Louisville’s inaugural ACC season may not be as dominant as their lone year in the AAC, but it will absolutely be more competitive and entertaining to watch for all. The Cardinals finished last season 31-6 (15-3), but with championship aspirations, their defeat in the Sweet 16 was disappointing to say the least. Coach Rick Pitino is returning most of his core rotation, but his 10th ranked recruiting class, including four frontcourt players, shows the direction in which Pitino is leading the program. With all the new recruits, Terry Rozier starting in the void of Smith, Montrezl Harrell returning, and Mathiang improving leaps and bounds, Louisville is going to be exactly where they were last season: at the top.
-Russ Smith, G (18.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.0 SPG)
It will be tough for the Cardinals to replace Smith, a four year standout who led Louisville to their 2013 National Championship. Russ led the team in scoring and assists last season, while raining down threes and wreaking havoc on the defensive end. He now plays in the NBA, where he recently earned all-Summer League second team honors for his play with the Pelicans.
-Luke Hancock, F (12.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.2 APG)
Although he was only with Louisville for two seasons, Hancock was a solid player and one of their most reliable shooters. His biggest moment came in the 2013 tournament when he scored 14 consecutive points, cutting the halftime deficit to 1 when many thought Michigan was running away with the game. Hancock became the first reserve player in the history of the NCAA tournament to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.
-Shaqquan Aaron, F (33rd in ESPN’s top 100)
If you can imagine a lengthy, 6’7 prospect with the ability to get to the rack while handling the ball like Jamal Crawford, you basically have Shaqquan Aaron. Aaron is a high potential prospect who already has a polished offensive game; he is a smart passer, can knock down the three in the half court or in transition, and finishes off-balance shots well. The one knock on him is that his flashy game can sometimes lead to turnovers, but that’s something Coach Pitino will teach him to harness.
-Quentin Snider, G (40th in ESPN’s top 100)
Louisville does not lack in the scoring department, which is why Snider is such a great pickup for Coach Pitino and his program. The Louisville native has excellent court vision, tight ball control, and the poise to make the right play in high pressure situations. Snider needs to add size before he will be consistent finishing in traffic, but he will certainly be an excellent facilitator in the meantime.