1-Seed Louisville Cardinals: Why Are They All Of A Sudden Locks To Win The NCAA Title?
Remember when Columbia beat Villanova in basketball this season? It was November 20, 2012, and the Lions from Columbia not only beat the Wildcats of Villanova, they destroyed them: 75-57. This is the same Villanova team that went on to handle Louisville 73-64 on January 22 while Columbia failed to produce a winning record in the Ivy League. That's the kind of college basketball season it's been this year. One that makes no sense.
But now, everyone is handing the title to Louisville, coronating them as the overwhelming favorite in this NCAA season that saw the number one ranked team lose what seemed like every week. However, with a big second half comeback win against Syracuse in the Big East Championship Game, college basketball fans seem to have forgotten how crazy this college season was and decided that Louisville was by far the best team in the country. Louisville is a fantastic team, but in a season that has been anything but predictable, beware that the Cardinals may not be the safe bet to cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
Since their triple overtime loss at Notre Dame on February 9th, Louisville has rattled off 10 straight wins. A closer look, however, reveals that this streak isn't as spectacular as one would think. The most impressive win in that span came at 12th ranked Syracuse, a team that was in the midst of losing 4 of 5 games, including a 61-39 drubbing at the hands of Georgetown.
Louisville's win over Syracuse in the Big East Championship was head turning, but taking stock of how good Syracuse actually is is important. This is a team that has sputtered horribly during the last third of the season. They are 8-8 in their last 16 games, with their biggest win coming against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament (a team that had dominated them their previous two meetings).
This Louisville team also had a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown. This was right after they received a number 1 ranking in both the AP and Coach's Poll. Their loss to Duke is rendered moot not only because Duke is very good, but because Gorgui Deng was injured. (It should also be noted that Duke has only lost one game with Ryan Kelly in the line-up, yet the so called "experts" have written Duke off after their loss to Maryland.)
Louisville is a very strong team. The 16-minutes they played to end the Big East Championship was probably the best 16-minutes played by any college basketball team this season. Beating a struggling Syracuse team, even when being down by double digits, and playing 20 minutes of great basketball shouldn't be a reason to give the title to Louisville.
Last year Kentucky was the dominant team in college basketball the entire season. This year's Louisville team is no Kentucky. They are a great basketball team that could very well win the NCAA Tournament, but making them the overwhelming favorite is a mistake.