Kentucky Sports: The Weekend That Was

These ladies had some kind of a month in March. - US PRESSWIRE

OK, I need to step back, take a deep breath and just take it all in. While most of the glory was grabbed by our friends down the road a ways, we had our share too. But all in all, if you were a basketball fan, you had it all. Triumph, tragedy, and overcoming nightmares. I am exhausted.

OK, there is no way that ANYONE had this weekend pegged. If you say you did, I am taking you out back for a little one- on-one for lying. First off, major props to the Louisville Cardinals. Not only did they lay waste to our common enemy the Duke Blue Devils, they overcame what is the single most gruesome injury I have ever witnessed since Joe Theismann went down a couple of decades ago. Kevin Ware, I know your days are terrible right now, young man, but better days are ahead. Wishing you a speedy recovery, my friend.

Had that been all that Louisville accomplished, they would have had a good weekend. But to top that off, there was another game this weekend. A game that Louisville probably had no business even being in, much less thinking about winning. They did win, however, and took down the best team in Women's NCAA Basketball, The Baylor Lady Bears and their All-American, #1 Draft Pick, second greatest scorer the game has ever seen, and freak of nature -- Brittney Griner. The Louisville women held on to a last minute lead, and with the help of 2 free throws with 2.7 seconds on the clock, they defeated Baylor and prevented the foregone conclusion of the tournament, Baylor's next National Championship.

And let us not forget the Kentucky Wildcats carving out their own little piece of glory by sending home the second member of Women's NCAA Basketball's Holy Trinity, Elena Delle Donne. In one weekend, in spite of referees trying their best, broadcasting crews cheering them on in what can only be called a love-fest of sports announcing, and their own teams trying to win without them, two of the three biggest names in the women's game went down. Triumph then turned to tragedy as Kentucky fell hard to the UConn Huskies for the second year in a row.

This weekend should remind us that when tournament play approaches, anything can and does happen. This year's Men's tournament has so far been filled with upset after upset, so much that the dreaded "parity" word may indeed be appropriate.

On the other hand, this also brings up a subject near and dear to my heart. The officiating at the college level. If I have said it once, I have said it one thousand times. College officials need to be full time employees of the NCAA, not assigned to any one league, and need to be training for the jobs that they do, year round. Officiating in the last few games I have watched in both the men's and women's tournaments has been 100 miles south of pathetic. It is just not possible to know what these officials are going to do. They were given instant replay and monitors and they still miss calls. Flagrant fouls are going completely uncalled, even as normal fouls, and when the referees figure out that they have missed calls, they start blowing the whistle like a duck call in season, and they are surrounded by Mallards. The swings in the games lately have been almost 100% attributed to officiating.

And if the officiating was not enough to turn your stomach, the broadcasting at ESPN for the women's tournament has got to be some of the worst in history. Some former huge names in the game, including the incredible Rebecca Lobo, have zero business getting behind a mic if they cannot do better than what we witnessed.

I realize that the NCAA wants to promote the "Big Three" -- Griner, Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins, are evidently the only stories that NCAA is either capable of covering, or wants to cover. During the entire Kentucky-Delaware game, the only sentences that either announcer could get out of their mouths had to have the words Delle Donne in it. ESPN even ran a 20 minute segment after the game about her. I found myself having to edit my own postmortem and remove the name at least three times.

Then, Louisville handed Ms. Griner her hat and showed her the door, and all the officials again could talk about was when she was going to get back in the game, or take over. When it finally didn't happen, they were forced to talk about what Louisville had accomplished.

Why is this still happening? Why, when there are so many qualified broadcast people out there, do we have people behind the mic that make the bias the Bobby Knight showed against Kentucky look like a drop in the bucket? At least with Knight when he couldn't say anything good, he just wouldn't say the name. These women sounded like they were trying to get crumbs from these girl's tables when they should have been calling a basketball game.

Alas, in spite of the monumental amount of backside embossing dialect, and buffoonery disguised as officiating, the results were, in a word, stupendous. Basketball, and to a greater degree, sports in general has never been better in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have both accomplished more than ever before in the last two years, and it appears as though the ceiling is raising even higher.

It is good to be a Kentuckian today. Today, we are both a red, and a blue state.

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