The Louisville Cardinals started the 2011 season on a 12-0 run and appeared to be one of the strongest teams in the country.
Since then, the season has been a roller coaster ride, with the Cards only coming out victorious in two of their last seven games.
Yet, is this losing streak due to a failure on the coaches' part or the players'?
The following list will breakdown and grade each Cardinal for his play so far this season.
The following players have either not played this season due to eligibility or injury issues, or have not accrued enough playing time to have made an impact for Louisville:
- Angel Nunez
- Zach Price
- Mark Jackson
- Tim Henderson
- Elisha Justice
- Kevin Ware
- Wayne Blackshear
- Stephan Van Treese
Minutes Per Game: 31.2
Field Goal Success: 34.4%
Points Per Game: 8.0
Miscellaneous: 77.8% free-throw success
Analysis: Peyton Siva’s season thus far can be culminated in one phrase: more time, less productivity.
Siva is clocking almost four more minutes of court time than last season, yet his stats are down.
Recording two points less than last season may not seem all that noteworthy, but the fact that his field goal and three-point percentages have dropped more than 10 points is cause for concern.
The main criticism of Siva last season was his need to improve his shooting ability, as he is known to take some risky shots. In addition, it was obvious that decision-making skills on the whole were not very impressive, as he coughed up the ball on more than a quarter his possessions.
Sadly, Siva is averaging even more turnovers this season.
Everyone looks to him to be a leader on this team due to his experience, and that is a lot of pressure. However, it does not look as though he can handle it quite yet.
Final Grade: C+
Minutes Per Game: 13.5
Field Goal Success: 43.2%
Points Per Game: 4.0
Miscellaneous: 18 rebounds in last three games (before injury)
Analysis: No true fan of any sport enjoys watching a player go down.
Unfortunately for Louisville, junior forward Rakeem Buckles is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a ligament tear in his left knee during the Cards' last game.
This is rather disappointing for Buckles, who has shown some considerable improvement since conference play began bt bringing home 18 rebounds in his last three games.
As for his play on the whole, he began with an extremely slow start after his first game in which he sank 12 points and six rebounds. If only he could have had the rest of this season to make up for the start, Buckles might have turned into a legitimate threat off the bench.
Final Grade: C+
Minutes Per Game: 13.6
Field Goal Success: 39.1%
Points Per Game: 3.8
Miscellaneous: Missed last season due to groin injury
Analysis: Due to injury last season, Jared Swopshire is only seeing half the playing time that he saw his sophomore year.
That said, for the 13 minutes he is on the court, this junior is making a pretty good impact for the Cardinals.
Standing at 6'8", this St. Louis native is showing the critics wrong when he goes up to battle for the rebounds, winning three a game.
Now, that may not seem to be a lot, but imagine what he could do with more time on the court. When given just six minutes more than average against St. John's, Swopshire brought nine balls back to the Cardinals.
The problems arise when he has to finish a play, though. Swopshire is not the most reliable when it comes to finishing a run, and his team could really benefit from more than two baskets a game.
Final Grade: B-
Minutes Per Game: 22.2
Field Goal Success: 37.8%
Points Per Game: 12.6
Miscellaneous: 32.9% three-point success
Analysis: The first thing that one notices when watching Russ Smith is that he is rather short to be an effective player; he stands at 6'0" without sneakers.
What he lacks in height Smith makes up for in speed and ups. (Then again, he does not possess a superior shooting ability, as is evident in his field goal percentage.)
What is impressive about this sophomore is that he only spends 22 minutes on the court, but manages to drop more than 12 points a game.
It must be promising for the Cards to have a player with the talent to put up big numbers; in his last two games against Marquette and DePaul, Smith combined for a total of 45 points.
In order to become a more rounded guard, Smith needs to work on his assists and turnover ability. Also, if he begins shooting field goals at a higher percentage, he can be one of the most exciting players on the Louisville roster.
Final Grade: B
Minutes Per Game: 27.5
Field Goal Success: 43.4%
Points Per Game: 10.5
Miscellaneous: 3.3 rebounds per game
Analysis: Fun fact about Chris Smith: He is the brother of J.R. Smith, a bench player for the Denver Nuggets.
Chris plays a similar role to his brother for the Cards, starting multiple but not all games each season.
The frustrating aspect of this young man is the fact that he is regressing in certain facets of his game. Chris has shown that he can sink the ball when he has to, recording double-digit points in his last three games (including a 20-point effort against Marquette).
However, his rebounding ability and assists have shrunk since the start of the season.
From a different angle, his senior leadership cannot be put into question, as he is a power on the court for this team.
It seems as though head coach Rick Pitino knows something about Smith's skill and that is why he receives a good chunk of court time. Unfortunately, he has yet to prove to the nation that he is among the elite Cardinals.
Final Grade: B
Minutes Per Game: 24.1
Field Goal Success: 42.8%
Points Per Game: 8.4
Miscellaneous: 59.4% free-throw success
Analysis: Chane Behanan is one of two 5-star recruits Pitino and the Cardinals signed this past offseason.
However, Behanan is the only one of the two to have actually played this year, providing some serious depth to the forward position.
Thus far, he has lived up to his strength of being a very aggressive shooter, recording a double-digit point total in five of his last seven games.
On top of that, Behanan provides the Cardinals the ability to have a strong rebounding game. He has fought for 143 rebounds this season, putting him at just under an average of eight per game and the second-highest total on the team. The median aside, Behanan has pulled down 25 in his last two games alone.
The basketball world is about to see some great things from this young man, and all those who face Louisville had better hope he does not see any more time on the court.
Final Grade: A-
Minutes Per Game: 36.9
Field Goal Success: 49.4%
Points Per Game: 13
Miscellaneous: 35.2% three-point success
Analysis: It was quite the blow for Louisville when they found out that Kyle Kuric, the team’s leading scorer, was not going to play against Marquette due to a high ankle sprain.
Without one of their best offensive weapons, the Cardinals found it very difficult to win.
From an overall standpoint on this season alone, Kuric has fallen in his consistency when compared to past years; his three-point percentage is down 10 points, and his field goal shooting has fallen two percent.
In the end, this fact is not going to be enough to deny Kuric a place among Louisville's best. Without him on the court, they will not see any more success this season.
Final Grade: A-
Minutes Per Game: 30.5
Field Goal Success: 55.9%
Points Per Game: 10.1
Miscellaneous: 9.1 rebounds per game
Analysis: A stat-line can only say so much.
Yet, for Gorgui Dieng, that may be all he needs to prove to his coach that he has what it takes to lead Louisville back to the winning side.
Dieng is draining almost 56 percent of his shots, battling for almost 10 rebounds a game, combining for more than 50 blocks this season and recording more than 10 points per match. The simple fact that he almost has a double-double in averages alone should explain the talent of this young player.
To add to that, he has shown an incredible ability to connect with teammates and is now seen as one of the top leaders of this squad. The way that fans have embraced him is also something every coach loves to see.
Some would consider Dieng to be on the level of Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Regardless, he is the most complete player for this Cardinals team at the moment.
Final Grade: A