Arkansas Razorbacks (1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 7:30 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 17, 2009, Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Arkansas +10/Louisville -10
Rick Pitino had a rocky offseason and his Cardinals lost a lot of talent from last year’s team that won the Big East, but he looks to get Louisville off to a good start this season as the Cardinals host Arkansas in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center as part of a doubleheader before the Kansas-Memphis game.
Louisville lost a couple of lottery picks in Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, so players like Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings must step up. Sosa, Smith, Preston Knowles and freshman Peyton Siva will make up the guard rotation for the Cardinals. Knowles is the best outside shooter on the team. Smith is the best scorer of the bunch, having averaged 7.8 points in 21.2 minutes per game last season. He can score from outside or drive to the basket. Sosa is a scoring point guard who has the potential to be a star but he just never panned out. Now, as a senior, Sosa has to step up for the Cardinals to be successful. Siva is a super-athletic, quick scoring guard who will score most of his points around the rim. He will instantly be one of the highest leapers for his size (6-foot) in the country.
Down low, Samuels returns for his sophomore season after averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last season. He has to increase his rebounds dramatically with Clark and Williams not in the picture. If Samuels can’t grab more than eight rebounds per game, the Cardinals will have serious issues. Jennings will help out inside, but he didn’t get nearly as much playing time as Samuels did as a freshman last season.
Arkansas is a depleted team right now, with Stefan Welsh, Nick Mason, Courtney Fortson, Glenn Bryant and Marcus Britt all suspended, plus Michael Sanchez out with an injury. But in their opening 130-68 win over Alcorn State, they may have found a new star. Rotnei Clarke, who averaged about 12 points per game last season, scored 51 points in the win, including 13-for-17 from 3-point range. It’s unlikely Clarke will ever duplicate that incredible performance, but at least the Razorbacks are now confident that they can score some points without Fortson and Welsh in the lineup. Jemal Farmer had 28 points and 12 rebounds, so he could emerge as a strong offensive player as well. Freshman Marshawn Powell had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Washington, a strong big man who flirted with the NBA Draft, had 14 points and five rebounds. He is a tough player to defend down low. The Cardinals will have to keep him off the boards.
Arkansas was expected to be a solid team this season, so if the Razorbacks can even stay in the game against Louisville on a neutral court without so many key players it will be a great sign going forward. Louisville is playing its first game without its two best players from a season ago, so it could be a rocky start for the Cardinals. After a 62-point win in which one of their players had 51 points, the Razorbacks will be playing with a lot of confidence. Sosa, Smith, Knowles and Siva will have to step up their defense on the perimeter and score some points to stay with the Razorbacks. Samuels and Jennings will have to make sure Washington is boxed out at all times down low.
Ryno’s Pick: This will be a tough game for Louisville to start its season. Arkansas has the advantage coming off a game in which the Razorbacks played very well, even though it was only against Alcorn State. It would be impressive for Arkansas to get such a big neutral court victory without so many key players, but it’s definitely possible. Last season, Louisville hadn’t played a tough game or a game away from home yet before losing to Minnesota on a neutral court. This is the first game of the season for the Cardinals, but the same thing could happen again. Arkansas has better scoring guards than Louisville, and Washington is a better big man than Samuels and Jennings. Take Arkansas +10.