No. 17 Louisville’s 78-56 win over Western Kentucky Saturday afternoon came with a price, as a key member of their front court rotation was lost due to injury.
Junior forward Mangok Mathiang left the game in the second half and did not return, with it being revealed following the game that he’d broken a bone in his left foot. Due to undergo surgery to repair the break in the coming days, Mathiang is expected to miss anywhere from six to eight weeks.
Mathiang is the third Louisville front court player to suffer an injury over the last month. Freshman Deng Adel has been out since mid-November due to a sprained knee, and sophomore center Anas Mahmoud has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle.
Without Mathiang there will be even more minutes to distribute amongst freshman Raymond Spalding and sophomores Chinanu Onuaku and Jaylen Johnson. Onuaku posted a double-double against WKU with ten points and 12 rebounds, and Johnson added eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang posts double-double in World University Games opener
With Montrezl Harrell moving on to the NBA, Louisville has to account for the loss of its most productive front court player in 2015-16 (they also lost guard Terry Rozier to the NBA). One of the big men who will be expected to step forward for the Cardinals is rising junior forward Mangok Mathiang, who will be Rick Pitino’s second-most productive returnee when next season begins.
Mathiang, who made nine starts and averaged 2.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest last season, is playing with Australia in this month’s World University Games and the experience could serve as a springboard into next season. Mathiang’s off to a good start in Gwangju, South Korea too, as he posted a double-double in the team’s comfortable win over Chinese Taipei on Friday.
Mathiang finished the night with 23 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 11-for-15 from the field against Australia’s overmatched opposition. Mathiang reached double figures in scoring twice last season, tallying 11 points in a win over Virginia Tech and 12 in a win over Pittsburgh. But given the loss of Harrell, Louisville will need more consistent play from the 6-foot-10 Mathiang if they’re to make a run at another Elite Eight appearance.
He won’t be the only option for Louisville inside, as the Cardinals return Chinanu Onuaku, Jaylen Johnson, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman, and add Raymond Spalding. The Cardinals will certainly have bodies to call upon in the post; what they’ll need from those options is consistency.
Mathiang and his teammates, which include Albany senior Peter Hooley (who scored 15 points Friday) and former collegians Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico) and Mitch McCarron (Division II Player of the Year at Metro State last season), will face stiffer competition in South Korea beginning with France in their next game. But the 93-47 win is a good start for the Australians, especially if Mathiang can build on his performance.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 10 Louisville.
– G: Chris Jones, Sr.
– G: Terry Rozier, So.
– G: Wayne Blackshear, Sr.
– F: Montrezl Harrell, Jr.
– C: Mongok Mathiang, So.
– Bench: Quentin Snider, Fr.; Anton Gill, So.; Shaqquan Aaron, Fr.; Chinanu Onuaku, Fr., Jaylen Johnson, Fr.; Akoy Agau, So.
They’ll be good because … : Rick Pitino should have one of the best guards and one of the best big men in the country. By now, everyone should know about Montrezl Harrell. He’s a powerful front court presence, the kind of power forward that seems to have passed the game by. There’s nothing pretty about what Harrell does on a basketball court. He’s attacks the glass, he runs the floor hard, he assaults the rim when he dunks. Everything is strength and power with him. Oh, and he may have added a jumper this season. There’s a reason he’s going to be on a lot of Preseason All-American teams.
Terry Rozier is a different story, as he’s not quite as well-known as Harrell. Rozier was originally a member of the Class of 2012, but he was forced to spend a season prepping at Hargrave Military Academy for a year before enrolling with the Cardinals. An athletic, 6-foot-2 combo-guard, Rozier is going to be the focal point of this season’s perimeter attack after what was a promising freshman season backing up Russ Smith. He’s got the ability to be a star at this level and, eventually, a lottery pick.
But they might disappoint because … : Once you get past Rozier and Harrell, there is quite a bit of unknown on this Louisville roster. Two seniors find themselves in the starting lineup this season, but both have been more enigmatic than consistent during their time with the Cardinals. Wayne Blackshear seemed poised to have a breakout season after an impressive performance in the NCAA tournament as a freshman, but due to injuries and inconsistency, he’s never lived up to those expectations.
Senior point guard Chris Jones had some promising moments last season after transferring into the program as the reigning Junior College Player of the Year, but he didn’t have the kind of season that Louisville fans were hoping for. He shot the ball too much (and at just a 39.5% clip) and, for much of the year, he wasn’t the point guard that Pitino needed alongside Russ Smith.
