Louisville men’s basketball always knew this was going to be a rebuilding year. After firing head coach Chris Mack midway through last season, the Cards settled on hiring former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne and turned over most of the roster. Expectations were tempered going into Payne’s debut season: Louisville was picked to finish No. 12 in the 15-team ACC during the preseason polls. Close observers were mostly interested in what Payne could do in his first full year on the recruiting trail.
Louisville’s season began with an unthinkable loss to crosstown rival Bellarmine, an Atlantic Sun program still making its transition to DI. Then Louisville lost to Wright State from the Horizon League. Then Louisville lost to Appalachian St. of the Sun Belt. One could have assumed things were about to get extremely ugly as the Cards flew out to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational against a loaded field, and that assumption has proven to be correct.
On Monday, Louisville lost to No. 9 Arkansas, 80-54, in a game that didn’t feel that close. On Tuesday, it was No. 21 Texas Tech’s turn to blast the Cards, 70-38, in one of the most humiliating losses you will ever see from a top program. This was the worst offensive performance Louisville has had since 1948.
Louisville is now 0-5 after a 70-38 loss to Texas Tech at the Maui Invitational— SB Nation (@SBNation) November 22, 2022
38 are the fewest points scored by a Louisville team in the last 50 years (the previous low was 42 against Cincinnati in 1981) pic.twitter.com/CMxl96Sfmo
Somehow, Louisville went on an 11-0 run in this game. Louisville made 11 fields goals on the afternoon and shot 22.4 percent from the field. What a rough loss.
Louisville is now the first ACC team to start 0-5 since Virginia in 1960-61, according to ESPN’s Stats and Info. By the way, that ‘60-61 Virginia team started 0-8. Given the Cards’ upcoming schedule, they will have to pull off an upset to avoid breaking it.
The stats contextualizing Louisville’s start are just as bad as the results. Just look at these assist-to-turnover numbers:
Through five games, Louisville has 90 turnovers against 36 assists. https://t.co/HF62GMcpqQ— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) November 22, 2022
The recruiting front hasn’t been going great, either.
Payne is now 0-for-2 on five-star prospects he was going after. Earlier this week, the top unsigned player in America, A.J. Johnson, picked Texas over Louisville. Johnson is a 6’5 combo guard rated as the No. 15 overall recruit in the country, per 247 Sports. It would have been a massive win to get him, but Louisville came up just short.
The more painful (no pun intended) recruiting miss was D.J. Wagner. Wagner — the No. 1 overall player in the class, per 247 Sports — picked archrival Kentucky over Louisville for his commitment. Louisville even hired his grandfather former NBA player Milt Wagner to a position on staff in an attempt to get him. Of course, Wagner’s father is Dajuan Wagner, John Calipari’s first one-and-done star at Memphis, so there were family connections on both sides.
Breaking: DJ Wagner tells @PaulBiancardi he has committed to the University of Kentucky.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 14, 2022
Wagner is the No. 1 overall prospect in the ESPN 100 for the class of 2023. @SportsCenterNEXT pic.twitter.com/os4D7J8DUB
To be fair to Payne, he has landed a pair of top-100 recruits in next year’s class. It just seems like this program has so much more work to do from there.
Louisville’s upcoming schedule is really difficult, and there are no easy games once ACC play starts. Is this set to be one of the worst college hoops season we’ve ever seen from a power program? It sure looks like it.
Hey, at least Louisville’s has a top-10 women’s basketball team. Let’s see how they’re doing this week:
Oh no. Next year can’t come soon enough for Louisville hoops fans.