Final Four: It's Louisville and The Other Guys

Saturday - 4/6/2013, 8:58pm EDT

EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Tip-off time is nearing. Time to see if Louisville can live up to the hype or one of those other guys can turn the Final Four into their party.

The Cardinals are not only the favorites to win the national championship, they've become sentimental favorites, as well, after rallying around Kevin Ware, the guard whose compound leg fracture in last week's regional final turned stomachs, while also warming hearts and setting the story line for this week in Atlanta.

"With Kevin going down, especially the way he did, it's just making us play harder," Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear said Friday.

In Saturday's opening national semifinal at the Georgia Dome, the Cardinals -- No. 1 seeds in the entire tournament -- play ninth-seeded Wichita State, which has sprung upsets of Gonzaga and Ohio State en route to that program's first Final Four appearance since 1965.

The second semifinal pits a pair of No. 4 seeds, Michigan and Syracuse, two programs with plenty of tradition but largely considered subplots in a week dominated by Louisville and Ware. (To say nothing of the news going down at Rutgers, where video of coach Mike Rice hitting players led to his ouster, the departure of the athletic director and other problems.)

"I'm just glad to know Kevin Ware now even more because he's probably the most famous person I know," Louisville guard Peyton Siva said. "You know, when you have Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama call you, it's pretty good to say you know that person."

Wichita State has one player (Carl Hall) who salvaged his career after working in a light bulb factory and two more (Ron Baker and Malcolm Armstead) who paid their way to come to school and started on the team as walk-ons. Its coach has invited fans into the locker room after big wins. In most years, this would be the school with all the makings of a team the whole country can get behind.

Problem is, in this case, Louisville and Ware are already tugging on America's heart strings.

"We're brothers for life," swingman Luke Hancock said. "I have that guy's back in any situation. I know he has mine."

Louisville (33-5) is a 10
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