The No. 5 Louisville Cardinals are set to defend last season’s national title and will look to become the first team to win consecutive championships since
Billy Donovan’s 2006 and 2007 Florida squads completed the feat nearly seven years ago.
Louisville ended the regular season by beating three of the four AP Top 25 teams it faced
during the final two weeks of the year and clinched a share of the AAC title with the No. 13 Cincinnati Bearcats.
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The Cardinals, however, probably still need to win their conference tournament if they want to grab a Top 2 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament next
week. The No. 5 to No. 12 teams in the AP rankings all have somewhere between five and seven losses, and any of those squad could easily leapfrog
Louisville in the tournament seeding if the team doesn’t manage win the AAC tournament. Let’s take a closer look at Louisville title hopes with picks,
predictions and analysis.
Louisville 2014 NCAA Tournament Story Lines
If there was any doubt about the Cardinals heading into the AAC tournament, the team put it to rest on Thursday with a dominating 61-point victory over
Rutgers in the conference quarterfinals. The No. 5 squad in the national held a woefully-overmatched Rutgers team to 31 total points and only 15 during the
second half. The defending national champs played smothering defense and kept Rutgers to 24 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent from the 3-point
Coach Rick Pitino’s squad continued its dominance on both ends of the court, winning its 10th game in 11 tries. Louisville will be looking to win its third
straight conference tournament and fourth in six years as its heads into the final rounds of the event this weekend. The squad will also be moving to the
already-tough ACC in July and was only making a pit stop in the AAC this season.
The Cardinals received double-digit points from five players during Thursday’s matchup and had 10 of their 11 players on the roster score a point. The team
was led by the ridiculous 18-point, five-rebound, four-assist and four-steal performance from its junior guard Chris Jones. Louisville’s leading scorer,
Russ Smith, also had a big game with 16 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Louisville 2014 NCAA Tournament Odds and Key Trends
Louisville is currently receiving the seventh-best 2014 national title odds at +1500, according to Sportsbook.ag. The team ended the regular season with a 16-13 overall ATS record
and a 14-13 totals record. Even though Louisville was not a great ATS squad, it did manage to cover six of its last 10 matchups and four of its last six
games as a double-digit favorite.
Louisville was the 12th-ranked scoring team in the nation with an average of 81.8 points per game on 47.5 percent field-goal shooting from the
field (30th). The Cardinals also the 45th-ranked rebounding team in the nation with an average of 37.8 per game. On defense the team allowed the
19th fewest points with an average of 61.8 and was a top 25 ranked squad in field-goal and 3-point percentage allowed. Louisville also had four
double-digit scorers on offense.
Louisville Cardinals 2014 Odds to Win the 2014 NCAA Tournament Predictions
Louisville is the fifth-ranked team in the nation and is receiving the seven-best national title odds, yet it seems to be getting overlooked in the title
conversation heading into next week’s NCAA Tournament. Very few people are talking about the Cardinal’s chances of repeating, but after Thursday’s superb
performance, maybe that’s exactly what everyone should be focused on. The team has experience, talent and is well-coached—heading into a single-elimination
tournament, what more could you ask for? This Louisville squad has Sweet 16 or better written all over it. Wagering on Louisville to win the 2014 national
title is a solid bet to make. Expect the team to make it to this season’s Final Four.
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Read more articles by George Monroy