can rebound well, but it doesn’t matter in the big picture of things when it’s 4-on-5 on offense and several times the same on the defensive side. Mangok is a capable player, but one that should be relegated to playing 5-10 minutes per game off the bench.
Chinanu Onuaku: This is a player who will be a good one down the road. Like Mangok, he too gets lost on defense and doesn’t currently possess an offensive game. Despite his inconsistent effort, he’s shown flashes of talent rebounding the ball and getting some put backs. After Mangok was dominated thoroughly by Okafor, Onuaku was finally subbed in for him and was immediately much more effective against him defensively. He’s much more physical in the paint and has the body for it, but will Pitino look past his lack of intensity at times to re-insert him in the starting lineup? Not likely. However, this is the guy who needs to be playing the most, at least from the start.
Anas Mahmoud: Easily the most offensively skilled guy at the 5. The problem is, he’s a 4, and even more importantly, is still 30 pounds away from being effective on both ends. Mathiang and Onuaku can rebound at a good clip, and Mahmoud cannot. On offense, he can hit the free line-extended jumper, he can pass the ball from the high post, but on defense it’s almost helpless. Like Onuaku, Mahmoud has a ton of potential. After gaining more weight and muscle in the offseason, he will be a special talent.
Matz Stockman: Another project who has some potential. In all honesty, he should have been redshirted since he hasn’t played very much.
Now if there was some way we could infuse Mangok’s effort and rebounding with Onuaku’s size and Mahmoud’s offensive capabilities, the Cards would be good at the 5 spot. But, unfortunately that’s not possible and that means more center-by-committee the rest of the way. When the guards are hitting shots, their deficiencies will be masked. When they’re not, they’re on full display.