When you look at the rosters of Cal and Louisville, they actually look quite similar. Cal has nine players, Louisville has 10. Both teams have just one junior and three sophomores. This is going to be a matchup of two very, very young and very very talented teams.
So why is Louisville entering the game with a #8 ranking while Cal is unranked? Because Louisville's two best players last year were Mariya Moore and Mhyisha Hines-Allen, both freshmen who are now sophomores. Cal, on the other hand, no longer has arguably their three best players from last season.
That isn't to suggest that Louisville has everybody coming back. Sara Hammond, Shawnta' Dyer, Bria Smith and Jude Schimmel are all gone, along with a couple other seniors and a couple of transfers. Louisville lost a TON of their roster, with arguably even more turnover than Cal.
So why are the Cardinals ranked #8 again? Because Walz, mostly. He's earned the benefit of the doubt. That and a recruiting class arguably ranked #1 in the nation. Let's get into it:
G Taja Cole, 5'7'' Freshman
G Asia Durr, 5'10'' Freshman
F Mariya Moore, 6'0'' Sophomore
F Myisha Hines-Allen, 6'2'' Sophomore
F Sam Fuehring, 6'3'' Freshman
G Arica Carter, 5'8'' Junior
G Brianna Jones, 5'9'' Freshman
F Sydney Brackemyre, 6'1'' Redshirt freshman
C Erin DeGrate, 6'4'' Freshman
For the record, I'm entirely guessing here. Louisville hasn't played a game yet, so there's no actual information to use to project. Moore and Hines-Allen will obviously play a ton of minutes, and Louisville has SIX freshmen, with four receiving 5 stars from a recruiting service. Asia Durr is the headliner, the #2 prospect in the country according to ESPN, so I think I'm safe in projecting her as a starter. After that it's anybody's guess.
What are we getting from Moore and Hines-Allen? Moore is an ultra-versatile wing who can shoot well from anywhere, handles and passes the ball excellently for her size, which allows her to mix it up a little down low. Hines-Allen is a more traditional interior player, a very efficient low post scorer.
Keys to the game
Does anybody get into foul trouble?
Both teams are pretty shallow on the depth chart, and I don't really know how many of the freshmen Coach G and Jeff Walz trust so early in the season. If either team's stars get into foul trouble, how do the coaches handle it, and which team's shallow benches can step up and produce?
Who handles the nerves better?
Six different Louisville freshmen might get their NCAA debut. Four Cal freshmen will be playing just their 2nd game in a much more hostile environment than Friday's game. Who's ready to produce under the bright lights?
Can the Bears make shots?
Last year, Cal played Louisville to a dead heat in turnovers and rebounds, and got to the line more often . . . but Louisville emerged with a relatively routine win because they hit shots and the Bears didn't. That's in large part credit to a typically stifling Louisville defense. But Cal also struggled to make shots against Austin Peay on Friday. They will have no luxury to do so today. Hit buckets and the Bears will stay right with the Cardinals.