By Dalton Ray–
All the attention surrounding the men’s basketball program now seems to be simmering down. With Deng Adel announcing his return, the final domino has fallen.
Coach Rick Pitino said he “probably” wouldn’t bring in more players if Adel returned. Pitino brought two transfers to workout — Mark Alstork and Waseff Methnani — but said the two weren’t “good fits” for U of L.
Louisville will have to replace nearly 50 percent of points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. Of the seven returners, four played major minutes, two played situational minutes and one sat out due to NCAA transfer rules.
The Cards bring in a five-player recruiting class with four on scholarship. With little returning depth, newcomers will be forced on to the court — and all Louisville fans know Pitino’s history with freshmen.
Louisville’s strength last year, depth, became their weakness within two months. Pitino knows his team better than anyone, but his strategy for 2017-2018 is unlike what he has done before.
The question now is, how big of a gamble is Pitino taking by not bringing in another player?
The expected starting line up is Quentin Snider, Adel, VJ King, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud. The bench is riddled with question marks and the most experienced player is Ryan McMahon.
What hurt the Cardinals most this off-season, aside from Donovan Mitchell going to the NBA Draft, is Jaylen Johnson’s exit. By declaring for the draft, Johnson leaves the front court thin and will force U of L to play small-ball at times.
If Pitino expected Johnson to leave, he presumably would have looked to replace Johnson’s production with an experienced player. Louisville now lacks a physical presence in the post, which will likely hurt them.
Forward Malik Williams was expected to play this season, but will get even more minutes with the now-thin front court. Lance Thomas was expected to be a project-player, but will now have a chance to play immediately.
Pitino dipped into the graduate transfer pool in past seasons. The writing on the wall looked the same in needing an experienced player to come in. Did Pitino not want to bring on a player, or was he just too late to the party to land a quality player?
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal