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April 2, 2013

Louisville the ‘sure thing’ in a season of parity

NORMAN — The word of the season: Parity.

The team of the moment: Louisville.

For a college basketball season in which it seemed anybody could beat anybody, and the No. 1 ranking was never secure, Rick Pitino’s Cardinals have certainly cemented themselves as a prohibitive front-runner now that there are only four teams left. They head to Atlanta listed as 3-5 favorites in Las Vegas, after dispatching everyone from Duke to North Carolina A&T with equal ease on their way to the Final Four.

Trying to stop them will be Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State — a pair of No. 4 seeds and a No. 9, all serving as great examples of how difficult it was to sort out the contenders from the pretenders heading into the 2013 version of March Madness.

“Cinderella found one glass skipper,” said Gregg Marshall, coach of Wichita State, which beat No. 1-seeded Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State on its way to adding some mid-major mojo to the Final Four. “We won four games. I don’t think she found four glass slippers. When you get to this point, you’re good enough to win it all.”

Pitino said he does, in fact, believe in parity during this, a season in which the team at the top of The Associated Press poll changed five times in five straight weeks at one point.

He called the Midwest Region, where the Cardinals were seeded first and won their games by an average of nearly 22 points, “the death bracket.”

“I’ve experienced quite a few NCAAs,” said Pitino, who is coaching his seventh Final Four team. “I’ve never played the likes of a Colorado State in the second round. They’re a team that was very much capable of getting to a Final Four. Then Oregon was just absolutely terrific. Then certainly Coach K and Duke ... To play Duke in an Elite Eight, never mind a Final Four, it was a death bracket.”

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