The Louisville Cardinals survived a scare from the Wichita St. Shockers Saturday night and, thankfully for NBA draft prospects Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng, it won't be the last impression they leave on scouts.
Smith and Dieng were both unimpressive in the Cardinals 72-68 victory over the Shockers. Smith struggled for much of the first half and, while his second half was better than the first, he finished with 21 points on just 6/17 shooting. Smith's shooting struggles continued at the free-throw line, where he shot just 5-12, but did make some key free-throws late.
If there was a game that shows every concern scouts have about Smith, this was the one. In addition to his poor shooting, Smith also had five turnovers and three assists. During the regular season, Smith struggled with decision making, but seemed to have that cleared up during the tournament.
While Smith struggled, he did manage to stay aggressive throughout the game. The same cannot be said for Dieng, who looked out of sorts the entire time. The junior missed the only shot he took and struggled with foul trouble during the second half. Dieng managed to contribute two blocks and six rebounds, but often times was late on his rotations or just not in the right spot on defense.
As Jonathan Tjarks mentioned earlier this weekend, Dieng could cause problems for either Syracuse or Michigan in the National Championship game. If the Cardinals play the Orange, an aggressive Dieng could cause issues for their 2-3 zone out of the high post. Meanwhile, he'd prove to be Wolverine center Mitch McGary's biggest challenge yet. Smith's struggles in Atlanta could continue though, as Syracuse's zone would force him to shoot from outside, which is not his strong suit, and Michigan would be able to throw larger defenders like Tim Hardaway, Jr. or Glenn Robinson III at him.