Apr 8, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith cuts down the net after Louisville won the championship game in the 2013 NCAA mens Final Four against the Michigan Wolverines at the Georgia Dome. Louisville Cardinals won 82-76. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Louisville Cardinals Stand NO Chance of Repeating as National Champions against the Kentucky Wildcats even with the return of Russ Smith


Ok so Russ Smith is returning to Louisville.  Big deal.  Sure he was the best perimeter defender and leading scorer at 18.7 PPG but what they’re gaining with him coming back doesn’t negate losing Gorge Dieng and Peyton Siva’s loss.  As much as UK fans love to give Siva the business, and deservedly so, but Siva was the motor that drove that engine and Dieng was the eraser of mistakes while providing a little offense and incredible defense.  No I’m not saying Louisville is Kentucky Northwest but they had some similarities to the 2012 National Championship team and Jeff Goodman seems to think that the return of Russ Smith makes the Cardinals a legit Final Four team again.  I remind you that he is a member of the same group that ranked this season’s NIT team in Lexington at #3 in the country so I don’t value his opinion greatly.  Nevertheless, I give you what his logic.

Smith was considered by most NBA executives as a second-round pick, and could improve his draft stock next year with improved decision-making.

“The pros of staying were so much better than the pros of leaving,” he said. “What was crazy, the pros for me leaving were very immature. You have to put the work in to get better, you have to do this and you have do that, those are all challenges and we both felt I’d be running away from getting better and maturing as a player if I just left. I have new goals and new challenges, and I’ll reach them.”

His return makes Rick Pitino’s team a legitimate contender to win back-to-back national championships. The Cardinals also return Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell — and will add talented junior college point guard Chris Jones.

“I love to win,” Smith said. “With the group we have coming back, I want to go out as a winner, as well as to get my degree.”

The Brooklyn native took his game to another level in the NCAA tournament, totaling 134 points in six games. Smith was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest region, and could be an early favorite for All-American honors in 2013-14.

While on paper it looks like rich Pitino has a chance to repeat as National Champion, something he’s never done BTW, the absence of Siva and Dieng cannot be overstated.  Siva’s decisions were occasionally questionable but typically solid.  Dieng, again, was that presence in the post that is always necessary to win a Title and they don’t have a C worth a damn now.  Sure they have some beastly forwards in Behanan and Blackshear coming back but a Forward isn’t a C and Behanan didn’t patrol the post like Dieng.

As for Russ Smith’s options in the draft, as Goodman says he was a second round pick and it corroborates what I read on Twitter at one point where the question was posed, “who wants a 6’0″ SG who doesn’t pass?”  Answer:  No one.

As much as I think his decision to skip the draft was a poor one, shocker, he claims winning is more important to him than the NBA.

That’s ironic since a second round pick isn’t likely to get drafted by a terrible team.  Those teams are reserved for the lottery, which he was NEVER projected to be a part of.

Does his decision to come back help Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals?  Absolutely.

Is it enough to put them in consideration for back-to-back National Championships?


Get a grip.  They are going to be good but the “flash in the pan” Hancock isn’t going to stand out so Louisville fans need to take a step back and just enjoy their 2013 National Championship.  It’ll be their last for another 20+ years.

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Tags: Basketball Articles Kentucky Wildcats Louisville Cardinals

  • Scott

    You do understand the difference between ranking a team of freshmen who have NEVER competed against collegiate competition versus ranking a team who lost 2 players from last year’s roster? Sure Dieng and Siva will be missed, but you can’t assume anything when it comes to new players. Davis was a one in ten years type player, and it took him and a returning core of smart players in Lamb and Miller to win in 2012. Who is smart and crafty that is returning? Wiltjer? LMAO. It’s entirely possible that this mega team can slaughter everyone and go undefeated. It’s also entirely possible that they don’t gel as teammates and they get upset early or go to the NIT again. If you’re going to make such a rash judgment of talent coming in at UK, why discount the talent coming in for UL other than blue colored glasses? Not really a quality analysis there, bud.

    • Capurnicus

      I cant see them being nearly as good without Siva or Dieng. Poythress and WCS will be the returning players that can lead UK to #9.

  • http://twitter.com/wmdaveh Dave

    Welp. That was much worse even than I figured it was going to be. Wish I could have those 2 minutes I spent reading this back. Tell us.. did you write an equally skillful and accurate prediction about how 2013 UK’s season was going to end at NIT last year?

    • http://www.facebook.com/seth.pauley Seth Pauley

      Every expert analyst iv read about has clearly stated that there was only one player on uks roster last year with the same talent level as the recruits this year. Also the numbers match this statement, only Noel was a #1 ranked recruit and i think they got that right, he didnt do to bad as a freshman(lol)in surpassing davis’s blocking rate per game. Poythress highest rank was 7, goodwin was barely in the teens, and WCS was in the 40s. THIS WAS ALSO DURING A VERY VERY DOWN YEAR FOR H.S. RECRUITS. The talent and play dropoff from a top 5 pick to top 10 is actually huge. So without Noel, uk literally had NO top 7 or better picks and no bench or starters from the title year. Add atrocious guard play and u had the bigs that were pretty good, Poythress and WCS look bad because the guards cudnt do their job and set plays and get the bigs the ball.
      If u think that uk is gonna look like last year ur in for a rude awakening. There is a VAST difference in that class vs having the #1 pick on 4 out of 5 positions on the floor and a bench that would start at many D1 schools.
      If you think two 6-5 uber athletic interchangeable twin guards that throw lob dunks to eachother all day and have run literally thousands of plays together for their WHOLE lives wont bring sum chemistry and mojo for uks guardplay ur gonna wake up with ur feelings hurt. Smith is not gonna have much fun keeping his legs goin that fast for 40 mins while the twins and superquick and long young get rotated on him always bringing a length advantage and fresh legs. The best lungs tire, the long arms dont shrink and smith has no backup anything like him, id reccomend pregame blood doping for him to at least help keep up.Hey it worked for lance armstrong right…
      Ok not having a true center, well that is in fact a serious problem. Forwards absolutely do not anchor a team the way a true center does. Dakari Johnson is gonna b hard to move, his positioning awareness will mean rebounds and thats a fact and he likes and invites contact so go on ,play physical w him. WCS, glad im not tasked with keeping up with a 7 athlete that turns his legs over like a damn point guard. He absolutely came on hard after Noel went down. Add Randle, who also likes to get rebounds and loves to return contact and the old hack slap foul tactic is not gonna b quite so great. I am genuinely looking 4ward to Dec. 28th

  • BaskeballNut

    Boy, like most Ukant fans you have a wonderful way of showing your bias and underlying hatered of everything non uk. You’re an ass and a first class one at that. Typical Ukant fan…

  • Scott Reed

    You fail to mention Harrell, a 6’9″ power forward with a 7’0″ wingspan. Gorgui will be missed, but to say the Cards have no chance of repeating is without sound logic.