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NCAA Basketball Louisville Cardinals

Five Reasons Why Louisville Will Win The National Championship

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Five Reasons Why Louisville Will Win The National Championship

Five Reasons Why Louisville Will Win The National Championship
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

In last year’s NCAA Tournament the Louisville Cardinals were one of the surprise teams, reaching the Final Four as a four seed before falling to their in-state rivals Kentucky in the national semi-finals. With so many players returning from their Final-Four team, the Cardinals were an early season favorite of many to return to the Final Four and win a national championship. Louisville was ranked second nationally in the preseason polls and for the most part maintained a high ranking all season long, retaining high expectations and high hopes for March throughout the season.

Everything seemed to be unfolding as planned for Louisville early in the season, as they got off to a 16-1 start, with their only loss coming on a neutral court against the Duke Blue Devils. However, towards the end of January the Cardinals hit a rough patch, losing three games in a row. But since then Louisville has rebounded well, losing only game between the end of January and the end of the regular season, and that was a five-overtime game at Notre Dame.

Since that lost to Notre Dame, the Cardinals have won 10 games in a row, won a share of the Big East regular season title, and won the Big East Tournament with three convincing wins over NCAA tournament teams. They have asserted themselves all season as one of the nation’s elite teams and a legitimate contender to win the national championship. There are a lot of reasons to like Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, but here are the top five reasons why Louisville will return to the Final Four in 2013 and walk away as national champions.

Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.

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Final Four Experience

Final Four Experience
Brad Penner - USATODAY Sports

The experience Louisville brings back from playing in last year’s Final Four could prove to be invaluable if they get back there, and it may even help in the early rounds of the tournament as well. Final-Four experience is often overlooked in March because so few teams are able to make it in back-to-back years, but the Cardinals have a legitimate chance to do so this year. The juniors and seniors on Louisville will also remember getting upset in the first round two years ago, which should fuel their motivation and help them not overlook any opponent they play, which is necessary win a national championship.

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Guard Play

Guard Play
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

Guard play is a must-have to win in March, and the Cardinals have plenty of it. Point guard Peyton Siva hasn’t had the season he was expected to have, but he’s still a great distributor of the basketball and as quick as any guard in the country, which helps get Louisville up and down the floor in transition as well as any team they’ll face in the tournament. Russ Smith is the other key guard for the Cards, as he takes the most shots on the team and is capable of scoring in bunches. Siva and Smith give Louisville a great backcourt duo that helped carry the Cardinals to the Final Four last year, and those two are more than capable of doing it again this year.

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Plenty of Shooters

Plenty of Shooters
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

Offensively, the Cardinals can really spread the floor with a multitude of good perimeter shooters. Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware are the best they have, both shooting over 35% from beyond the arc, but Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear are also more than capable outside shooters that can knock down open looks, and do so in bunches. If any of those four players gets hot shooting the ball it’ll give the Cardinals the kind of lift that will make them difficult to beat no matter who they’re playing.

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Gorgui Dieng

Gorgui Dieng
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

There aren’t a lot of quality big men in college basketball, and there’s certainly no center as skilled as Gorgui Dieng, which will make him a difference maker in the NCAA Tournament. Dieng controls the paint defensively, as an intimidating force that blocks and alters shots like no one else in college basketball. Offensively, he can finish inside, pass the ball, and even knock down a mid-range jump shot when left alone. Louisville isn’t likely to see a player in the NCAA Tournament that can match up with Dieng or a big man that has his skill set, giving the Cardinals an advantage no other team will be able to counter.

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Pressure Defense

Pressure Defense
Brad Penner - USATODAY Sports

Nothing will fuel Louisville’s run to a national championship like their defense. The Cardinals are relentless in the pressure they put on teams on the defensive end of the floor. They press in order to create turnovers, dictate pace, and take teams out of rhythm. Rick Pitino’s team can also fall back into a 2-3 zone that teams that don’t play Louisville or Syracuse on a regular basis will be unfamiliar with. The Cardinals will come after you with all they’ve got defensively, playing physical and forcing turnovers that lead to offense on the other end. It’s a defense that can make any team uncomfortable and a defense that can win a national championship.