Louisville basketball to have dream starting five for first time

David Johnson #13 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
David Johnson #13 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

It only took three long months to see game action from the starting lineup head coach Chris Mack and staff likely envisioned in the preseason for Louisville basketball.

Plenty of injuries, Covid issues, and even other sicknesses have held the Cardinals back from unleashing their dream starting lineup to the floor during this 2020-21 season.

With just three regular seasons remaining on the current schedule, that dream looks to be finally coming to fruition on Saturday against Duke.

After suffering from a non-Covid illness that caused him to miss the team’s most recent game against Notre Dame, Johnson returns to the floor to create Louisville’s personal best version of the “Monstars.”

The five did all play together in some capacity against North Carolina in a game where they were beat by 45 points. But forward Malik Williams did not start that game and was limited in minutes due to it being his season debut after injury.

Now, the Cardinals look to be at full strength with Williams getting up to speed and Johnson ready to go following his illness.

Here is what that dream starting five should look like Saturday

G Carlik Jones – Jones has played some excellent basketball this season and recently set a Louisville record for most consecutive double-digit scoring outputs by a first year player in the program. He’s inarguably been the Cardinals’ most consistent presence this season and is a leader for this team.

G David Johnson – Johnson looked like he would be one of the most consistent players on this team through December and into early January. Since Jan. 6, Johnson has only scored in the double-digits in three of the seven games he’s played in. We all know what he’s capable of as a scorer and a playmaker. Inconsistency continues to plague Johnson, but he’s easily one of the best talents on this team.

F Samuell Williamson – He has been playing outside of his mind over the last four games. In that span, Williamson is averaging a double-double (12 points, 11.5 rebounds per game). In a snap, he found his role on this team and has been a very consistent presence as an effort player on the glass with improved shot selection and aggressiveness on offense. He’s separated himself after a couple of times being benched.

F Jae’Lyn Withers – While there are some frustrations relating to how he has been finishing around the rim, Withers had one of his best performances of the past month in a new position at power forward against Notre Dame. He put up a double-double and looked comfortable more comfortable not having to be the No. 1 rebounding presence. Look for him to make more of an impact with his position tweak.

C Malik Williams – He doesn’t quite look comfortable on the offensive end yet, but there’s no denying that Williams has already shown improvement from game one to game two on defense. He played 26 minutes and didn’t fade away at all throughout the course of the Notre Dame matchup. Williams is by far Louisville’s best interior defender and an easy shoe-in to the starting five.

For the first time all year, we’re projecting Dre Davis to come off the bench. He’s easily the Cardinals’ best option and while it’s hard to take him out of the starting lineup, this is the best five available to Mack.

With Quinn Slazinski and JJ Traynor also offering value off the bench, this is the best the Cardinals should look all year from a talent standpoint.

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