2013 NCAA tournament No. 1 seed: Louisville Cardinals

by | Eye on College Basketball

Coach: Rick Pitino | NCAA tournament record: 42-16

Best finish: National champion in 1996 (Kentucky)

Assistants: Kevin Keatts, Wyking Jones, Kareem Richardson

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Starting lineup
Peyton Siva
G: Russ Smith
G: Luke Hancock
F: Chane Behanan
C: Gorgui Dieng

Top reserve: Forward Wayne Blackshear

Leading scorer: Russ Smith (18.3 ppg)

Leading rebounder: Gorgui Dieng (9.9 rpg)

National titles: 1980, 1986 | Last Final Four: 2012

Why Louisville might win it all: You know Louisville will defend -- the Cardinals have the hardware to prove it. And on top of that, Louisville's offense has had a huge uptick. Why else? Peyton Siva is not the perfect point guard, but he's a great leader and usually makes the right play. They've got ability at every position. You like that X-factor kind of player? Hancock can stick a 3 in your eye, absolutely. Dieng is a premier defender within eight feet of the hoop. The bench is deep. Yes, absolutely Louisville is in the picture to win it all. Anything short of an Elite Eight would be a disappointment.

Why they might not win it all: The Cardinals go through stretches of maddening play -- turnovers in bunches and Siva and Smith making bad decisions. They're in the top three nationally when at their best, but at their worst, they don't even look like they belong in the top 15.

Player to watch -- Russ Smith: There can be no other. His nickname is "Russdiculous," and with good reason. His play is entertaining but often nonsensical. He's a great athlete who sometimes makes bad decisions -- and sometimes even those poor decisions work out.

One guy soaring -- Kevin Ware: Absolutely. Does a lot of good, intangible things. Makes the most of his minutes.

One guy slumping -- Wayne Blackshear: A player whose injury issues set back his career more than I thought. He's a good player who can have his moments, but hasn't scored in double digits since Feb. 17.

Final thought: I almost always trust teams with defense. Louisville has that. And on top of the D -- which was good enough to carry it to Big East titles and a Final Four run last year -- Louisville's offense has had a huge uptick. The team can rally from deficits and that press is so fun to watch.


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