CRAWFORD | Update: Mitchell to get the point guard start vs. Cle - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Update: Mitchell to get the point guard start vs. Clemson in Snider's absence

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville begins a three-games-in-six-days sprint with a 9 p.m. home tipoff tonight against Clemson, complicated by losing starting point guard Quentin Snider to a strained hip flexor muscle.

If you’re looking for insight as to who will replace Snider at the point, good luck. In a pair of interviews — one with 93.9 FM’s John Ramsey and another on his weekly coaches’ show — Pitino was non-committal, saying only, “We’ve tried a lot of different lineups.”

In other words, you’ll find out when you find out. UPDATE: Rick Pitino tells Paul Rogers on his pregame show that Donovan Mitchell will draw the start at point in Snider's absence. Deng Adel and V.J. King will play the 2-3, with Jaylen Johnson and Anas Mahmoud on the front line.

The official line from the team game notes had been that Ryan McMahon was penciled in to start at the point. Pitino also has graduate transfer Tony Hicks, or could slide Donovan Mitchell from the shooting guard spot to handle the point.

“You definitely have to be flexible in situations like this,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “I’ve been at the point, Tony’s been at the point, Ryan’s been at the point. We’ve been doing so many different things. We had (7-footer) Matz (Stockman) there at one point. I’m just kidding. But we definitely had a lot of in and out with it. Q has been great. He has been on the sideline talking to all of us, just talking about pushing the pace and getting the ball up the court and running the offense.”

David Levitch has been dependable at several different positions and has what Pitino says may be the best understanding of the offense of anyone outside of Snider.

Here’s a quick look at some keys heading into tonight’s game.

1). POINT GUARD PRO-CON: A quick list of the possible point-guard candidates, with a few pluses and minuses.

Tony Hicks. Pros: Graduate of Penn, which means he’s probably smarter than most of us. Has plenty of point guard experience, is quick, and the best on-ball defender of the point guard candidates. Cons: Still coming to an understanding of what Pitino wants on offense. Has struggled to find a balance with when to look to score and when to trigger the offense.

Ryan McMahon.  Pros: Would please ESPN analyst Dick Vitale to no end to see him make his first start. Is the best shooter of the group, and has improved his play on defense significantly. Cons: Still is working on ball-handling, and lacks size, which could be an issue against bigger teams.

Donovan Mitchell. Pros: Has good size and length, and his defense is under-appreciated, also would allow V.J. King to be on the court more in the shooting guard spot. Over the last five games, Mitchell has averaged 19 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and made 16-of-37 three-pointers (.432). He’s second in the ACC with 2.2 steals per game. Cons: Doesn’t have a tone of experience handling the ball against pressure, and isn’t used to play the position.

David Levitch. Pros: Knowledgeable in the offense, does a good job of getting the ball moving on offense, and has been a dependable three-point shooter. Also can devise his own thoroughbred racing speed figures. Cons: There are none. Don’t even think it. 

2). SCOUTING CLEMSON: The Tigers, defensively, mirror the ACC team that has given Louisville more trouble than any other — Virginia. They’re very disciplined, and play a pack-line defense that can be frustrating. The Tigers are second in the nation in fewest fouls (248), 13th in turnover margin (+4.6), 17th in fewest turnovers per game (10.8) and 30th in steals per game (8.3).

They’re led by Jaron Blossomgame, a  6-7 graduate forward, who averages 18.4 points and six rebounds a game. He has topped the 20-point mark in each of the past four games, and ranks second in the ACC shooting 60 percent in conference play. 

Clemson was a on a roll in December, winning nine straight games, including victories at Alabama and South Carolina, before a three-point overtime loss at North Carolina kicked off a stretch of four straight losses.

The Tigers are looking for their first road win over a nationally ranked ACC team since March 4, 2007 at Virginia Tech. Clemson is ranked No. 28 in Ken Pomeroy’s latest ratings, with a strength of schedule of No. 6 nationally.

Clemson’s offense is built around Blossomgame, who is among the best post-scorers in the nation and also is dangerous cutting to the basket for feeds or getting the ball in isolation. The Tigers also have great success in pick-and-roll situations using guards Avry Holmes and Marcquise Reed.

Offensively, Louisville’s best scoring opportunities against Clemson likely will come off the offensive glass, on isolation plays to Anas Mahmoud or one of the other front-court big men, or on jump shots off of motion. Clemson is among the better teams in the nation at covering pick-and-roll ball handlers, and in defending passes off the pick-and-roll.

3). QUICK HITS: Pitino has been saying he needs to get Jaylen Johnson back in gear, and has chosen the Clemson game to begin that effort in earnest. He needs a big game on both ends from Johnson against Blossomgame, and will have him in the starting lineup hoping that happens. Johnson hasn’t had more than four rebounds in any ACC game, after starting the season averaging close to a double-double. . . . While starting the last five games, Anas Mahmoud has averaged 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots. Pitino said he could help with the void left by Quentin Snider’s injury, because of his passing ability. . . . While Johnson has struggled, In his last four games, Ray Spalding has averaged 8.5 points and 8 rebounds. He is ninth in rebounding in ACC games (7.6). . . . Louisville is second in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency through Jan. 15. The Cardinals are eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.379), 15th in scoring defense (62.3 ppg), fourth in blocked shots (6.6 per game), ninth in three-point field goal defense (.290), 22nd in turnover margin (+3.6), ninth in rebounds per game (41.2), 11th in offensive rebounds per game (14.3), 27th in scoring margin (+13.4) and 37th in rebound margin (+6.1) through Jan. 15. Seven of the Cardinals 18 opponents this season have scored under 60 points.

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