CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville will begin a men’s basketball season on away from the KFC Yum! Center for the first time since 2014, and against a conference opponent for the first time since 1981, when it travels to Miami on Tuesday night to kick off Chris Mack’s second season.
It is a highly anticipated campaign for the Cardinals, who are ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press and ESPN coaches’ polls. Louisville has won its past 15 season-openers, all at home, but the unknown is always a concern on the road, especially against a conference opponent.
Things to know about the game:
1. Time and place: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Watsco Center (7,792), Coral Gables, Florida.
2. Where to watch: ACC Network (Steve Schlanger, play-by-play; Cory Alexander, analyst). Where to listen: WKRD-790 AM (Paul Rogers, play-by-play; Jody Demling, analyst).
3. Spread: Louisville by 7. Over/under: 148. Refs: Mike Eades, Ted Valentine, Ron Groover.
4. Storylines: Louisville begins the season with high expectations, but not at full strength. Mack told reporters Monday that center Steven Enoch will play, after sitting out an exhibition win over Bellarmine last week with a thigh bruise. Big man Malik Williams (fractured foot), however, is not ready to return, nor is freshman guard David Johnson (torn labrum). Look for Mack to go with junior Darius Perry at point, with senior Ryan McMahon in the starting backcourt. Enoch will start at center, with preseason All-American Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton at guard. Miami has a slew of newcomers and is picked ninth in the ACC. Louisville was picked to finish third.
“I'm excited,” Mack said. “You have nerves. Starting it off with a conference game is very unique, but it's a challenge for our team. I'm interested to see where we're at and we're going down there with the intention of winning the game. We know it's not going to be easy.”
Mack said having a conference game has sharpened the intensity a bit before the opener, as well as forcing coaches to make sure they have as much installed as they’ll need.
“I think there was a little bit more urgency to have more in the playbook than maybe previous years,” he said. “But we were balancing that with also having seven newcomers, six of which are freshmen. We know Miami and what they're going to present and different defenses they play, the strength of their team, how they play offense. So for me we've really used the last week or so trying to hone in on being as sharp as we can in those areas.”
5. Player to watch: Miami guard Chris Lykes is the second-leading returning scorer in the ACC (behind Nwora), and was a second-team all-conference pick.
“Single-handedly in the first half he put the team on his back (in last season’s meeting),” Mack said. “He hit a three, he got fouled, he got in the lane, he's a pest defensively. Offensively, he's just so hard to contain because he's so small. And a lot of times when guys are small in stature, they're not the lights-out shooter he can be. He can really get on a heater and knock threes from deep and when you help he's such a terrific passer. He uses his size well, and his craftiness and quickness to get the ball in the lane.”
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