After the Louisville Cardinals drubbed Division II Bellarmine 65-46 on Wednesday night in their second to last exhibition game before the start of the 2012-13 season, there was some speculation that this might be Rick Pitino’s best Louisville team yet.
The speculation came from Pitino’s next opponent, Manhattan College head coach and former Louisville assistant Steve Masiello, who shared his opinions on Twitter. “this is the best Louisville team I have ever seen. Their size and depth is scary… Think we will just stay in NYC.”
While the Jaspers only have to worry about playing a game that doesn’t count towards their record against the number two team in the nation, it’s the Big East and the rest of the nation that will have to face a team that picked up a ton of steam towards the end of last season, and returned more than the majority of its important players. Maybe none more important than senior point guard Peyton Siva.
Siva was the type of recruit who was expected to use his freshman season to exploit his athleticism, quickness, and point guard skills to get to the next level as quickly as possible, but has become a humble, team-first point guard who has put one thing above all else: winning. Whether it’s through the penetration kick-out, or just looking for who has the best shot, Siva sets the table for his teammates on the offensive end, while his big man, Gorgui Dieng, does so on defense.
Breaking Pervis Ellison‘s single-season block record last season, Dieng has become one of the Big East’s most fierce shot-blockers and rebounders, and allows for Louisville’s wing players to man-up on defense a bit better. Which is something Pitino plans on taking advantage of more this season.
We all know how good the Cardinals can be at scoring the ball, but the most talked about trait that this year’s team will have is the defense I spent last paragraph alluding to. After playing a lot of match-up zone last season, Pitino thinks he has the pieces to play straight-up man-to-man this season. With quickness on the perimeter and length protecting the basket, there’s a new found confidence in being able to successfully switch up on pick-and-rolls and guarding the three, which will make a team with one of the best rebounders in not just the Big East but the country, very scary.
It’s too early to decide if this Louisville team is Pitino’s best, but they’re generating a lot of buzz heading into the season, and it seems beyond warranted. Getting to the Final Four last season provided the majority of this roster with an experience that they want to relive, and take even further. It’s a tough road ahead of them, but they’re definitely one of this seasons favorites.
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