Louisville may not be a contender, but it’s not because they lost Chane Behanan
By now, we’ve all heard the news about Chane Behanan’s dismissal from the Louisville program.
According to Rick Pitino, Behanan just couldn’t behave himself off the court. “He just did not do the right things over and over and over,” Pitino said, and after getting suspended indefinitely by the program earlier this fall, whatever Behanan did in the last couple of days was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Since the news came down earlier this afternoon, I’ve seen people piling on the Cardinals, proclaiming their season over and writing off any chance that Louisville can compete with Memphis and UConn atop the American or make a run at a national title.
To be clear, I don’t necessarily disagree with that notion. As I wrote after Louisville’s loss on Saturday, the Cardinals are a flawed basketball team right now. They are far too reliant upon Russ Smith and Chris Jones and will remain that way until Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear find their stroke and Montrezl Harrell becomes more than just an effort guy, particularly against some of the nation’s best front lines.
But I don’t think that losing Chane Behanan should be the deciding factor in how you project the rest of the season will play out for the Cardinals.
Let’s call a spade, a spade: Behanan was largely ineffective this season. He rebounded the ball better than some of the other big men on the roster, but he struggled finishing around the rim against longer opponents and he couldn’t make free throws. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.3 boards in the games he played, but totaled just seven points and six turnovers (to go along with 16 boards) in losses to North Carolina and Kentucky.
So yes, Louisville will miss that presence on the glass, especially if Mangok Mathiang continues to sell out trying to block shots, Stephen Van Treese remains incapable of rebounding outside his area and Akoy Agau cannot figure out what he’s doing enough to make an impact on the court.
But if the only aspect of the game where Behanan is contributing is on the glass, is his loss really going to be felt that much? Does it really turn Louisville from a contender into a pretender?
I don’t think it does.
Again, I’m not trying to tell you that Louisville is going to be a team that can contend for a national title. Right now, they aren’t. And they won’t be if they can’t get Hancock, Blackshear and Harrell going.
But losing Behanan isn’t what made the difference. His loss will hurt, yes, but losing the constant stream of distractions that he brought with him certainly won’t.