Thursday, April 5, 2012
Behind the Scoreboard
I know that you have heard the term before many times but again it has all “boiled down to gravy” in the NCAA playoffs for both men and women.
Many of us are perhaps a bit chair weary and bleary-eyed from tracking the progress of the teams which we love and those we love to dislike. Really, it begs to be said that all of these teams which have made it to this point more than deserve our admiration.
Over the weekend the Final Four squared off in the “Big Dome” and over 73,000 watched the Kansas Jayhawks take out the Ohio State Buckeyes. As enjoyable as that game was, it paled in comparison to the one which everyone wanted to watch – number one Kentucky and number four Louisville. While the leaders of these teams vow that there are no longer any issues between them, they admit that there is history. And of course, there are also similarities and oddities. The association (?) covers well over a decade. Both coaches have taken three different teams to a Final Four showdown and oddly enough, this would be the second time they have met on the grandest stage. Sixteen years ago John Calipari had to wish Rick Pitino well when the latter coached Kentucky to the national title against Calipari and Massachusetts.
Now Pitino (sans bitterness, so he stated) wished Calipari well in his quest against Bob Self and the Jayhawks. Coach Rick said the entire state of Kentucky would probably be rooting for the Wildcats, hoping they will return the grand plaque to the state which is now second only to UCLA in trips to the championship game. UCLA has 13 and this would make 11 for Kentucky. Duke is third with 10. The Wildcats have been to 15 Final Fours, two under Calipari in his third year. Pitino has led the Cardinals for 11 years.
All four coaches in this season’s finals had been to the championship game in their separate careers. Calipari took the Memphis Tigers there in 2008 and again oddly enough he faced the same foe which he was to meet Monday night (after press deadline) – Kansas Jayhawks and Bob Self. I am sure Calipari is thinking “payback.” He has a not-so-secret weapon this time in Anthony Davis. The coach had remarked early in the playoffs that maybe the collegiate basketball world would stop thinking of his Wildcats as “inexperienced underclassmen.” I say it again; it is time for John Calipari to join his colleagues who have reached the highest pinnacle among collegiate coaches.
Sometimes we overlook the fact that the women have also been waging wars during this time. And they went to the championship game on Tuesday night. The misses Irish of Notre Dame returned to the championship game. They won it all in 2001. Generally, I pull for Notre Dame, Air Force on a regular basis, however, in this instance I have to go with Baylor. I don’t think any team has the remedy for a Brittany Griner. Should Baylor pull off the victory on Tuesday, it will mark the first time that any collegiate team has won 40 games in a single season.
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