Louisville the elite team I was looking for

Matthew Trebby
Matthew Trebby

Earlier in the semester, I wrote a column saying there was no dominant team in college basketball.

Since then, a lot has changed, and the Louisville Cardinals have stepped their game up to a level this college basketball season has yet to see. Rick Pitino’s team is the best in college basketball, and it is that team I was looking for.

These teams are usually pretty easy to find – Kentucky of 2012, North Carolina of 2005 and 2009, Florida of 2007 – and before the tournament the Cardinals were that team. While some people – including myself – got cute and picked another school to win the national championship, Louisville was always the best.

Back in January, Louisville went on a three-game losing streak and people were getting worried. The Cardinals were a preseason national championship contender, but they showed some signs of weakness. Some then jumped off the bandwagon.

Looking back a couple months, Louisville just had a few close losses. It happens during a college basketball season, especially in the Big East.

The Cardinals have won 17 of their last 18 games by a combined 16.8 points. Some teams that have fallen victim to Pitino’s team include Marquette, Duke, Syracuse – twice – and Notre Dame – three times.

It is obvious now after that impressive run that Louisville is the nation’s best. The Cardinals have a little bit of everything.

They have a veteran point guard and an elite defender in Peyton Siva. Russ Smith is one of the best scorers and most entertaining players in the college game. Gorgui Dieng is headed to the NBA after the season and does a bit of everything down low. Chane Behanan provides more power down low, along with freshman Montrezl Harrell off the bench. Luke Hancock is the necessary sharp-shooter from the perimeter.

Pitino hasn’t even gotten the best out of former five-star recruit Wayne Blackshear, who starts for Louisville as a sophomore. Still, he has been building his program for this season.

The Cardinals should have no issues disposing of Wichita State. While the Shockers have had a great run to the Final Four, they are no match for Louisville.

A rematch against Syracuse – which would be the Cardinals’ fourth game against the Orange – in the national championship would be an entertaining match-up. The Michigan Wolverines have a possible Player of the Year in Trey Burke, and could also present a challenge.

But it’s looking like Louisville’s year, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t counter rival Kentucky’s national championship last year with one of its own in 2013.