Premium Points: Vol. 3

In this edition of Premium Points, examines the status of Rick Pitino's 2010 recruiting class, looks ahead to the season-opener against Arkansas, breaks down UofL's football clash with Syracuse and explains why Jeff Walz might be the hottest coach on Louisville's campus.

Don't be surprised that Rick Pitino hasn't signed any 2010 recruits yet. After the Sypher fallout and the loss of Richard Pitino to Florida, Louisville wasn't expected to have a big recruiting class. Richard Pitino was a huge loss for the Cardinals because he was the point man on many of UofL's top 2010 prospects, including Top 25 recruits Fab Melo and Cory Joseph. Melo signed with Syracuse and Joseph is still undecided but isn't considering the Cardinals.

Louisville probably will get a commitment from 2010 point guard Russell Smith this weekend. Smith is expected to receive an offer from the Cardinals on his official visit and he's expected to accept the offer at once. Smith was rated the No. 5 player in New York City last season while averaging 25 points per game at Archbishop Molloy. He'll play this season at South Kent (CT) prep where his focus is getting stronger and improving his point guard skills. Smith is an accomplished scorer who can put the ball in the basket multiple ways.

We're also hearing a slight rumbling about a possible junior college target for Pitino's program. We wouldn't be surprised if there's a surprise or two next spring. 17 of's Top 100 2010 prospects are expected to be available during the late signing period.

Will Russell Smith be Louisville's first 2010 signee?
The Cardinals caught a break this week when four Arkansas players, including starters Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh, were suspended for the season-opener against the Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Shootout in St. Louis next Tuesday. Fortson was the Hogs top returning scorer. Top bench player Marcus Britt was also suspended, as was freshman forward Glenn Bryant. It's unfortunate Louisville won't face John Pelphry's team at full strength to get an accurate gauge early in the season.

George Goode has been sidelined with a concussion since Nov. 8. He will miss practice until at least Nov. 15 and his status for the season-opener against Arkansas is uncertain.

Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith should hit the 1,000 career point mark very early this season. Smith has 946 points, while Sosa has scored 930. The Cardinals have 60 career 1,000 point scorers, second nationally to North Carolina's 62.

Louisville's defensive effort against West Virginia last week needs to be applauded. The Cardinal defenders played a great game to hold the Mountaineers to 17 points and under 300 total yards. But the offense, led by walk-on quarterback Will Stein, was simply anemic. For the second time in three seasons under Steve Kragthorpe, the Cardinals offense failed to score a touchdown. The only offense against the Mountaineers were three Chris Philpott field goals. It was also the third time in four Big East games this year that the offense scored 10 points or less (10 vs. Pittsburgh and Cincy).

How many fans will be at PJCS this Saturday to watch two 0-4 Big East teams clash? More than the PJCS record-low 21,497 that witnessed Louisville's last home game against Arkansas State? Probably. The weather is supposed to be perfect and without Halloween to interfere, attendance figures to be much higher than it was against Arkansas State.

Syracuse has won the last two meetings in the series and Saturday's game figures to be another competitive contest. Steve Kragthorpe said the Cardinals and Orange share many similarities and he's right. Both teams have identical 3-6 records this season, including 0-4 in Big East play. The similarities don't end there. While Louisville ranks last in the league in scoring offense, Syracuse ranks at the bottom in scoring defense. On the other hand, the Orange ranked seventh in the Big East in scoring offense, while Louisville ranks seventh in scoring defense.

While lackluster offenses and poor defense will rule the day, the difference could be which team can make a big special teams play or two and take care of the ball better. Louisville has an edge with their kick return game and have been only slightly better than Syracuse in the turnover area this season.

Are you excited about watching the Cards play an 11 am game against Rutgers on ESPN2 the day after Thanksgiving? UofL used to be prime time Thursday night ESPN regulars. With horses racing at Churchill Downs it could be the smallest crowd ever at PJCS against the Scarlet Knights. One thing is for sure, there won't be many women in the stands...they'll all be at the malls shopping for Christmas bargains.

Chase Peterson, a two-star offensive lineman from Bentonville, Ark., didn't have any offers from SEC or Big 12 programs. Still, he's rated the No. 66 offensive guard in the nation, picking Louisville over Southern Miss, North Texas and Tulane despite increasing speculation about Steve Kragthorpe's future as the Cardinals coach.

Peterson's addition gives Louisville sixteen verbal commitments in the Class of 2010. The Cardinals currently have the fourth best recruiting class in the Big East behind Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia and is ranked 55th nationally by However, only three of the 16 commits held other BCS offers at the time of their commitment to Louisville (Lacy Coleman, Stephan Robinson, Quan Weaver). Junior college commitment Randy Salmon also had BCS offers coming out of high school two years ago. The average star ranking of Louisville's 16 commitments – 2.31 – is lower than every school in the Big East except UConn and Syracuse.

Jeff Walz is doing an amazing job as Louisville's women's basketball coach. In fact, over the last two years he might be the most successful coach on the court and in recruiting in the UofL athletic department. Last year, he led the Cards to the NCAA championship game and is 60-15 in two seasons. He's also played in two Big East Tournament title games, losing to Connecticut both times.

Walz' most recent recruiting class, a five-player haul, is the best recruiting class in school history, ranking as high as fourth nationally. That class comes on the heels of consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes. It's that's sort of talent that will help Walz achieve his quest to dethrone UConn as the supreme power in the Big East.

If you haven't heard, the two stars of Walz' recruiting class are 6'4 center Sheronne Vails from Maryland and 5'11 point guard Charmaine Tay from New Jersey. Both players have been ranked in the Top 20 by recruiting services with Vails rated the nation's third-best center and Tay the fifth-ranked point guard. Both players are also winners: Tay led her team to the New Jersey state title last season, while Vails helped her team reach the Maryland state championship game.

In the past two recruiting classes, Walz has assembled what could become a lethal starting five with Vails at center, Tay at the point, Nikki Burton at guard, Asia Taylor on the wing and Ashley Rainey at forward. He also has young talent in Monique Reid, Becky Burke, Gwen Rucker, Shawnta Dwyer and Antonita Slaughter, all former Top 100 high school players, to provide depth.

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