The one team that nobody wants to really discuss in the big picture of the NCAA Tournament is the defending champions, and even the betting odds on the Louisville Cardinals repeating in 2014 has them as 10-to-1 favorites. That’s well behind Florida, the top ranked team in the country, and Kansas which has an unusual 6-to-1 number.
Louisville ended the regular season ranked fifth in the country, but most bracket experts have them as a three seed. That could very well change depending on how things go in the AAC tournament, and so far things are going pretty well. I’d be surprised if the Cardinals were anything lower than a two seed by the time March Madness brackets are released on Sunday.
There should be a huge bandwagon surrounding the Louisville Cardinals because their betting odds of repeating in 2014 is actually really strong. Russ Smith is one of the most electrifying players in the country, and he just dropped a jaw dropping 42 points on Houston in the AAC Tournament. I hope and pray that there’s a place for the pint sized guard in the NBA, because he absolutely deserves it.
The anchor in the middle is Montrezl Harrell, who replaced March Madness block party host Gorgui Dieng who matriculated to the NBA. Montrezl Harrell hasn’t been the game changing force of nature that Dieng was defensively, but he’s a much better all around player. He scored 14.0 points and hauled down 8.2 rebounds per game while picking up 1.3 blocks on average and does everything his team needs him to. Need rebounds? Got it. Need some points? Check. Need to send a physical message? You got it.
One of the most inspiring players they have is Wayne Blackshear, a do-it-all swing man off the bench who has averaged just 8.6 points and 3.2 boards but seamlessly helps maintain momentum when the team needs him. He’s come a long way in the last three seasons, and is an underrated stud that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. The consistency certainly isn’t there, but he’s been known to breakout for 23, 16 and 20 point games. A needed explosion of the bench could help the Cardinals repeat in 2014 as national champions.
Obviously, the biggest reason to bank on Louisville is the “been there and done that” factor. They know how to handle the tournament, which is something a lot of these teams won’t be familiar with. Anytime someone tried to challenge them last season, they simply found ways to win and showed the type of resilience that you need as a team to survive the madness. Last season they beat Duke, Wichita State and Michigan. That first game was a blowout, but those last two weren’t easy. If anything it helped galvanize the remaining roster that will try to defend their disrespectful betting odds going in to the NCAA tournament.
The long and short of it is simple – the main pieces that made Louisville a champion in 2013 are still there. Rick Pitino is still the coach and Russ Smith is still the point guard. As long as those two are on the same team, page and court then the Louisville Cardinals’ betting odds of repeating in 2014 deserve more respect than what the oddsmakers are giving them.