Caracter, one of the best freshmen in the nation, sat out Louisville's first three games because of an NCAA suspension. Without him in the lineup, Louisville managed to win two of their first three games, losing to Dayton 68-64 last week. Now, the Cards should receive a major boost from their 267-pound man-child.
"This is a very difficult game for Derrick to go into," Pitino said. "It's not only his first game, but he has to guard against a guy (Ivan Radenovic) who steps away and shoots threes. This will be a very difficult game for Derrick Caracter from a defensive standpoint."
This will be Caracter's opportunity to show his hometown fans, and a national television audience, that he's an entirely different person than the formerly over weight high school phenom who starred at local St. Patrick's High School.
"I don't think he'll be under any scrutiny at all," Pitino said. "The fact that he's even wearing a Cardinal uniform has exceeded my expectations. He's been much maligned the past three years for being lazy and over-weight, but he's lost 56 pounds, is at eight percent body fat and hasn't missed a practice."
While Pitino worries about his defense, Caracter plans to go out and prove that his coach's fear is misguided.
"Coach P says I can't defend anybody right now and he thinks I'm going to have problems with (Radenovic)," Caracter said. "That's just another thing that I'll have to show Coach P that I guard a couple guys, run the floor with them and box out."
Even with Caracter's return to the court, Pitino expects he'll have to go small to match up with the perimeter oriented Wildcats. All five Arizona starters average double-figures and the Wildcats essentially use a three guard lineup with Mustafa Shakur, Marcus Williams and Jawann McClennan, along with forwards Chase Budinger and the 6-10 Radenovic.
"We'll probably have to go a little smaller against Arizona because their 5's and 4's can step out so much," Pitino said.
assignment trying to stop
Arizona has been impressive early in the season, particularly on offense and will provide a formidable test for Pitino's young team on the defensive end. The Wildcats, 5-1 on the season, have scored at least 84 points in all six games this season.
Lute Olson's squad is coming off an 84-72 victory over Illinois Saturday in Phoenix. After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the first half, Arizona outscored Illinois, 48-31, in the second half, keyed by a 21-4 run that covered 8:08. All five UA starters finished in double figures, led by Budinger's 22 points and Williams' 20.
"I think this is probably the most difficult team to defend in the country," Pitino said. "They do great things at all five positions. They're a very explosive offensive team. So it's a great challenge for us."
INJURY REPORT Besides sophomore point guard Andre McGee, Louisville enters tonight's game against Arizona as healthy as they have been all season. Brandon Jenkins continues to inch closer back to 100 percent after scoring 13 points in 25 minutes Saturday in the win over Sacramento State.
"Brandon Jenkins (is) close to being at about 90 percent," Pitino said.
Caracter's return should ease the burden on junior center David Padgett, who Pitino maintains won't be at full strength this season. Padgett played 11 minutes against Sacramento State and pitched in 8 points and five rebounds.
"He's not going to be 100% this year," said Pitino. "We're not going to put any expectations on him."
6-10 junior Terrance Farley missed the Sacramento State with a sore ankle but should return to play tonight against the Wildcats.
"He hurt himself the other day, and there was no reason for him to play (against Sac. St.)," Pitino explained. "We'll definitely have to play him against Arizona."