After cutting down the nets in April, Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith was thought to be entering the 2013 NBA Draft. Even Smith’s father said that he was going to enter the draft a week before Smith made the announcement that he was returning for his senior season. Smith dominated the NCAA Tournament until the National Championship game against the Michigan Wolverines. He averaged 22.3 points per game in the tournament, but went 3-of-16 from the floor in college basketball‘s biggest stage.
Since winning the National Title, Smith has fallen out of favor with the influx of a top-tier college basketball recruiting class. If he would have entered the draft last season, Smith could have easily been drafted in the first round. This year, Smith has fallen out of the first round completely. This is unfortunate because Smith has actually gotten better in his senior campaign. Tuesday night he lead his Cardinals to their 10th win of the season in a 90-60 victory against Missouri State, one of the better teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Smith’s ability to involve his teammates makes him the catalyst in his metamorphosis at the guard position. He has added two more assists per game, and is shooting slightly better from the field. He is scoring more points while taking less shots. He is the quietest preseason All-American because of his transition from playmaker to floor general. While an 11-point, eight-assist performance will not land Smith in the Top 10 on SportsCenter, it has the potential to get his team back to the Final Four for the third-straight time.
Jack Dooley is a Big 12 Basketball writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JackDooleyOCS.