Last week the Cards came in at #7 in Sporting News Preseason poll. Now for the second time the Cards find themselves at #7 but this time in the Yahoo Sports preseason poll. Yahoo looked at the best and worst case scenario’s for their top 25:
Last year’s record: 31-6, 15-3
Key returners: F Montrezl Harrell, G Terry Rozier, G Chris Jones, F Wayne Blackshear, F/C Mangok Mathiang, G Anton Gill
Notable newcomers: G Quentin Snider, F Jaylen Johnson, F/C Chinanu Onuaku, G Shaqquan Aaron
Best-case scenario: Finally free to run the show now that All-American Russ Smith has moved on to the professional ranks, Jones and Rozier show why Rick Pitino has been touting them all offseason. Jones, quicker and faster after shedding 10 pounds, excels attacking the rim and making plays off the dribble.Rozier validates the glowing reviews he received on the summer camp circuit and leaves scouts drooling by the end of his breakout season. The emergence of that guard duo ensures Louisville has the perimeter weapons it needs to complement a frontcourt highlighted by one of the best big men in the nation in Harrell. The 6-foot-8 junior returns more well-rounded, having added improved free throw shooting and an array of low post moves to his already-established prowess gobbling up rebounds and finishing at the rim. Fueled by that trio of all-league candidates and a talented supporting cast, Louisville has little trouble adjusting in its debut season in the ACC. The Cards sweep the regular season and tournament titles, a warning shot to Duke and North Carolina that Tobacco Road is no longer the ACC’s power center. Louisville’s dream season ends in ideal fashion as the Cards topple Kentucky in an all-Bluegrass national title game on a Harrell put-back slam at the buzzer. Pitino tattoos a picture of the play on his chest and vows to name his next Kentucky Derby-caliber horse after Harrell.
Worst-case scenario: Turns out Pitino’s praise for Jones and Rozier was just empty hype. The guard duo is adequate defensively and getting to the rim but hardly explosive. Since its backcourt can’t measure up to the Peyton Siva-Russ Smith heyday and Blackshear remains more comfortable as a role player than a star, Louisville desperately needs an All-American type season from Harrell. Alas, the 6-foot-8 junior remains one dimensional — an elite defender and offensive rebounder who excels on put-backs and dunks but lacks the refinement to knock down mid-range jumpers or score with his back to the basket. Another season in the American Athletic Conference might have masked Louisville’s shortcomings but they’re quickly exposed in the rugged ACC. Duke and North Carolina take great joy in sweeping the Cardinals and serving notice that the ACC will always be their league. The NCAA tournament provides little solace for Louisville fans as the Cardinals don’t survive the opening weekend and Kentucky cuts down the nets in Indianapolis. Pitino doesn’t add to his tattoo collection and, nostalgic for his days in Lexington, vows to name his next Kentucky Derby-caliber horse after Tony Delk.
Again 4 of the top 8 belong to the ACC as well as Syracuse who came in at #23