The Louisville men’s basketball team held an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center. They played three 10 minute quarters and switched up the teams after each period.
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) October 16, 2021
It was the public’s first chance to get a look at a very different team for 2021-2022. I have a few brief thoughts on the game.
The offense has been a hot topic of conversation all offseason. With the transfers coming in and the addition of assistant Ross McMains, expectations are high and there is plenty of hype around the new offense. My first thought is that the offensive gameplan clearly looked better. It was noticeably faster and you could tell a difference compared to last year. It was a very sloppy start by just about everyone. Both teams were running down the shot clock early, but even then there was an emphasis on ball movement. It definitely looked like a work in progress. The execution was not exactly there on Saturday, but it looks like this offense is headed in the right direction.
Matt Cross looks like he needs to be involved early on. Cross came to Louisville with the reputation of a three-point shooter. He shot 40 percent from three and only took 2 inside shots per game as a freshman at Miami. That said, Cross was arguably the most pleasant surprise on Saturday. He did not hesitate to put the ball on the floor. He was able to get to the rim consistently, and he also shot plenty of threes. He will be a lot more than just a spot-up shooter for this team.
El Ellis might have the most potential out of everyone in the backcourt. It sounds like the starting guards are going to be Jarrod West and Noah Locke to begin the season. Both of those guys bring experience and reliability to the lineup. Ellis is still not a finished product, but he showed numerous flashes on Saturday. It feels like if he can progress throughout the season, at some point it will be hard to justify keeping him off the court for too long.
Malik Williams looks close to if not 100 percent. Malik’s injuries over the past two seasons have had a major impact on Louisville’s record. He did not do anything spectacular on Saturday, but he was running well, looking like himself on defense and was also very involved offensively. Williams’ importance to Louisville is well documented at this point. Whether he can stay healthy is another question, but if he is at full strength to start the year, that’s nothing but a good thing for this team.
There are 14 scholarship players on this roster, and you could make the argument that 10, if not more, of those guys deserve a serious chance to prove themselves and earn minutes. Over the past two seasons, Coach Mack has kept a strict 8-9 man rotation for the most part. A lot of that had to do with lack of depth, but this year he will be forced to make some tough decisions in regards to playing time. This team probably lacks a true star. Louisville is not necessarily a team full of ancillary players, but there is a lot of parity on this roster. Whether that is a good thing for its long term ceiling is yet to be decided.