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Louisville Basketball: Why Cardinals Will Win National Championship

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 31:  (L-R) Chane Behanan #21, head coach Rick Pitino and Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrate in the final minute as they won 85-63 against the Duke Blue Devils during the Midwest Regional Final round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 31, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 31, 2013

Louisville has everything it needs to win the national championship this year, no matter who the Cardinals play next.

The Cardinals (33-5, 14-4 Big East) will play underdog Wichita State in the Final Four. If (or should I say, "when") they beat the Shockers, they will face the winner between Michigan and Syracuse in the national title game.

The Cardinals suffered a big blow after losing backup guard Kevin Ware to a broken leg in the Elite Eight against Duke, but they still have enough to win the whole thing.

It starts with balance. Louisville ranked 23rd in the nation in offensive efficiency and third in defensive efficiency heading into its matchup with Duke, via TeamRankings.com.

The Cardinals also rank second in opponents' turnover rate. Beyond superior on-the-ball defender Peyton Siva (2.2 steals per game), Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan have all averaged 1.4 steals or more this season. 

Duke shot 36.5 percent from the floor against Louisville in the Elite Eight. Seth Curry, who had dropped a combined 72 points in his past three games, scored 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting while he was constantly badgered by Siva and Co.

The Cardinals could get out-rebounded down the stretch. They could stop hitting their shots and fail to get to the free-throw line. But even with the emergence of freshman forward Mitch McGary, I don't think a strong rebounding squad like Michigan would out-rebound Louisville too much (if at all) and—seriously—when was the last time the Cardinals didn't get to the free-throw line a lot (they shot 40 percent against Syracuse in the Big East title game but attempted 36 free throws)?

Michigan figures to be Louisville's greatest test if the Cardinals meet the Wolverines in the national championship game. The Wolverines faced a similar team in Florida in that the Gators were a balanced squad, but the one thing Florida didn't have that Louisville does is consistency. The Cardinals have won their last 14 games, while the Gators suffered losses to Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ole Miss down the stretch in the regular season.

Any way you slice it, Rick Pitino and the Cardinals have the upper hand to win it all this season.
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