Roster Outlook: 2020-2021 Louisville’s Women’s Basketball Team

Hello CARDNation,

Your Louisville Women’s Basketball team had a great season last year, finishing 28-4 (16-2 Conf.) while being named the ACC regular season champions. Let’s look at some critical tidbits at the Louisville roster:

ROSTER MAKEOVERS:

For the second consecutive year there will be a significant roster makeover. Here is a quick overview.

RETURNING PLAYERS:

Dana Evans, Seygan Robins, Ramani Parker, Elizabeth Balogun, Elizabeth Dixon, Mykasa Robinson, Norika Konno, Kianna Smith, Nyah Green, and Molly Lockhart.

DEPARTING PLAYERS:

Jazmine Jones, Yacine Diop, Kylee Shook, Bionca Dunham, Jessica Laemmle, Lindsey Duvall and possible transfer Seygan Robins.

ARRIVING PLAYERS:

5 stars Hailey Van Lith, Olivia Cochran, Merissah Russell, and top juco guard Ahlana Smith.

LOST PLAYERS IMPACT:

Louisville lost 3 starters (2 in the current WNBA draft). Two Cardinals Heading East To New York After WNBA Draft
– Jazmine Jones (29.4 mpg,14.1 ppg, 5 rpg), (NY Liberty)
– Bionca Dunham (24.9 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 4.6 mpg), and
– Kylee Shook (26.6 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) (NY Liberty)

We also lost key reserves
– Yacine Diop (19.8 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg),                                            – Transfer Lindsey Duvall (NKU)                                                          – Possible transfer Seygan Robins

MY BELIEFS:

1. Barring any unforeseen injuries or transfers, set Dana Evans (2019-2020 ACC Player of the Year), Elizabeth Balogun (2018-2019 ACC Freshman of The Year), and Elizabeth Dixon (2018-2019 All-ACC Freshman team) as 3 of your starting 5.

2. Two spots up for grabs: Power forward and shooting guard are open. I expect the competition for those spots to be fierce. Redshirt freshmen Ramani Parker and Molly Lockhart will compete for a starting role, don’t rule out incoming 5 star freshman Olivia Cochran. Kianna and Ahlana Smith (no relation) will compete for the other guard spot alongside Dana Evans.

3. Dana Evans will still be a major focus on scouting reports. The reigning ACC Player Of The Year will definitely make teams pay if she is not. Dana will again be counted on to lead the team in scoring and assists early and often.

4. Elizabeth Balogun will be counted on more this year to help fill the void left behind by Jazmine Jones. At 6’1, she has the ability to get her shot off over shorter defenders and is quick enough to get around bigger, but slower defenders. She’ll be counted on to provide more of a scoring punch, as she has shown the ability to do so her freshman year at Georgia Tech (14.6 ppg). Louisville struggled with her out of the lineup while she was helping the Nigerian National team qualify for the 2020 Olympics, losing games to Florida State and Syracuse both by eight points.

5. Depth: Louisville will be deep at the guards and wings again with players such as Hailey Van Lith, Ahlana Smith, Noriko Konno, Mykasa Robinson, and Nyah Green all vying for backup roles and rotation minutes. Don’t rule out the possible return of Seygan Robins from the transfer portal. I believe Guard Merissah Russell will redshirt this year to provide separation from other guards on the roster and to help even out the guards in the upcoming classes.

So here are a few lineup possibilities that CardNation should look forward to once the basketball season gets underway.

TRADITIONAL/FAVORITE:

For those of you who do not follow the game that much, your traditional lineup consists of 2 guards (PG & SG) 2 forwards (SF & PF) and a center. Traditional is the route I think coach Walz will take, which is why I believe the starting lineup will be as follows: Dana Evans and Kianna Smith in the backcourt with Elizabeth Balogun and (true freshman) Olivia Cochran starting the small and power forward spots respectively, and Elizabeth Dixon anchoring at center.

I am really curious to see if Coach Walz inserts the true freshman Cochran here or goes with either of the redshirt freshmen Molly Lockhart or Ramani Parker. Cochran seems to be a better fit for a more traditional (balanced) lineup. She will provide physicality in the front court and is an elite rebounder. The only real concern I have is if Cochran is ready for the detailed scouting reports, speed, and physicality of the collegiate level.

I believe the coaching staff will go with Kianna Smith (transfer from Cal) over incoming JUCO guard Ahlana Smith because by redshirting last year she had the opportunity to not only learn the playbook, but get familiar with the terminology, go through the strength and conditioning program, as well as practice and build chemistry with her teammates. With Smith in the backcourt, she could provide Coach Walz with the luxury of not having Dana bringing the ball up every possession.

Personally, I would like to see Ahlana Smith start from Day One, because there is no doubt she will provide a scoring threat alongside Dana and would give opponents the most defensive fits.

MY FAVORITE LINEUP – (Derby Lineup):

Dana Evans, Ahlana Smith, Elizabeth Balogun, Ramani Parker and Elizabeth Dixon. This is my favorite because with Parker’s ability to hit the mid-range jumper, Coach Walz could play big to big high-low with Dixon and Parker. With two centers in the lineup, in theory your interior defense should be stronger and rebounding should be better.

Coach Walz’s offense already has so many different dimensions and possibilities to exploit different defenses. Could you imagine an offense that could have a power forward in the mid-range as a safety valve? There are endless possibilities of what this lineup could do offensively. However, this lineup could ultimately struggle against the pace and space offenses, smaller lineups, and perimeter-oriented teams. Good defense, good offense win games and attract fans, BUT great defense and great offense win championships.

LONG-SHOT/SMALL BALL or (Dream Team Lineup):

We are in the Derby city, so it only feels fitting that I give you my longshot lineup. This will be the small ball lineup and should bring lots of excitement to the YUM Center. Your starters would be: Dana Evans, Ahlana Smith, Kianna Smith, Elizabeth Balogun and Elizabeth Dixon.

This lineup will provide you with a lot of speed, agility, scoring (from beyond the arc), and floor spacing. However, it usually sacrifices height and strength in the low post. The idea of small ball is taking what would normally be your small forward (wing player) and moving her down a spot to the power forward (interior player) position. This usually gives your team a decisive speed advantage and creates more space for driving lanes and more opportunities to shoot the 3 ball.

NEWCOMERS’ EXPECTATIONS:

– Look for newcomers Ahlana Smith and Hailey Van Lith to push returning players Mykasa Robinson and Norika Konno for minutes off the bench at the guards.

– Nyah Green has the inside track to get some minutes at the back up small forward, but don’t rule out the versatility of Mykasa Robinson getting some time at small forward.

– Molly Lockhart would essentially be your backup power forward and Ramani Parker the backup center.

– Olivia Cochran will earn plenty of minutes as a true freshman end up on the ACC freshman team. Cochran is a physical post player on both ends of the floor, much like former Louisville starter Bionca Dunham. At 6’1 Cochran plays more like 6’4 and will be a nice addition to the
Louisville frontcourt.

CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER:

For the second year in a row, your Louisville Women’s Basketball team will be trying to find their identity. Last year’s team struggled a bit in the beginning, but with 5 seniors on the roster, the struggles only cost Louisville one game (Ohio State) early in the season. This year’s team doesn’t have that senior experience and leadership, but with the roster makeup of this year’s team there are multiple combinations Coach Walz can throw out there at any given time. Coach Walz is one of the best in the business (men or women) and he is quite precise and meticulous when it comes to his game planning and adjustments, so I am sure he will find his starting “Fab-Five” and rotations to help this team reach their full potential.

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