One of the biggest news items to come out of the revelation of the FBI’s investigation into corruption into college basketball involved Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. An Adidas executive allegedly agreed to route a $100,000 payment to the family of the five-star wing shortly before he issued a verbal commitment to the Cardinals last June. Bowen was suspended from team activities indefinitely, although he has reportedly retained an attorney in an attempt to be reinstated.
Louisville presumably won’t have him available at any point this season. Although our model projects its offense to take a hit without Bowen—who averaged 22 points and three assists per game as a senior at La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., en route to being named a McDonald’s All-American and Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017—his absence isn’t expected to detract from Louisville’s defense. Not having Bowen around isn’t a deal-breaker for the Cardinals in terms of their ACC and national championship prospects.
Instead, another factor is causing our model to project Louisville’s D to slip: The firing of head coach Rick Pitino, whose recent defensive coaching history is unimpeachable. Louisville has not finished lower than eighth in KenPom’s adjusted points allowed per possession over the last seven seasons, and it finished first or second three times during that span. The Cardinals will be a chore to score against even with assistant David Padgett taking over for Pitino on an interim basis, though, thanks in part to stout paint defender Anas Mahmoud, who ranked fourth in Division I in block rate in 2016–17.
Taking all of this into account, Louisville would have ranked fourth in our projections with Pitino as head coach and Bowen eligible. Cut only Bowen out of the picture, and the Cardinals drop to sixth. IRL, Louisville ranks ninth, although our model still has it checking in at 13th in the country on the defensive end.