Preview: Louisville Cardinals

Veteran Cardinals are AAC favorites and will contend for another NCAA title

Updated: October 16, 2013, 9:40 AM ET
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

Rick PitinoAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesRick Pitino and the defending-champ Cardinals are the heavy favorites to win the AAC.

Louisville Cardinals

2012-13: 35-5 (14-4 Big East)
In-conference offense: 1.06 points per possession (3rd in Big East)
In-conference defense: 0.88 points allowed per possession (1st in Big East)

For the first time in three seasons, college basketball has a legit contender to repeat as national champion. And if you want to argue against Louisville doing it again, you'll have to contend with a lot of facts. For instance:

• Louisville brings back seven of its top nine players from last season.

Luke Hancock, the first reserve to win most outstanding player of the Final Four, will still come off the bench this season.

• For all of the impact freshmen entering the college game this season, Russ Smith has proved to be a game-changer at the highest level. And he's a senior.

• Louisville's adjusted defensive efficiency last season -- 83.1 points allowed per 100 possessions -- was the best since Memphis in 2008-09. The Cardinals' intense ball pressure forced turnovers on 27 percent of possessions (second in the country), and almost all the key pieces of that stifling unit are back this season.


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Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.