Since 1985 when the tournament expanded, Kentucky is the fifth team to beat three top 4 seeds on the way to the final four. The others: Connecticut 2014, Butler 2011, Florida 2000, LSU 1986. Butler and Florida both were runners-up.
Of all our final four appearances, my favorites have always been those teams who weren't supposed to get there. This team ranks right up there with the 1958 Fiddlin' Five, the 1998 Comeback Cats and the 2011 team which was owned by Brandon Knight. It isn't the cat in the fight, but the fight in the cat. I know, I know, I'm taking a liberty here.
This team, however, wins by the hairs of their chinny-chin-chins and that makes it all the more enjoyable at the end. I must admit, it isn't good for the heart, at least my heart. Aaron Harrison seems to relish sticking a dagger in our opponent since he's done it to Louisville and Michigan. What Dakari Johnson says, "He can hardly walk, they're so big."
Don't get me wrong, I would prefer the awesomeness of the Joe Hall's 1978 team and Rick Pitino's 1996 team who simply ran over everyone like freight trains. The attitude with those teams caused one to ask, "Are we that good, or are you that bad?" Cal's 2012 team seemed to enjoy winning by nine or so. I never figured out if that was from the players or Cal. It seemed to me that Cal called off the dogs when we were about to create a blowout.
You know how some people complain all the time about the refs? My beef is with the media guys, CBS in particular. So, here's my rant. Thank goodness we'll have a choice on Saturday. I'll be watching whichever channel will have Tom Leach, Mike Pratt and the master of excitement, Rob Bromley.
Let's start with the CBS game announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr and Tracy Wolfson.
Jim Nantz: Born in Charlotte and raised in New Orleans. Played on the golf team at Houston.
Greg Anthony: Born and raised in Las Vegas. Starting PG for UNLV which beat Duke for the 1990 championship. Anthony played in the NBA. He replaced Clark Kellogg as a game color man when Kellogg was moved to lead commentator.
Steve Kerr: Born and raised in Lebanon. His father was assassinated by Islamic Jihad (now known as Hezbollah). Kerr played for Arizona and played in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls in the Jordan era and was part of five NBA championship teams.
Tracy Wolfson: There's not a lot of information on Wolfson. She been with CBS since 2004 as their top sideline reporter. She's a Michigan grad.
In the CBS studios are Greg Gumble, Clark Kellogg, Charles Barkley, Seth Davis and Doug Gottlieb.
Greg Gumbel: Born in New Orleans and grew up in Chicago. He played baseball and graduated from Loras College in Iowa. Bryant Gumbel is his younger brother.
Clark Kellogg: Born and raised in Cleveland. He chose to play at Ohio State. He was recruited by Joe B. Hall. During his playing days, he was known as "Special K." He declared for the NBA after his junior year and was a first round draft pick by the Indiana Pacers. Kellogg replaced Billy Packer as the lead color guy. He and Anthony swapped positions.
Charles Barkley: Everyone knows Charles Barkley. Born in Leeds, Alabama and played basketball at Auburn. Sir Charles played in the NBA from 1984-2000.
Seth Davis: Everyone knows Davis is the son of Lanny Davis and is a Duke graduate. He also writes for Sports Illustrated. Once was a Kentucky hater, but has become more impartial over the years.
Doug Gottlieb: Born in Milwaukee and played for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State after he was expelled from Notre Dame. In between Notre Dame and Oklahoma State he attended Golden West College. Gottlieb left ESPN in 2012 to join CBS.
So, why the Big Ten bias when only two of both broadcast teams attended Big Ten schools? Who knows? Maybe they are so sick of the SEC winning football titles and also basketball titles? Is it the one-and- done thing? Maybe the fact that the SEC has won 12 football championship and 5 basketball championships while the Big Ten has won 2 football championships and only 1 basketball titles since 1989 as pointed out in this Lost Lettermen article.
Two things you can count on for whatever reason, they will be talking up Connecticut and Wisconsin all throughout the games against Florida and Kentucky until the second half should Florida or Kentucky take control of the game.
Remember Friday? The CBS crews were all talking about a Final Four with three Big 10 teams. Last time I checked, there is ONE remaining Big 10 team in the Final Four and TWO SEC teams. Yep, the conference everyone likes to disparage has two in the Final Four. The problem with SEC teams is that they're not very good in November and December. They tend to get a little better during the conference season. Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee were in the dance, but Tennessee had to play their way in. I think a case could've been made for an invitation for LSU as well. Like the other three, LSU was big and strong. But, that's the way the cookie crumbles.
The CBS crews, ESPN crews, Pomeroy and Sagarin don't recognize there are two seasons in college basketball and those seasons are often mutually exclusive. There is the regular season and there is the tournament season. The conference tournaments offer redemption for those who didn't live up to expectations and a final opportunity to get the invitation to the prom.
Using the regular season statistics as a prediction of how a team will perform can be deceptive. It is good for seeding, certainly, but they can't reflect the change in personality that often comes over teams in the post season. Kentucky is ranked 7th by Sagarin and 8th by Pomeroy. Last time I checked, Kentucky is in the top four. While they may be great at math, they don't really understand the two season concept. Anyway, that's my opinion, you don't have to agree.
I think the CBS crews are clueless with a couple of exceptions. Sir Charles seems best to understand the difference since he's changed his predictions a couple of times. And, he's been mostly right with his second opinion.
The CBS guys kept talking about Michigan's "complex" offense. What the hell were they talking about? There's nothing complex about the pick and roll or kick outs to set up a three point shot. Nance and his sidekick, Greg Anthony, have talked about how good the other team is throughout our four game path to the Final Four until our Cats make their comebacks during the games. Michigan was a very good team that was well coached. That's a fact and there's nothing complex about that.
