Louisville's 2013 championship will be celebrated and long remembered for a variety of stirring reasons. The Cardinals rallied around Kevin Ware's gruesome injury; they pulled off 16 wins in a row after a five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame on Feb. 9; Luke Hancock played for his ailing father; Rick Pitino perfectly timed his second title with the announcement of his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
But what might be hardest to recall was how a roster without clear elite NBA potential transformed into the perfect college team. While more than a couple of vanquished Michigan players will hear their name called in the NBA draft -- it's just a matter of when -- the same can't be said for the Cardinals.
At 6-foot-11, center Gorgui Dieng has the best chance to make a career in the NBA paint. Perhaps he's not a superstar in the making, but with eight points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks against the Wolverines, his presence in the middle at both ends down the stretch was imposing and reliable. That's a game changer at the college level.
Point guard Peyton Siva, the lone active senior, should find himself in an NBA training camp. His erratic NCAA tournament matched a similar regular season, but no one can doubt his leadership and defense with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals in Monday's final.
Chane Behanan dominated Michigan on the glass, especially at the offensive end, where he pulled down seven of his 12 rebounds. But at 6-6, he'll never escape the characterization of being undersized.
Similarly, shooting guard Russ Smith is just 6-1 and his .273 shooting percentage over Final Four weekend will be a warning sign to NBA scouts. Yet in the title game, he found a way to blend in with his teammates down the stretch and create room for Hancock, who doesn't even figure to reach the NBA.
In the wake of losing Ware, the former George Mason product emerged into the perfect complementary shooter for Smith and Siva. Hancock's sweet stroke will make him a commodity somewhere. With the right pieces around him, it could be in Arlington, Texas, next season, leading the Cardinals to another national championship.
- Craig Stouffer