ATLANTA -- The one No. 1 that has held up under the burden of expectations is Louisville, the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament. But the way Rick Pitino sees it, the compound leg fracture suffered by guard Kevin Ware could prove to be his team's Achilles' heel.
Although his team rallied together to beat Duke in the Midwest Regional final after Ware's injury, Pitino is worried about how his loss might affect the Cardinals against Wichita State in Saturday night's national semifinals. Ware provided experienced depth behind starting guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, who expend tremendous energy leading the Louisville's pressing defense and transition offense.
Now junior walk-on Tim Henderson will be called upon to step up. "We don't have a backcourt substitute," Pitino said Thursday. "We had a great rotation. All three guards were playing very well. We can't change our style of play because we won't have a chance of winning, so now we have to play a walk-on. He's got to do the best job he can do."
Pitino said the Shockers "are the best team we will have faced this year at the defensive end. They are Marquette on steroids in terms of the way they play defense."
As a result, Pitino said TV timeouts will be important for his team, providing extra rest for Siva and Smith. Still, Henderson must get some minutes.
Henderson recently said Pitino called him "Benjamin Button" earlier this season because his game was going backward. Pitino laughed when that was mentioned, saying, "That's before Kevin got hurt. Now, without question, he's a Hollywood star. He's definitely going to have the game of games."