Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Friday Morning Quickies — serving today as the day after the end of yet another UK basketball season.
Obviously, the big news this morning is the elimination of Kentucky from the 2018 NCAA Tournament by Kansas St. last night, 61-58. While none of us likes to see a season end short of an NCAA Tournament Championship, that outcome is profoundly more likely than the desired one. Today, it is our lot to fall short of the brass ring yet again, but it is the very difficulty of achieving victory in a 68-team single-elimination tournament that makes that outcome so desirable. Alas, it was not to be.
This UK season was a tumultuous one, both rewarding and supremely frustrating at various times throughout the year. There was the four-game losing streak which culminated in the mention of the dreaded N-word (as in NIT) as a possible destination for the callow Wildcats. Then there was the SEC Tournament run to another championship, followed by two impressive victories in the NCAA Tournament concomitant with the dramatic loss of every seed in the bracket higher than Kentucky’s, leaving UK as the top seed and favorite to get back to the Final Four from the South.
But that did not come to pass, and Kentucky goes back to Lexington with a 26-11 record and Sweet 16 finish. While that would be a raging success at 95% of the college basketball programs in the NCAA, at Kentucky it will always be a disappointment to some degree — although I consider it to be a much lesser disappointment than normal given the youth of this squad.
As to the game itself, it was hard-fought throughout with a surfeit of fouls that gave it an unpleasant quality. Kentucky played poorly, and Kansas State, to their credit, shot the ball exceedingly well from the perimeter, played undersized but high-quality defense all night and definitely deserved the victory.
But what ultimately defeated Kentucky was poor free throw shooting, in particular that of PJ Washington, who made only 8 of 20 tries for a groan-worthy 40%, as well as excess turnovers mostly by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But before you heap blame at PJ, realize that it was his dominance in the painted area that gave Kentucky a chance to win the game at all. He finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 turnovers, a block and 3 steals. Great line except for that one sad statistic. With only 55% shooting from the line by PJ, Kentucky would likely have won. And without Shai, no way were we ever here at all. He just had a bad game and K-State really defended him well.
Ah, what might have been — the story of a Kentucky fan’s existence, and grief, most years at this time. Well, there’s always next year, and if most of this year’s team returns (as is widely expected), we may have one of the best teams in several years at Kentucky for 2019.
Next year. You know the drill.
Tweets of the Morning
I woke up this morning thinking last night was fake and didn’t happen. Then realized it was all real, and got very sad.— Greg (@GregNJ) March 23, 2018
Oh, it’s real, sweetheart. Sad, yes, but all too real.
Me waking up and finding out Kentucky lost pic.twitter.com/ZvNLKIsSCi— Karolina Buczek (@Karolina_Buczek) March 23, 2018
Heh. Yeah, well, just imagine if you’d watched the game.
This may end up being my most enduring memory of the season. I guess some players need a kick in the butt; some players need a kiss on the forehead. #KSR @MrsTylerKSR pic.twitter.com/VE1RMT09Z6— David Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) March 23, 2018
And people wonder how he does it.
Good morning!— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) March 23, 2018
It’s not the morning after that Big Blue Nation expected to wake up to, but let’s start the day by saying “thanks” to the UK basketball team and the UK coaches. The SEC Tourney title run was as exciting as it gets. Despite last night’s loss, BBN still ❤️ you. #BBN
- Missed opportunities led to a missed opportunity for UK in Atlanta.
- What’s with this? “Kansas St. hands Kentucky shocking loss” seems a very stupid headline to me. I doubt if anyone who knows college basketball was “shocked” by an all-freshman team losing to a veteran group in the NCAA Tournament, especially one tested in one of basketball’s best conferences. Once again, SI demonstrates click-bait is more important than good reporting — or at least, good headline writing. Weak.
- What Bruce Weber had to say about Kansas State’s victory over Kentucky.
- A look at who’s likely to go, and who’s likely to stay at Kentucky after this seasons.
- For Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, joy ride through March hits a rough landing.
- Kentucky blew it, according to the Courier-Journal. Maybe. But that happens a lot in March. And Kansas State deserves more credit than being chumped by UK fans as undeserving because UK “blew it.” They played well above their season standards offensively, and this article ignores that. He gives Bruce Weber credit, but not his team. Really?
- An Unforgettable hits the skids. Hard to say who’s career has suffered more since 1996, Richie Farmer or Rick Pitino. At least Pitino’s avoided the hoosegow.
- Three takeaways from Kentucky’s golden opportunity wasted.
It was almost like a gift for a team that was playing its best basketball at the end of the year, but reverted and wasted the opportunity. The ones you remember are the ones that got away.
I don’t know. This team really didn’t deserve to reach a Final Four, in my opinion. No, they can’t control the other games and the table was set for them, but almost every analyst considered Kentucky an upset waiting to happen beginning with the first round. Why should they act so surprised when it winds up happening at a higher seed level?
But John Clay makes a great point — Kansas St. really took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander away from us, and other teams that have done that have beaten us this season. Seems to me they watched the film.
- I’m not sure about this. Waiting for the other team to finish celebrating so you can shake their hand isn’t really part of the deal. I’d have to review the tape to see if it was poor sportsmanship, or just one of those things.