AAC Basketball Conference Play Preview and Predictions: Louisville Cardinals
Most recently losing to their rival Kentucky Wildcats, the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals look pretty solid with an 11-2 record entering American Athletic Conference play. Scoring 90 points or more six times already this season, Rick Pitino’s offensive system seems to be working yet again. Their two losses have come against tough opponents with their first coming against North Carolina. Luckily for them, the Cardinals should have an easy time against almost everyone in the AAC. They beat Central Florida on Tuesday night to improve to 12-2.
Redshirt senior Russ Smith is leading the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game. He has been forced to play the facilitator role as well and has put up a 64-to-33 assist-to-turnover ratio up to this point, which is very good considering he wasn’t the primary ball-handler last season. Chris Jones is averaging 13.8 points per game, and Montrezl Harrell, who I think will be a mid-first round selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, is putting up 12 points and eight rebounds per game. A variety of other players like Luke Hancock, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear all provide depth and can deliver on any given night.
Here’s how I think Louisville will do in their AAC schedule.
They will collect wins at Central Florida, as they did on Tuesday, at Rutgers, against Memphis, SMU, Houston, Cincinnati, Central Florida, at Houston, at Temple, Rutgers, South Florida, Temple, at SMU, and against Connecticut.
They will lose the following games: at Connecticut, at South Florida, at Cincinnati, and at Memphis.
If I’m right, they will go 14-4 in conference and end up 25-6 in the regular season, which is exactly where I had them ending up in my preseason prediction. Unlike last season, I think this team will have some trouble in conference play. Regardless, Louisville will be at or near the top of the AAC standings heading into the conference tournament.