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December 27, 2012
After getting checked out by doctors Wednesday, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng was cleared to play in Saturday's Louisville-Kentucky showdown. That's big news for the favored Cardinals.
Dieng, who has missed the last seven games due to a fractured bone in his hand, had a screw inserted into the wrist and was healed enough to work out with the team Wednesday.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told the C.L. Brown that Dieng won't just play against Kentucky - he will start.
"There's no easing with the Big East coming up, we're going to start him," Pitino said. "Even coming off a month layoff he's still a lot better than what we have at that position mainly because he communicates so well. He's smarter than everybody. It's not just the physical part, he talks constantly. He tells people where to go. He picks up the scouting report perfectly."
Having Dieng back in the lineup gives Louisville the height to combat Kentucky's towering duo of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Cardinals have several other post players, but none has the combination of height and skill like Dieng.
Starting power forward Chane Behanan is powerful, but gives up nearly five inches in height to Noel. Backup center Montrezl Harrell is just 6-foot-8. Backups Stephan Van Treese, a 6-9 veteran, and 6-10 Zach Price aren't as skilled or explosive as Dieng can be in the post.
Harrell, Van Treese and Price also don't have the communication skills that Pitino has praised Dieng for. In recent weeks, Pitino has compared Dieng's ability to run an offense and passing ability to David Padgett, one of the better big men passers in Louisville history.
So with Dieng back in the starting lineup it not only gives Louisville extra height but also a better defensive presence, better passing and ball movement and another offensive threat. Still, fans shouldn't expect Dieng to return without a little adjustment period.
Pitino told Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports that Dieng will have some rust on the defensive end.
"He's in great shape," Pitino said in regards to Dieng on Wednesday. "His defensive timing is off, but he looks good offensively."