In any other year, the defending national champions would be the big story of the college basketball season -- a stocked returning roster coming off a title-winning story would dominant the preseason conversation, and what Louisville has done in its first four games would keep tongues wagging.
Because what the Cardinals have done is not only beat opponents; they’ve steamrolled them.
While Michigan State has had to fend off Columbia and Portland, while one-loss Duke had to hold back East Carolina, while Kansas looked sluggish in the first half against Iona, while Syracuse was fending off St. Francis (NY), and while Kentucky is already out of the 40-0 race, Louisville is beating its opponents by an average of 33.5 points per game.
No one has broken the 70-point threshold against the Cards. Despite the new hand-checking rules that many thought would be the death of Rick Pitino’s swarming defense, Louisville is back at it, seventh in the nation in steals, averaging 12.5 swipes per game.
Except the Cards don’t have a fabulous freshman. Nor do they have a super sophomore (though Montrezl Harrell is nothing to sneeze at). Their star player (Russ Smith) has had a ridiculous-ectomy, in an effort to prove his NBA worth.
So they don’t fit the season’s themes. And they aren’t sexy. And aside from the off-court drama, they aren’t overly compelling.
What Louisville is, however, is good -- very good, in fact -- and the Cards also own that big fat championship trophy, so what will it take to start talking about them?
Maybe this weekend will help.
Presuming the Cards get past Fairfield on Saturday they’ll get North Carolina on Sunday. That game lost some oomph with the Tar Heels’ loss to Belmont but if Louisville can do unto UNC what it has done unto others, that ought to open some eyes.
And then maybe we can talk about the defending national champions.