Last season: 35-5, 14-4 Big East; won NCAA championship
What to watch: The suspension of power forward Chane Behanan put a major chink in Louisville's armor, but there's a chance he could return in December.
Montrezl Harrell, a second-team all-conference pick in the pre-season, probably will take over with Behanan out.
Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear are returning starters on a team that is pegged to win the American Athletic Conference.
U of L enters its 100th season of basketball known for tenacious defense, which will again be its calling card. U of L ranked second in the nation in steals last season and was 21st in scoring defense. The Cards have ranked among the top 10 in the nation in steals for three consecutive seasons.
Smith is the chief thief, having averaged 2.1 steals a game as a junior.
The leading scorer on the title team at 18.7 a game, Smith leads a U of L backcourt that includes two veterans and a some highly touted newcomers.
The veterans are Kevin Ware, who is nearly fully recovered from a grotesque leg injury suffered during the Elite Eight, and hometown product Tim Henderson.
The newcomers include Chris Jones, the National Junior College Division I Player of the Year who averaged 22 points for Northwest Florida State College last season.
Then there is the Hargrave Military Academy tandem of Terry Rozier and Anton Gill, who combined to average more than 57 points a game last season. Rozier scored 69 points in one game, and Gill twice eclipsed 50 points.
Along with Harrell in the frontcourt, U of L has Blackshear, who started 34 games last season. Luke Hancock, always a three-point threat, was the first non-starter to earn Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.
Freshman Akoy Agau, who blocked 81 shots as a high school senior, also could help.
With Gorgui Dieng now in the NBA, U of L will look for Stephan Van Treese to step up, along with redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang. Harrell also could see time in the pivot.