The last team to repeat as college basketball champions was the 2007 Florida Gators. That team got back all of its starting five (the first team ever to win back to back titles with the same starting five). The last team prior to that to repeat was the 1992 Duke Blue Devils. So repeating is not done often.
The only team with a chance to repeat next year is the Louisville Cardinals, of course. So what are their chances? Actually, they just got a lot better when guard Russ Smith decided to pull his name out of the NBA Draft and come back to school.
The Cardinals will miss Peyton Siva. His leadership and also stellar play will be tough to replace. Coach Rick Pitino said that Siva and Billy Donovan are the two best leaders he has ever coached. Donovan has gone on to a hall of fame head coaching career. So that tells you how important Siva is.
But, the Cards will bring back Smith, who averaged nearly 19 points per game and led the team in scoring. Smith is a blur in the open floor. The Cards also will need to replace the shot-blocking of Gorgui Deng as he left early for the NBA Draft. But Chane Behanan is back as well as Luke Hancock, the Final Four MOP. Louisville will also get back injured player Kevin Ware, who they were able to win the title without for the last two and a half games.
Plus, the Cards will have four recruits rated as four star players coming in this season as well. Akoy Agau is the number 13 ranked center in the nation, Anton Gill is the number 13 shooting guard, Chris Jones is a four star point guard and also Terry Rozier is a four star point guard. These guys fit into Louisville’s system as they are not likely to leave after year.
The Cards will have a team of players who have been to two consecutive Final Fours and won a national title. So when they get into the NCAA Tournament, they will know how to win there. It will be interesting to compare and contrast them with their rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats, who will be super talented, but inexperienced.
UK will go with a freshman dominated team once again as they pulled in six McDonald’s All-Americans and Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball among their recruits for this year. Sometimes these classes that UK hauls in pay off huge, like in 2011 when they went all the way and 2010 when they went to the Final Four. But sometimes, the youth is too much to overcome and they struggle such as they did in 2012 and somewhat in their 2010 class, although that class did get to the Final Four despite losing a lot of games in the regular season.
So with Kentucky, you just don’t quite know what you’ll get. But with Louisville, we know they will be right there. One thing is for sure, when those two teams meet, you will not want to miss that game.
Going into the season, it certainly looks lie a good bet that the national champions will again be from the state of Kentucky. So their governor should be happy either way.