(Photo of Louisville Players: Sam Upshaw Jr. - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
NASSAU, Bahamas - The Louisville men's basketball program is officially heading to the Bahamas this Thanksgiving. The program announced Thursday that they are taking part in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship, held at the Baha Mar Convention Center in the capital city of Nassau.
The Cardinals will face Mississippi State in the first round of the event on Thursday, Nov. 27, with Maryland and Richmond squaring off in the other game of the four-team field. The two winning teams will play in the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 29, with the two losing teams playing in a consolation game that same day. Tipoff times have yet to be announced.
Mississippi State went 18-15 last season, winning seven of their last ten games and reaching the NIT title game. They return two of their three top scorers, Iverson Molinar and Tolu Smith, and have added four transfers including 2020-21 preseason ACC Player of the Year Garrison Brooks.
Richmond returns even more players, as 15 of their 16 scholarship and walk-on players are back for 2021-21. They went 14-9, losing in the quarterfinals of the NIT to Mississippi State, and bring back four 1,000-point scorers.
Maryland is the lone team in the field to reach the NCAA Tournament last season, losing in the second round to Alabama. Led by All-Big Ten guard Eric Ayala, top-rebounder Donta Scott, and transfers Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab, the Terrapins are ranked as the No. 19 team in the country in ESPN's Way-Too-Early rankings.
While the Cardinals have yet to formally announce the rest of their non-conference schedule for the 2021-22 season, it is slowly but surely coming together. They will host DePaul, Furman and Detroit Mercy on yet-to-be-announced dates, and Navy on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Their road schedule has them traveling to Western Kentucky on Saturday, Dec. 18, Kentucky on a future date.
Louisville losing their two leading scorers in guards Carlik Jones and David Johnson to the NBA, but are retaining forward/center Malik Williams after he opted to stay for a fifth year with the program. Starters Samuel Williamson, Jae’Lyn Withers and Dre Davis also return.
The program is bringing in seven newcomers after losing a slew of players to the draft, graduation and the portal. Matt Cross, Noah Locke and Jarrod West transferred from other D1 programs, El Ellis and Sydney Curry joined from the JUCO ranks, and Mike James & Roosevelt Wheeler signed out of high school.
Louisville opened up the 2020-21 season at 9-1, and were ranked as high as the No. 16 team in the nation. But due to COVID issues, injuries, and at times offensive inconsistencies, they went 4-6 in the second half of the season to finish at 13-7 and 8-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference - missing the NCAA Tournament by a razor-thin margin.
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