Daily Word: Biggest challenge for Louisville?
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts on a discussion about the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. What's the most pressing issue for Louisville at the start of practice?
Andy Katz: Rick Pitino has made it clear from the beginning of the summer that the most pressing concern is who will replace the back line defense of Gorgui Dieng. Montrezl Harrell had a sensational summer. He's a budding star, but not a traditional, intimidating shot-blocker. Will Stephen Van Treese be that player? Or a combination of both? That's the question facing the Cardinals.
Myron Medcalf: The biggest question for Louisville is tied to leadership. The Cardinals are arguably as talented, perhaps more talented, than they were last year. But they're going forward without Peyton Siva, who was a critical leader for the program throughout his career. Who will be that guy in 2013-14?
C.L. Brown: Hard to tell what will be more daunting for junior college transfer Chris Jones: replacing three-year starter Peyton Siva in the lineup or playing point guard for coach Rick Pitino. Neither will be easy, but Jones' play will be crucial as the Cardinals have experience at every other position.
2. Who may feel the most pressure to perform well for Kentucky in the preseason?
Andy Katz: The choices are Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, the two returning players who played any kind of significant minutes. Julius Randle will be the dominant player on the Wildcats and perhaps at his position in the country at his position. That could push Poythress down a peg. But Cauley-Stein had a real shot to stand out as a shot-blocker. He still may. That he's out for at least two weeks with a hand injury may mean he'll have to play catch-up.
Myron Medcalf: Alex Poythress probably feels as much pressure as anyone on that roster. He could be a starter for this team. Or he might get lost within this talented incoming pool if he doesn't prove his worth early.
C.L. Brown: By all accounts, Julius Randle is the alpha dog among a freshman class full of them. On a team lacking upper-class leadership, Randle is as good as any to establish an identity for the team.
3. Which player who recently received a waiver to play immediately will help the most?
Andy Katz: Michael Dixon could be a game-changer for Memphis. If he doesn't disrupt the veteran players returning in the backcourt, then the Tigers will have one of the most experienced and productive groups in the country. If he tries to eat up too many shots, then the addition of the Missouri transfer could backfire.
Myron Medcalf: I think Memphis will get a major boost from Michael Dixon. The Tigers have veteran guards, but Dixon's presence could help the Tigers emerge as legit threat to Louisville for the inaugural American Athletic Conference title.
C.L. Brown: Michael Dixon was arguably the missing piece that kept Missouri from flying higher last season. He should bring some stability to a Tigers lineup that averaged 14.5 turnovers last season.
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Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.