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2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 3 Louisville Cardinals

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 35-5, 14-4 Big East (t-1st); Won the National Title

Head Coach: Rick Pitino (13th season at Louisville: 310-111 overall, 137-67 CUSA/Big East)

Key Losses: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva

Newcomers: Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, Akoy Agau, Anton Gill

Projected Lineup

G: Chris Jones, Jr.
G: Russ Smith, Sr.
F: Luke Hancock, Sr.
F: Stephen Van Treese, Sr.
C: Montrezl Harrell, So.
Bench: Terry Rozier, Fr.; Wayne Blackshear, Jr.; Akoy Agau, Fr.; Mangok Mathiang, So.; Kevin Ware, Jr. Chane Behanan, Jr.*

They’ll be good because …: Well, they’re really, really good. Russ Smith is back for a senior season in which he should once again shine. For all the criticism that Smith gets for being Russdiculous, the fact of the matter is that he posted an offensive rating 108.9 despite posting a usage rate of 32.0%. For those that aren’t well-versed in advanced analytics, that means that Smith was quite efficient on the offensive end of the floor despite being one of the most high-volume shooters in the country.

He’s not alone, either. Final Four MOP Luke Hancock is back for his senior season while Montrezl Harrell returns for what many expect to be a huge sophomore year. Chris Jones is a former top 50 recruit that spent the past two seasons winning titles and earning individual accolades as a JuCo point guard at Northwest Florida State. Terry Rozier did a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy last season and is expected to have an immediate impact off the bench. Wayne Blackshear should finally be healthy and in shape this season. Even Kevin Ware is expected to be back in the lineup by the time Louisville starts playing games that matter.

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AP photo

But they might disappoint because …: Losing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng is going to hurt more than people realize. Siva was this team’s leader a season ago. He was the coach on the floor, the guy with the ball in his hands in crunch. He was also a terrific on-ball defender and, along with Smith, made this team so tough to score against. Most importantly, Siva was a calming influence alongside Russdiciulous, which is a factor that cannot be underrated. Jones may be talented, but he’d be hard-pressed to provide the same presence and leadership on the floor that Siva provided.

Harrell should be able to replace the scoring and the rebounding that Dieng provided last season. Where Dieng’s graduation will hurt is as a shot-blocker. Part of the reason that Louisville could put so much pressure on the ball is that they knew they had an eraser at the rim if they hadn’t to get beat on the perimeter. Harrell’s a junkyard dog and a potential first-team all-AAC player, but he’s not the same kind of defensive presence. Dieng also proved to be a good passer, which helped Louisville, who lack some perimeter shooting, against zone defenses they went up against.

There’s no replacement for talent, which Louisville has plenty of, but Siva and Dieng were indispensable pieces that made Louisville’s lineup fit together.

Outlook: Obviously, the x-factor for this Louisville team will be the presence of Chane Behanan. If you’ve forgotten, Louisville’s starting power forward — who averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 boards a season ago — was suspended indefinitely from the team earlier this month for issues he has off the court. when Pitino initially announced the suspension, he made the situation seem dire; that Behanan may not actually be able to work his way back onto the team. More recent comments have made it seem like the big fella can be back in the lineup before the Cardinals play Kentucky (on 12/28), perhaps before the end of November.

Louisville is a national title contender with or without Behanan. But without him, the Cardinal’s just don’t have all that much front court depth. Harrell will be a beast this season, I think every prognosticator will agree. But after that? Stephen Van Treese? Akoy Agau? Mangok Mathiang? Kentucky’s sixth-best big man, Derek Willis, is better than those three.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I expect Behanan to be back in the lineup sooner rather than later, which means that the Cardinals will be a serious contender come March.

PHOTO: Drake wears jersey of Zion Williamson, 2018 recruit

Drake
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Drake, who is famous for jumping on bandwagons and Canada’s most well-known Kentucky basketball fan, was spotted in an Instagram post wearing the jersey of Zion Williamson, one of the best players in the Class of 2018:

@mikewillmadeit @troubledte6

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

This Williamson kid is good, too.

Well, he’s great for the mixtapes.

Because he does stuff like this:

2017 McDonald’s All-Americans announced

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Michael Porter, Jr. #1 of KD Mokan Elite dribbles. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Rosters for the 2017 McDonald’s All-American game were announced on Sunday night as the game is headlined by Kentucky (four) having the most committed prospects in the game for the second consecutive season. Duke and UCLA also have two All-Americans each while seven players remain uncommitted.

Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Miami, Michigan State, Oregon, USC, Washington and Western Kentucky all have one McDonald’s All-American each.

The 40th McDonald’s All-American game is scheduled for March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.

Here are the rosters for the East and West:

EAST

Mohamed Bamba, 6-foot-11, Westtown School (West Chester, PA) — undecided
Wendell Carter, 6-foot-9, Pace Academy (Atlanta, GA) — committed to Duke
Trevon Duval, 6-foot-3, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) — undecided
Quade Green, 6-foot-1, Neumann Goretti High School (Philadelphia, PA) — committed to Kentucky
Kevin Knox, 6-foot-8, Tampa Catholic High School (Tampa, FL) — undecided
Nick Richards, 6-foot-11, The Patrick School (Hillside, NJ) — committed to Kentucky
Mitchell Robinson, 6-foot-11, Chalmette High School (Chalmette, LA) — committed to Western Kentucky
Collin Sexton, 6-foot-3, Pebblebrook High School (Mableton, GA) — committed to Alabama
Lonnie Walker, 6-foot-4, Reading High School (Reading, PA) — committed to Miami
P.J. Washington, 6-foot-8, Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV) — committed to Kentucky
Kris Wilkes, 6-foot-7, North Central High School (Indianapolis, IN) — committed to UCLA
Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-foot-8, Victory Prep Academy (Houston, TX) — committed to Kentucky

