Louisville Cardinals forward Gorgui Dieng returned to the hardwood on Wednesday, but his status for the Cardinals’ rivalry game on Saturday remains in question.
The news came out on Wednesday morning that Dieng would practice and be listed as day-to-day leading up to Louisville’s annual tilt with the Kentucky Wildcats. Dieng broke his wrist back on Nov. 23 and hasn’t played since.
The loss of Dieng has certainly limited head coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals’ front court rotation, but Louisville has seemingly survived without him since. The Cardinals’ lone loss on the season came as part of the same tournament in which Dieng was injured in, when Louisville fell to the Duke Blue Devils as part of the championship contest in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Cardinals have had some time off since a Dec. 22 thrashing of Western Kentucky, a holiday-laden week leading up to Saturday’s contest in Louisville. While Dieng’s availability will certainly be key to helping the Cardinals’ avenge last year’s Final Four defeat, NBA scouts in addition are hoping to see a Dieng-Nerlens Noel matchup take place.
Prior to his injury, Dieng had been averaging 8.2 points and 8.0 rebounds through the first five games of the season, but his development and overall skill set has warranted the attention of many NBA talent scouts. Dieng has reportedly worked his way into a potential first-round selection if he can rebound and continue to help pace the Cardinals’ front court once fully healthy.
Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese have stepped in Dieng’s absence and will once again be called upon should Dieng be unable to play on Saturday.
The game holds equal importance given its tradition and rivalry, but for the Wildcats, a statement win on the road could hold higher implications given Kentucky’s sluggish start earlier in the season. Louisville however, is the favorite and would like nothing more than a home victory against their hated rivals.