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Preview: No. 7 Louisville Cardinals look to remain undefeated, face Belmont Bruins

The No. 7 Louisville Cardinals enter this season with high expectations after last year’s Final Four run.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal
Hailey Van Lith (jersey #10) is the top player for Louisville.
Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

After coming off a Final Four appearance, the Louisville Cardinals are looking to take their historic 2021-22 season a step further in 2022-23. On media day, entering his 16th season as head coach of the Cardinals, Jeff Walz didn’t shy away from the question that has been asked of him and the team for years now.

“Just come out and ask the question, when are we going to win a national championship? That’s the only hump that there is. I’m okay with that question. I think it’s great that it’s even a question. ... It is something that we strive for and is something we’re working and practicing for.”

The Cardinals have reached the Elite Eight in four consecutive NCAA tournaments.

“Do we want to win the damn thing? Of course we do. We work hard every day, we’re busting our butt in recruiting and everything we can do to hopefully cut down those nets. That’s our goal.”

Despite losing talent to the WNBA Draft, the Cardinals added three graduate transfers with experience to their roster.

“When you are adding 22-year-olds, it makes it a lot easier. They’ve been through college. They’ve been through the practices.”

Chrislyn Carr is a graduate transfer point guard from Syracuse. Prior to last year with the Orange, she spent two seasons at Texas Tech. Last year she started in all 29 games for Syracuse, averaging 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. She shot an impressive 37 percent from three. While at Texas Tech, she was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Coach Walz raved about her performance on the defensive end in Thursday’s victory against IUPUI.

“[Chrislyn] had some moments where she was really really good. It’s exciting to see that growth is coming through, because I believe she can really be an impact for us at the defensive end.”

Josie Williams is a 6-foot-5 center who transferred from Utah Valley, where she averaged 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists during her career there. In her last two seasons she earned All-Western Athletic Conference First Team selections.

Williams is another part of the big turnaround the Cardinals’ experienced this offseason. She is looking to replace Emily Engstler’s impact, specifically in the rebounding department. At 6-foot-5 she certainly has the ability to become a force on the glass in the ACC.

Lastly, there is Morgan Jones, a dynamic 6-foot-2 guard transfer from Florida State, where last season she averaged 13.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists. In her three years as a starter at Florida State, she was twice selected to the all-ACC First Team.

“She is not just an extremely talented basketball player, but is an exceptional person,” Walz said of Jones. “Morgan has high goals on and off the court and we look forward to helping her achieve them.”

Louisville entered this season ranked seventh in the nation and is fresh off two impressive victories against Cincinnati and IUPUI. Emerging star Hailey Van Lith appears to have taken another leap this season as she is off to an incredible start, averaging 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists through the first two games.

Coach Walz mentioned after Thursday’s victory that the team still has some room for improvement on the defensive end, but cites that this is mainly due to a big roster turnover. He is pleased with what he’s seen and optimistic that the team will get better. Their next opportunity to prove that will be Sunday against Belmont.

Belmont prevailed in a nail-bitter against Chattanooga on Wednesday. The Bruins return their leader Destinee Wells, who led the team in scoring (16.6) and assists (4.5) last year. Her backcourt teammate Tuti Jones is averaging 11 points and three assists to start this season. Louisville will certainly have its hands full trying to guard the dynamic duo.

Tipoff is on Sunday at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN+.