By Derek DeBurger
Louisville will square off against their cross-town rival Bellarmine Knights on Wednesday.
Bellarmine is a team that has been rebuilding the past couple of years after a would-be tournament appearance in 2022, but that didn’t stop the Knights from knocking off the Cards in the KFC Yum! Center just last season.
The first-ever loss to the Knights in program history was a sign of the disaster that was to come a year ago, but is anything different?
A year of more of the same
Both teams have the same coach; the Knights coach, Scotty Davenport, is far and away the better coach. That’s not a slight to Kenny Payne, Davenport is a fantastic coach. The offensive scheme he runs—coined the “offensive press” by Davenport—is one of the most mentally exhausting offenses to defend against. Last season the Cards would start a possession off strong and with each pass would get less and less disciplined until a Bellarmine player would be left wide open for a shot. Davenport also instructed his player to cut backdoor to the basket, and all game long the Bellarmine players gashed the Louisville defense with those cuts.
The biggest difference between the two matchups is the talent of both teams. Compared to a year ago, both Bellarmine and Louisville have upgraded their rosters, but the Cards have vastly more talent than a year ago. They should steamroll their way to a win, but last season the Cards still had the more talented roster and found a way to lose.
This season, Louisville does have two ball handlers, so there is a much greater chance that the Cards will be better equipped to handle the offensive press.
On defense, Bellarmine does not pose much of a threat. They’re giving up 70.7 points per game, and don’t do much to intimidate opposing offenses with blocks or steals. Of the 12 players listed on their roster, ten are guards, two are forwards and none of them are pure centers. The Knights give up a lot of height both inside and out, and if the Cards can take advantage of that mismatch they could virtually score at will.
There’s no doubt that Louisville should win this game. The talent alone should be enough to carry the Cards to a victory, but it wasn’t enough last year. To be perfectly honest, I’m expecting a loss, but I’m more than willing to have an open mind.