Preseason expectations are back, baby.
The Louisville men’s team is somewhere in the top 25 of every “super early” rankings post that has been published over the last 48 hours, and has found itself as high as No. 7 in Gary Parrish’s rankings for CBS.
Here’s the rundown.
ESPN: No. 15
The Cardinals have to hope Jordan Nwora and Steven Enochreturn to school next season, but if they do, this ranking might look way too low. Chris Mack loses point guards Christen Cunningham and Khwan Fore but brings back most of the rest of the rotation -- and welcomes one of the elite recruiting classes in the country. McDonald’s All-American Samuell Williamson is the most college-ready of the group, but it’s a six-man class that will be counted on immediately for the Cardinals. They could rise by the end of the spring.
The Sporting News: No. 11
2018-19 record and finish: 20-14, NCAA first round
Key players: SG Ryan McMahon, SF Dwayne Sutton, PF Malik Williams, SF V.J. King
Top-100 recruits: SF Samuell Williamson (247Sports No. 39), C Aidan Igiehon (247Sports No. 48), PG/SG David Johnson (247Sports No. 72) PF Jaelyn Withers (247Sports No. 90), SG Josh Nickelberry (247Sports No. 99).
Key decisions: PF Jordan Nwora is not projected as a first-round pick by Stone but is testing the draft process. C Steven Enoch will go through the process.
CBS: No. 7
Coach: Chris Mack
2018-19 record: 20-14
Other expected departures: N/A
Expected additions: Samuell Williamson, Aidan Igheion, David Johnson, Josh Nickelberry, Jaelyn Withers, Quinn Slazinski
NCAA.com: No. 9
9. Louisville: The Cardinals will stay in the top 10 if Jordan Nwora decides to return to school for a run at a top four finish in the ACC.
Sports Illustrated: No. 16
This season: 20–14, lost in first round
While top scorer Jordan Nwora could be off to the NBA, Chris Mack has a highly-ranked recruiting class on the way, led by McDonald’s All-American Samuell Williamson and high-energy big man Aidan Igiehon. The Cardinals exceeded expectations in year one, and as Mack continues to phase his players in, there should be more where that came from. It’s not clear yet where the points are going to come from, but the talent level and roster quality is certainly trending upward. If Nwora is back, there’s reason to be bullish.
SB Nation: No. 16
16. Louisville Cardinals
2018-19 Record: 20-14
2018-19 Finish: First Round
Chris Mack’s first season at Louisville was a success in the eyes of most. Year two should be even better. If Jordan Nwora, the ACC’s Most Improved Player for 2018-19, chooses to come back for his junior season, Mack should return all but one of his top eight scorers from last season. He’ll also welcome in a top five recruiting class headlined by 5-star McDonald’s All-American Samuell Williamson.
USA Today: No. 18
18. Louisville (20-14). Coach Chris Mack is off to a fast start at the helm of the Cardinals. After an overachieving first season, now Mack has a top-10 freshman class headed by Samuell Williamson. There’ll be enough incoming and returning talent, even with last year’s leading scorer, Jordan Nwora, is a projected first round draft departure.
The Athletic: No. 17
Key departures: Jordan Nwora, 6-7 Soph; Christen Cunningham, 6-2 Sr.
Top returnees: Steven Enoch, 6-10 Sr.; Dwayne Sutton, 6-5 Sr.; Ryan McMahon, 6-0 Sr.
Incoming: Samuell Williamson, 6-7 Fr.; Aidan Igiehon, 6-10 Fr.; David Johnson, 6-5 Fr.; Jaelyn Withers, 6-8 Fr.
As good of a season as Chris Mack had on the court in his first go-round as the Cardinals’ coach, he was even more effective on the recruiting circuit. Mack signed a consensus top-10 class, which should serve as the cornerstone for this program’s resurgence. The big question is the status of Nwora. He has declared his intention to enter the NBA Draft, so I am ranking Louisville under the assumption he will not return. However, Nwora is projected on many draft boards as a second-round pick, so it’s conceivable he could be back. If that’s the case, the Cardinals would be a top-15 team.
247 Sports: No. 9
No. 9 Louisville (20-14), NCAA First Round
Forward Dwayne Sutton and center Steven Enoch will anchor the Cardinals down low while guard Ryan McMahon is a key piece at guard. The Cards have a Top 10 recruiting class signed already and will be headlined by Top 50 recruits Samuell Williamson and Aidan Igiehon. Four-star freshmen David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers, and Josh Nickelberry are all ranked in the Top 100. Chris Mack’s second Louisville squad should be loaded with plenty of talent and athleticism.