ATLANTA (WDRB) -- University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, in their first meeting with media at the Final Four in the Georgia Dome, discussed Saturday's national semifinal matchup:
PITINO ON ADJUSTING TO THE ABSENCE OF KEVIN WARE: Well, we don't have a backcourt substitute. We had a great rotation. All three guards were playing well. Obviously when you press and run as much as we do, it becomes a great concern when you don't have a substitute. We substitute every game and give those guys breaks. Now we can't change our style of play because we won't win or 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 ON WICHITA STATE GUARD MALCOLM ARMSTEAD: I think Malcolm Armstead is one of the best guards in the country. I think Russ Smith is one of the best guards in the country. Trey Burke. Michael Carter-Williams. The reason we're all here is we have great guards. But he gets in the lane. He's very quick. Got a great hesitation step. They've got a great backcourt, great front court, very deep.
PITINO ON WICHITA STATE'S DEFENSE: I'll say this without any exaggeration. They're 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. If you grab an offensive rebound, they slap it away. They don't let you go into the paint without four guys attacking you. They are the toughest team to score against. Listen to what they've done in this tournament and who they've beaten. But they haven't just beaten Pittsburgh, like we did, by 3 points, they beat Pittsburgh by 25 points. They're up 20 against Ohio State. They pound Gonzaga. They pound LaSalle. They're not just winning, they're pounding teams. You can't do that unless you're a great basketball team, and they are. They're ranked in the top 15 for most of the year. But they are a team that can make a lot of threes. But I'm really impressed with what they do defensively. . . . They've just taken all of those teams completely out of what they do, and we can't allow that and still have a chance to win.
PITINO ON HOW MUCH INSPIRATION KEVIN WARE BRINGS TO THE TEAM: COACH PITINO: I don't know. He's such a celebrity right now, he's doing David Letterman's top 10. I don't know if he has time for us (laughter). I think it's going to be a great motivator for us. We found out a lot about Kevin that we didn't know. We really did. When he went up, I think he was almost thinking that he was going to fall off the stage or something, and he got up really high, was trying to back off a little bit. When that happened with him, we all witnessed a different side of Kevin, something we haven't seen. It's just incredible how adversity brings out the best in people. It certainly brought out the best in Kevin, as well as his teammates.
MARSHALL ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HIS GUARDS AGAINST LOUISVILLE: They're (Wichita State's guards) going to need to be the beneficiaries of some hopefully easy opportunities to score after our guards are able to beat the pressure. They're going to have to come up and help relieve pressure as outlets. We can't play with five guards, because then you're not going to be able to get a rebound. We're going to need all 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. If you have opportunity basketball, then you got to deal with the hand you've been dealt. If you don't have opportunity basketball, we need to try to set something up and flow right into a motion offense.
MARSHALL ON RUSS SMITH: Russ Smith is like a contortionist with his body. He's incredible how he can get in and change angles and get to the foul line and finish. Walking past him today as we were leaving the floor, they were coming out, I didn't recognize him, but he's just a little guy. I mean, he is so incredibly talented for his build. For those of you who are familiar with our recruiting, we signed a young man from North Carolina who's very similar to Russ Smith in stature. Ri'an Holland. That's kind of a good comparison physically. I hope Ri'an can play like him. We really are excited about Ri'an. But that's lofty expectations. Russ is tremendous in his ability to score the ball on the bounce. Malcolm is a little different. Malcolm is more of a mini-train, if you will. He's stronger, stockier, thicker, not quite as shifty. Can do the things with his body the way Russ can, but he can bully a littler 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, lower body. That's how he gets to the rim. Matchups, I can't divulge that. That's state secret (smiling).