Louisville Cardinals redshirt senior Russ Smith shocked the college basketball world when he announced he would be returning for his fifth season with the team. Coming off of a National Championship, a lot of players would seemingly want to leave “on top” and move on to the next level if ready.
And by all accounts, Smith was ready, coming off a season in which he scored 18.7 points per game. His decision to return this season was a mistake, as he will not be able to lead the Cardinals to a repeat title.
Currently averaging 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, Smith has certainly done as much as he can for the Cardinals to start the season. Posting a 9-1 record in their first 10 games, with their lone loss to North Carolina, Smith has been instrumental to their success, leading the team in scoring in four of those games.
However, Smith is more of a shooting guard who can will his team to victories with his ability to score in a variety of ways. With no true point guard because of Peyton Siva graduating after last season, Smith has been forced to play that role. This might cause him to wear out throughout the season and not give Rick Pitino as many options in crucial situations down the stretch. We saw this in the loss against North Carolina, when no one on the team had more than two assists.
Chris Jones at 14.9 points per game and Montrezl Harrell, at 12.3 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game, have been solid so far. But everyone else, including Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan have not been consistent parts of the offense. While Smith will have his overall best year statistically, he will enter the NBA in the 2014 Draft following an early-round exit in the NCAA Tournament.