The Louisville Cardinals are heading into the 2013-14 season as the defending champions,
and have plenty of reasons to be thinking about a repeat. First, shooting guard Russ
Smith won a battle with his father and decided to return for a senior year. Last
year Smith led the Cardinals in scoring averaging 18.1 points per game. With Smith
back the Cardinals will have six of their top eight scorers returning this year.
That could pose many problems for other teams, as the Cardinals had four blowouts
in six games during their March Madness title run. Smith was a key component in the
run, upping his points per game average to 22.3 per game during the run. With Smith
returning were getting just the tip of the spear when it comes to why the Cardinals
are going to repeat.
Experience Trumps Youth
With the title the Cardinals have the big game experience... they’ve been there,
done that. Their biggest threat on paper going into the season is a super star filled
team over in Kentucky. The Kentucky Wildcats though, are stacked with youth, and
after arguably the best ever recruiting class, could have trouble fitting all the
star headed young future NBA players into the minutes they want. That I believe plays
to the Cardinals advantage, as the Cardinals know what it feels like to win, and
they won’t let themselves get caught up in negative aspects such as playing time,
and star power.
The ability to stay positive will be an important asset, as a season can be very
long- and there is no doubt going to be ups and downs. With so many returning players,
I look to last year’s stretch of poor outings, where the Cardinals failed to put
up 70 points once and lost three games in a row (they lost five all year). Being
able to come back after a stretch like that showed the composure and maturity this
Cardinals team has, and adding another year of maturity to them won’t do any harm.
This year the Cardinals have a chance to become what some would call a dynasty. With
teams gunning for them, it’s going to take new stars to turn the page to the next
chapter. In the Championship game against the Michigan Wolverines, a new star was
born in Luke Hancock. The senior forward has been awarded the captaincy, and will
no doubt be taking over a starting position this year. Although he averaged around
8 points per game all year, it was the championship game where Hancock blossomed,
putting up a career high 22 points (he had 20 the game before as well)!
With the return of Smith, the experience of the whole club, and the blossoming of
new stars such as Hancock, the odds offered for the Cardinals are great this year.
That’s why we like them to repeat as NCAA Basketball champions.