NCAA Basketball Picks: Charleston vs. Louisville

Willie Bee

Saturday, November 9, 2013 2:15 PM UTC

Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 2:15 PM UTC

When we last saw the Louisville Cardinals, Rick Pitino's lads were cutting down nets in Georgia for the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. What will they do for our NCAAB picks today?

A whole new set of challenges await the Cardinals now as they try to become the first back-to-back National Champs since Florida in 2006-07, and only the second team to repeat in the last 20 years. 

Louisville's title defense gets underway Saturday in one of 57 contests on the college basketball betting slate against the College of Charleston Cougars. Tip-off from KFC Yum! Center is set for a little past 1 PM (ET), beginning not only the Cardinals' hunt for a repeat title, but also their 100th year on the hardwood.

Early NCAAB odds for the matchup showed the Cardinals laying 22 points to the Cougars. A total was not part of the overnight release, so college basketball bettors will need to keep checking back at to catch that number when it does come out.

Cards Chalked To Win 1st AAC Title

Among the challenges for the new season is a brand new conference for Louisville after exiting the Big East as champions. NCAA futures odds suggest the Cards will begin the new era with another trophy as 5/4 favorites to grab the inaugural American Athletic Conference hardware. Only Kansas (4/5) in the Big 12 is a more prohibitive favorite to capture a league crown. Louisville's chances to go back-to-back at the Big Dance also look favorable at 8/1, not far behind Kentucky (3/1) and Kansas (5/1). The Cardinals are third in the two conventional preseason polls, but first on Ken Pomeroy's initial list.

Pitino is returning a big chunk of the roster that took him to the top of the ladder last March, but will have to work in replacements for Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng who ran out of eligibility and are now plying their trade in the NBA. In addition, the Cardinals are going to be without Luke Hancock who is nursing an Achilles injury, along with Chane Behanan who fell into Pitino's doghouse and is serving an indefinite suspension expected to carry into December.

Playing without that quartet might lead to some early bumps in the road as the Cards work several new faces into the starting lineup and rotation...or maybe not, given the talent Pitino has at his disposal. To replace Siva, the Cardinals brought in Chris Jones, last year's Juco player of the year, and helping him ease into the new system are Russ Smith and Kevin Ware.

Smith led the team in scoring last season, and Ware himself is going to need some time to get back into a groove after breaking his leg during the win over Duke in the Midwest Region Championship to advance to the Final Four. The backcourt will also see freshman Terry Rozier developing as the season progresses. 

Montrezl Harris and Wayne Blackshear give the Cardinals a solid frontcourt duo, but with Behanan out, Stephan Van Treese will have to pick up his game while redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang continues gaining experience. 

Our NCAAB Picks of the Day for Saturday includes this game!

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Cougars Face Potentially Long Season Ahead

Charleston was no match for Louisville early last season when the Cougars had a decent squad and could hold their own in the Southern Conference. Doug Wojcik's first season as head coach still had some holdover talent from Bobby Cremins' former teams, and while there was an early upset of Baylor, the season ended on a down note despite a 24-11 record with a 1st-round ouster from the CBI Tournament at the hands of George Mason.

The Cougars now move to the Colonial Athletic Association, and Wojcik's second year is going to be a tough one unless he can find a few hidden gems on his roster. Charleston does bring Anthony Stitt and Adjehi Baru back, the 2nd-leading scorer and top rebounder respectively from 2012-13, but will be leaning hard on a couple of true freshmen in the backcourt, Joe Chealey and Canyon Barry. 

The Cardinals and their fans got to let off a little of the leftover gas from last year's championship during exhibition matchups earlier this week vs. Kentucky Wesleyan and Pikeville, but there will be plenty of electricity remaining this afternoon when the NCAA banner is unveiled. I fully expect Louisville to take command from the start, and my free college basketball pick will be on the Cards. 

My pick: Louisville -22 at Bet365

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