Louisville Cardinals (1-0) vs. Chattanooga Mocs (1-0)
Game Time: 7 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Television: ACC Network Extra
Announcers: Kent Taylor (play-by-play) and Jody Demling (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 4
Series: Tied 5-5
Last Meeting: Louisville won 102-65 on Nov. 22, 2010 in Louisville (Global Sports Shootout)
Projected Starting Lineups:
- G Skyy Clark (6-3, 205, So.)
- G Tre White (6-7, 205, So.)
- G/F Mike James (6-5, 200, R-So.)
- F J.J. Traynor (6-8, 190, Sr.)
- C Dennis Evans (7-1, 215, Fr.)
- G Honor Huff (5-10, 162, So.)
- G Myles Che (6-2, 190, Fr.)
- G/F Demetrius Davis (6-9, 195, Sr.)
- F Jan Zidek (6-9, 240, Gr.)
- F Sam Alexis (6-9, 230, So.)
A year after going to the NCAA tournament and nearly knocking off Illinois in the first round, Chattanooga was in a bit of a rebuilding mode in 2022-23.
They welcomed in a new coach (Dan Earl) after Lamont Paris bolted for South Carolina, their star transfer (Honor Huff) was forced to sit out the season because of the SoCon’s outdated intra-conference transfer rules, and their star center broke his hand midway through the year. Despite all of that, the Mocs still made a run to the SoCon tournament championship game as a 7-seed, and finished the year with a winning record (18-17).
A ton of players graduated or transferred from last year’s squad, leaving Earl in a position where he has nine scholarship players who didn’t play a minute for the Mocs last season. Still, Chattanooga was the preseason pick to finish a respectable fifth in the 10-team Southern Conference. They even received a single first-place vote.
A big part of the reason why folks have confidence in the Mocs is Earl, who was the head coach at VMI for seven seasons before taking the gig at Chattanooga. Earl is one of the best coaches in the country when it comes to spreading the floor and weaponizing the three-point shot. The coach calls his philosophy “See, Share, Shoot.”
The Mocs were No. 1 in the country last season in three-point rate, shooting from beyond the arc on a whopping 52.1 percent of their field goal attempts (his final VMI team ranked No. 1 in the same category the year before).
For a Louisville team that just allowed UMBC to shoot 11-for-21 from distance on Monday night, this is obviously a point of concern.
Huff came with Earl from VMI and is the perfect player to run his offense. He shot 37.7 percent from three for the Keydets two seasons ago, and had all last season to get even more acclimated with the offense as he redshirted.
Jan Zidek, a 6’9 transfer from Pepperdine who was born and raised in Prague, was the team’s biggest weapon in their season-opening win over Covenant College, a Division-III school. Zidek hit 11-of-13 shots, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, on his way to a game-high 25 points.
Everyone on Chattanooga can shoot it, and Earl loves to space the floor as much as any coach in the country, which should present a huge defensive challenge for Louisville’s big guys.
If Chattanooga does play through the post at times, it will be via 6’9 sophomore Sam Alexis. He’s thin, but he played well towards the end of last season, most notably exploding for 26 points in a win against Mercer. Alexis has a ton of potential, and had 13 rebounds, nine points (no field goal misses) and five blocks in the win over Covenant.
Chattanooga ranked just 265th in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, but there are reasons to believe that could improve in year two under Earl. They should be more athletic on the wing this season thanks to the addition of transfer Tyler Mullin and the improvement of returnee Demetrius Davis.
Maybe the best news tonight for Louisville? Chattanooga simply does not force turnovers. They’ve ranked in the bottom 30 nationally in turnover rate for three straight seasons.
This is another game where Louisville should be able to score and should be able to produce a decent amount of second chance opportunities. On the other end, Huff and Zidek can absolutely give the Cardinals fits and play co-heroes all evening. If Louisville doesn’t do a better job of locating shooters on the perimeter on Monday and if Chattanooga shoots it nearly as well as UMBC did, this could be another long evening.
—Louisville is looking to start 2-0 for the first time since the COVID-influenced 2020-21 season.
—Louisville has won five consecutive games against Chattanooga, a series which saw the Mocs take the first five games, all of which were played between 1921-31.
—Louisville is 16-7 all-time against current members of the Southern Conference, most recently losing to Furman (80-72, OT) in their second game of the 2021-22 season.
—Dan Earl’s teams, including last year’s UTC squad, have finished either first or second in Division-I in three-pointers made per game in each of the past three seasons (excluding 2020-21 COVID year).
—Louisville’s 60 points in the paint against UMBC were the program’s most in a game since tallying 60 against Louisiana on Dec. 7, 2013.
—Louisville is returning 47.1% of its scoring, 57.1% of its rebounding and 28.1% of its assists from last season. They have eight newcomers who together created the sixth-best recruiting class in the country, per 247Sports.
—Louisville has won 90 of its last 96 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last 11 seasons.
—Despite going 2-5 last season, Louisville has won 92 of its last 101 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last 11 seasons.
—Inside the KFC Yum Center, Louisville has a 99-13 record in non-conference games.
—Louisville is 220-14 over the last 20 seasons and 17-2 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. The Cards scored 94 points in their win over UMBC.
—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.
—Since 2004, Louisville is 128-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 81, Chattanooga 74