Wichita State's Fred Van Vleet tries to slip past Louisville's Tim Henderson on Saturday. Henderson, a former walk-on, has been playing since the injury to Kevin Ware.
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ATLANTA — When Chase Behanan explains the family dynamic of the Louisville men’s basketball team, the forward uses certain terms to compartmentalize certain teammates.
Russ Smith, he explained, has some dramatic tendencies. Wayne Blackshear has his funny moments, and Gorgui Dieng, Behanan said, is “the most unbelievable person.”
Behanan, however, finds a certain niche for Tim Henderson — the easy target.
“We all talk about Tim, but not in a bad way,” Behanan said. “The things he does. On the plane coming back from the Big East tournament, he fell asleep and he got messed with the whole flight. Everybody picks on Tim, but in a good way.”
But in the last week, Henderson has gone from being a target to being a dependable understudy. After Kevin Ware suffered a broken his leg in an 85-63 win March 31 against Duke, Henderson took on his spot in the lineup and became a key factor Saturday in Louisville’s 72-68 win over Wichita State.
“I’ve been here for three years, and I’ve gotten the ball to the best players, and I’ve gotten it from the best players, so I’ve been it already, and I’ve been through it, with the team for three years,” Henderson said. “It’s motivated me.”
Henderson, a walk-on who plays for his hometown program, came off the bench to score six points against the Shockers on a pair of second-half 3-pointers that helped the Cardinals rally for the win.
“After Kevin went down, coach [Rick Pitino] talked to him and said, ‘you’re going to have to play some,’ and he took the challenge very seriously,” Behanan said. “It opened his eyes. This is his opportunity to show what he’s got, and he shows us every day in practice.”
Henderson is embracing the opportunity to contribute to a national title contender.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Henderson said. “I’m enjoying every single second of it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I’ll be talking about this forever. I’ll be talking about this to my kids, to my grandkids all about this.”
WATCH THIS: Michigan will hold a watch party for the national championship game at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and admission is free for Michigan students, faculty, and staff with a valid M-Card. There is a $5 charge for the general public, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis with the lower bowl reserved for students.
Louisville's Rick Pitino could become the first coach to win a national championship at two different schools, and in the same state, no less.
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PITINO’S LUCK: In the past week, Pitino has had quite the good fortune. Minnesota introduced his son, Richard, as its new head coach on Friday, and a day later, Pitino’s horse, Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif. — the same day that the Cardinals defeated Wichita State to earn a berth in tonight’s national title game.
“I can give you some years where it’s gone the other way,” Pitino said. “So you take it in stride. I try not to ever get too low. I fight adversity as hard as I can fight it, and not get too low. When good things happen, I don’t really embrace it. I just say it’s a lucky day.”
But, he said to the media of his winning horse, “I hope you guys bet and made some money.”
BOEHEIM STRIKES BACK: Asked Saturday night about the possibility of leaving Syracuse after this season, Orange coach Jim Boeheim engaged in a heated back-and-forth discussion with CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel during the news conference after the team’s loss to Michigan.
Boeheim later apologized for his outburst, but Pitino offered some perspective on where Boeheim was coming from.
“It was typical Jim, what went on,” Pitino said. “But you’ve all got to realize something, and I’m probably getting close to that, it wasn’t the fact that he was upset you were asking whether he’d step down. How old is Jim, 65? What you’re basically telling him is, you’re getting old. You’re reminding him of that.”
75 YEARS AND COUNTING: In honor of the 75th anniversary of the NCAA tournament, NCAA.com announced the All-Time March Madness Players, Team and Moment.
Fifteen players were voted by fans to the All-Time March Madness Players: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Bill Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Jerry Lucas, Danny Manning, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Bill Walton, and Jerry West.
The 1976 Indiana team was named the All-Time March Madness Team, while Laettner’s buzzer-beating shot in the 1992 NCAA tournament — which beat Kentucky and helped Duke eventually win the national title — was named the All-Time March Madness Moment.
STAR-GAZING: Former NBA players, former college basketball stars, and current pro athletes are among the luminaries that have been in attendance for this year’s Final Four, including Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and professional boxer Floyd Mayweather, who were part of the crowd of more than 75,000 spectators at the Georgia Dome. Also in the stands Saturday night — actor comedian Will Ferrell, who sat in a VIP section on the floor and who wasn’t flustered when he was shown on the high-definition scoreboard at the stadium. Instead, he looked around him with a certain sense of pseudo-bewilderment.