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Is Louisville’s back court of Russ Smith, Chris Jones dynamic or combustible?

Oct 15, 2013, 9:54 AM EDT

Russ Smith AP

The college basketball newcomer with the most pressure on him entering the season is Andrew Wiggins.

That is pretty much indisputable at this point. When people toss around comparisons to folks like Kevin Durant and LeBron James, you know you’re in a different stratosphere as a prospect.

Second on that list is debatable, but one name that would surely find his way near the top would be Louisville point guard Chris Jones.

Jones is a former top 50 recruit that was once signed by Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. After failing to get the grades to be able to enroll in college on time, Jones ended up at Northwest Florida State, a JuCo where he spent two years becoming one of the most sought-after point guards in the country. Not only that, but Jones will be asked to replace Peyton Siva at the point, joining the entertainingly erratic Russ Smith in Louisville’s back court.

On paper, that doesn’t sound like much, as Siva averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 assists. Those aren’t insurmountable numbers, but what doesn’t show up in the box score is Siva’s leadership and, more importantly, his calming influence alongside Russdiculous. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Siva’s value and importance during Louisville run to the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title has been underrated, and based on early reviews from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, Jones may not be the perfect fit to replace Siva in that way:

There are moments when Jones looks the part of a junior college All-American and future pro. There are, however, others when he looks overwhelmed by the pace of the game, Pitino’s system and having to balance scoring while keeping his teammates content.

[...]

“He’s definitely a point guard. He can run the team,” Pitino said of Jones. “I like him a lot. He’s a competitor. He doesn’t bother me at all. The only issue he’s going to have is the referees. He never thinks he fouls.”

“I have to learn how to keep my emotions inside,” Jones said.

Jones and Smith will form arguably the most exciting back court in the country this season, as both are dynamic offensive talents, but pairing two players like that is a combustible mix.

And playing on a roster that includes Montrezl Harrell, Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock, it will be interesting to see if there are enough shots to go around to keep everyone content.

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