This article was written by Kelly Patrick, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.
The lineup breakdown as I see it next year…
Point Guard: First string= Peyton Siva: He is the obvious starter and probably will be expected to be the leader of the team. Second string= I’m going with Kevin Ware here based on what I heard Pitino say about him today during his press conference. If Pitino is comparing him to Rajon Rondo (Bruce Pearl was the first person I heard make this comparison) than it’s safe to say he is expecting Ware to back up Siva at the PG spot. Third string=Elisha Justice: Pitino still seems very high on the former Mr. Basketball from Pikeville. Fourth string=Russ Smith: Despite the logjam at the PG spot it wouldn’t completely surprise me if Russ ended up contributing this upcoming season, especially after Pitino said today that no players will be transferring and also, the unfortunate string of injuries that have plagued the Cards team’s in recent years.
Shooting Guard: First string=Wayne Blackshear: Despite the fact that Chris Smith started 20 games last year at the SG spot, I see the talent of Blackshear being so strong that Pitino has no choice but to insert him into the starting lineup. If not by the season opener I see him taking the job from Chris Smith early in the season similar to how Dieng was inserted in the starting lineup above Jennings this past season. Second string = Chris Smith: While Smith will be technically a “walk on” this upcoming season there is plenty of momentum built up from last season as Smith led qualified players in 3p% for much of last season and connected on 41.5 % of his 3PA’s on the season as a whole. Look for the competition at the SG spot to force Chris Smith to be even more dedicated than ever before. Third string=Mike Marra: I think Marra was playing out of position at the SF spot much of last season and see him fitting in as the #3 SG as of right now. Similar to what I said about Russ Smith; just because he is this low on the depth chart doesn’t mean I don’t think he can play a large role for the team next season.
Small Forward: First string=Kyle Kuric will almost certainly start at the #3 spot for the Cards next season. Tony Vanetti even is confident he will end the season as the BIG EAST POY. Am I as confident as Vanetti? Probably not but I do see Kuric having a very solid senior season and I can just see the Dick Vitale’s and other commentators raving about his selflessness for accepting a “walk on” status despite being the leading returning scorer on the team. Which brings up the point that I will not forget the negative way Bob Knight and Digger Phelps portrayed Kuric as a thug last year against Notre Dame and I (along with all other Cards fans) will certainly be watching very closely to find any hypocritical comments from those two. Second string= Jared Swopshire: After being a starter a couple seasons ago (mostly at the PF spot) and being forced to sit out this past season due to injury I see Swopshire kind of reinventing himself as a more perimeter oriented player if given the opportunity this season. With such depth abundance at the PF spot I just don’t see Swopshire being able to beat out 3 other PFs for time in the paint. And I have to think that Swop’s thought process has to be about how he will fare at the next level and with such a thin frame you have to think he needs to be focusing on his perimeter game going into next season…IF he can ever get healthy.Third string= Angel Nunez: I see Nunez having an opportunity to contribute as the third option at the SF position and with a good year of experience under his belt I see Nunez having a big time sophomore campaign and beyond.
Power Forward: First string= Chane Behanan: With such a physical game I don’t see there being any way you can leave this 5 star prospect out of the starting lineup. Listed at 6-7 240 lbs and he seems to have a nose for rebounding the ball like no one else on the team, I see Chane being a no nonsense type player who will start for the Cardinals as long as he chooses to stay in Louisville. Second string= Rakeem Buckles: With a great nose for the rebounds and great length you could easily make an argument that “Rock” should be the starting PF, and over the course of the season he could certainly see plenty of minutes and play a huge role in Pitino’s press. Third string= Stephan Van Treese: As a 6-9 guy who surprisingly runs the floor like a deer you would expect that he would be able to see the floor on a team that struggled with rebounding the ball last season, but despite his energy and favoritism among the fans, it is said that “SVT” has struggled to grasp the offense and doesn’t seem to bring much to the table offensively at all other than an occasional wide open dunk (he shot 31% from the FT line last season).
Center: First string=Gorgui Dieng: Many believe “Gorky” could be the guy to really come out of his shell this year and develop into a big time player. Pitino has mentioned that he came to America only a few years ago weighing 170 lbs and is currently at 235 lbs, and that Pitino would like to see him be at 245 lbs by the time the season starts. With shot blocking skills that are all ready as good as anyone else in the country, it seems Gorgui could be primed to develop an offensive game that would be very difficult for opponents of the Cards to stop due to his extremely long wingspan. Second string=Zach Price: Seems to be a big man who doesn’t mind being a big man. A left hander who takes great pride in his rebounding and considers his endurance a work in progress should be ready to have a solid freshman season backing up Dieng and helping to reinvigorate a Cardinals rebounding game that at times last year was very ineffective.
That leaves both Mark Jackson JR and Justin Henderson out of my 15 man rotation. If there are significant injuries either of them would obviously be called upon but as of right now I don’t see Pitino using those two at all this upcoming season.
A couple notes: Luke Hancock the transfer from George Mason who will redshirt this upcoming season before having two years of eligibility left will almost undoubtedly take the place of Kyle Kuric regardless of whether or not he starts (in the 2013 season etc.). The similarities are numerous including them both wearing jersey #14. Ryan Taylor a 6-5 SF who was originally from Indianapolis Lawrence North before moving to Louisville and playing his senior season at Western Magnet HS has recently said that he still plans on being a Card. He said that if he isn’t able to improve his SAT score that he will play next season for Hargrave Military Academy and then join Louisville as part of the 2012 class.