On Friday night, the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team played their final red/white scrimmage before the start of the season begins. It was the final time the public could see the Cardinals in action before their first exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan on Nov. 3. The game was full of dunks, long range shots, fast paced defense, and a chance to show off a couple new players on the roster.
The white team pulled away to defeat the red team 123-80 but here’s three things we learned from the scrimmage:
1. The starting five has seemed to be decided
The five of Snider, Mitchell, Adel, Johnson and Mahmoud all started against the red team which left everyone wondering, is this going to be the day one starting five? As of right now, it seems the most likely because V.J King is only a freshman who has yet to get his defense down and Mangok Mathiang won’t be back until the Battle 4 Atlantis possibly. That starting tandem is the main reason why the game was never really that competitive. Even Rick Pitino said, “If Snider played for the red team, the game would’ve been a lot closer.”
The five combined for 91 points, 47 rebounds and 22 assists compared to 60 points, 32 rebounds and 24 assists for the red team starting five (King, Spalding, Stockman, Hicks, Levitch). Expect the white team five to be the starters for the beginning of the season and for most of it because of their defensive capabilities and leadership.
2. Jaylen Johnson is ready to be the best big man on the UofL roster
This might’ve been a bit of a stretch coming into the season, but after hearing and seeing the progress the third year forward has made, it seems to be right to say he’ll be the best big man on the roster. I was a firm non-believer in Johnson last year because he lacked a mid-range jump shot and got tired way too quick in games. But he has clearly lost a good amount of weight and has shown to be able to bang with the bigs and crash the boards.
On Friday night, he had six defensive and four offensive rebounds in 28 minutes. During warm ups, he was hitting his jump shot with consistency and seemed to be most comfortable with the corner shots including the ones beyond the arc. Louisville will need Johnson to be their go to guy in the post until Mathiang is at 100-percent health.
3. Jay Henderson will be the best player on the Louisville roster this season; it should say Donovan Mitchell actually
No offense to Henderson, who was the star of the game tonight going 9-10 from beyond the arc with 29 points, but Mitchell looks leaps and bounds better than last season. The Jerry West Award nominee was all over the court tonight. He scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had five assists. Pitino said at the post game press conference that Mitchell has lost 17 pounds which had a major effect on his quickness and leaping ability on the court.
Mitchell had added a consistent 3-point shot despite only going 3-9 from beyond the arc, it looks a lot better than it did last season. It’s not even difficult to think that he will arguably be one of the most athletic players in the country this year and will have a few more highlight reel dunks. The emergence of Donovan Mitchell will determine how good Louisville can really be this year.
The Cardinals look to be their same dominant defensive selfs and now have a few shooters to add another dimension to the team. Despite the lop-sided score, Louisville will be again have one of the better teams in the country this year and it’ll be tough to even crack 50 points against this team. The four core players of Snider, Mitchell, Adel, and Johnson look to have the Cardinals in the running to be another ACC contender this season and postseason lock.