Besides starting sophomore Brandon Jenkins at the point instead of Taquan Dean, who is suffering from a recurrence of non-infectious mono, this weekend, the veteran Louisville coach will also insert high-energy senior Otis George into the starting line-up - relegating freshman forward Juan Palacios to the bench.
One of the reasons for the switch to George, which Pitino announced on his weekly radio show Tuesday night, is that the 6-8 Palacios hasn't been getting it done recently on the boards - he's grabbed just six boards in the past two games. And finding a way to get improved play on the glass against Memphis, a team that out-rebounded the Cardinals 41-30 in the first meeting, is one of the key factor's for Louisville Saturday.
George and Palacios share a laugh
after an 84-66 win over Saint Louis
Palacios, who averages 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, has enjoyed an excellent freshman season. He's clearly established himself as one of Conference USA's top freshmen, probably the league's second-best rookie behind only Memphis guard Darius Washington.
Still, as Pitino said Tuesday night, Palacios has "hit the wall" during the past four games. During those games, Palacios has averaged less than five points per game - he had averaged 13 points the six games prior. And he grabbed just two rebounds against Saint Louis in the team's last outing.
"He's no longer a freshman," said Pitino. "We've got to get him to understand the priorities of a power forward. We've got to get him to become relentless like Ellis and Otis."
And Palacios, who competes head-to-head with the 6-8 George in practice each day, understands fully what his more experienced teammate brings to the table for the Cardinals.
"He's a guy that brings a lot of intensity," Palacios said of George. "I have to go against him every day in practice and that's helped me a lot because he plays hard all the time. His defense and his energy are great, too."
27 games into his rookie campaign, Palacios admits the wear and tear of the season has taken a toll on his play.
"Right now, I feel like an old man too," Palacios said in reference to a question about statement's made recently by Dean. "With all of these games there's always something hurting. But you have to get used to it."
You can bet Pitino hopes the move to the bench can help re-charge Palacios' batteries for the Cardinals tough remaining slate.