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Louisville Cardinals
First, I want to thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. At Hoops Insight, I hope to use data to find insights that reveal things you didn't realize about the Louisville Cardinals. I'm using play-by-play data to track what's happening, who's doing it, and who is in the game, in order to show you things the box score can't. For a primer on the stats I like to use, click here: If you'd like to take a look at previous newsletters I've sent, check out my archive.

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This offseason, I want to occasionally provide subscribers with insights on how last season could offer a preview of what's to come next season for the Louisville Cardinals. UofL will be returning most of their roster, and looking to take the next step to contend for an ACC title, and maybe even a Final Four. To do so, they must replace grad transfer Christen Cunningham who ably ran the point for the Cardinals. While most Card fans probably believe this to be the biggest question mark for next season, there is some hidden evidence that junior Darius Perry can be the answer for the Cards.

Perry's sophomore season is probably fairly viewed as a bit of a disappointment. Perry was 7th on the team in scoring, starting only 11 games all season despite UofL having no established starter at shooting guard. Heading into next season, it's widely expected that UofL's starting point guard will probably be grad transfer Fresh Kimble, with freshman David Johnson being groomed at the position as well. 

That's not undeserved, given Perry's overall play the last 2 seasons. He has assisted on 18% of his teammates baskets when he played; that's on par with Ryan McMahon, and well behind Cunningham's 30% assist rate last season. At Saint Joseph's, Kimble posted assist rates in the mid 20's his first two years before dipping to around 18% as a combo guard last season. Perry also had the highest turnover rate on UofL's team last season, and drew fouls less often than Cunningham or McMahon did. His resume does not exactly scream "point guard".

However, there's more to his season once we look beneath the surface stats. Perry had dramatically different impacts on UofL, depending on whether he played alongside Cunningham or not. When playing alongside Cunningham, Perry was largely an ineffective shooting guard:
  • He assisted on 13% of his teammates' shots
  • 64% of his shots were three pointers
  • He rarely drew free throws, attempting 1 free throw for every 4 field goals
This stats profile is basically that of a catch-and-shoot player with limited plamaking ability; his closest historical comps are players like Wayne Blackshear or Chris Smith. Nobody was clamoring for those players to fill in at point guard, to say the least.

When Perry played without Cunningham, however, he turned into a different player:
  • He assisted on 22% of his teammates shots
  • 40% of his shots were three pointers
  • He drew 2 free throws for every 5 field goals
Perry also turned the ball over less frequently despite taking on more playmaking responsibility. His statistical profile in these situations was actually very similar to Cunningham's predecessor at point guard, Quentin Snider. 

Perry had a few games last season where he showed off more of his point guard skills. Against Tennessee, he tallied 8 assists, including 5 assists on 9 Cardinal baskets when Cunningham sat. Against Notre Dame, nearly all of Perry's playing time came without Cunningham, and he tallied 2 assists on his teammates 7 baskets. Perry clearly has the athletic ability to drive past defenders, and he has more passing vision than he's been asked to show. Perry also has been successful beating his man without requiring a screen, allowing UofL to space the floor with their shooters. With shooters like McMahon, Jordan Nwora, and Dwayne Sutton, Perry has the ability to generate half court offense for UofL.

I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Darius Perry surprise UofL fans by taking on more of a true point guard role next season, despite not being earmarked for that role currently. He's actually performed very well when given that role in the past, despite infrequent time in that role. It may seem bold given his overall body of work so far, but I'm willing to predict that Darius Perry will lead UofL in assists next season. 
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