Louisville Cardinals rise to top of polls impressive

The Louisville Cardinals surely earned their respect after moving to the top of the polls a week earlier after defeating Michigan and Pittsburgh impressively last week.

Some observers were wondering how the Cards got to the top so quickly after fizzling out in 2018. Head coach Chris Mack has a better squad to avoid the collapse last year during the conference season and early ouster from the conference tourney and NCAA Tournament last March. Junior forward Jordan Nwora, who was named ACC player of the week following the wins, is the nation’s fastest-rising star sitting on top of the kenpom.com player of the year standings by quite a wide margin. Nwora is averaging 21.6 points per game and he had 41 points combined in the two wins over the Wolverines and the Panthers. Senior Steven Enoch gives the Cards and inside presence and senior Dwayne Sutton rates as one of the nation’s most efficient players.

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It’s no wonder why the ‘Ville has also assumed the position as the favorite to win the national championship at around 7-1, passing Michigan State (8-1), which already has three losses. Considering how wide open the field is this season, many of the top contending teams have reasonable odds for bettors looking to get involved in the current futures markets for the NCAA championship.

The usual suspects, including other ACC contenders, are currently behind the Cardinals with Duke leading the way at +850. Kentucky (+950) and Kansas (+975) are nearly double-digits, while Virginia (+1000), North Carolina (+1250), Maryland (+1300) are also in the mix with attractive odds.

And also considering the way the Cards are playing defense, one could only imagine what the final score of UL’s two matchups with Virginia will look like this season. The two teams will meet in a couple of months, including the regular-season finale in Charlottesville.

Louisville is a likely favorite in every remaining game it plays this season sans a mid-January trip to Durham where even Duke could end up just a one- or two-point choice. The Cards, a good shooting team, have more offense than the Cavs and should remain the favorite no matter the outcome of Tuesday night’s neutral site contest with Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden.

The ACC road is hectic, as well, so certainly don’t expect some historical season, but given the mishmash of teams with no clear-cut favorite at the top, consider Louisville “in-pocket” as a futures’ play at 7-1 or better.

Thursday

Iowa +3 at Iowa State: The Hawkeyes’ loss to DePaul doesn’t seem so bad now, especially with their other two losses coming to undefeated San Diego State and Michigan, whose only blemish was to top-ranked Louisville. Iowa’s likely to attract the public’s attention here, but consider the Cyclones’ loss to Michigan was 87-78, while Iowa allowed over 100 points to UM in a 103-91 loss. IOWA STATE

Saturday

Oregon +5 at Michigan: Michigan’s 58-43 loss to Louisville last week was following a win over Gonzaga and before the Big Ten opener. That sandwich game makes this spot more attractive, especially considering the early start time for the Ducks (9 a.m. PT). Michigan is coming in off another conference game against Iowa on Wednesday, but can’t consider the distraction since the Wolverines only play UMass and Presbyterian for the rest of the month. MICHIGAN

Memphis at Tennessee, Total 144: The Volunteers lost to a superior team against Florida State for their only blemish of the season but have wins over comparable teams to the Tigers in Washington and Virginia Commonwealth. Memphis comes in with a six-game winning streak with its only loss this season coming to Oregon. Last year’s matchup between the teams resulted in a 102-92 win for the Vols. The Tigers’ defense appears improved this year, but the expectation in this matchup seems similar. OVER

Gonzaga +1.5 at Arizona: The Bulldogs are expected to come in as a short underdog here to the Wildcats, so prefer them in that role in a non-conference game. The ‘Zags just knocked off Washington on Sunday as Killian Tillie appears to be gaining peak form. Arizona was 9-0 straight-up before the 63-58 road loss to Baylor last Saturday. Even if this line moves closer to a pick’em or if GU ends up a slight favorite, the freshmen-heavy ‘Cats may still be in the learning process against a team like this. GONZAGA

Last week: 2-2

Season: 11-9