- Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider
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Former Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, who helped lead the Cardinals to the NCAA championship in April, told ESPN.com that this season's team will be "better" and is "more talented" than last season's title-winning squad.
"They really aren't missing anything," said Siva, who signed with the Detroit Pistons last month after being drafted in the second round. "The key for them will be chemistry, because talent-wise, there's nothing to worry about."
Louisville returns starters Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, along with Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock and emerging big man Montrezl Harrell from last season's team that went 35-5 and knocked off Michigan in the national title contest.
Junior college standout Chris Jones is expected to step into Siva's role as the starting point guard, and Louisville coach Rick Pitino told ESPN.com in July that Harrell will replace Gorgui Dieng as the Cardinals' starting center. Louisville also added freshman guards Terry Rozier and Anton Gill.
Siva, who recently watched a couple of workouts when he was back in Louisville, said that Jones and the oft-injured Blackshear will be major surprises this season for the Cards.
"People haven't seen Chris and a lot of people don't know who he is, but he can shoot, can really score and is as quick -- if not quicker than Russ," Siva said. "He's got a bulldog mentality and loves to pick guys up full-court. He's shorter than me, but he's so strong and athletic and won't be pushed around. He can go for 30 any night."
Siva said that Blackshear, who came into college with no shortage of hype three years ago, finally looks healthy and should be a major factor.
"He's finally had a full summer of workouts," Siva said. "The last two summers, he couldn't do anything because of his shoulders. He's a lot slimmer now. We can't call him 'Fat Wayne' anymore. He's got his explosiveness back and is much lighter on his feet."
Siva also was raving about Hancock, who averaged 8.1 points in a reserve role.
"He has so much more confidence and is shooting the ball much better," Siva said. "People forget that he was hurt last year coming into the season with the shoulder injury, and that's why he struggled early shooting the ball. He's pulling up on the break now and making 3s."
Louisville will enter the season as a legitimate candidate to repeat despite the losses of Siva and Dieng, and the uncertainty regarding whether Kevin Ware will be back 100 percent at the start of the season.
"They are loaded," Siva said of his former teammates. "Even more so than last year. I think they have all the pieces to win another championship."