College basketball season is getting close and the Louisville Cardinals are considered on of the best teams in the country.
Louisville has a tough schedule ahead but has one of the strongest and most talented teams they have had in years. Coach Rick Pitino is very high on this year’s team and how they have worked in the off-season (Rick Pitino via RickPitino.com):
This team has great attitude and work ethic. They are a close group and understand how much effort is needed to win. If they continue to be humble and hungry, success will find them.
Last month I previewed Louisville's guards. With Senior Peyton Siva and sophomore Wayne Blackshear receiving a lot of attention, many are forgetting that this year’s team has a very talented center in Gorgui Dieng.
Rick Pitino prides himself on having teams with excellent defense. This year’s team has some work to do on the offensive end. But on the defensive end they are as solid as they were when they made it to the Final Four last season.
Let's take a look at the Cardinals centers.
Gorgui Dieng (Starting Center)
Dieng has grown up in the past three years at Louisville. When he came to Louisville he had only been playing basketball for a couple of years. Now as a junior he has become one of the best shot blockers in college basketball. With his 7'6" wingspan, he dominates the inside whether on defense challenging shots or on offense with his nice hook shot.
Last year, Dieng averaged 9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks a game.
Rick Pitino has made Dieng a special project. Pitino said in his blog that Dieng has become “stronger and smarter” over the summer.
Joe Treutlein of DraftExpress.com said of Dieng:
Constantly moving off the ball, especially when shots go up. Dieng does a good job moving in the offense and getting open while being a huge asset on the offensive glass.
Dieng uses his size, mobility and incredible length very well to track down offensive rebounds, showing a very strong nose for the ball. He also has developed into a subtly good passer in the flow of the offense, serving as a useful cog with the ball, especially from the high post.
Price is still a work in process but will get some quality playing time compared to last season. The 6'10”sophomore hustles hard down the court and does a good job attacking the rim. Rick Pitino will likely play freshman Montrezl Harrell at the five a lot, which will take away from Price's minutes this season.
Price's biggest issue/struggle has been in how much time it has taken him to learn Pitino's system. He is stronger than last year, but still needs to learn fundamentals.
Last year he averaged 0.6 points and 0.8 rebounds a game, playing in 19 games.
Nick Coffey of TheCardinalConnect.com wrote that "Price is one of a handful of guys whose expectations are somewhat hard to predict as we head into the season." He went on to say that with "Louisville’s front-court already loaded, I think Price will have to have made a serious improvement from this year to last year in order to receive quality minutes in 2012-13.”
Stephen Van Treese
Van Treese is listed on the Louisville roster as a forward, but he will likely find himself in the center position more times than not.
The 6'9” center isn't the most talented player on the court, but he works harder than most. Van Treese was planning on transferring over the summer to get more playing time; he rejoined the team a few weeks later after changing his mind.
Last year Van Treese played in only three games after he reinjured his left knee. He has worked hard in the offseason and should be ready to play when the season starts.
"Van Treese isn’t expected to get much playing time this season,” said Kelly Patrick of KentuckySports.Co. “But if the injury bug happens to bite the Cards as it has in the past, it’s very valuable to have someone with Van Treese’s experience coming off the bench.”
Mathiang will likely red-shirt this season. The 6'10” Sudanese big man joined the team in August. Mathiang has all the workings of a great basketball player, but still has a lot of work to do before hitting the floor for Rick Pitino.
Jon Hancock is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo