First, I have to say congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals. I like their guys, and their toughness. With a 17-4 run the Cards erased what could have been a fatal 13-point UK lead and tied the game with about 9 minutes to go.
I agree that if all their guys stay on the team they should be in the preseason top 10 next season.
I also liked that Coach Pitino said he, too, liked this UK team and would be rooting for them. I’m not sure I believe him, but I like that he said it.
Simply: This Dream Game lived up to the hype. UK did not play its best, UofL took advantage, and with just a minute to play, this was a ballgame. Ultimately, the difference was UK’s blending of experience (both Darius Miller, a senior came off the bench to score HUGE hoops, and sophomore Terrence Jones rebounded shots when the game was on the line) and freshmen (both Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist not only did NOT shy away from the big moment, they thrived in it, providing big play after another to win the game).
And yes, the Anthony Davis one-handed oop slam will be the moment of the tourney – so far. (Quick shoutout to Davis, who added the Wooden Award to his growing list of Player of the Year awards. He is UK’s first player to win the award).
So bravo to the Cards for showing everyone how good basketball in the state of Kentucky can be. Congrats also to Murray and WKU for doing the same.
BUT UK WAS BETTER
Now, on to other topics: I pretty much sequestered myself from all of the hype surrounding this game. I was just sick of hearing about it all – and that was just last Monday. I couldn’t stand a whole week of it. Friends asked me if I was worried. Not really.
I knew UK was better. I felt they’d win. I actually couldn’t see a situation when they wouldn’t win. I responded that I was worried the team would expound so much energy on the so-called rivalry game that UK would be gassed when they had to play Kansas.
(I don’t think this happened, by the way).
But no, I was not that worried about UofL.
And to the experts on the radio who knew so much and kept talking about how great Louisville is, I’ll say that not much changed: UK was 7 points better in December and they were 8 points better today.
Was it a more satisfying win because it came against the Cards?
Of course. You really, really want to win that game.
I’m glad we did.
Props to Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb for again getting their team off to a fast start. And of course to Davis, who had one of the great performances in UK postseason history – 18 pts, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Louisville is good, though – and they don’t stay down. They made it a great game. Fortunately, UK has Miller and MKG and Davis.
And that was really all we need to say about that game.
ON TO THE TITLE
Kentucky did not play their best Saturday night. There’s a pattern there. UK did not play well against WKU in round two – but played great in round three versus Iowa St. As we said, there is a parallel to last year:
Both years: did not play great in their first games (WKU and Princeton)
Played very well – especially in second half – of their second games (Iowa St and W Va.)
Played well in third games (Indiana and Ohio St.)
Played extremely well in regional finals (Baylor and N Carolina)
Didn’t play great in Semifinals (UofL and loss to UConn last year)
Last year I thought if Kentucky survived the semifinal against UConn, they would have smothered Butler in the final.
So does this season follow the possible pattern? How will UK play in the final?
The interesting point is Kansas has not played their best basketball either, with the exception of maybe in spurts against Carolina.
So who wins? It’s anybody’s game – especially in a one-game scenario. But the Vegas boys like UK by 6.5.
I think that sounds about right: Cats 72-65 for the title. Who plays big? MKG – and, in a surprise, Doron Lamb. Davis is your MOP.
Then we can start talking about whether Cal will stay here until next season.
More on Monday night!
Go Big Blue!