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    The University of Louisville men’s basketball team begins its series of exhibition games in Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

    Over six days the Cardinals will play nine games against the PR’s national team, which is being coached this summer by UofL head man Rick Pitino, and its junior team.

    It’s a big trip for Louisville. The Cards lost eight players from the team that started last season, which ended with a 27-9 record and a Elite Eight overtime loss to Michigan State. There are seven new faces on UofL’s 15-man roster, and even more questions.

    Here are three of the biggest questions facing the Cards as they head to Puerto Rico and into next season.

    #1. Where will the scoring come from?

    Louisville lost its top four scorers from last season - Terry Rozier (17.1 points per game), Montrezl Harrell (15.7 ppg), Chris Jones (13.7 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (11.6 ppg). Replacing 2,049 of last season's 2,483 points (82.5 percent) won’t be easy, but a pair of fifth-year senior transfers should pick up plenty of the scoring slack. Six-foot-six guard Damion Lee averaged 21.4 ppg (fourth in the nation) at Drexel last season, while 6-2 point guard Trey Lewis averaged 16.3 ppg at Cleveland State. Both have impressed Pitino, he said last week, in pre-trip workouts, and UofL fans (those who make the trip, or watch online) will get their first look at the duo in Puerto Rico. They’re hoping to be impressed too.

    #2. How much have Mangok Mathiang and Chinanu Onuaku improved?

    Both big men have had big summers. The 6-10 Mathiang, representing Australia, led the 23-team World University Games in rebounding (10.3 per game) and tied for eighth in scoring (13.5 ppg) while shooting 56.1 percent from the field.

    Meanwhile the 6-10 Onuaku averaged 4.6 points and five rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field, blocking a team-high 12 shots and even making some under-handed free throws for the gold-medal-winning USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship team.

    The two, who combined to average 5.6 points and 9.3 rebounds while starting every game at center for the Cards last season, will be expected to do much more next season (especially after Harrell’s departure). UofL fans, and probably Pitino too, would love to see the two combine for 15 and 15 per game.  

    #3. Who among the freshmen is ready to contribute right now?

    Louisville’s incoming recruiting class was a Top 10 one nationally. Jumping-jack guard Donovan Mitchell and 6-7 forward Deng Adel headlined that class, but last week Pitino praised the play of 6-10 forward and recent Trinity High School graduate, Raymond Spalding. “I think Ray Spalding probably has the most upside of everybody,” Pitino said. Was that typical Pitino hyperbole? We should start finding out the answer to that question, and many others, in the ensuing six days.

    Photo courtesy University of Louisville Men's Basketball Facebook Page

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