Looking Ahead

Replacing Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and Andre McGee won't be an easy task. But Rick Pitino has plenty of returning talent, in addition to a Top 20 recruiting class, to compete for an upper division Big East finish next season.

With Williams and Clark heading to the NBA, Pitino must replace his two best players. Perhaps the top forward tandem in college basketball this season, Williams and Clark led Louisville to a 31-6 season – a season that included the Big East regular-season and tournament titles - that ended with a 64-52 loss to Michigan State in the Midwest Region finals.

And though McGee isn't headed to the NBA like Williams and Clark, he will be hard to replace in Louisville's backcourt. A team leader and feisty competitor, McGee energized the Cardinals full-court pressure defense with his tenacity and relentless pressure on the ball. His defensive energy will be sorely missed.

Still, Louisville expects to return plenty of talent next season, including starters Jerry Smith and Samardo Samuels. With veteran guards Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles also returning, plus experienced frontcourt players Terrence Jennings, Reginald Delk and George Goode back, the Cardinals should once again contend in the Big East.

Here's a preview of Louisville's 2009-10 roster:

Jerry Smith – Though Smith was up and down for much of the season, he finished strong and improved in several key areas, including his ability to put the ball on the floor. Smith, who shot 41 percent from three-point range and made 40 steals, should be a leader in the backcourt next season.

Edgar Sosa – Sosa made strides with his decision-making and defense as a junior, and had one of his best games against Arizona in the Sweet 16. Sosa will be the man at the point next season while McDonald's All-American point guard Peyton Siva learns the ropes.

Preston Knowles – The scrappy Knowles earned a reputation as a defensive dynamo as a freshman but showed he's capable offensively as a sophomore while splitting playing time with Jerry Smith. Knowles figures to be a key player as a junior after finishing third in the Big East in three-point field goal percentage (.430) and fourth on the team in three-point goals made (46) and steals (33).

Peyton Siva – Louisville has lacked a true, play-making guard since Pitino's arrival eight years ago. Siva, who led his high school team to the Washington state title while earning Mr. Basketball honors, could be the answer. Siva is a gifted athlete, creates for others and can shoot from deep. He's also a fierce competitor and team player. Will he be ready for major minutes in the Big East next season?

Others of note: Fr. SG Mike Marra (Possesses deep shooting range but may need strength and experience before contributing)

Samardo Samuels – An All-Big East rookie selection, Samuels had an excellent freshman season. Samuels ranked 7th in the Big East in field goal percentage (.587), 11th in blocked shots (1.3) and his 12.1 scoring average was third highest among Big East freshman. Samuels improved as the season progressed at playing ‘above the rim' – grabbing 27 rebounds and blocking 10 shots in four NCAA Tournament games. With Williams and Clark gone, Samuels will be the Cards star up front next season.

Terrence Jennings – The athletic Jennings will be expected to produce big next season after a strong finish to his freshman season. Jennings, who has the potential to become one of the nation's top big men, ranked fourth in the Big East in blocked shots (2.2) despite averaging just 15 minutes. He'll be counted on to play some at the four position next season.

Reginald Delk – Delk didn't get many minutes behind Williams after transferring from Mississippi State but might be the frontrunner at small forward. Though Delk proved a capable scorer in the SEC, he'll have to provide the Cardinals with defense and rebounding to ease the loss of Williams.

Jared Swopshire – Swopshire played in all 37 games as a freshman. Though he was forced to play out of position to provide depth behind Clark, the athletic Swopshire could move over to his more natural small forward position next season. If he stays at the ‘four' he'll need to spend the off-season bulking up in order to mix it up inside in the Big East next season.

George Goode – Goode was slowed early in the season by a stress fracture in his right leg but recovered to show flashes of being a capable rebounder and shot blocker. If Jennings moves over to play more at the ‘four' Goode could play a key reserve role behind Samuels at center.

Rakeem Buckles – A Top 40 prospect, Buckles reminds of Earl Clark, though he's not quite as adept from three-point range. At 6'8, Buckles is a solid rebounding power forward who can also put the ball on the floor and use his athleticism to score around the basket.

Others of note: So. SF Kyle Kuric (Will be in the mix for minutes at small forward); Fr. PF Stephen Van Treese (Solid rebounder, high energy guy will contribute down the road); Fr. PF Richie Phares (Turned down D-1 offers to walk-on at Louisville).

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