With the loss of Malik Williams looming large, many were under the expectation that Louisville’s lineup would be reverting back to what it was before Williams’ grand return to the floor.
This specifically plays to the role of Jae’Lyn Withers. Most were expecting Withers to return to his interior role as a back-to-the-basket player. But it sounds like Chris Mack might have some other ideas.
Withers’ positive impression is forcing Mack’s hand in lineup decisions
On the potential for Withers to get an opportunity to face up and play on the perimeter post-Williams injury as he had when Williams was healthy and in the lineup, Mack had this to say.
"I thought Jae’lyn really, really looked comfortable and did some good things. We want to try to keep putting him in that position. He has to change his role a little bit simply because of everything we’ve put in and implemented from day one… we’re going to try to do things that have Jae’lyn away from the basket just as much as we have him around the basket."
That’s an interesting quote from Mack for the purposes of noticing many of what fans and spectators of the team saw; Jae’Lyn Withers is a good face-up player that’s too good to be minimized to having to play with his back to the basket.
Mack hinted at one player that could be manning the center position more often in coming games down the stretch.
"I think JJ [Traynor] and Gabe [Wiznitzer], while they’re not Malik [Williams], they can certainly help us. And we’re going to need them to in our remaining games… we’re going to give those guys, specifically JJ first, a crack at being out there and helping us around the basket interior-wise."
There’s a lot to keep note of here. Traynor is similarly sized to Withers height-wise. But he still needs to gain proper weight being just a freshman in the program.
The new center duties could be a committee approach or a game-by-game plan of attack for how Mack sees fit. Withers’ play on the perimeter is going to make it difficult for him to reverse course and throw him back to full-time center.
On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like Mack is fully committed to moving Withers out of playing at least some center in future games. But that percentage is likely to go down after his newly found success as a power forward.
The truth of the situation
Mack will never say this specifically, but the loss of Williams throws a wrench into a lot of the team’s plans. Withers is forced to play some center while Traynor attempts to just survive on the glass as an undersized “five” to begin with.
If Mack could have it any way, he’d just wish Malik Williams’ injury away.
But that’s not happening this season. There should be plenty of new looks in the Cardinals lineup as soon as Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech.