For What it's Worth: On to Texas & take me out to the ball game
Why can Warren Buffet offer a billion dollars for a perfect NCAA bracket and never worry about paying up? Because Wisconsin, UConn and Kentucky joined Florida in the Final Four---never mind the sixty games which preceded it. I’m not sure what anyone would have looked at UConn or Kentucky and tabbed them to the North Texas.
Eased the pain?
Has Kentucky’s run taken some of the sting out of Wichita State’s loss to them, or has it just heightened the game of ‘what if’? The Wildcats have ridden close wins against the Shockers Louisville and Michigan to the Final Four, but their most complete game of the tournament is the one they played against WSU.
I’m not one of those who feel like the Shockers needed some sort of vindication for what happened last week, but UK may have helped to provide it. You got to give it to John Calipari, the guy can really coach and a year after being thumped by Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT he has his merry crew back to the Final Four.
Both Kentucky and Kansas had ten losses this season with very young, talented teams. Heading into the NCAA the Jayhawks were the more highly regarded, but it was Kentucky which found a way to come together at the last and best possible moment. Both programs, coached by two of the best in the game, spent the entire season chasing chemistry—KU never found it. Most feel like talent trumps all and if you could pick just one attribute for your team to start a season with---talent would be it. But there’s so much more a team has to attain to become a champion, it’s been an enlightening couple of weeks for Kentucky.
Is this football season?
The Southeastern Conference gets the well-deserved nod as the best for college football, but it’s tough to argue with the run they’ve had to Dallas. Granted, the league got only three teams in the tournament, but between them Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee are 11-1 with two in the Final Four. The Big 12 had seven teams in and no one of them made an Elite Eight, in fact, just two of them reached the Sweet 16. I don’t think the SEC was better than the Big 12 during the season, but they’ve certainly outshined them when it mattered most.
There’s star power all over the court at the Final Four, but two guys have really jumped out at me during the past couple of weeks. Shabazz Napier is averaging over 24 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in four games for UConn and Frank Kaminsky had nearly half of Wisconsin’s points in their win over Arizona. The 7’0 footer has proven to be a tough task for other big men in the NCAA because of his quickness, his matchup with the Kentucky ‘bigs’ will be very intriguing.
It was good to work alongside Shane Dennis in the booth at Eck Stadium last weekend, as the Shockers took two of three against ninth ranked Cal-State Fullerton. There had been glimpses of this team’s potential earlier this season-- wins at Santa Barbara and Arizona State, but last weekend gave new head coach Todd Butler something to build on.
Great pitching and timely hitting needs to be the refrain this spring and WSU certainly got that against the Titans. In Casey Gillaspie they have a bona fide big league hitter; he hit a ball on Saturday that still hasn’t come down, finding guys in the order to protect him will be key.
Do games played on cricket pitch in Australia really count as baseball’s openers? Technically, yes. But give me day baseball on this Monday—13 games, including the Royals at Detroit---hope really does spring eternally for all of us.