WEST

DeAndre Ayton, 7-foot-0, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, AZ) — committed to Arizona
Brian Bowen, 6-foot-7, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — undecided
Troy Brown Jr., 6-foot-7, Centennial High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to Oregon
Jaylen Hands, 6-foot-3, Foothills Christian High School (El Cajon, CA) — committed to UCLA
Jaren Jackson, 6-foot-11, La Lumiere School (LaPorte, IN) — committed to Michigan State
Brandon McCoy, 6-foot-11, Cathedral Catholic High School (San Diego, CA) — undecided
Charles O’Bannon Jr., 6-foot-6, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV) — committed to USC
Michael Porter Jr., 6-foot-10, Nathan Hale High School (Seattle, WA) — committed to Washington
Billy Preston, 6-foot-10, Oak Hill Academy (Mount of Wilson, VA) — committed to Kansas
Gary Trent Jr., 6-foot-5, Prolific Prep (Napa, CA) — committed to Duke
M.J. Walker, 6-foot-5, Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro, GA) — undecided
Trae Young, 6-foot-2, Norman North High School (Norman, OK) — undecided

Conference breakdown of McDonald’s All-Americans

Pac-12: 6
SEC: 5
ACC: 3
Big 12: 1
Big Ten: 1
Conference USA: 1
Undecided: 7

VIDEO: Tom Crean loses his mind at garbage time alley-oop

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Indiana landed a 76-57 win over Rutgers on Sunday, a win that the Hoosiers badly needed; well, maybe the better way to phrase it is that Indiana couldn’t afford to lose this game.

Whatever the case is, the bottom-line is this: Indiana got a win in impressive enough fashion that they could clear the bench at the end of the game.

That resulted in Devonte Green attempting to throw an alley-oop to Freddie McSwain at the buzzer.

While up 19.

And that, in turn, cause Tom Crean to lose his mind:

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball doubleheader Sunday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Sunday with two games that will air as part of a doubleheader.

It starts with UMass at Rhode Island at 2:30 p.m. and concludes with George Washington heading to La Salle at 4:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

No. 13 Oregon routs Oregon State 85-43

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 11: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks shoots the ball over Ar'Mond Davis #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on December 11, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Payton Pritchard and No. 13 Oregon made the 40-mile bus ride a wasted trip for Oregon State in the latest leg of college basketball’s most-played rivalry.

As it turned out, the 347th Civil War wasn’t much more than a neighborhood skirmish.

Pritchard had 17 points and Oregon scored the game’s first 21 points in an 85-43 victory over Oregon State on Saturday night.

“Defense,” Pritchard said of the fast start. “When we start off going hard on defense, locking up, that’s going to happen for us.”

Dylan Ennis added 16 points to help the Ducks (16-2, 5-0 Pac-12) win their 14th consecutive game – their longest such streak in 70 years – and 36th in a row at home. Dillon Brooks and Casey Benson each had 11 points.

Drew Eubanks had 19 points to lead the Beavers (4-14, 0-5), and Stephen Thompson Jr. added 10 points. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games.

“I think we were nervous,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “They came out and got physical with us and we had a couple of guys that didn’t know how to respond to their physicality.”

So dominant was Oregon from the opening tip that Oregon State needed more than nine minutes to make a field goal and had four of its first nine attempts blocked. The Beavers didn’t have more points than turnovers until Eubanks hit two free throws to cut the Ducks’ lead to 31-11 after 14 minutes.

“Our defensive intensity was really good to start the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I liked our activity the whole first half. Guys really flew around pretty good.”

Oregon State shot 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) in the first half. Eight of those 20 misses were blocked.

After leading 41-13 at the half, Oregon started the second on a 16-5 run to go up by 37 points. The Ducks’ largest lead was 43 in the final minute.

Oregon had assists on its first eight field goals and finished with 23 assists while shooting 27 of 52 (51.9 percent) overall and 11 of 23 (47.8 percent) from 3-point range.

“I don’t think we made a 3 that wasn’t off an assist tonight,” Altman said. “When our ball movement was good, we scored baskets.”

Jordan Bell had four of Oregon’s 12 blocks, one off the school record, and Chris Boucher had three. Oregon now has 137 blocks on the season to lead the nation.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State is now 2-10 since losing leading scorer Tres Tinkle, who averaged 20.2 points through the first six games, to a broken right wrist in late November. His status remains indefinite.

Oregon is one victory away from matching the school record for consecutive wins (15), which dates back to 1913. The Ducks have won 14 straight for the sixth time in their history but only the second time since World War II.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon, after climbing eight spots in the past two weeks, may improve its position with at least two teams ranked above it having lost.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Oregon’s 42-point margin was its largest in 161 Civil War victories. Oregon State has 187 wins in the series, including one by 43 points.

HE SAID IT

Altman said Boucher, who leads the Ducks in scoring at 13.7 points, told him before the game that he was fine continuing to play off the bench. Boucher hasn’t started since missing two games with a sprained ankle in mid-December. “For a player to say, `Use me however you’ve got to use me to win the game,’ that’s unselfish and that creates chemistry,” Altman said.

WAY TO GO, CHARLIE

The biggest cheer from what remained of the announced sellout crowd of 12,364 came when senior walk-on Charlie Noebel hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left for his first points of the season and his second field goal in 21 games spanning three seasons.

UP NEXT

Oregon State will try to break its five-game losing streak when it hosts Stanford on Thursday night.

Oregon stays home to face California on Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday.