Coach Rick Pitino said Jerry Smith will be forced to sit out of this week's Big East tourney due to a thumb injury he suffered after a dunk during Saturday's win against Syracuse. In patented Jerry fashion, the thumb was not actually injured in the act of dunking, yet in an act of celebration following the jam. Smith scored 8 of the Cards' first 10 points Saturday before leaving the game and making way for that crazy cracker Kyle Kuric.
Whether or not Pitino is being straight-forward about Smith's status remains to be seen. It was almost as if Pitino thought the injury was more of a mental thing than anything else. As we have all seen over his 4 years in red, Smith's game feeds off his shot. Jerry could be effective in other phases, but since his shot won't be on point Pitino is worried it will hamper his game. A similar situation occurred with Preston Knowles and his thumb injury earlier this season. Normally, Knowles would be as tenacious of a defender as they come. However, the injury made him tentative and afraid of re-injury.
Where does this leave the Cards in the historic MSG this week? I say Kyle Kuric steps into Knowles' back-up slot and Knowles moves into the starting line-up. With Kuric's epic performance Saturday, Pitino would be crazy not to give him more clock. Many could argue a healthy Knowles is just as effective if not more than Smith this season. Pitino even said Edgar Sosa, who played the 2 in high school, actually looked comfortable playing there in practice, but sounded like he didn't want to be forced into that scenario. This is not as bad of a situation as an outsider would think. Remember, if Smith doesn't get injured on Saturday, you never have Kuric's legendary performance and the Cards are possibly...possibly... fighting for their NCAA lives this week.
The thing to worry about is how Smith missing such crucial games will affect team chemistry when he finally comes back. Pitino is loyal to his upperclassman almost to a fault. Regardless of how well Knowles and Kuric play in his absence, Smith will be inserted back into the line-up when Pitino feels he is ready. If that's in a pivotal NCAA second-round game or even Big East championship, you can only hope his return doesn't cause a hiccup. However, if anyone on the team can fit right back in after missing a few games, it's Jerry Smith.
Louisville is tentatively scheduled to play at 9 PM tomorrow (that'll never happen). Thinking it'll be more like 9:30. Their opponent will be determined tonight when Cincinnati takes on Rutgers at around 9;00 as well.