Key Losses: F Francisco Garcia (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.9 apg), F Ellis Myles (10.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.4 apg), G/F Larry O'Bannon (15.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Lorenzo Wade (4.1 ppg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 6862, defeated Georgia Tech 7654, defeated Washington 9379, defeated West Virginia 9385, lost to Illinois 7257 in the Final Four
Birmingham, AL/Central Park Christian
Suitland, MD/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Moreno Valley, CA/Canyon Springs
Goffstown, NH/Brewster Academy
Reno, NV/Transfer from Kansas
Seattle, WA/Ranier Beach
It's a decent bet no newcomer in the country will make a greater impact than Padgett. Granted, he's not exactly a newcomer, being three years removed from high school. But he's new to Louisville, and he could be a legitimate All-America candidate. Other first-year Cards expected to contribute are Johnson, McGee, Williams and Harvey. Huffman and Millard are two more nice prospects, though they'll likely have a hard time earning much playing time right away.
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Rick Pitino knows success. Whether it's his miracle at Providence or dominance at Kentucky, the future Hall of Famer has a résumé that compares favorably to that of any other active coach. He's spent 19 seasons coaching college basketbll and considers last year the best.
"I had always said that 1987 at Providence was just the most amazing feat as a basketball coach for me," Pitino said following Louisville's Final Four run. "But I think this one surpasses it because the journey was so much more difficult."
No doubt, having to battle injuries all season and then knock off, in order, Georgia Tech, Washington and West Virginia to reach the Final Four was difficult.
But how about going to Connecticut and Villanova and Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the matter of a month? That's the scenario Pitino is facing as his Cards transition from ruler of Conference USA to just one of many high-level programs in the Big East. And though Louisville is in position to not only compete in, but also possibly win the redesigned league, difficult times, thanks to a brutal schedule, are pretty much a given.
It's hard to imagine the Cardinals could lose Ellis Myles and Otis George, yet actually improve up front. But that's precisely the case now that David Padgett is eligible. A former McDonald's All-American, Padgett played one year at Kansas under Bill Self and started 19 games. But he wasn't happy with his role and transferred following his freshman campaign. Padgett sat out last season per NCAA rules and began practice on the sidelines with an injury. But by all accounts, he's added weight and skill, and the 6-foot-11-inch center will be the starter as soon as he's healthy.
"We're losing experience, and there's no substitute for experience," Pitino says. "But I love taking transfers. I've always loved it, be it Mark Pope (Washington to Kentucky), Travis Ford (Missouri to UK) or Derek Anderson (Ohio Sate to UK). I love it because they sit out, they learn and they play. And it was great for David Padgett."
To make Padgett's transition easier, Juan Palacios returns, giving the Cards one of the better frontcourt duos in the country. A foot injury suffered in a July pick-up game stalled his offseason development, but the 6-8 sophomore should be 100 percent by the season-opener. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year.
Additionally, Brian Johnson, a highly-touted prospect, has recovered from the knee injury that forced him to redshirt last year.
This time last year, Francisco Garcia made clear his intention to turn pro following his junior season. So the New Yorker's announcement was no shock, though that won't make replacing him any easier.
Now, Taquan Dean must handle things without his best friend for the first time at the collegiate level. It's not ideal, but something Dean can probably overcome, considering this is the same guy who beat mononucleosis last season en route to helping the Cards win C-USA.
A 6-3 combo guard, Dean will take on a more authoritative role this year. But the senior's leap in status won't be close to what Brandon Jenkins endures. He's set to be Dean's backcourt mate, having served in a limited role the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, Garcia's successor on the wing will likely be a freshman, either Terrence Williams or Bryan Harvey. And expect another newcomer, lightning-quick Californian Andre McGee, to compete for minutes at point guard.
"We've got to get Andre McGee ready," Pitino says. "He's got the game, but we have to get his body ready."
There aren't many programs capable of losing their top two scorers while still being considered a legitimate threat to make another Final Four run. But Louisville is one of those programs, thanks to the work Pitino has done since replacing Denny Crum. Yes, Garcia is gone, as are three of the other top six scorers from the team that came from 20 down in the Elite Eight to top West Virginia. But make no mistake -- this is not a rebuilding year at Louisville. In fact, with the way Pitino recruits, it's doubtful there will ever be one again.