DANA GONE -- BUT TALENT RETURNING AND COMING IN
|(Is there a Yaya Diop on the 2021-22 roster?)|
With Volleyball and Field Hockey not playing until later this week and women's soccer season over, I thought today might be a good day to look at what could happen with Louisville women's basketball this season.
Yes, there is an exhibition game Thursday against Union (TN) -- an NCAA D II school in Jackson, TN that went 19-6 last year, got to the second round of the NCAA D II Tournament and has just two players over 6'2" on their roster. They do return their leading two scorers from last year, Shanique Lucas and Jaelencia Williams. They play in the Gulf South Conference and have no former Kentucky high school players on their roster
We'll take all that for what it is -- Thursday night is a chance for Walz to look at combinations, for the players, to play someone else beside themselves and see who he might start. If I had to guess, and -- believe me, there are about a dozen starting combinations he could go with -- I think you'll see Hailey Van Lith, Kianna Smith, Chelsie Hall, Olivia Cochran and Emily Engstler draw the starting nod.
We'll see how close I get.
|(A potential ACC MVP?)|
What the Cards have done in the past, with four starters back and the last four MVP's in the ACC, matters not this season in terms of predictability. Dana Evans is gone and this will be a team that will look for someone else to step up and assume the leader role. My guess is it'll be Van Lith -- but it should be noted that a good floor general takes time to develop.
Coaches strive to get to the solid seven or eight players they can depend on night-in and night-out. And, Louisville has a wealth of candidates to compete for those spots. Liz Dixon, Kasa Robinson, Norika Konno, Ahlana Smith and Payton Verhulst are all very capable of stepping in and getting the job done.
It's strange not to see the Cards as the favorites in the league...and maybe that's a good thing early. The target isn't quite as large as the one NC State will wear and the league is so deep and talented this year -- a lot of media attention will go to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, FSU and Notre Dame. No, I don't think Louisville will "sneak up" on anyone this season, but there are, arguably, six teams that could win the ACC and most wouldn't be too surprised.
|(No "Q" but plenty of questions at Syracuse this season)|
The "question mark" teams in the ACC are Syracuse -- who is basically rebuilding after the fire sale up there and Duke, with a first-year coach and tons of transfers in (eight, I think, at last count). Will Nyah Green and Elizabeth Balogun do well under Kara Lawson? I'll be watching.
The 11 games before ACC Conference games begin include some tough ones. Arizona was in the NCAA Finals last year. Playing at Washington and Colorado State will be challenging. Hosting Michigan and Kentucky will be stern tests for this Cardinal squad also.. And, of course, UConn -- on a "neutral" site (cough, cough) will be, perhaps the biggest pre-conference battle. I'll predict that Louisville will defeat Bellarmine, UT Martin, Cal Poly, Belmont and Eastern Kentucky. Going 8-3 into ACC play wouldn't be a shock, naturally, I hope the Cards are 11-0 on Dec 29th...but it would surprise me.
The old Al Davis adage "Just win, baby," is how I'll look at this team. A "W" counts the same in the stats, whether it's by two or forty-two points.
FIVE THINGS TO DEBATE:
1) Who is better...NCST's Cunane or VT's Kitley? I'll go with Cunane, Some disagree
2) Can Wake Forest successfully survive the loss of Gina Conti and Ivana Raca? Nope, I don't think so.
3) Is Notre Dame someone to fear? I respect their talent, I'm just not sure Nicole Ivey is the answer there as head coach.
4) Will the ACC ever add another team to go to 16 basketball schools? Options are running out in the conference shuffle of late.
5) Can the ACC Network just retire Muffet McGraw? I got no use for her insights and ND bias.
It's getting closer. The excitement is building. Let's play ball.