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Louisville-Southern preview: Cardinals kick off 2021-22 campaign

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Tuesday night will also be the first of six games without Chris Mack on the sidelines for the Cards.

Louisville Cardinals (0-0) vs. Southern Jaguars (0-0)

Game Time: 9:04 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: Regional Sports Networks (Bally Sports in Louisville)

Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 25.5

Officials: Jerry Heater, Leslie Jones, Clare Aubry

Series: Louisville leads, 1-0

Only Meeting: Louisville won 104-54 on Nov. 13, 2018 in Louisville

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Southern:

The preseason pick to finish fifth in the SWAC, Southern is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2020-21 season that was decimated by injuries and Covid-related setbacks The upside to that frustrating campaign is that Sean Woods (hey, remember that guy) now brings back the key players who missed most of last season because of injuries, and also boasts a supporting cast that is far more experienced than it would have been had 2020-21 gone according to plan.

Senior guards Jayden Saddler and Ashante Shivers figure to be the stars of this team if they’re healthy, but that seems to be a large “if.” Sophomore guard Terrell Williams also has breakout star written all over him after a super efficient freshman season, an extreme rarity for SWAC newcomers.

Woods also dipped heavily into the transfer portal to build the roster for his fourth Southern team. He got two from Murray State (Brion Whitley and Jason Holliday), one from Colorado State (PJ Byrd), and another from Nicholls — Damien Sears — who began his college career at St. John’s.

As a result of all this, Woods has a roster that is legitimately 14 team. So long as everyone is healthy, it would be a shock if the Jaguars didn’t give legitimate minutes to at least 10 or 11 players in Tuesday night’s game. That should help them cope with Louisville’s new up-tempo style of offensive play.

The biggest issue for Southern, as is the case with so many teams at the low major level, is size. There is just one player taller than 6’7 on this roster and no one taller than 6’9. No Jaguar fits the mould of being a “true” center, which means you’re likely going to have a mix of lanky wings attempting to defend Malik Williams, Sydney Curry and company in the post.

Despite his, shall we say issues, at Morehead State, Woods is a coach who has produced everywhere he’s gone. Southern shouldn’t pose a significant threat to Louisville on opening night, but the Jaguars have the depth, talent and leadership to compete with the top tier of the SWAC once they mercifully arrive at conference play.

Notable:

—Louisville has won 17 consecutive season-openers, and 26 of its last 28.

—Louisville has won 20 consecutive home openers.

—Louisville has won 58 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 45-0 in November games played inside the Yum Center.

—Louisville has won 85 of its last 89 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last 10 seasons.

—Louisville has a 9-0 record against current members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, having previously faced five of its 12 current members (Jackson State 3-0, Prairie View A&M 3-0, Alcorn State 1-0, Southern 1-0, Texas Southern 1-0). In its last matchup against a SWAC team, Louisville beat Prairie View 86-64 last season on Nov. 29, 2020.

—Southern coach Sean Woods played at Kentucky from 1988-92, memorably hitting “the shot before the shot” in the 1992 regional final against Duke. As a player at Kentucky, Woods averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 assists in three games against Louisville, including totaling 20 points and four assists against the Cardinals in 1990.

—This will be the first game of a six-game suspension for Louisville head coach Chris Mack. Assistant coach Mike Pegues will guide the Cardinals in Mack’s absence.

—Inside the KFC Yum Center, Louisville has a 94-6 mark against non-conference opponents.

—Louisville’s Nov. 9 game against Southern will match its third-earliest opening game in school history.

—Louisville is 27-1 over the last three seasons when scoring at least 71 points.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the last 18 seasons (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, & North Carolina).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 82, Southern 56