As the lone No. 1 seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament, the Louisville Cardinals are favored to win it all. There are many reasons for that, including a star-studded roster, but the things fans can't necessarily see are what will carry the Cards past Wichita State.
The Shockers have surprised a lot of people with their Cinderella run through the tourney, and intangibles have probably had a lot to do with their success. Louisville possesses some intangibles of its own, though, and will use them to its advantage. There is plenty of good karma working into the Cardinals' favor, and when you add that to their overall talent level, it is a deadly combination.
Here are the main intangible qualities that will allow Louisville to defeat Wichita State and play either Michigan or Syracuse for the National Championship.
Kevin Ware's Inspiration
Guard Kevin Ware is a valuable contributor off the bench for the Cardinals as he averages 16 minutes per game and excels in a number of different areas. As insensitive as it may sound, however, Ware is actually a bigger factor for Louisville now that he is on the shelf for the remainder of the season. Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury in the Elite Eight against Duke, but the Cardinals drew inspiration from it and destroyed the Blue Devils.
Ware's teammates were clearly shaken up by the injury at first, but they regrouped and won the game for him. The Ware situation has taken on a life of its own since, as he has been on talk shows and shirts have even been produced to support him. Perhaps all of that will serve as a distraction, but the Cardinals appear unfazed.
An experienced, talented and deep team like Louisville didn't really need any extra motivation to win the National Championship, but they have some anyway in the form of Ware. If things get tough against Wichita State, Louisville should be able to draw strength from Ware and push through it.
Rick Pitino's Coaching
While coaching is obviously a huge part of the success of certain college basketball teams, it isn't something that can be easily measured. Pitino is one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball, though, as he has now advanced to the Final Four on seven occasions. Pitino has also been elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, according to USA Today, so there is a lot going in his favor.
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall is no pushover in his own right, and he will almost certainly get a chance at a big-time program in the near future. However, his experience in these types of situations doesn't measure up to Pitino's. The Louisville coach has been there and done that, so nothing is going to surprise him when his team faces the Shockers.
Pitino's teams have beaten underdogs many times in the past and lost to them as well. He is definitely aware of the danger that Wichita State presents and will make sure that his team is aware too. Pitino only has one National Championship to his credit despite all of the success that he has had, so expect him to coach harder and his players to compete harder than ever.
As far as mid-major teams go, Wichita State has a decent amount of experience. The Shockers made the tournament last year and got a taste of what it's like to play in pressure-filled situations, but the Final Four is an entirely different animal. Pitino has been in the Final Four many times and most of the players on his roster have been there too. The Cardinals reached the Final Four just last season.
All of Louisville's top players are battle tested, including the likes of Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva. All of them are great players regardless, but knowing what it is like to get to the Final Four and fail should drive them to succeed. There is something to be said about a team like Wichita State as lack of experience could be a positive to some degree, but the stage could prove to be too big.
There are no guarantees when the NCAA Tournament field gets whittled down to four, as everyone has a fighting chance, but Louisville has so much going for it right now. It's difficult to envision the Cardinals falling short of their ultimate goal.
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