Louisville Star Chane Behanan Suspended Indefinitely: How It Will Affect the CardsPosted by Mike Lemaire on October 17th, 2013
Louisville’s once-promising chances at repeating as National Champions took a hit Thursday morning as coach Rick Pitino announced that star forward Chane Behanan is suspended indefinitely for violating university policy. While indefinite suspensions are occasionally treated as superficial by media members and fans, Pitino made it clear in his announcement that Behanan would not be coming back any time soon, if at all. “He is not coming back in the month of November I can assure you that,” Pitino said after pointing out that the junior forward will not practice or be involved in any team-related activities while he is suspended. “He does have a chance to come back in the month of December but I doubt that as well.”
It sounds like this is hardly Behanan’s first misstep of team rules. The team suspended him for one game at the beginning of last season for a violation and Behanan wasn’t made available to the media at all for the fall 2012 semester. Pitino said that this suspension was the result of a number of little issues and that Behanan had already violated an arrangement made one week ago between he and the staff that would get him back on the court. It’s probably safe for Cardinals’ fans to start wondering not only if Behanan will be back this season but if they will ever see the burly forward in a Louisville uniform again.
From a basketball perspective, Behanan’s suspension represents a major blow to the Cardinals. Although he didn’t make the leap to stardom many expected of him as a sophomore, he still started all but two of the games he played in last season, averaging 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. Behanan did his best work in the Final Four last season, posting 10 points and nine rebounds in the semifinals win over Wichita State before exploding for 15 points and 12 rebounds in the National Championship game against Michigan. A lot of people (us included) had him pegged as a first-team all-conference performer this season and expected him to take the leap to stardom that he never took last season.
Although Pitino tried to downplay the effect Behanan’s absence would have on the team’s frontcourt, the Cardinals are not nearly as deep and experienced there as they are in the backcourt. Behanan’s suspension will have the most impact on talented sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell who showed plenty of flashes of his ability last season but needs to become a more consistent contributor, especially now that he will be the focal point of the team’s interior offense and defense. Outside of Harrell, though, the Cardinals will be forced to lean on veteran forward Stephan Van Treese and a pair of projectable freshmen with zero collegiate experience in Mangok Mathiang and Akoy Agau. The guess is that either Van Treese will slide into the starting spot vacated by Behanan or Pitino will opt to go with a smaller lineup and play someone like Luke Hancock at the power forward position. But regardless of what Pitino decides, the team’s rebounding and interior scoring are going to take a major hit without him in the lineup.
From Behanan’s perspective, all hope is not lost. Without speculating on the rules he violated or the reasons he can’t seem to get his act together, the bottom line is that Pitino hasn’t entirely ruled out his return to the team. Despite his physical and athletic gifts, Behanan’s lack of size — he is listed at 6’6″ — and shooting ability don’t exactly make him a tantalizing NBA prospect, and he would be wise to get his act together for a few months and try and rejoin the Cardinals after the winter break.
Even without Behanan, the Cardinals are plenty good enough to run away with the AAC regular season crown and the best case scenario is that Mathiang and Agau get valuable experience and playing time while Behanan learns his lesson, improves his behavior, and is allowed back on the team in time for a stretch run. But if Pitino’s comments Thursday are any indication, Cardinals’ fans should be bracing themselves for what will happen if Louisville runs into a team with any depth, size and ability in the frontcourt.