Louisville Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2014-15 Cardinals
This season is one of transition for the Louisville Cardinals, who saw a senior-laden squad lose in the Sweet 16 to rival Kentucky to end the 2013-14 campaign.
Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan are all gone, but the Cardinals do have a few viable replacements for those three stars.
Another change experienced by Rick Pitino's team was the transfer to the ACC after one year in the AAC. The schedule will get tougher, but it shouldn't be much different than the one the team faced during the Big East years.
Continue reading on to see how the Cardinals' 2014-15 season will look.
Chinanu Onuaku, Forward/Center
Onuaku will be the only freshman earning consistent playing time for most of the season. He will provide Rick Pitino with another body in the paint to go along with Mangok Mathiang.
Although he does lack a bit of size at 230 pounds, the 6'10" paint player will be counted on, especially if Mathiang gets in foul trouble.
Jaylen Johnson, Forward
Johnson does have a ton of potential, but according to Pitino, he is just not there yet in terms of his conditioning.
The Cardinals head coach told the media on November 7 that Johnson is not making progress in the weeks leading up to the season.
Johnson may not be a key player on the team this year, but if he gets his act together, he could contribute toward the back end of the season.
Montrezl Harrell, Forward
Harrell is the best player returning for the Cardinals. He put up 14 points and 8.4 rebounds per game a year ago.
The junior is an absolute monster in the paint who can change the course of a game with a key dunk or block.
He will be the star every opponent focuses its game plan around now that Russ Smith has graduated.
Chris Jones, Guard
Jones will be asked to contribute more in his senior season following the departures of Smith and Luke Hancock.
Last season, Jones averaged 10.2 points per game, but that total was only good enough for fourth best on the team.
His enhanced production out of the backcourt will be crucial for the Cardinals as they enter the ACC.
Terry Rozier, Guard
The time has come for Rozier to step into the spotlight at point guard in his sophomore season.
He has big shoes to fill after Smith's departure, but he has been getting a ton of praise this offseason. Look for him to emerge as one of the top point guards in the nation.
Roster and Projected Rotation
Louisville lost a good amount of key players, but all hope is not lost with a few stars back from last year's squad.
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Chris Jones
G: Wayne Blackshear
PF: Montrezl Harrell
C: Mangok Mathiang
Key Bench Players
Chinanu Onuaku, Center
Akoy Agau, Forward
Anton Gill, Guard
All five players expected to start will be counted on to make major contributions in the point department. While there aren't too many concerns about the starters, a few questions will be raised about the effectiveness of the bench players.
How the bench performs, especially when the starters are in foul trouble, will determine the fate of this team.
Few players face more criticism from their fanbase than Wayne Blackshear.
In his senior season, the guard must be more consistent for the Cardinals to find success throughout the 2014-15 campaign.
Blackshear did appear in 36 games last season, but he was limited to 19.6 minutes per game. You can guarantee that he will play more minutes this year in a bigger role.
How the Guards Handle the ACC
Not only will Jones and Rozier have to replace Smith and Hancock, they will have to do so while entering the ACC.
With so many terrific guards in the conference like Trevor Cooney, Quinn Cook and Marcus Paige, these two can't take a single night off during the final half of the season.
Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios
The Cardinals open the season on fire with nonconference wins over Ohio State and Indiana before they take on Kentucky at the end of December.
With a win over the hated Wildcats, Louisville will jump into ACC play on a high, which could help it produce big wins over North Carolina and Duke in January.
After that, the sky is the limit in the competitive conference for Pitino and company.
The depth issue rears its ugly head early, and the Cardinals fail to win a big game in nonconference play.
A loss to Kentucky adds more insult to injury, which makes losses to North Carolina and Duke imminent.
Add in road losses to Pittsburgh and Virginia in January, and the Cardinals could face a steep uphill climb to earn a postseason bid.
Prediction: 24-7 (13-5 ACC)
Navigating the ACC is a rough task for any team, which is why most teams are expected to drop four or five games in conference play.
The early trips to Chapel Hill and Pittsburgh will set the Cardinals back a bit, but they do have a favorable schedule at the end of the season.
After the clash at the Carrier Dome with Syracuse on February 18, Louisville has five games that should produce victories to boost it into the postseason.
Follow Joe on Twitter @JTansey90.
All stats obtained from ESPN.com.