College Basketball Analysis: Grading the Louisville Cardinals

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The Cards are 9-0 to start the season, and have done a number of things well and a number of things poorly. They have won with defense. On some nights they find the offensive rhythm, on other nights they look lost. There is no doubt that the injuries that have plagued the Cards through the first nine games have affected the team’s play. It’s time to take a look at the roster and see how the guys who have seen significant playing time have played.

Gorgui Dieng A – So far this season Gogrui Dieng has been the most dominant and consistent Cards player. Some of this grade may have to do with the fact that he has been a complete beast as of late and seems to have just about reached a double double by halftime in the last few games. But, even if that is the case, Dieng has been dominant so far. He has been huge on the offensive glass and has blocked more than two shots per game. We all had an expectation for Gorgui this year and thought that we would see improvement. We have seen improvement and with all the injuries that the team has faced Gorgui has been consistent.

Kyle Kuric, A- – Kuric is the barometer for this team. He is what this team is all about and some how represents this team all by himself. So if the team is undefeated, without reaching their full potential Kuric has probably been playing A- basketball. He has. Kuric has led the team in scoring so far this season as well as minutes played. He has shot the three well, but not as well as he might like and has at times looked distracted lately, turning the ball over, passing up open looks, etc. Kuric is a fearless leader however and undeniable on the fast break.

Chris Smith, B+ – Chris Smith has been an extremely efficient scorer for the Cards and has done whatever the Cards need him to do to get things done. He has shot the ball at 85% from the free throw line and 39% from three-point range. Chris really doesn’t stand out when you watch the Cards play, but that might be more for his ability to keep the ball moving on offense. When he catches the ball he either looks for a shot or passes it along and does not turn it over. Chris has provided this team with steady leadership and points, two things a young team needs.

Peyton Siva, B – The Cards point guard and team leader has had a rough start to the season. Some of what has made it rough is the expectation that he can do anything after watching him last year. Besides being sidelined for a couple of games do to injury, Siva has struggled to shoot the ball from three and has been both turning the ball over and picking up fouls at a higher rate than you would like to see. What Siva has done is turn it up when he needs to. In the Cards overtime win against Vanderbilt Siva came up with some huge plays down the stretch. As he continues to get his legs back under him he should find his groove, but so far this season it has been hit and miss.

Chane Behanan, B – Behanan has played fewer minutes per game than the rest of the starters have, but has played well when he is on the floor. The offense does not move through him yet, but he has been an important part of the scoring, averaging 9.2 per game. The freshman PF has rebounded at an 8.1 per contest clip and most importantly shown tremendous hustle. For everything he has done on offense he gets points, but where he makes the grade is on the extra credit. He has the potential to be a beast on the glass and has already shoed glimpses of what the future can be.

Russ Smith, B – Russ Smith is a tough grade. He has disappointed at times this year and has also pleasantly surprised at the same time. Either way he has provided energy, emotion and offense. Yes, he has taken too many shots at times, but he has been a huge boost on the press and running the break. When he hasn’t been in the lineup he has been clearly missed, as this team does not have another player at this point in the season that can provide what he does. For that and the fact that the expectation for him has probably been reached he gets a B.

Jared Swopshire, C+ – Swop has been the epitome of a role player early on in this season. He has not done anything flashy, but he takes his 18.8 minutes per game and picks up a few points, picks up a few boards and makes a couple plays. We expect Swopshire to be a strong player because of his experience, we expect Swopshire to be a weak link because of his having missed all of last year. I’m going to give Swop the benefit of the doubt so far this year and lean forward for his C+.

Tim Henderson, I – Henderson gets graded because he has played in seven of the Cards nine games. Not because he has played a lot of meaningful minutes. Henderson gets an incomplete grade, because that is exactly what the season has been for him through nine games. He has played a few minutes here and there, but hasn’t done a whole lot to stand out. The thing is Henderson is either turning the ball over every time he gets a hand on it or hitting every shot he throws up. While this is a slight exaggeration it is just too hard to know what Tim Henderson has to offer, and what he has been for the Cards thus far.

The Cards have had a handful of players who have been injured, or haven’t seen significant playing time. These players make up the rest of the roster, but don’t have enough playing time to be graded. Stephan Van Treese, Rakeem Buckles, Elisha Justice and Wayne Blackshear have all been injured for much of the year and Angel Nunez, Zach Price, Mark Jackson and new addition Kevin Ware haven’t seen enough of the court.

Get more great Louisville analysis over at Strait Pinkie.