Commentary

Louisville is preseason No. 1

Updated: October 3, 2012, 1:34 PM ET
By Dick Vitale

Rick Pitino Debby Wong/US PresswireRick Pitino and Louisville may have more than a Big East championship to celebrate in 2012-13.

I cannot wait for the college basketball season to get underway. Midnight Madness is right around the corner, and everywhere I go, people want to know which team I have at numero uno.

There are a number of very legitimate candidates. Tom Crean has a great group of players returning, led by Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers also a great recruiting class coming in.

Kentucky has to be considered among the legit contenders. John Calipari has reloaded again, with Nerlens Noel the crème de la crème of big-man recruits.

My friends, my choice as the best of the best for the 2012-13 campaign is in the same region of the country as the Hoosiers and Wildcats.

My pick to cut down the nets in Atlanta is the Louisville Cardinals. I will reveal my full top 40 at the beginning of next week.

Why am I going with the Cardinals? Let me count the ways.

1. Experience
The Cardinals had a taste of the Final Four last year before falling to Kentucky. Having a veteran like Peyton Siva back to run the offense in so important. There is a nucleus returning that came so close last year. I look for big things from Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng as well.

2. Blackshear a breakthrough star
Wayne Blackshear missed most of last season with a shoulder injury but he has the potential of stepping up big-time. He can do it all as a difference-maker with tremendous talent.

3. New faces will help
Luke Hancock averaged double-figure scoring at George Mason before transferring. Montrezl Harrell is a highly-regarded newcomer from Hargrave Military Academy who should contribute. Louisville has the depth to win it all.

4. Dieng is a factor in the middle
Having a shot-blocker in the paint can make a difference. Go ask Kentucky how important Anthony Davis was in the middle last season.

5. Pitino is a winner
He should be in the Hall of Fame and winning it all would add a big feather in his cap. His outstanding leadership skills will help get this team to the winner's circle.

I know Louisville's depth took a hit when veteran Mike Marra tore his ACL and was lost for the season. I believe he will eventually end up becoming a leader as a coach, possibly even with Pitino. It is a blow to the team.

I still give the nod to Louisville to put it all together and win the national championship. I cannot wait for the season to tip off, baby!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.