Louisville could be very strong up the middle this season with Siva and Gorgui Dieng. The sophomore center is extremely skilled offensively, and ran the pick and roll to perfection Friday night, finishing with a jam inside. The 6'10 Dieng continues to learn the game's finer points – he had nine fouls in 38 minutes and seven turnovers – but he was the game's leading scorer (26), rebounder (17) and shot blocker (5). If Dieng defensive rebounds like he did in the scrimmage – he had 12 – Louisville's fast-break will be fun to watch this season.
Dieng and freshman power forward Chane Behanan combined for 20 defensive rebounds, and those two could provide a major rebounding upgrade for the Cardinals. Though Behanan didn't go against Rakeem Buckles, he showed again he's going to be a force to reckon with around the basket, connecting on 10 of 18 shots for 20 points and 10 boards. Behanan isn't just a beast inside, though. He also showed the ability to handle in the open court, and his spin move finish off the bounce was a thing of beauty for a 6'7, 258-pound power player.
Russ Smith could find a niche as an offensive spark off the bench. The sophomore guard has a scorer's mentality and isn't afraid to let fly, evident by his game-high 22 shot attempts Friday night. Smith didn't shoot particularly well from outside, connecting on only 2 of 8 three's, but he played hard defensively, making seven steals and only turned the ball over twice, while dishing out three assists. If the undersized two-guard makes better decisions with the basketball than he did as a freshman Smith could be a valuable reserve because of his energy and scoring ability.
Freshman center Zach Price is a key player for Louisville this season and will be counted on to play valuable minutes in the post behind Dieng. A former Top 100 prospect and four-star recruit, Price has clearly benefited from college level coaching and individual instruction. His all-around game appears much improved, especially on offense, a tribute to Price's work ethic and desire to improve. Price scored in the post to the tune of 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots, including a hustle swat from behind to prevent a Behanan layup on the break. Price also made 6 of 6 free throws.
Jared Swopshire might not be 100 percent after missing last season with a groin injury, but Louisville fans had to be encouraged by his 19 minutes of action during Friday's scrimmage. The 6'7 forward opened the game with a three and finished with nine rebounds. A tweener without a true position, Swopshire could provide valuable minutes early in the season behind Behanan while Rakeem Buckles continues his comeback from knee surgery.
Mike Marra and Chris Smith weren't outstanding, but those two provide Rick Pitino experienced Big East-caliber guards. Marra hit 4 out of 8 three-pointers and had four assists and two steals, while Smith scored nine points and five assists.
Luke Hancock is a solid pickup for Louisville. The 6'6 guard took a while to warmup in his first outing for the Cardinals, but his experience at the Division 1 level was evident. Though not as athletic as Kuric, and probably not the lights out perimeter shooter either, Hancock finished with 12 points, 8 boards and four assists and impacted the game in the second half.
Angel Nunez might not play a major role, but he's skilled offensively and could make periodic contributions with his scoring ability this season. Nunez gives Louisville tremendous length at forward, but has a lot to learn defensively.
If the Cardinals are going to reach their potential, Buckles and freshman guard Wayne Blackshear must play key roles. Neither played Friday night, but Buckles is one of the team's best rebounders and Blackshear is a big-time wing scorer with outstanding size, athleticism and all-around skills. Hoping both players get a chance to shine this season.