NCAA Tournament

Louisville’s Pitino visits Kevin Ware, sizes up the Shockers

Updated: 2013-04-02T12:15:17Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Louisville coach Rick Pitino made his second visit to an Indianapolis hospital late Monday morning to see Kevin Ware, the player who gruesomely broke his leg while attempting to block a shot in the first half of the Cardinals’ victory over Duke in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday. Pitino said his player was in good spirits.

“Kevin had a good night,” Pitino said. “He’s not in a whole lot of pain. I know right before the surgery, when he was able to watch the players at the press conference, the nurses and doctors told me that was the first time he broke down and cried, when the players were talking about him.”

Among the well-wishers was former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann, whose NFL career ended with a broken leg in a game. He phoned Ware.

Pitino said Ware’s parents, Wes and Lisa, who weren’t at the game, arrived in Indianapolis on Monday morning. Ware is expected to return to Louisville on Tuesday and travel with the team to the Final Four in Atlanta, which is Ware’s hometown.

“He gets to go home and be with his family and be with us on the bench,” Pitino said.

Pitino brought something a long on his visit Sunday after the game — the regional trophy.

“He was real excited about it,” Pitino said. “I said to him, ‘You want me to bring it back or (have it) stay with you?’ He said, ‘It’s staying with me.’ I said that was all right as long as he didn’t lose it.”

Pitino was the first person to reach Ware after the injury — the bone had broken through the skin — and replayed the sequences on Monday during a teleconference of Final Four coaches.

“It was right in front of me,” Pitino said. “I literally went up to help him. As I looked down to help him up, I witnessed what had happened. He didn’t see it. Then he looked down. Both of our eyes caught the injury. That’s when we all started looking and just felt emotionally distraught.”

Pitino on the Shockers

Pitino, whose Louisville team takes on Wichita State in the national semifinals on Saturday, had his eye on the Shockers before the tournament started. He didn’t fill out a bracket. But if Pitino had, he and his son Richard, the coach at Florida International, liked Wichita State, the No. 9 seed in the West Region.

“We just thought of coaches who we thought would move on,” Pitino said. “And I said I thought Wichita State has a great chance of being a surprise team in the Final Four.”

The Shockers and VCU were Rick Pitino’s choices to advance, but VCU was knocked out in the round of 32 by eventual Final Four team Michigan.

Now Pitino has to prepare for a team whose mental and physical toughness he admires. The Shockers came through the regional by defeating Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State. The Zags were the nation’s top-ranked team, Ohio State was the region’s second-seeded team.

Party time in Wichita

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said his team landed in Wichita from the regional victory in Los Angeles about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. He got back to his house about 5 a.m.

“It was a long, long night,” Marshall said. “We really enjoyed the plane ride back, though.”

Michigan vs. the zone

Michigan has collected three straight victories against great defensive teams — VCU, Kansas and Florida. But the Wolverines haven’t seen anything like Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, which has allowed the fewest points through four NCAA Tournament games (181) than any team since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Wolverines coach John Beilein has prepared for Jim Boeheim and the zone while coaching at LeMoyne and West Virginia.

“The personnel, the names change, the abilities stay the same,” Beilein said. “One thing I’ve seen, there’s more shot blocking and right now this is a great steals team.”

Boehiem said his defense is peaking at the moment.

“We’ve played the zone the best we’ve played it probably in all the years we’ve been playing zone,” Boeheim said.

But, Michigan is a different than any NCAA Tournament team the Orange has faced.

“Michigan presents more problems than anybody in the tournament,” Boeheim said. “They’re the best offensive team in the tournament.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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