As the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, the Louisville Cardinals will begin their run toward a 2013 national championship when they meet 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T at 6:50 p.m. ET on Thursday.
In the field of 64, Louisville is obviously one of the favorites to win it all, but I'm here to highlight some key statistics that could bolster that argument in your eyes.
Besides a 10-game winning streak, here are three important statistics that indicate success for Louisville in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
It may not seem like an important statistic at first glance, but teams that turn it over in the NCAA tournament don't succeed.
Louisville ranks second in the nation with 10.7 steals per game, led by Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, who each average at least two steals per game.
The Cardinals displayed their sticky fingers against Syracuse when they won the Big East title, as Siva recorded four steals and Louisville forced 19 Orange turnovers.
If Louisville continues to force turnovers throughout the NCAA tourney, it'll be playing for a national championship on April 8.
Strength of Schedule
The Cardinals will make a deep run in the tournament because they've been battle tested.
Louisville fought through the sixth-toughest schedule this season, and it turned out pretty good for Rick Pitino & Co., as they finished 29-5 and won a second consecutive Big East title.
The Cardinals have impressive wins over Memphis (14 RPI), Marquette (12 RPI) and two wins against Syracuse (13 RPI), to go with a total of 10 wins against teams that own a top 50 RPI.
Even with the difficult strength of schedule, Louisville still outscored opponents by more than 15 points per game.
To me, this may be the most important statistic for the Cardinals.
As you know, teams competing in the big dance don't have the luxury of playing in their home arena before their home crowd, making road and neutral site wins all the more impressive come tourney time.
Louisville went 8-3 on the road this season, beating Memphis and Syracuse away from home while sporting a 6-1 record at neutral locations.
Pitino has molded his squad into a team that's not afraid to go on the road and knock off an opponent, and that's essentially what it'll be doing as Louisville attempts to win its third national championship.
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