High expectations await Louisville in 2012-13

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One of the first questions asked of teams at the end of their season is how good can they be the following year.

And for the Louisville Cardinals, who went 30-10 and reached the Final Four, the expectation is that they’ll be very good.

The Cardinals lose three contributors in Kyle Kuric, Chris Smith and Jared Swopshire but everyone else is due to return next season.

Add in George Mason transfer Luke Hancock and freshman guard Terry Rozier and Louisville’s got a team that on paper should contend for both a Big East and a national championship.

In fact the Chicago Tribune has Louisville ranked atop their post-tournament poll and our own Mike Miller has them second heading into next season.

The Final Four trip should be seen as the starting point of what has the potential to be a special season for Louisville.

“It’s definitely a building block because we have a lot of the core guys that were here and young guys who can step in,” remarked Russ Smith in the Louisville Courier-Journal piece. “We’re going to be pretty good. We just have to keep up the intensity. We can’t be satisfied.”

That’s the key for any team expecting to make good on the promise of being elite: focus.

Smith and Peyton Siva will both be a year older (and wiser), and the addition of Hancock as a versatile perimeter option who can set guys up should provide a boost.

There’s also Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng inside, as they’ve got the ability to become a dominant interior tandem next season, with Angel Nunez, Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese providing additional depth inside.

But the biggest change likely comes in the health of guard Wayne Blackshear, who missed a lot of time and was limited when on the floor due to a shoulder injury.

With health the Chicago native is an outstanding talent that teams will have a tough time dealing with.

Louisville will have to manage the expectations placed on them, but there’s no doubt that the Cardinals have the talent needed to do so.

“Everybody on this team is going to have to work hard this summer and come back real strong because we know how this feeling is,” said Blackshear.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.