Louisville Back To Final Four?

        Last season's Big East regular-season giants are doomed for a "down" year with top finishers (Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown and Cincinnati) all losing multiple starters; only Notre Dame appears to be in similar shape as a year ago (but will lose injured-Tim Abromaitis). But then there is Louisville, a team that got red-hot down the stretch, winning eight in a row in March before bowing out to Kentucky in the Final Four.

        The Cardinals must replace two of their top three scorers in the lineup, but have the tools to do it. Injured most of last season and making only one start, rising-sophomore Wayne Blackshear is a first-round NBA talent with his size and aggressive play from the shooting guard spot. Rick Pitino will also have former-George Mason forward Luke Hancock eligible after sitting out last season due to transfer rules; Hancock averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists two years ago. The rotation's new additions will also include two top-100 recruits.

        Returning to point guard duties is crafty and dynamic playmaker, Peyton Siva; If Siva can consistently produce like he did late last season, and find some sort of perimeter stroke, he could be a first-round prospect at the end of the season. Pitino's other future pro is power forward Gorgui Dieng, an interior intimidator with his shot-blocking, length and athleticism. Now, Dieng is extremely raw on the offensive end, but even the slightest strides would make him and his Louisville team that much more potent. And then Chane Behanan, an undersized power forward with the bulk to compensate for lack of height and a steady mid-range jumper to boast. Russ Smith, a combo-guard, will likely be the first off the bench again to provide some scoring punch.

        Louisville's roster is talented and deep and plenty good enough to get this team back to the Final Four.

By NBA-DRAFT.com Staff Writer - 7- 24 - 12