BOZICH | Are the Louisville freshmen better than the Kentucky fr - WDRB 41 Louisville News

  • Which basketball program has a better freshman class?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Kentucky, led by Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Skal Labissiere
    19%
    142 votes
    Louisville, with Donovan Mitchell, Ray Spalding, Deng Adel
    81%
    615 votes

BOZICH | Are the Louisville freshmen better than the Kentucky freshmen?

Posted: Updated:
John Calipari's freshman class at UK was ranked better than Rick Pitino's at Louisville, but the gap is closing. John Calipari's freshman class at UK was ranked better than Rick Pitino's at Louisville, but the gap is closing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The college basketball recruiting services don’t agree on many things but they did agree on this evaluation before the season:

Kentucky had a better freshman class than Louisville.

Scout.com said Kentucky was number one. Write Louisville down as seventh.

Rivals said Kentucky was number one. Write Louisville down as ninth.

247Sports said Kentucky was (how did you know?) number one. Write Louisville down as sixth.

I don’t know what you were thinking when you saw Donovan Mitchell soar to the top of the Second Street Bridge for that put-back slam against Florida State Wednesday night, the one that rattled all the way to Bristol, Conn.

This is was what I was thinking – after I was certain nobody got hurt:

Is there another freshman in America (other than the larger Ben Simmons) who could have made the play that Mitchell made?

Gone that high, that gracefully as well as that powerfully?

I think not.

That leads to my next question: Is Rick Pitino’s freshman class actually better than John Calipari’s freshman class?

Not yet.

But the gap isn’t as large as it seemed when they finished those recruiting rankings last summer.

The overall statistics still tilt toward Lexington, primarily because of Jamal Murray, Kentucky’s dynamic freshman guard. At 17.8 points per game, Murray is tied for fourth place nationally in scoring by freshmen. His 46 made three-point field goals rank eighth among all freshmen.

Isaiah Briscoe has also had his moments. He is Kentucky’s third leading scorer, averaging 10.7 per game. You have to overlook his shaky shooting (18.2 percent from distance and 34.5 percent from the line) and focus on Briscoe’s defense. Briscoe contributes and makes Kentucky better.

After that? Skal Labissiere has scored 25 points with 20 rebounds over UK’s last eight games. Don’t bother with the per game averages. It’s not enough for a guy that one web site (DraftExpress.com) still ranks as the sixth best prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft.

When you listen to Calipari in press conferences, you have to believe that freshman guard Charles Matthews is one of those guys who will get fewer minutes when Dominique Hawkins becomes completely healed from his ankle injury.

Tai Wynyard and Isaac Humphries? If they’re going to show they’re the answers to what Kentucky is missing in the low post, now is the time.

Then there is Louisville.

Mitchell is becoming more essential to any big things the Cardinals might do in March. His start against Florida State was his fourth in Louisville’s last fifth games. With 13 points against the Seminoles, Mitchell has scored at least eight in six of the Cardinals last 10 games.

He looks more like a scorer than a shooter, especially when you note that Mitchell is less than 23 percent from the three-point line. Of course, Mitchell is also third on the team in total rebounds even though he’s fifth in total minutes.

But his game isn’t a perimeter game. It’s an attack game. Mitchell has a body that will not require extra time in the weight room. He can hold his space against older and stronger guys. Mitchell can press like crazy. He has the confidence and poise or an upperclassman.

If they try to push him around, Mitchell will simply go over them. Ask Florida State.

Raymond Spalding isn’t starting these days for Pitino, but he remains a valuable piece for this season and beyond. He’s long, active and able to defend in the open court as well as around the basket.

His offense needs work. A go-to move on the block would help. So would a dependable 12-foot shot. But, in time, Spalding will give Louisville more than the 5.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1 block that he is contributing this season.

Deng Adel missed eight games with a knee injury and has yet to find his groove. I expect Adel to get more opportunities, but his emergence might not come until next season. Ryan McMahon will continue to redshirt.

Overall, the advantage remains with Kentucky, primarily because of the way Murray scores and Briscoe defends. But the gap between the classes is not as large as it looked in October.

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