Palacios uncertain; Pitino changes lineup

With Juan Palacios' status uncertain for this week's Big East Tournament in New York, Louisville coach Rick Pitino will make a change to the Cardinals starting lineup for Thursday's season-opener against either West Virginia or Providence.

With Juan Palacios' status uncertain for this weeks Big East Tournament in New York, Louisville coach Rick Pitino will promote 6'9" freshman Earl Clark to the Cardinals starting lineup.

Palacios, a 6'8" junior, has missed Louisville's past three games with back spasms. 6'5" senior Perrin Johnson had started the past few games in Palacios' absence with Clark spelling him off the bench.

However, with Providence or West Virginia looming in the Big East quarterfinals, Pitino wants to go with the bigger, more talented Clark when it matters the most.

"We're probably going to start Earl Clark in the Big East (Tournament)," Pitino said. "We'll go with him in this game. Even if Tello comes back and makes a miraculous recovery we'll go with Earl Clark."

Palacios' status remains
uncertain for Big East

Clark finished the regular-season strong after getting off to a slow start this season. In Louisville's last 12 games, Clark has stepped up his play, averaging 8 points and four rebounds in nearly 20 minutes of action. The Cardinals won 10 of those 12 contests.

"I just think he's ready now to start," Pitino said. "Earl will do whatever you tell him. I told him in the second half against (Seton Hall) that he had to rebound the basketball or it was going to be a tough game for us to win. He immediately got to the glass. He has improved dramatically."

Whether Palacios will return this season remains a mystery. He hasn't played since helping Louisville score a 61-59 road upset over Marquette Feb. 17. Pitino didn't sound too optimistic about the junior's return this season.

"Knowing Tello, next year is the early date with him," Pitino said. "I don't expect anything with him. He is the worst healer of anybody I've ever seen in my life. I've never seen anything like him."

Louisville will open the Big East Tournament Thursday night at 7 p.m.

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