Kentucky used the clock better at the end and we also had Aaron "Stone Cold" Harrison. His brother says he's made those kind of shots since the third grade. Was it luck? I don't think so. I remember hearing some coaches from the past say that teams create their luck. Anthony did, in fact, point out that the Cats were probing the Michigan defense in order to determine the right attack. One thing everybody should have figured out by now that a double-digit deficit in the first half is not something that bothers Kentucky. Just ask Louisville.
The fact is that all the "experts" are hung up on the experience vs. one-and-done argument, or they don't like John Calipari for whatever reason. Or maybe they are like a lot of people and just reflexively pull for the underdog who hasn't been there lately. Bless all their little pea-pickin' hearts.
So, here we go again this week. My prediction is that we'll hear Kentucky doesn't stand a chance against Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers and the greatest player of the week, Frank Kaminsky. The fact is you need to approach this game like it is the basketball equivalent of a root canal. I don't know what it is about Wisconsin, but this will be the only game the Badgers have played that I will have watched in its entirety.
Here's what the CBS guys will be talking about: their fabulous 75-35 win over American University in the field of 64. They held American to 13 points in the second half. American got into the tournament by way of beating the Boston University Terriers in the Patriot League championship game. American U. was a 15 seed. Wisconsin won three of the four factors.
Next, the Badgers beat 7 seed Oregon 85-77. Oregon could not get an offensive rebound if their lives depended on it and Wisconsin killed them. Oregon shot better a better percentage (just barely), but Wisconsin hit 11 threes to Oregon's 8. We'll hear how difficult it is for Kentucky to defend the three. Bet on it.
Then there was Baylor, a team who beat Kentucky during the regular season down in... Hey, look, it was in Dallas at AT&T Stadium, the site of the Final Four! Yes, Baylor beat Kentucky in the regular season and Wisconsin beat Florida in the regular season. Doesn't matter much now, does it? It seems like everybody beat Kentucky during the regular season or at least that's the way I felt. This isn't the regular season. This is the second season. Wisconsin hit 26-51 (51.0%) compared to Baylor's 18-57 (31.6%). You have to wonder if that was due to Wisconsin's defense or Baylor's offensive incompetence.
Moving on to Arizona, a game which the CBS crew said was the most exciting game of the tournament. This was Kaminsky's rampage game. The two teams were even in statistics, but Arizona had no one who could stop Kaminisky. He was 8 of 15 inside the arc and 3 of 5 beyond the arc. He also made 3 of 4 free throws. He was the leading scorer in the game with 28. He had 7 offensive rebounds and 4 defensive rebounds. Traevon Jackson was the only other Badger in double figures with ten points. This was an overtime game which came down to who could finish and it was the red and white of Wisconsin. Props to them.
The question now is who wins next? I honestly don't know the answer. Vegas says Kentucky, the NCAA selection committee picked Wisconsin when they planted the tournament seeds.
Consider the following slides which you will need to click on to enlarge [Editor's note: Hank accidentally indicates that higher was better for TO%, which of course, it isn't. Those slides that indicate Kentucky or Wisconsin "won" the turnover battle should be reversed. He's unavailable for a proper correction, so this note will have to serve]:
Wisconsin is the better shooting team. Kentucky's first four tournament opponents were also the better shooting teams. Kentucky turns the ball over more than Wisconsin, but that's also been the case with each of our tournament games. Both teams have out-rebounded their opponents at the offensive end and you can expect Kentucky to out-rebound Wisconsin. Oddly enough, Kentucky has shot free throws well in the tournament and they get to the line more often than most teams.
I have had respect for Bo Ryan. He's a good coach despite the fact that I do not like the style of play. My respect for Ryan has diminished quite a bit since Sunday because of what I saw as a tirade against the BBN the other day. In case you missed it:
I tell you, the people here in this state are crazy about basketball. They realize they didn't invent it like some other states believe, but they also know they have a passion for it. Because there's been a lot of success by state schools, by schools in the state of Wisconsin, Division I, Division III, NAIA, different levels of college basketball, Division II with Parkside, which is one of my... the head coach is one of my former players - I don't want to leave him out. So they love it here, but they're not so over the edge that they don't understand.
What I like about the Wisconsin fans is they understand these are student-athletes who actually are here for the purpose of an education first and playing ball second. That's what I believe makes them really endearing, as far as a coach who's stayed in the state this long. Because they're so supportive of their players, of their teams. That's been really neat for me to see. And I'm not saying that wasn't the case back in Philly growing up, in the Chester area or anything else. Here in the state of Wisconsin, I think the love for basketball, passion for basketball is definitely as high as anywhere else. - Link
While I respect Wisconsin fans, I don't pay any attention to them one way or another. I've never encountered Wisconsin fans except when we played Wisconsin in Birmingham, Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1984. If I recall correctly, they gave us that victory.
Here's what I know about Kentucky and Wisconsin. This will be the 5th time we've played them and we have a 3-1 record against them. I have no memory of any of those games.
While I'm not making a prediction, I am once again saying that we can win this thing. Kentucky no longer has anything to prove to me in terms of expectations. My expectations were met when they made the Elite 8. Everything after that is gravy for me. I have to say that the last three games erased any disappointment I may have had during the regular season. I can relax knowing that we've had a good season. I will, of course, put on my game face for at least one more time and hopefully two more times.
If you want to see a complete matchup, visit this link to statsheet.com
Enjoy the game and, GO BIG BLUE!