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2021-22 Louisville men's basketball preview

Louisville Cardinals

2020-21 record: 13-7, 8-5 in the ACC

Head coach: Chris Mack

Tenure at Louisville: 4th season

Career coaching record: 272-125

Home court: KFC Yum! Center

Starters: G Jarrod West, G Noah Locke, F Samuell Williamson, F Jae’Lyn Withers, C Malik Williams

Bench: G El Ellis, G Dre Davis, F Matt Cross, F Sydney Curry, F JJ Traynor, C Gabe Wiznitzer, C Roosevelt Wheeler

Overview: The 2020-21 Cardinals were one of the least experienced teams in the nation, but managed to put together a 13-7 record in the pandemic-shortened season—eight of their scheduled matchups were either canceled or postponed. 

The Cardinals saw their season end in the ACC Tournament in a loss to Duke, as they just narrowly missed out on the NCAA Tournament. Louisville was listed as the first replacement team if a school decided to withdraw.   

In between seasons, their roster saw considerable turnover, as they lost six players to either the NBA draft, the transfer portal or graduation including starting guards Carlik Jones and David Johnson, who were the team’s leading scorers and two of just three players to average more than 10 points per game. However, the Cardinals are bringing in a top-20 recruiting class that includes transfer guards Jarrod West and Noah Locke, who look to take over spots vacated by Jones and Johnson. 

The Cardinals do have some health concerns. Fifth-year senior forward Malik Williams was injured for much of last year but is set to return to the lineup after playing in the team’s Oct. 16 intrasquad scrimmage. Freshman Mike James, set to fill out the depth chart at small forward, tore his Achilles in practice early in October and will miss the season. But with the talent that’s still healthy, the Cardinals—projected to finish sixth in the ACC in its preseason media poll—have the potential to make some waves in the conference.

Team ceiling: Three-year captain Malik Williams stays healthy and the Cardinals’ transfers exceed expectations, powering Louisville to a second-weekend appearance in the NCAA tournament. 

Team floor: After losing both their starting guards from last season to the NBA draft, Louisville's revamped roster struggles to build the chemistry needed to compete in the ACC. The talent gap is too big to bridge, and the Cardinals get stuck in the middle of the conference standings. 

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