Without Chane Behanan, Louisville would have never won a national title in 2013.
And without Chane Behanan, the Cardinals aren't winning one in 2014 either.
"This is a university policy that's been stretched to the limits," Pitino said at a press conference in Louisville, streamed online by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Pitino could not elaborate on why Behanan is no longer on his team—other than it wasn't academics—but he was clear as day to the impact when asked about Behanan and Kevin Ware, who may take a redshirt because of his struggles to return from his gruesome leg injury.
"Ware is not a factor on our basketball team. He hasn't been this season so we've been playing without him," Pitino said. "Behanan is a major factor."
Behanan, the major factor, was nowhere to be found on Saturday in Lexington when he went scoreless, had seven rebounds and three turnovers in 20 minutes.
The Behanan of April—the one that manhandled Michigan in the national championship game—had yet to really show this year. But that doesn't mean he wasn't going to show.
Behanan has always been inconsistent. Last season, he scored 30 points against Notre Dame, and five games later he scored just four points in back-to-back games.
He comes from a troubled background, and Pitino made it sound like he hasn't been able to control his demons.
"It's people and places that make people do incorrect things in life... and that's Chane's biggest problem," Pitino said.
Even with Behanan's off-the-court issues, Pitino said he was not a problem on the basketball court. The ability to be the guy that he was against Michigan was at least a possibility and brought hope for March.
The Cardinals will be OK in terms of bodies down low. They still have Harrell, Mangok Mathiang and Stephan Van Treese, and Wayne Blackshear could slide over to play the 4 in a small lineup.
The roster, once some kinks are worked out, is still a top 15-20 team.
To be a factor in the postseason, the Cardinals needed to evolve whether they had Behanan or not. The main issue in their two losses has been an over-reliance on guards Russ Smith and Chris Jones. They combined to take 75 shots against North Carolina and Kentucky.
In the halfcourt, Kentucky could pretty much ignore the other three guys on the floor.
Louisville needs to get production from Luke Hancock and at least one big. They're not even trying to go through the post—only 24 possessions have gone through the post all season, according to Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required)—but Harrell and Behanan both were capable of hurting opponents as the roll man in the pick-and-roll and on the offensive glass.
Behanan was the one inside player who had proven himself in big games to be capable of being that guy. He was the one, when right, that could not be ignored. The pressure is on Harrell to be that guy now.
Even if Hancock, Harrell and Blackshear eventually step up, no one can replace the physicality and rebounding that Behanan could deliver.
Behanan is a man child—on the court, and apparently, off it too.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!