It’s hard for a team in any sport to live up to lofty expectations, and it is even harder for a program to defend a championship, a lesson the Louisville Cardinals have learned the hard way this season. Less than a year since cutting down the nets in Atlanta, Louisville continues to top the AAC standings, but have still failed to project itself as a championship contender. The Cardinals have proven capable of winning the easy games, but the team has struggled to earn signature wins and supplant itself as a viable title threat.
On Tuesday, Louisville recorded only its second top 25 victory in a season full of chances as the team knocked off the Southern Methodist Mustangs in Dallas. Russ Smith continues to lead the way for the Cardinals, as he recorded 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win. On a night that saw the bench only score three points, the starters carried the load in a much needed confidence boosting win. On the bright side, the Cardinals delivered a win in a hostile environment that has stymied many worthy opponents this season but Louisville still has a lot to prove going forward into the AAC tournament.
The Cardinals’ record of 25-5 looks impressive on paper, but the team’s capabilities do not mirror those of a year ago when the Cardinals won it all. A lack of depth, in large part due to the loss of Chane Behanan, and the inconsistent play against quality opponents hinders the Cardinals’ chances of repeating greatly.
Louisville will ultimately go as far as Smith can carry them, which should scare fans across the bluegrass state, as you never know who is going to show up, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
Greg Douglas is a College Basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.