The Chris Mack era begins at Louisville on Thursday, when the Cardinals open their season against visiting Nicholls. Mack enters his first season leading the Cardinals after a successful nine-year run at Xavier that saw his teams win 215 games and reach the NCAA Tournament eight times.
Mack hopes to instill a tough defensive mentality in a Cardinals team that could have a tough time scoring -- no returning players averaged double-digit points. Those defensive principles will face a stern test to open the season against a Nicholls team that tied for the Southland Conference regular-season title a year ago and blasted Mississippi College 86-58 in Tuesday's season opener. The Cardinals struggled to put away top-ranked NCAA Division II team Bellarmine in a 71-60 exhibition win but were more dominant in a 90-41 rout of Simmons College. Nicholls is also under a first-year coach with first-time coach Austin Claunch taking over.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network LINE: Check Intertops for the latest line
ABOUT NICHOLLS (1-0): The Colonels lost their top five scorers off last year's team and leaned on a pair of graduate transfer guards -- Jeremiah Jefferson (Jackson State) and Gavin Peters (Central Michigan) -- in their season-opening win. Jefferson put up 28 points and Peppers added 20, as the duo combined to shoot 18-of-27 from the floor and made seven 3-pointers. Nicholls has decent size for a small-conference program with six players listed at 6-6 or taller, but the 6-3 Peppers led the team with eight rebounds in the opener.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2017-18: 22-14): The Cardinals are picked to finish 11th in a loaded ACC after missing the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Guard V.J. King (8.6 points) is the only returning starter and top returning scorer from that team, but Louisville has tried to reload quickly with transfers. Steven Enoch, a 6-10 center who sat out last season after transferring from Connecticut, led the Cardinals with 15 points per game in two exhibition contests.
1. Louisville has won 14 consecutive season openers and 23 of its last 25.
2. The Cardinals have won 65 of their last 68 non-conference home games.
3. Louisville is 5-0 against current Southland Conference teams but has never faced Nicholls.
PREDICTION: Louisville 77, Nicholls 73 Bet Now
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|Brandon Moore Jr|