The defending champion, third-ranked Louisville Cardinals, opened their quest to repeat as champions on Saturday against the Charleston Cougars. It wasn't really a challenge, as the Cardinals won 70-48. One of the top recruits for the 2014 NBA Draft, Louisville guard Russ Smith, put up an amazing performance with 21 points, one rebound, five assists and one steal. For game number two, it was a complete blowout, again. The Cardinals won 97-69, lead by Russ Smith who had 30 points and five dimes. Kevin Ware, who suffered the brutal injury during the NCAA Tournament, did not play in either games despite playing in an exhibition match earlier in the week.
Will Louisville repeat, despite having teams like Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, and Kansas surrounding them? Kentucky has one of the best recruiting classes I have ever seen and they have the potential to go from NCAA Champions to not making the tournament to Champions again. Duke and Kansas brought in the two top prospects for this year, Jabari Parker (Duke) and the apparent "next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant", Andrew Wiggins (Kansas.) Michigan State is always great, and this year they'll start the season off with a win at first-ranked Kentucky. Does Louisville even have a shot?
The answer is absolutely. You rarely see back-to-back championships in the basketball section of the NCAA, and that is because you only have five starters, and most of them usually being Juniors or Seniors. Russ Smith can lead that team to a championship, he is great enough to do it.
Chris Jones, the shooting guard next to Smith, put up 12 points along with five assists and six rebounds. Against Hofstra, Jones put up 20 points next to Smith's 30.The aggressiveness he has shown proved that he is going to be a great contributor to the Cardinals this season and the next three if he does not leave for the NBA. The freshman wasn't a top 100 recruit, but that doesn't stop him from doing work for the Cardinals.
If the Cardinals do not make it to the Final Four this season, it would be a complete surprise. This team may have lost a couple starters and role players, but they're still one of, if not the strongest squads out there in college basketball.