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(RNN) – Louisville coach Rick Pitino took time to have a few laughs Thursday in Atlanta, including those at the expense of one of his Final Four peers.
"[Syracuse coach] Jim [Boeheim] has been coaching a long time because he's extremely frugal," a grinning Pitino said in a news conference. "He's just a cheap guy. Money means everything to him, and he's going to coach until he's 90 and hoard away every penny he's ever made."
The Cardinals' leader seemed relaxed with the setting going into Saturday's matchup against Wichita State. It is his second consecutive trip to the national semifinals, his third with the program and his seventh overall.
Wichita St. Shockers (9) vs. Louisville Cardinals (1), 6:09 p.m. ET Saturday
"This is a great moment for us because we were there last year, and we got a chance to come back," Pitino said. "Last year, we had a lot of fun, and now the guys are really honed in on winning it. But it's going to take a great effort without Kevin [Ware] to win this thing. We know that."
Ware suffered a compound fracture of his lower leg in Sunday's win over Duke. Pitino said Louisville was one of the better all-around teams in the country with the sophomore healthy; without him the team had problems it needed to overcome.
Wichita State's Gregg Marshall talked Thursday about the difficulties of playing the Cardinals' full-court defensive press.
"We can't play with five guards because then you're not going to be able to get a rebound," Marshall said. "We're going to need all of the available hands on deck to take care of the basketball, be strong with it, organize and attack Louisville's pressure in an intelligent and sound way."
The Shockers coach also spoke about the differences between one of his top perimeter scorers, Malcolm Armstead, and his counterpart Saturday, Russ Smith.
"Russ is tremendous in his ability to score the ball on the bounce," Marshall said. "Malcolm is a little different. Malcolm is more of a mini-train, if you will. He's stronger, stockier, thicker and not quite as shifty; can do things with his body the way Russ can, but he can bully a smaller guard a little bit.
"I'm not saying he's going to bully Russ Smith or Peyton Siva, but he has tremendous strength in his hands, thighs and lower body. That's how he gets to the rim."
Syracuse Orange (4) vs. Michigan Wolverines (4), 40 min. after Game 1 ends
Saturday's second Final Four contest pits Michigan's dynamic offense against the renowned Syracuse defense.
Boeheim's 2-3 zone has held Syracuse opponents to 60 or fewer points in the four tourney games, and 39 or fewer in two of them. He said his team had been "pretty good" on offense through its four games, despite not getting many points in transition.
He also discussed his standout point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, and the different ways he contributed. Boeheim said the sophomore's rebounding had been important, and his knowledge of where to get the ball had improved as the season went on.
"I think the part of his game that sometimes gets overlooked – he's third or so in the country in steals," the coach said. "That's difficult out of a zone. There's not as many steal opportunities as if you're a pressing team."
Coach John Beilein, in his sixth season at Michigan, has brought the program to its first Final Four in 20 years. He recalled his days nearly 30 years ago at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, when he came in contact with Boeheim.
"We became great friends during that time, and I have great respect for him," Beilein said. "Along the way, he assisted me a great deal in getting my first Division I job at Canisius College. I believe he had something to do with me going to the Big East, at West Virginia."
He also credited the effort of his sophomore point guard, Trey Burke, but said Burke wouldn't be where he is without his teammates.
"This team carried itself; he was just out in front so many times," Beilein said. "Those young guys, they look at Trey, they see poise. They see patience. It's worked very well."
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