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Louisville brings its truckload of struggles to Raleigh on Thursday night

Best not lose this one.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Lipscomb at Louisville Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville’s tribulations have been well-documented, but just to recap: the Cardinals lost their first three games of the season by one point, which is incredibly difficult to do, then lost their next six games by no fewer than 18 points. An 0-9 start that was just as miserable as the record implies.

Louisville has been utterly non-competitive against teams in the KenPom top 100 and it is coming to Raleigh off an eight-point home loss to Lipscomb (KP No. 192). Louisville has plummeted to No. 253 in the Pomeroy Ratings, and the last ACC team to finish a year sub-200 was Pitt in 2018. (The Pitt team that went winless in the ACC.)

Is there a basketball doctor in the house?

UL in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
UL in '23 Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 95.5 (313) 44.9 (330) 23.7 (351) 24.6 (295) 43.8 (332) 31.3 (276)
Defense 102.3 (173) 52.9 (271) 18.2 (217) 28.5 (173) 54.8 (312) 33.1 (162)

The Cards lost several potential key contributors to the portal when they made a coaching change, and they did not do much to address those losses. So they’ve gone from bad in 2022 to exceptionally bad in 2023.

This team is led offensively by guard El Ellis (6’3, 180), who averages 17.3 points per game on a rather, uh, ambitious workload. Ellis takes nearly a third of Louisville’s shots while he’s on the floor, and he’s on the floor a lot. He’s also 15th nationally in assist rate—so everything the Cards do runs through him.

Ellis is shooting only about 43% inside the arc but has proven a competent three-point shooter (career 34.7%) and he can find his way to the free throw line a lot.

I’d suggest it might still be a better idea to spread some of those possessions around, but the rest of the rotation is untrustworthy, either because they can’t shoot or can’t take care of the ball, or both. There are no solutions here, only a minimizing of problems. Louisville should probably try to find a useful veteran guard or three in the portal this spring.

Louisville has a consequential amount of bulk up front, though, which is why it’s a bit confusing why they’ve struggled so badly in the paint, both offensively and defensively. This will be a fun surprise for us to unwrap!

There are some bright spots. Jae’Lyn Withers (6’9, 220) has made half his twos while shooting a career-best 38.4% from three. (He just turns the ball over a ton.) JJ Traynor (6’8, 190) is 10-24 from three. Sydney Curry (6’8, 270) is a rebounding machine. Guys who will do some good things in spots, just not do them consistently.

KenPom likes State by 18.