Team preview: Louisville
Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
It wasn't an injury bug that derailed Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals last season. Bugs are docile creatures that splatter harmlessly against windshields. This was an injury viper, a selective striker that stripped the fašade from a poser at the top of the college basketball rankings.
Before the venom took hold, Louisville had won 16 games in a row and risen to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. Along the way the Cards had poisoned two No. 1 teams -- Florida and Kentucky -- and handed C-USA rival Cincinnati a historic, 27-point loss.
The Bearcat conquest was the initial sign of trouble -- shooting guard Taquan Dean had gutted out what was then thought to be a groin strain to score 21 points. Then sublime small forward Francisco Garcia sprained an ankle in a three-point victory over Tennessee.
The full-blown outbreak was soon to follow, beginning at the most unlikely source. For what he called a "urological-related" pain, Pitino took a medical leave of absence in late January. Pitino, Garcia and Dean would miss Louisville's 64-48 defeat of Houston, their 16th straight victory.