Say what you will about the Louisville Cardinals 4 seed, rather deserved or not, but it is of no consequence now. Its time to dance. We all remember Louisvilles remarkable finish ending with the national championship to put an exclamation point on the “year of the Cardinals”. What are the Cardinals chances at a repeat performance?
The 2012-13 version of the Cardinals is a superior version than that of this year team. The Cards however do return last years Final 4 MOP in Luke Hancock and several other key contributers like Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear. Last year team had fewer weaknesses and were better equiped to overcome them then this team.
The glaring weakness with this team is in the post. While the late phenominal play of Montrezl Harrell has helped minimize this it is still the major concearn with this team. Harrell will not be able to hold the post alone if the Cards expect to make their third straight Final 4. The play of Stephan Van Tresse and Mango Mathiang will be essential.
Where they are stronger this year is at the guard position where they have greater quality depth. Chris Jones and freshman Terry Rozier give the Cards greater scoring oppertunities than what last year team had. While the defense isn’t as strong as it was last year it has solidfied into a strenth.
Since this team has found their identity and settled into their rolls they have become one of the best teams in the country. Harrell has been a beast in the post and has broken the universities season dunk record, look out Dr Dunkenstien. Russ Smith has developed his game and now can put up double digits in assists as well as points. The Cards are far from a one a player team like some others in the dance. Yes I’m calling you out Oklahoma St and Creighton. Like last season the Cards are playing their best, winning their last four games by over 120 points which include two wins over UConn.
Looking at the Midwest Region you see some of the top names in college basketball. Michigan is a 2, Duke is a 3 and the Cards in state rival Kentucky is an 8. Three of last years Final 4 teams are in this region. Wichita St and Louisville has been given a tough road due to their weak season schedules. Cards and Cats fans can not help but to look forward to a possible rematch in the Sweet 16.
The Cards actually have an easier path to the Sweet 16 than does 1 seed Wichita St. Luckily for the Cards the Shockers and Cats will have to fight it out between them for the right to advance. The Cards open with 13 seed Manhatten, lead by former Pitino player and assistant in Steve Masiello. Next would be either St Louis or NC State. I love the Cards chances of making it to the Sweet 16. Michigan and Duke will likely play for their Elite 8 spot against the Cards. Again, this a tough but winnable game for the Cards.
Louisville, like every team in the dance, has weaknesses. The team that concearns me the most in the Region is Kentucky, due to their size and strong post play. The Cards have the guard advantage in seemingly all Regional matchups so I pick them to emerge victorious here.
Looking at possible Final Four matchups concearn me less than the ones in thier Region. Arizona, Wisconsin, San Diego St and Creighton are the top seeds in the West. I see SD St or Wisconsin emerging there. I like Sd St defense but Wisconsin can have trouble scoring. The Cards should be favored against these top four with the exception of Arizona.
Next would be the championship game. I would say Florida, Michigan St, Kansas and Syracuse would be the primary contenders. Each would be a touch matchup for the Cards. When the Cards are at their best and drilling threes at will, they are the best in the country. I am biased but I have to say they are poised to make a strong run at a repeat.
My Elite 8 consists of Florida vs Syracuse in the South. Michigan St vs UConn in the East. Wisconsin vs San Diego St in the West. Louisville vs Michigan in the Midwest. My Final 4 is Florida vs Michigan St and Louisville vs Wisconsin. Lets have Pitino and Donovan fight it out for the championship, hey why not?
Good luck to all ACC teams and go Cards.