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Sports

March 17, 2014

Louisville the team to beat in this year's tournament

(Continued)

A lot of people will jump on the Kansas bandwagon because of Andrew Wiggins, but with Joel Embiid struggling from an injury, they probably won’t be at full strength. Duke has one of the best players in the country in Jabari Parker, but the team has a serious rebounding weakness that could easily be exposed. As for Kentucky, let’s just say their “best freshman class ever” hasn’t quite lived up to the hype.

Probably the biggest thing Louisville has going for it, though, is something that can’t be quantified: the ability to play big in hostile environments. Back in January, I drove down to Connecticut to watch UConn take on the Cardinals in the most highly anticipated home game of the year. ESPN College Gameday was in town, alumni were packing the campus bars, and navy blue shirts were lining every seat in the house.

The atmosphere inside Gampel Pavilion was electric that night, absolutely electric, and yet by halftime the party was all but over and the place was about as festive as a funeral.

Louisville killed that crowd as quickly and effectively as it killed the Huskies on the boards, and while some terrible officiating didn’t help, no objective observer could have possibly denied that Louisville was the far superior team that day. The Cardinals won big 76-64, and obviously their subsequent meetings didn’t go any better either.

Louisville is for real this season and is without a doubt the hottest team in the country going into the Big Dance. Could they get still tripped up by this year’s Cinderella? Absolutely, but in my opinion they are about as safe a bet to reach the Final Four as any team in the country, and they’re easily the last team I’d want to face along the way.

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