The madness in college basketball doesn’t usually start until March for most teams.
That madness was premature this season for the Louisville Cardinals.
Chane Behanan was suspended indefinitely Thursday for an unspecified violation. The loss of Behanan is a big blow to Louisville’s bench, as it is already thin at the forward position.
Essentially, two players were lost with this suspension—Behanan and a body off the pine. For a team vying for a repeat, that loss is crucial. However, before fans push the panic button on the season, everyone should realize that the loss of Behanan isn’t too horrid.
The Cardinals have no daunting opponents on their schedule until they (possibly) meet No. 11 North Carolina Nov. 24 at the Hall of Fame Classic. Louisville’s next likely test is Dec. 21 when it travels to Miami to battle one of last season’s Cinderella teams, Florida International University.
Finally, the Cardinals will square off against in-state rival and No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington Dec. 28—a game where Behanan may already be back.
Three possible losses to quality opponents won’t tarnish the Cardinals’ tournament bid.
Behanan’s suspension provides an opportunity for other Louisville bigs to step up during his absence.
Senior center Stephan Van Treese has devoted this offseason to becoming a more prominent scorer in Louisville’s offense. Now is the perfect time to show that the work has paid off. Van Treese has not been a known scorer during his career at Louisville (averaging just 1.6 points per game), but even a modest six points per contest would benefit the Cardinals on offense.
Mangok Mathiang may have an increased role during Behanan’s suspension. He has the size to replace Behanan, and he can gain some much-needed experience during the forward’s hiatus.
An enforcer at the rim is important for the Cardinals, especially since Gorgui Dieng departed for the NBA—this is Mathiang’s opportunity to prove he can be the X-factor for Louisville’s defense.
Mathiang rejected six shots in the Cardinals’ first scrimmage, and he could be a force in the paint during the season. Should he see an increase in his minutes, he’ll definitely force opposing slashers to rethink their decision to drive to the cup.
With his team enjoying a marshmallow schedule to start the season, the redshirt freshman should have the opportunity to comfortably transition into a more important role as the season progresses.
Being without Behanan for at least the month of November certainly hurts the Cardinals, but they are far from being in turmoil without him.