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NCAA tournament team previews: Louisville Cardinals

Russ SmithRuss Smith ("Russdiculous") has improved his passing while continuing to be a threat to score anywhere on the court, anytime in the game. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 29-5, 15-3 in American Athletic Conference

RPI/SOS: 19/79

Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 117.3 (9th) / 90.6 (6th)

Seed: No.4 in Midwest

Impact player: Russ Smith, senior guard: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.1 SPG, .405 3PT PCT

The Case For:

Louisville has one of the best offenses in the nation powered by one of the best players in the nation. All-America guard Russ Smith is the motor behind the Cardinals’ attack, which ranks eighth in the country in scoring (82.1) and 10th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. The defense isn’t too shabby, either, and Louisville proved that by claiming the American conference title without allowing more than 65 points in any of its three games. Perhaps most importantly, these Cardinals enter the Big Dance with a 29-5 record, the same mark as last season’s NCAA title-winning Louisville squad before it kicked off the tournament.

The Case Against:

The Cardinals are the defending champs, but they don’t have an overly impressive slate of wins. As SI.com’s Michael Beller pointed out in his bracket breakdown, only four of Louisville’s 29 wins came against teams that claimed a spot in the NCAA field. The Cards also are slated in the most difficult region of the NCAA tournament, the Midwest.

SI Prediction: Beat Manhattan in second round, beat St. Louis in third round, lose to Wichita State in Sweet 16

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts

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