Louisville, which used to show up at the Final Four with about
the same regularity as Billy Packer, hasn't made it past the
Sweet 16 since 1986, when the Cardinals won their second NCAA
title. Everybody in college hoops has an opinion about what it
might be that has caused coach Denny Crum's program to go south.
Crum says it's simply that there are more good teams and players
around now than ever before. But others believe that Crum, 58
and beginning his 25th year on the job, has lost his grip on the
In the hectic '90s, five unhappy players have left Louisville
for other schools, and every season the Cardinals seem to have
one player or another sidelined for academic reasons. What's
more, an investigation last summer by The (Louisville)
Courier-Journal turned up evidence of potential NCAA rule
violations by coaches and boosters. (The NCAA has yet to
This season the Cardinals won't have the services of junior
Jason Osborne and sophomore Alex Sanders, the projected starting
forwards, until late December, assuming that both will be able
to make up the academic deficiencies that caused them to lose
their eligibility. With Osborne and Sanders, the Cards would
have the potential to be a force in the new Conference USA, one
of the nation's toughest leagues. Without one or both, the Cards
could again have one of the so-so seasons that have slowly
eroded the national respect that Crum's program developed in the
mid-1970s and into the '80s. "Obviously," says Crum, "we're not
going to be as good early in the season as we would be with
them. But sometimes these things turn out positive. In many
cases, it helps kids grow up."
That doesn't seem to be the case here. Osborne, who came to
Louisville as one of the nation's most coveted prospects, has
gone backward both as a student and as a player. Too often he
has been content to stay on the perimeter and put up lame
three-pointers instead of staying inside and providing badly
needed rebounding help for Samaki Walker, the team's best player
last year as a freshman despite playing out of position at
center. Sanders, who was highly recruited as a senior at Oak
Hill Academy (Va.), sat out last season as a Prop 48 case. The
news that he hadn't made his grades after three semesters in
college means that Crum may again have to fill out his front
line with a forward-by-committee approach led by 6'7" Brian
Kiser, who's a better three-point shooter than rebounder.
In the backcourt, Louisville has one of the nation's finest
point guards in junior DeJuan Wheat. His running mate will be
Tick Rogers, a senior who can shoot the three and play tough D.
One of the selling points in the creation of Conference USA was
that it would reunite Louisville with Memphis and Cincinnati,
once its most hated rivals in the Metro Conference. Both those
series ended in '91, when Louisville decided to stay in the
Metro instead of following Memphis and Cincy to the Great
Midwest. But is Louisville still the program that Memphis and
Cincinnati fans remember? Crum says yes, but others wonder. When
the Cards met Memphis in the Midwest Regional last season, the
final score was Memphis 77, Louisville 56.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO The Cards have a winner in Wheat. [DeJuan Wheat]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Denny Crum
Career record: 565-212 (24 seasons)
Record at Louisville: 565-212 (24 seasons)
1994-95 record: 19-14 (final ranking: none)
Metro record: 7-5 (tied for second)
SF *Jason Osborne, 6'8", Jr.
Out until December due to academic trouble
PF *Alex Sanders, 6'7", Soph.
Has yet to suit up due to academic problems
C *Samaki Walker, 6'9", Soph.
Only Cardinal taller than 6'8"
SG *Tick Rogers, 6'5", Sr.
86 steals led team
PG *DeJuan Wheat, 6'0", Jr.
11 treys shy of school career record
Dec. 23 at Kentucky
Louisville won last year--but at home
Jan. 7 at DePaul
Can Demons exorcise last season's 82-81 loss?
Jan. 13 at St. John's
National TV could propel Cards up polls
Jan. 27 at UCLA
Toughest game of tough road schedule
Feb. 22 at Cincinnati
Both won conferences in '95, only one can in '96