NCAA Basketball American Athletic Conference BasketballLouisville Cardinals

5 Burning Questions for Louisville Cardinals Basketball

1 of 6

5 Burning Questions for Louisville Cardinals Basketball

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012-13 season could not have gone any better for Louisville Cardinals, as they were one of the best teams in college basketball all season. The Cardinals shared the Big East regular season title, won the Big East tournament then capped it all off with a spectacular run in the NCAA Tournament to win the National Championship.

Can 2013-14 possibly live up to that level of success? Head coach Rick Pitino certainly thinks so, and he recently stated his belief that Louisville could be forming a dynasty. The Cardinals were ranked 3rd in the preseason coaches’ poll, and they are the favorites for the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship.

However, there are still some concerns facing Louisville. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng are in the NBA, and Louisville has to figure out how to replace their talent and leadership. Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely, Kevin Ware is still working his way back from injury and Montrezl Harrell will have to take on a much bigger role.

Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear all return however, and they will be the core of Louisville’s quest for back to back titles. Their experience will be crucial for this team, as will the steady guidance of Pitino.

The Cardinals certainly have the talent to achieve their lofty goals, but there are still a few issues they must sort out. These are five burning questions facing Louisville, and how they answer them will be very important for their success this season.

2 of 6

Will Offense Run Smoothly With New Point Guard?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Losing Siva is a huge blow to this team. He led the team in minutes and assists, he took many clutch shots, he was the heart and soul of the team and he was an extension of Pitino on the floor. Smith could see some time at point guard to replace him, but the Cardinals will mostly turn to Chris Jones and Terry Rozier to fill the void.

Jones is a former JUCO player of the year, while the freshman Rozier was a five star recruit. However, neither has played at this level before, and they will be under enormous pressure. How quickly they can adjust will be crucial, because the Cardinals would prefer to keep Smith at shooting guard.

3 of 6

How Will Defense Replace Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng?

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest concern for replacing Siva and Dieng comes defensively. Siva terrorized opposing point guards, applying full court pressure and leading the team in steals. Dieng was the anchor of the defense, protecting the paint and leading the team in rebounds and blocks.

Replacing Siva will be easier than Dieng, because Louisville has a wealth of talented, quick guards who can run a full court press. They are thin inside, however, and they don’t have anyone with the size to replace Dieng. Harrell and Bohanon will have to step up on the glass, and hopefully freshman Akoy Agau can make a defensive impact.

4 of 6

How Long Will Chane Behanan Be Suspended?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Behanan was a key player during Louisville’s tournament run, but he was suspended indefinitely for repeated transgressions. Pitino said a few days ago that he didn’t expect the suspension to last long, but there is always a chance Behanan could screw up again and be out for a while.

The Cardinals are woefully thin up front without him, and they will miss his rebounding quite a bit. If Behanan misses an extended period of time, this team may not have the size needed to compete with other elite teams. Of course, that is worst case scenario, but it is still a concern.

5 of 6

Will Montrezl Harrell Take Major Step?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Harrell is the one guy that Louisville thinks can make a major leap this season. He didn’t play a ton of minutes throughout the season, but he was huge in the Big East Championship game and a key player in the NCAA Tournament run. He will start this season, and how he progresses is crucial.

The Cardinals lack an inside scoring threat, and they need someone to help fill the defensive void left by Dieng. Harrell will be expected to do both, and the sophomore could be one of the breakout stars of college basketball this season.

6 of 6

Are Louisville Legitimate National Championship Contenders?

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

This is what it all comes down to for Louisville. They want to repeat as national champions, and they think they have the talent. Making things even more interesting is the fact that their cross state rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats, are currently the favorites.

Ultimately, Louisville’s quest for another championship will come down to how well their former reserves adjust to their starting roles. Jones, Rozier, Harrell and Behanan all must develop, because Smith, Hancock and Blackshear can’t win a championship on their own. Louisville has all season to grow these players’ talents, and they should be ready for a long tournament run in March.

Follow Greg Sulik on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google