To make it to the Big Dance, Louisville will need help from its new recruits.
The Louisville Cardinals had a couple of gaps in its roster after losing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng to the NBA. Although Kevin Ware is expected to suit up for the season opener, the timetable for Kevin his return to the rotation after his gruesome leg injury in the NCAA tournament is unknown.
The Cardinals still have key pieces from last season’s NCAA Championship squad. Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell were all crucial in Louisville’s tournament run, and their roles will be just as significant for the 2013-14 season.
Smith, who skipped the 2013 NBA draft to finish his senior campaign, is expected to be Player of the Year in the AAC. His performance this season will be imperative for the Cardinals to make another run in March.
To fill the voids left in Louisville's backcourt, head coach Rick Pitino brought in the ninth-best recruiting class in 2013, according to 247 Sports.
Chris Jones and Terry Rozier are two recruits who will have big impacts this season for the Cardinals.
Diamond in the rough. Needle in a haystack. Hidden gem.
Pick whatever cliché you want—point is—Chris Jones can ball.
The No. 1 ranked JUCO recruit will replace Louisville’s previous floor general Siva and bring his dynamic style of play to the Cardinals' backcourt. As a point guard who dealt with pressure situations at his JUCO, Jones is a great replacement for Siva.
He understands that he’ll have big shoes to fill in replacing Siva, but it is not a burden that sits heavy on his shoulders.
"[Siva was] maybe the most-liked player ever to play here. But I think people are just waiting to see what I can do," Jones told ESPN's Jeff Goodman (subscription required). "I’m more talented offensively, so I think they’ll probably like me more."
At Northwest Florida State College, Jones was named the NJCAA National Player of the Year along with a myriad of other honors. He also averaged 21.8 points per game.
With Smith and Jones in the backcourt, scoring won’t be a problem. However, Jones will have to prove his worth to Pitino in the Louisville press defense.
Louisville’s lone 5-star recruit may have to wait a year until he gets starting minutes.
Without question, the freshman from Hargrave Military Academy will be a starter in 2014-15, but this season, Terry Rozier will provide relief minutes to Jones and Smith.
Rozier is a perfect fit in Pitino’s system because of his ability to score as well as his ability to defend.
Rozier, a combo guard, which is vital for the Cardinals: He can be the floor general while Jones is resting or he can be a viable scoring option at the 2 when Smith is on the pine.
While he may not see as much time as a player of his caliber should, Rozier will play an important role as a reserve for the Cardinals.
Until Ware returns to the bench full-time for Louisville, the freshman will be a prominent defender in Louisville's press and provide a spark off the bench.
What these two recruits can do for the Cardinals this season should be interesting.