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The Big Preview: Louisville is Terrible

Previewing Wednesday night’s matchup against a far inferior Louisville team.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the Virginia Cavaliers set to face the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night, the analysis of the Cardinals isn’t too complex: they’re bad. Like, really bad. Currently, the Cardinals are ranked 296th on both KenPom and Bart Torvik. The 2018 Pitt Panthers were 0-18 in the ACC and ranked 227th on KenPom. The 2016 BC Eagles were 0-18 in the ACC and ranked 225th. Those are the worst ACC teams over the last 10 years and Louisville is far worse than those teams.

They are 3-22 with wins over Western Kentucky, Florida A&M and Georgia Tech. All at home. This is just a terrible team that doesn’t do anything well. They turn the ball over as much as anybody in the nation, they can’t shoot, they don’t rebound or defend very well. The Cardinals rank 274th in offensive efficiency and 294th in defensive efficiency.

Louisville are led by point guard El Ellis. He averages over 17 points per game, and also leads the team in assists, steals, and turnovers. He shoots 40% of his shots from downtown, making just 31%. Ellis is a better passer than scorer, though.

Ellis is the only Cardinal averaging double figure scoring this year. Far behind him are a pair of wings in Jae’Lyn Withers and Mike James. James was a top-100 recruit last year, but missed the entire season with an achilles injury. He’s arguably been Louisville’s best player, shooting the ball and also playing solid perimeter defense.

A year ago, Withers averaged 5.8 points per game in 18 minutes, shooting 23% from downtown. This year, he’s up to 46% from downtown, and averages 9.6 points per game. He scored 19 on 4/8 shooting in the win over Georgia Tech.

At 6’9” 220, Withers is the team’s leading rebounder and he’s meandering around the three-point line with the ball in the paint. He also shows zero effort until his teammate has the ball again. But he does knock down the open jumper, so that’s nice.

Historically, big men who can shoot have given the Pack Line problems in the past. Less so this year, as we saw against Duke. Virginia made life difficult for Kyle Filipowski all game long. He only attempted one outside shot, but spent most of his time trying to drive against Virginia’s bigs.

Jayden Gardner does a nice job of remaining in front of the Duke big man. Filipowski still gets a decent look, but he had to expend a lot of energy to get that look. Not that huge a surprise he missed the bunny.

Louisville, of course, doesn’t have anybody like Filipowski. Sydney Curry, 6’8” 270, is the starting center. Curry had 24 points in the second matchup between these two teams last year.

Curry basically just bullies Shedrick in the paint. He was just too big for Shedrick. That may not be the case against Vander Plas or Jayden Gardner though. Curry played 33 minutes in that game, but averages just 19 this year. That is largely due to foul trouble. By the way, Virginia swept three games from the Cardinals last year.

Because of Louisville’s lack of size, we may not see Shedrick much in this game. Shedrick played just seven minutes against Duke, although Francisco Caffaro saw 11 minutes. The pair worked to keep Duke’s bigs off the glass, and were reasonably successful. Duke had nine offensive rebounds, or 32% of their misses. On the season, they grab 38% of their own misses, so it’s a solid effort from the Wahoos.

The ‘Hoos do not have the same concerns with Louisville. Although Curry is very good on the glass, that’s pretty much it. Tennessee transfer Brandon Huntley-Hatfield actually leads the team in rebounds per game, but he’s missed the last eight games with injury and, though he’s returned to practice, he is not expected to play in this one.

This Louisville team has many problems and weaknesses. One key problem is turnovers. This team ranks 357th in turnover rate. They are also 291st in defensive turnover rate.

Virginia is very good at forcing turnovers (81st) and very very good in not turning it over (9th). That’s a bad combination for Louisville. If a team can’t shoot and also turns it over a lot, you’d expect them to struggle. You’d be right.

The last time a Louisville team won fewer than 10 games was 1942 when they were 7-10 (not including the vacated seasons under Rick Pitino). This is almost definitely the worst Louisville team of the modern era. It may also be the worst ACC team, and one of the worst major conference teams, of all time. Sad.