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Louisville-Nicholls State preview: The Chris Mack era begins

The Chris Mack era of Louisville basketball kicks off Thursday night as Louisville hosts Nicholls State at the KFC Yum Center.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Operation Basketball Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville Cardinals (0-0) vs. Nicholls State Colonels (1-0)

Game Time: 7:01 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network/Watch ESPN app

Announcers: Kent Taylor (play-by-play) and Jody Demling (analyst)

Officials: Roger Ayers, Ron Groover, Chuck Jones

Favorite: Louisville by 18.5.

Series: First Meeting

Probable Starting Lineups:


Relevant Videos:

About Nicholls State:

Nicholls is coming off a 21-win season in 2017-18 in which it won the Southland Conference regular season title with a 15-3 mark. The 2018-19 Colonels, however, are going to look much different.

The program became a victim of its own success last March, as second-year head coach Richie Riley was offered, and accepted, the same gig at South Alabama. The program also lost its top six scorers from last season, with five graduating, and one (Zaquavian Smith) opting to transfer to Savannah State.

Austin Claunch, a 28-year-old (omg) assistant of Riley’s was hired as the program’s 12th head coach on March 29. He has stated repeatedly this offseason that he plans on maintaining Riley’s up-tempo style — Nicholls was 12th in the country in pace last season — and commitment to defensive efficiency.

With so much lost from last season, Claunch had no choice but to hit the transfer market heavily. The Colonels will be heavily reliant on a trio of grad transfers — Dexter McClanahan (Savannah State), Gavin Peppers (Central Michigan) and Jeremiah Jefferson (Jackson State) — as well as four JuCo transfers. Jefferson scored 28 points in an 86-58 season-opening win over Mississippi College, while Peppers added 20.

As a team, Nicholls shot 51.6 percent from the floor in their season--opening victory, including 11 of 28 from beyond the arc. They turned the ball over 12 times, but counteracted that with 15 steals and 14 assists.

Nicholls was picked tied for 10th in the preseason media poll for the 13-team Southland Conference.


—Louisville will open the season with a new, non-interim, basketball coach for just the third time in 48 years Chris Mack leads the Cards onto the court Thursday night.

—Louisville has won 14 consecutive season-openers and 17 consecutive home-openers.

—This will be the earliest first game in the history of Louisville basketball. It breaks the previous record (Nov. 9 vs. Charleston in 2013-14) by one day.

—Louisville has won 65 of its last 68 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center.

—Louisville has won 46 consecutive home games in November, a streak which dates all the way back to a loss to Vanderbilt on November 30, 1972. The Cards are 33-0 in November games played inside the Yum Center.

—PRP graduate D’Angelo Hunter is redshirting this season per NCAA transfer rules, and will be eligible to compete for Nichols next season.

—Louisville is 5-0 in games against members of the Southland Conference.

—Chris Mack is 9-0 in season-openers as a head coach.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 84, Nicholls State 65