Ware makes big, bad Louisville the people's choice
TribLIVE Sports Videos
ATLANTA — Louisville already had the bigger names, the better team and some unfinished business after coming up short in last year's Final Four.
All Wichita State had was the cute-and-cuddly underdog angle. Now the Shockers don't even have that.
Kevin Ware is everybody's favorite player since he broke his leg in gruesome fashion last weekend yet summoned the strength to encourage his teammates, and having him at the Final Four has given the top-seeded Cardinals (33-5) added motivation to claim the elusive title.
“We really want it, especially since we're back here for a second year,” Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear said. “With Kevin going down, especially the way he did, it's just making us play harder.”
Louisville plays Wichita State (30-8) in the first national semifinal Saturday night. The Cardinals are 10½-point favorites.
Wichita State has one player (Carl Hall) who salvaged his career after working in a light bulb factory and two more (Ron Baker and Malcolm Armstead) who paid their way to come to school and started on the team as walk-ons. Its coach has invited fans into the locker room after big wins. Yes, this is a school with all the makings of a team the entire country could get behind.
Problem is, in this case, Louisville and Ware already are tugging on America's heart strings.
“I'm just glad to know Kevin Ware now even more because he's probably the most famous person I know,” Peyton Siva cracked. “You know, when you have Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama call you, it's pretty good to say you know that person.”
Louisville's trip to last year's Final Four was something of a surprise, coming after the Cardinals skidded into the Big East Tournament just two games over .500. So when they got to the NCAA tourney and finally got bounced by archrival and top-ranked Kentucky in the national semifinals, it wasn't a shock. Or a huge disappointment.
This year, however, the Cardinals — and everyone else — expect Louisville to win it all.
“I think that's the one difference from last year to this year,” Chane Behanan said. “It's a lot of pressure with everyone expecting us to win.”
Until Ware got hurt, the Cardinals seemed immune to the pressure.
They won their first four NCAA tourney games by an average of almost 22 points. Oregon was the only team to get within single-digits at the buzzer. The Cardinals blew out mighty Duke by 22 points.
Russ Smith was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional after averaging 26 points in the first four games and tying an NCAA record with eight steals against North Carolina A&T. Gorgui Dieng has 10 blocks.
But losing Ware was big. He was the main substitute — the only substitute, really — for Smith and Peyton Siva, the high-octane guards who are the key not only to Louisville's suffocating press but its offense, too.
“We understand with Kevin out that we not only have to play very hard, we have to play very, very smart,” coach Rick Pitino said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Polamalu could be next in long line of Steelers greats given unceremonial exit
- Saturdays considered as snow makeup days
- From Parker to Gilpin, Armstrong prepares for floods
- Armstrong agencies busy helping keep people warm during cold snap
- Penguins’ Lovejoy embracing defensive pairing with Pouliot
- Kittanning YMCA offering fitness program unique to Pa.
- Wolf reverses Corbett, says deal between Highmark, UPMC doesn’t limit continuity of care to very ill
- Experts: Clinton took dangerous path with email system
- Over the falls — Cucumber Falls that is — go 3 Kayakers in OhioPyle
- Pitt instructor witnesses history in China’s ‘Wasteland’
- Rossi: Kang would benefit from less attention