LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville women’s basketball team finished a dribble or a tip from playing for the national championship in Columbus, Ohio last March.

Beat Mississippi State and the Cardinals would have been matched against  Notre Dame in the national final — the same Notre Dame team U of L defeated twice last season. 

Mississippi State beat Louisville in overtime.

Notre Dame beat Mississippi State.

Louisville’s reward was an off-season of playing the Iffin’ Game, wondering about the opportunity that got away as well as thinking about whether 2018-19 will be the season when Jeff Walz’s team will make the final step and win a national title.

Consider all that a five-paragraph prelude to the latest pre-season predictions I have uncovered for the next women’s college basketball season.

Richard Deitsch has taken his talents, laptop and analysis from Sports Illustrated to The Athletic. Deitsch filed his women’s college basketball pre-season Top 10 at TheAthletic.com. (Subscription required.)

Louisville made the cut — at Number 5.

The Cardinals trail (in order): 1. Notre Dame. 2; Oregon; 3. UConn and 4. Baylor.

They lead: 6. Stanford; 7. Maryland; 8 Texas; 9. Mississippi State; 10. Missouri.

This is what Deitsch said about the Cardinals:

The program is built around guard, Asia Durr, an excellent three-point shooter (115-of-277) who averaged 18.7 points as a junior. Durr is joined by senior forward Sam Fuehring (9.9 points), senior guard Arica Carter (7.6) and junior wing Jazmine Jones (8.9.) Advanced metrics suggest junior forward Bionca Dunham will take a step up. She had a 67.2 true shooting percentage, per Her Hoops Stats. Jeff Walz is one of the nation’s best coaches, and the Cardinals will be in the Top 10 all season.

Several important footnotes: Replacing Myisha Hines-Allen in the frontcourt will be a daunting assignment. She was tough, tireless, experienced and productive, a true foundational piece of the program. She has eight points and four rebounds in her first two WNBA games with the Washington Mystics.

But Walz made a shrewd addition in grabbing graduate transfer, Yacine Diop. She lacks the size of Hines-Allen, but she has proven she can produce against Atlantic Coast Conference competition, averaging 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds. She was a three-season starter at Pittsburgh.

Don’t overlook guard Dana Evans, who made the ACC all-freshman team while averaging close to four assists per game in limited time.

Notre Dame will be loaded with several returning starters, some Top 10 recruits and players returning from injuries. But Louisville has earned its spot in the top 5.

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