Team preview: Louisville

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:06 PM ET
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Editor's Note: Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, long known as the Bible of college basketball, to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams.

COACH AND PROGRAM

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.

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