Photo – AP
The second the NCAA Tournament ends, the early set of rankings are released for the following season. The Cards lose a lot of talent and experience, but still find themselves in the thick of it for next year. ESPN and CBS were the first to release their rankings.
The Cardinals are losing a ton. There’s Russ Smith, an All-American and the lead force on the Cardinals’ 2013 national title team. There’s Luke Hancock, the Most Outstanding Player of that Final Four. Stephan Van Treese leaves with size and hoops IQ in tow. And Montrezl Harrell, who became a dominant interior force this season, looks likely to enter the NBA draft. Yet Rick Pitino’s team might still be a title contender by next March, and not just because Pitino has been masterful in working through roster changes in recent seasons. He also brings in the No. 4-ranked recruiting class — including four solid, top-100 players in Shaqquan Aaron, Quentin Snider, Anas Osama Mahmoud and Chinanu Onuaku. Pitino may need to get more out of Mangok Mathiang and (especially) Wayne Blackshear, but the Cardinals won’t lack for talent.
Opponents: Duke #2, Kentucky #3, North Carolina #6, Virginia #7, and Syracuse #21
- Notable players definitely gone: Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson, Kevin Ware
- Others expected to leave: Montrezl Harrel
- Notable players expected to return: Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear, Terry Rozier, Mangok Mathiang, Anton Gill
- Notable newcomers: Shaqquan Aaron, Jaylen Johnson, Chinanu Onuaku, Quentin Snider, Matz Stockman, Anas Osama Mahmoud
Opponents: Duke #1, North Carolina #6, Kentucky #7, Virginia #10, Pittsburgh #23
10. Louisville (31-6, 15-3): Top players Russ Smith and Luke Hancock will be gone, and big man Montrezl Harrell is potentially NBA-bound. That would leave point guard Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear as the best returnees. There will be plenty of reincorcements, though. Shaqquan Aaron, Quentin Snider, Jaylen Johnson and Chinau Onuaku are all capable of making immediate splashes as the Cardinals move from the American Athletic Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Recruiting grade: B+
-Your Louisville Cardinals finished #1 in the KenPom rankings.
-The Cards fell to 9th in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll.