Can UofL win big without Padgett?

Louisville entered the season with national title hopes. The Cardinals are 2-0 and ranked No. 6 heading to Vegas this week. But they'll do so without David Padgett, who is likely out for the season with a fractured knee cap. Can Rick Pitino's squad still achieve their lofty goals without Padgett – the team's best leader? FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman weighs in.

Louisville entered the season with national title hopes. The Cardinals are 2-0 and ranked No. 6 heading to Vegas this week. But they'll do so without David Padgett, who is likely out for the season with a fractured knee cap. Can Rick Pitino's squad still achieve their lofty goals without Padgett – the team's best leader?

"We're going to know right away because to me it's all on Derrick Caracter now," said Jeff Goodman, senior college basketball analyst for FoxSports.com. "I hate to say it but this could be a blessing because it could be just what Derrick Caracter needs. Everything now has been put on his shoulders and he has to step up. He has no choice but to do it for his team now."


Louisville's title hopes this season rest
on Derrick Caracter's broad shoulders.
Caracter, one of the most talented and potentially dominating big men in college basketball, played just 37 minutes in Louisville's two games over the weekend against Hartford and Jackson State. Caracter is averaging 10.5 points and 8 rebounds, but made just 3 of 10 shots from the floor Sunday against Jackson State.

"He'll get a lot more minutes. I think Terrance Farley will get a lot more minutes," Goodman said. "To me this is squarely on Derrick Caracter now. He has all the opportunity and they're going to sink or swim with Derrick at this point."

Is Caracter ready for the load that now has been placed on his broad, 18 year-old shoulders? That's the big question Rick Pitino faces as the Cardinals prepare for a tough three game stretch in Las Vegas this week.

"It could work out one of two ways," Goodman said. "The team can implode or they could just take off."

Though Caracter split time with Padgett and the 6'10 Farley over the weekend, Pitino figures to have little choice but to throw the 6'9, 265-pound sophomore out on the court and hope Caracter is ready for the challenge.

"Louisville has no choice but to let (Derrick) play through his mistakes," Goodman said. "He's got to be a man now and just grow up. The talent is there. Earl Clark has played well and I know Terrence (Williams) played good in the first game."

Does Goodman believe that Louisville still has enough talent without Padgett to compete for the national title this season?

"No question. Absolutely, no question," Goodman said. "It's funny. I think everybody knows that Derrick Caracter is a whole lot more talented than David Padgett but you knew you were going to get effort and a smart player with Padgett on the court. But Derrick's ceiling is limitless. And that's the thing – does he buy into this? If he does, honestly, they are a better team with Derrick Caracter playing 30 minutes if it's the Derrick Caracter we've seen in glimpses over the years. When he comes to play there is nobody that can stop him in the country. He's that good and dominant."

Goodman says what Louisville will miss the most without Padgett on the court are his experience and leadership.

"They have some guys that are not only young but immature," Goodman said. "They don't have a lot of good leaders. Padgett was a very good leader and he had been a part of a lot of big games. I think a lot of the leadership falls to Edgar Sosa. He's got to grow up quick and become a leader. He's got it in him."

Goodman also thinks the return of 6'8 forward Juan Palacios to the Cardinals lineup next month will be critical to the Cardinals post-season chances.

"I think Palacios coming back will be a key," Goodman said. "He needs to stay healthy and give them a little of that stabilizing influence that Padgett was going to give them. But they have enough depth if Palacios comes back. The biggest loss is Padgett's leadership but they can more than replace his talent with Caracter and some of the other guys."


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