Evolution of Adel could boost Louisville’s offense


Louisville has all the makings of a Final Four team.

The Cardinals feature a deep frontcourt rotation of long-limbed rebounding and shot-blocking menaces; in the month of March, college basketball is all about backcourts, and Louisville has a dynamic duo: Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider. Mitchell, especially, has gone full supernova this season while emerging as one of America’s best guards.

Stare at this roster long enough, and it is easy to talk yourself into believing this team will be in Phoenix a month from now. Louisville’s Final Four prospects would look even better if the Cards could get a slightly more efficient version of the guy in between those two groups: Deng Adel.

Adel, by a variety of metrics, has had really nice sophomore season. In his first year as a starter, he has become the team’s third-leading scorer — 11.6 points per game, which is nearly three times his freshman year average. He is a solid two-way player who has shot 40 percent on his catch-and-shoot opportunities, according to Synergy Sports.

The pick-and-roll, however, has been a bugaboo for Adel this season. As a ball-handler, he has shot just 30 percent, which, out of 42 ACC players who have run at least 30 pick-and-roll possessions, ranks 40th, per Synergy. He has turned the ball over on 24.1 percent of those possessions. As a team, Louisville ball-handlers turn it over just 14.1 percent of the time.

So much of Louisville’s offense relies on Mitchell as a one-man wrecking crew breaking down a defense. Mitchell is a special talent and capable of getting that job done the vast majority of nights, but it would be advantageous if he could evolve into a secondary creator, too. Snider has juice in this capacity; that may not be quite enough, however.

Rick Pitino’s club has the defense to beat any team in America, and at times the Cardinals have been downright electric scoring the ball. Adel was sharp in the loss at Wake Forest, posting a career-high 22 points on 16 field-goal attempts and three assists. Louisville needs more of this going forward, though. The defeat in Winston-Salem was the first time this season that Adel has scored more than 12 points, and the Cards landed in the wrong half of the win-loss column.