Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Louisville, DePaul, and SMU are rebuilding back to relevancy

Louisville Basketball coach Pat Kelsey speaks as he is introduced as the new head coach of UofL Mens’s Basketball on Thursday, March 28, 2024
Louisville Basketball coach Pat Kelsey speaks as he is introduced as the new head coach of UofL Mens’s Basketball on Thursday, March 28, 2024 / Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal / USA
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Pat Kelsey looks to get Louisville out of the basement of the ACC

The last three seasons in Louisville haven't exactly been shrouded in glory. The final year under Chris Mack saw the team go 13-19 and just 6-14 in the ACC, and the two-year stint under Kenny Payne was even worse. Over the last two years, the Cardinals have gone just 12-52 winning just five league games. Those in charge decided it was time for a change and tabbed Pat Kelsey as the man for the job. Kelsey has done great things at both Winthrop and Charleston and now gets his chance at the high-major level.

Coaching changes always lead to some exodus and we hear about so-and-so having a brand new roster. For Kelsey, that is literally the case as he had 10 transfers and not one returning player. Everyone from leading scorer Skyy Clark to Aidan McCool who averaged 90 seconds of action in 12 games is gone. For a coach coming into that situation, it could be a little unnerving. The silver lining is though tasty you also have a blank slate to work with and in this fast and age of the transfer portal, a team can be rebuilt in a hurry.

That's exactly what Kelsey has done in a short amount of time. Not only building a roster but building one on paper that looks like it can compete for an NCAA tournament berth in year one. Louisville's current roster consists of 11 transfers and one freshman recruit. Like most new coaches, Kelsey is joined by three former Charleston Cougars, sharpshooter Reyne Smith comes over with center James Scott and senior guard Kobe Rodgers who will redshirt this season.

The transfer pickups have been senior-heavy with Scott, a sophomore, and former Washington point guard Koren Johnson who will be a junior, the only non-senior additions. The Cardinals who averaged 72 points per game should see a big jump offensively. In addition to Smith who averaged almost 13 points, Kelsey brought in five guys who averaged double digits at their previous stop. That group is led by Terrence Edwards, Jr. who was a star at James Madison with 17 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game for the Dukes.

The frontcourt was really bolstered by the additions of Kasean Pryor from South Florida and Aboubacar Traore from Long Beach State. Pryor averaged 13 points and nearly eight rebounds per game and the 6'5 Traore poured in 12 per game, was second on the team in rebounding, and led the team on assists with 4.5. The backcourt was also solidified with a couple of additions besides the aforementioned Smith and Johnson. Chucky Hepburn brings his ability to do a little bit of everything over from Wisconsin and J'vonne Hadley is a lengthy shooting guard who netted 11.6 points and six rebounds for Colorado last season.

He also brought in a couple of other Cougars, these two from BYU. Aly Khalifa is a talented passing big man who will redshirt this year and Noah Waterman is another 6'11 big man who averaged over nine points and five rebounds. Khani Rooths is a top-35 recruit out of Florida who should crack the rotation in his first year. The 6'8 forward is versatile defensively with the ability to guard multiple positions. On offense, he's known for his driving ability although there are times he could be more aggressive looking for his opportunities.

Kelsey has done a great job building Louisville's roster from scratch. The Cardinals could be in the conversation as the third-best team in the ACC behind Duke and North Carolina.