First of all, I want to say I'm glad this is only an exhibition game. The 8th ranked Cardinals will face their first challenge of the season as they take on the defending Division II National champion Bellarmine Knights Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Not only is this game going to be close, I wouldn't be very surprised if Bellarmine actually wins this game.
The injury riddled Cards were already missing more than a few players, and with injuries to Peyton Siva, Wayne Blackshear, and Mike Marra in the past week their depth and leadership will really be challenged Thursday night. Let's have a rundown of the players UofL will be missing for this game. Peyton Siva, Mike Marra, Stephen Van Treese, Wayne Blackshear, and Rakeem Buckles. That is three potential starters and two quality role players.
On top of all that Bellarmine is ranked #1 in Division II and are coming off an inspiring effort vs. the 6th ranked Duke Blue Devils. Although they did lose the game (87-62), they were down only five at the half and managed to shoot 50% from the field for the game. The Knights are led by All American guards Jeremy Kindle and Braydon Hobbs.
Bellarmine also has help from junior guard Chris Dowe. Dowe is the Knights former 6th man who has managed to work his way into the starting five this year. He gave many dazzling performances last year as the Knights fought their way through post season play, including a team high 16 point effort in the National Title game. Dowe is a Louisville area native and a product of Eastern High School. I spoke with him yesterday and he talked about his admiration for the Louisville basketball program. "Growing up I always thought it would be great to play for the hometown university," Dowe said. "Plus the majority of my family are UofL fans." I'm expecting a big game from him as he plays in front of a lot of family, friends, and former classmates.
Louisville pulls this game out by less than 10 points. Missing more than a few pieces, the hobbled Cardinals will learn a lot about their key role players and will rely on the starters to put this game away.