The emergence of those two will be key, but even more important will be Louisville’s youngsters. Every other player in Louisville’s rotation will either be a freshman or a sophomore that didn’t play much. Anton Gill, Quentin Snider and Shaqquan Aaron make up the perimeter depth, while Mangok Mathiang will likely start with a slew of big bodies backing him up.
Outlook: Louisville is a tough team to read this season because so much of their roster is a question mark. We know how good Harrell is going to be, but will Rozier live up to the vaunted expectations that have been set for him? There have been rumblings that he was the best pro prospect on the roster since this time last season. Will Jones and Blackshear be able to provide the senior leadership and veteran presence on the floor that guys like Luke Hancock and Peyton Siva have in the past?
That becomes all-the-more critical when the inexperience on the rest of Louisville’s roster gets factored in. The Cardinals will have a number of options on their bench, particularly in the front court, but how many of those options are going to be ready to play in a loaded ACC this season? And that is another major question mark for the Cards. How will they adjust to playing in a new conference with new refs and new arenas and some of the nation’s best talent and coaching?
Personally, I think that depth is overrated and that it’s hard to bet against any team with two potential all-americans and Rick Pitino coaching them. But it’s not crazy to suggest that Louisville is closer to a fringe top 25 team than a top ten team.
Mathiang, 21, was charged with public drinking and failing to disperse. Mathiang’s friend was arrested, and after being warned several times to leave the area, he continued to follow police down the street. Mathiang had a Bud Light can in hand, which he dropped on the ground, according to the report.
He was not cited for public intoxication.
Mathiang averaged 3.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 14.7 minutes per game this past season for the Cardinals.
Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.
WHAT DOES LOUISVILLE PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Play Mangok Mathiang
Why it will happen: I’m going to start this off by making one thing clear: we are picking nits here. Louisville is very, very good, especially defensively, and given the fact that they’re played just one tournament caliber team this season, it’s tough to truly get a gauge on just how good. That said, it’s to see what the biggest difference is for this group defensively: no Gorgui Dieng. What Dieng provided Louisville was an eraser around the rim, a guy that blocked or changed a lot of shots. That allowed Louisville’s perimeter defenders to be more aggressive gambling for steals. If they got beat, Dieng was their security blanket. Mathiang isn’t Dieng just yet, but he’s the best shot-blocker the Cardinals have on the roster.
Why it won’t happen: The Cardinals allow too many offensive rebounds and second chance points, a problem that will get worse as they face better front lines. Mathiang can block shots, but he’s not as good of a rebounder as Chane Behanan is. What made Dieng great is that he could do both. Mathiang may make some plays defensively, but I’m not sure Rick Pitino will be enamored with struggles ending defensive possessions.
WHAT DOES LOUISVILLE SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Luke Hancock’s missing threes
Why it will happen: Hancock is far too good of a three-point shooter to maintain the 25.0% clip at which he is hitting from beyond the arc this season. Last year’s Final Four MOP has yet to find his rhythm this season, although much of that is the result of an Achilles’ tendon injury that he suffered in the preseason. Hancock is still getting his legs under him this year.
Why it won’t happen: As poorly as Hancock has shot from deep, he’s actually been an efficient offensive player this year thanks to his ability to draw fouls and knock down free throws and the fact that he avoids turning the ball over. The Cards will be better when he’s hitting from beyond the arc, but there is not a pressing need for Hancock to find his stroke because he’s going to be getting playing either way.
In a question-and-answer session with the media on Monday afternoon, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said that the school has lost it’s waiver appeal with the NCAA in regards to the eligibility of center Mangok Mathiang, forcing the Sudan native to sit out this season. He’ll have four years of eligibility remaining beginning for the 2013-14 season.
While this isn’t good news for the program, Pitino said in earlier media sessions that he planned to redshirt Mathiang, a 6-10 raw talent who spent last season at IMG Academy. He was a surprise reclassification — he moved from the Class of 2013 to 2012 late in the summer — committing and signing with the Cardinals in August. He was cleared academically shortly after the semester started.
Without the option of Mathiang, who, again, was going to redshirt anyway, the depth behind starter Gorgui Dieng is still solid. Stephen Van Treese and Zach Price give the center position a three-deep look, with power forwards freshman Montrezl Harrell and sophomore Chane Behanan adding plenty of beef down low.
Though no team wants to lose an appeal like this, it was a formality. It will also give Mathiang time to bulk up, which he sorely needs to do at just 200 pounds.