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Louisville (+750) New March Madness Favorite After Dominant Win Over Michigan

Jordan Nwora taking a jump shot
Jordan Nwora is one of the driving forces behind Louisville's hot start to the season. Photo from @ESPNStatsInfo (Twitter).
  • Top-ranked Louisville is listed as +750 favorites to win the national championship
  • The Cardinals rolled to a 15-point win over No. 4 Michigan in its first game against a ranked opponent
  • Jordan Nwora has lived up to his preseason billing as ACC Player of the Year

Louisville has become the new favorite to win the NCAA Tournament following a convincing 58-43 victory over Michigan on Tuesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Cardinals’ 2020 National Championship odds were +1100, on average, going into the game. As of Wednesday afternoon, they were listed as short as +750. No other team is shorter than +900.

Odds to Win 2020 National Championship

Team Odds
Louisville +750
Duke +900
Kansas +900
Kentucky +1100
Michigan State +1100
North Carolina +1300
Maryland +1500
Michigan +1600
Oregon +1600
Arizona +2000
Memphis +2000
Florida +2200
Gonzaga +2200
Virginia +2200
Ohio State +2500

Odds taken Dec. 4.

Louisville (8-0) became the top choice two days after ascending to the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll. No. 4 Michigan was the first ranked team Louisville faced this season and the Wolverines were coming off wins against top-10 teams North Carolina and Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend in the Bahamas.

Tough on Both Ends

Louisville ranks high in the advanced statistical categories at both ends of the floor.

The Cardinals are third in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, with 113.4 points scored per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, the defense is fourth, allowing 85.8 per 100 possessions.

Defense carried the night against Michigan as Louisville held the Wolverines to 43 points, almost half the 82.4 average they built while opening the season 7-0. Michigan shot just 26 percent from the floor (16 of 58), including 16 percent (3 of 19) on 3-point attempts.

The defense set the tone early as Michigan made just two of its first 13 field-goal attempts and Louisville built a 30-20 halftime lead.

Nwora an Elite Player

Jordan Nwora was selected as the ACC’s preseason player of the year and he has certainly lived up to that billing through eight games. The senior forward is averaging 21.9 points and 7.8 rebounds a night.

Against Michigan, Nwora led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds. He has scored at least 21 points in six games and yet to be held under 17. Nwora is also a pretty good smack talker.

Nwora stepped up at the most pivotal moment of Tuesday night’s game. After Michigan scored the first six points of the second half to cut the deficit to four points, Louisville scored 10 straight, including six by Nwora. The Cardinals were never really threatened again.

While Nwora has taken 37.5 percent of the shots this season, Louisville is more than a one-man show. Three other players are also scoring in double digits: Steven Enoch (11.1), Dwayne Sutton (10.3) and Ryan McMahon (10.1).

Mack Has Cardinals on Attack

Chris Mack took over as Louisville’s coach prior to last season after a successful run at Xavier in which the Musketeers made the NCAA Tournament in eight of nine seasons. Yet while the Cardinals have a storied history, Mack came into a tough situation.

Rick Pitino was fired just prior to the start of the 2017-18 season after the program was ensnared in a sex scandal that eventually led the NCAA to strip Louisville of its 2013 national championship.

Louisville went 22-14 under interim coach Chris Paddack then 20-14 last season under Mack. While Louisville did make it to the NCAAs last March, falling to Minnesota — and Gophers coach Richard Pitino — in its first game, Mack now has the program back to its usual perch among the nation’s elite.

Mack certainly have a sense of humor when it comes to Louisville being ranked No. 1 for the first time since 2013


Can Louisville Win It All?

On Friday night (Dec. 6), Louisville briefly returns to ACC play when its hosts Pittsburgh (7-2). The Cardinals opened the season with an 87-74 victory at conference foe Miami. The Cardinals then finish off the non-conference portion of their schedule with games against Texas Tech, Eastern Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and No. 8 Kentucky on the road.

Conference play then begins in earnest on Jan. 4 when No. 17 Florida State visits the KFC Yum! Center. The ACC is again loaded. In addition to Louisville and Florida State, No. 5 Virginia, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 10 Duke are also ranked.

The Cardinals certainly have the talent to match up with anyone in the ACC, or the country for that matter, as Nwora is an elite player and he has a strong supporting cast.

However, parity has reigned in college basketball this season and Louisville is already the fourth No. 1 team in five weeks. The Cardinals can win it all but there are better values on the board than Louisville at +750.


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