Thursday, April 10, 2014
Behind The Scoreboard
Surprisingly, Gators fall in Final Four
At this juncture, probably every fan following collegiate basketball has heard the words “North Texas” enough times to thoroughly identify it as the final site for the final trio of games for the Final Four. One could wonder why the publicity didn’t just exactly pinpoint the location simply as “Arlington.” It was the place where this season’s top two mysteries would be solved. How would be the Final Four go and who would be the final one?
The final field included a number one seed and a number two then it jumped five spaces to number seven and number eight. This writer is not a good enough numbers cruncher to figure out if the one-two spacing carried any kind of omen for any of the entrants, however, it suffices to say that it favored the lower seeds.
The area buzz leading up to Saturday (April 5) was heavily in favor of the Florida Gators advancing past UConn with their “first playoff” coach (Kevin Ollie) and playing for their third national title (Gators won back-to-back titles in 2006, 2007) under head Gator Billy Donovan. I don’t suppose there is any need to say how I voted. There is probably no need to say why a team with 30 straight wins ran out to an early, encouraging lead then lost by 10 (63-53). Now the Huskies already had their trio of titles, spread out over five, seven-year periods (1991, 2004, 2011), under a different coach. Yours truly will defer to the myriad of “talking heads” on the sports channels to tell you exactly why the SEC Gators didn’t pull it off.
We also know that the Kentucky Wildcats will now have to redeem the SEC by driving the gold spike on Monday (after the deadline for this sports column. The Wildcats have twice as many NCAA tournament wins (117) as any of the other three and nine titles which date back to 1948.
Kentucky met the bad Badgers on Saturday evening and made that 118 tournament wins. Thanks go to the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew) and the knack of Aaron for hitting those game-winning treys. As spectacular as the first two were in games against Louisville and Michigan, the one made from the parking lot versus Wisconsin to give the ’Cats a one-point victory (74-73) will probably survive as the greatest. No matter how hard it seems to forget Calipari and the Memphis incident, one has to admit that the entertainment quotient provided by his team in these games has been priceless and so far matchless. Attendance at the games on Saturday set a new NCAA record with over 79,000 present at the AT&T Stadium.
During the men’s winddown, there is little information about the women’s wars in the NCAA title games. But believe me, they have been battling. It all came to semi-final closure on Sunday in Nashville with Notre Dame and UConn ordained to face each other on Tuesday night (April 8). This will mark the first time that two undefeated teams have faced each other (men or women) in a NCAA title game. It also marks a first for two number one seeds making it. The Irish record is 37-0 vs. UConn’s 39-0.
Sans a SEC team participating in what could be the usual “Geno Aureimma Show,” I’ll have to go with the Irish.
If one needs an example of alma mater loyalty at the highest level, how about the former secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice, attending the games of both the men’s and women’s teams from Stanford during these playoffs.
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