In my 30+ years of watching Louisville basketball, there has never been a team going in to a season with so many glaring uncertainties and radical story lines. With disgraced Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino now officially gone, we have now graciously welcomed “acting” head coach David Padgett to the bench to hopefully temper the relentless shit storm this program has been stuck in the middle of for 3 years now.
Despite this major coaching change and potential NCAA penalties from the Brian Bowen/Adidas scandal lingering in the horizon, the 2017-18 Cardinals are quietly full of NBA level talent. Returning stars Deng Adel, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud are the immediate standouts on the roster and are joined by high-ranking freshman Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams. Another player that a lot of people expect a breakout season from is guard/small forward V.J. King who showed signs of brilliance while on Pitino’s ridiculously short leash he has been known to keep newcomers held back on. Oh yeah, and don’t forget starting senior point guard Quentin Snider, who has become the Steady Neddy on the team as an always-dependable player that while lacking elite athleticism, he seemingly always makes the right decision down the stretch.
As usual for a member of the ACC, the Cardinals are facing yet another tough-as-nails schedule with marquee out of conference matchups against Indiana, Memphis, Purdue, and of course, Kentucky, and your usual gauntlet of blue blood ACC teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Notre Dame.
To get properly hyped, I thought it’d be fun to evaluate the season from front to back in 5 game segements. No, I’m most definitely not a college hoops expert, but I do watch a ton of NCAA basketball and it’s always fun to warm up my crystal ball and predict how the year will play out, then when it’s all said and done, revisit my predictions to see how accurate I was, or wasn’t, which is obviously more often the case.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND: The following series of predictions are based on mostly nothing, so for God’s sake don’t take any of this too seriously. Also, I used College Sports Madness as a reference quite a bit – I’ve found them to be a pretty good impartial resource (let me know if you’ve got a better one).
November 12-28: George Mason, Nebraska Omaha, Southern Illinois, Saint Francis, at Purdue
In the season opener, I see Louisville struggling against George Mason for much of the game, but coming away with a solid victory against what is perceived to be an average team. Afterward, the Cards will blast through the next three subpar opponents before a big game on the road versus a good Purdue squad that despite the loss of Caleb Swanigan is expected to have a good year. I think Louisville has more talent, but let’s get real, this will be coach Padgett’s first legitimate big game as the head dude in charge and I just don’t see the boys in red coming home victorious.
December 3-16: Seton Hall, Siena, Indiana, Bryant, Memphis
Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall Pirates will be a challenge with 4 seniors in their starting lineup and a boatload of offensive options. This will be Louisville’s 2nd straight loss, but things get better when the Cards bounce back by blowing out a decent Siena team, then narrowly getting by Archie Miller’s rebuilding IU squad. Next, the game against lowly Bryant will be over before it’s started, then at last, a classic rivalry will be renewed against universally hated Memphis State. No worries, UofL will have little problem handling a subpar Tigers group in a game that will start off close, but will be busted wide open in the 2nd half. Suck it, Memphis State.
December 20-January 6: Albany, Grand Canyon, at Kentucky, Pitt, at Clemson
After easily putting away two (somewhat) respectable teams in Albany and Grand Canyon, Louisville will travel to Rupp Arena for what will arguably be the biggest game on their schedule. While UK has yet another ridiculous class of newcomers on the roster, none of them will amount to what Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox brought to the table last year, and due to inexperience and lack of leadership, the Wildcats will lose to the Cards for the 2nd time in a row, this time on their own floor. Afterward, our boys open ACC play against an improving Pittsburgh squad, but while riding high in the sky after putting away their arch rival, Louisville will lose at home despite being favored. The Cards then get their minds right and travel to Clemson and come away happy with a blowout victory, all while keeping that beatdown the Tigers football team put on us back in September in the front of their minds for added motivation.
January 10-24: at Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame, Boston College, at Miami
After defeating a rebuilding FSU team on the road, Louisville will take out a sweat soaked Buzz Williams and Company (VT) at home with ease, but then travels to the Joyce Center to square of against Notre Dame for another nerve-racking, gut-wrenching, drama-filled game. Unfortunately, as usual for UofL, our boys will come out losers after a hard fought game that actually ends in regulation for a change. Shortly after Louisville rebounds against a “meh” Boston College group with an easy win before traveling to Miami for a big game against dirty dirty head coach Jim Larranagah, who has for some reason avoided any significant media fallout from his recent pay-to-play cheating allegations. Anyway, Louisville gets into town and steals one against a pretty good ‘Canes group.
January 27-February 8: Wake Forest, at Virginia, Florida State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech
After a layup win against Wake Forest at home, Louisville travels to Virginia, who has been Cards’ Kryptonite ever since joining the ACC. Although UVA will be favored despite being without Card-Killer London Perrantes (he finally graduated!!!), UofL will pull off the road upset stunning the impossibly handsome Tony Bennett and his group of low-scoring, defensive minded Cavaliers. FSU, Syracuse and Georgia Tech collectively won’t put up much of a fight in the Yum! Center as the good guys knock ’em out in style.
February 11-March 3: at Pittsburgh, North Carolina, at Duke, at Virginia Tech, Virginia, NC State
No, the Pitt Zoo ain’t what it used to be, but the Panthers give Louisville all they got in a close game, but end up losing down the stretch. The Cards will then take down a “rebuilding” UNC troupe at home (I say “rebuilding” because despite losing an dadgum ass-ton of talent to the NBA, like UK they have another great class coming in to compliment senior stud Joel Berry). Moving on, I really don’t see Louisville standing much of a chance inside Cameron Indoor as this Duke iteration looks like the most talented team since Kentucky’s ridiculous 2012 squad. Things get better, though as our boys sweep through the rest of the schedule including 2nd victories against Virginia Tech and Virginia (take that!) and a blow out closing win on Senior Night against a decent NC State team — at this point, the Cardinals will have appeared to hit their stride heading in to post season play. (Editor’s Note: I had to finish this last segment with 6 games rather than 5 because, well, you know, 31 isn’t divisible by 5. Sorry)
REGULAR SEASON RECORD PREDICTION:
The Cards finish the year at 25-6, a respectable record with a brand new head coach and a team full of talented players.
ACC TOURNAMENT PREDICTION:
In the three years that Louisville has been in the ACC, they’ve never really come close to winning the damned thing which is a bit of a shocker considering how dominant the Cards were in the Big East. This year will be no different (sadly) and the Cards will bow out in semifinals against those damned Blue Devils who end up winning the conference tourney easily.
NCAA TOURNAMENT PREDICTION:
The Louisville Cardinals will glide in to March Madness as a well-earned 3 seed. The team advances to the Sweet 16 where they are defeated by top seeded Michigan State, who goes on to win the national championship against #1 overall seed Duke to bring their title count to 3, matching Louisville.
So yeah, considering this crazy transition period, I’d say that a Sweet Sixteen finish would and should be considered a success for this group of guys. Do you disagree? Do you foresee them faring better this year, or maybe worse? Please, feel free to enlighten us in the comments. And oh yeah, Go Cards!