Monday, April 7, 2014

Kentucky By 12

Just in case you haven't heard it a thousand times already, the narrative for tonight's NCAA championship game goes something like this: "the two great Cinderella stories, UConn and Kentucky."

It's a seventh seed (UConn) versus an eighth seed (Kentucky), though it's hardly what you would think of when you talk about the great Cinderellas in NCAA history. You know, like Villanova in 1985.

Now that was a Cinderella.

In some ways, the 1985 Villanova team is roughly the same as this Kentucky team. For awhile, it wasn't a guarantee that either would even be in the tournament. Then, once in the tournament, there were all kinds of close games for both.

Villanova in 1985 won its first three NCAA games by two, three and four points. Kentucky won its four regional games by seven, two, five and three points and then beat Wisconsin by one in the national semifinal.

Kentucky has been on a wild run this NCAA tournament. The Wildcats have played in three unbelievable games, three of the best NCAA tournament games in recent memory, with wins over Wichita State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. You could argue for awhile over which of those games was the best, but all three were epics.

It's just that Kentucky should never have been an eight seed. Not with this collection of talent. Somehow, this Kentucky team lost 10 games this year.

Maybe it's because of how many freshmen start, five to be exact. Maybe it just took this team longer than it might have guessed to become fully acclimated with the pace of the college game and the chemistry of playing with each other.

Now? The overwhelming talent is showing.

TigerBlog had a final of Kansas and Creighton, and his logic was pretty spot on. A team led by a marquee freshman and a great supporting cast against a team that is led by a senior who is carrying them all the way. He just had the wrong freshman (Andrew Wiggins instead of Julius Randle) and the wrong senior (Doug McDermott instead of Shabazz Napier).

The final, TB assumes, will be like the last few UConn games, where TV will fixate on Napier's mother in the stands and show her at least 15 times. What goes through the directors' mind with all the shots of one player's mother? One is fine.

TigerBlog can't imagine Kentucky doesn't roll to this win. He doesn't think the game will be within 10 points when it's over. He'll go Kentucky 76, UConn 64 as a prediction.

He also hopes that if it is close, the refs stay out of it at the end. He's not optimistic about that. And can there be no replay reviews? Is that asking too much?

TigerBlog recently saw the "30 For 30" on the Big East, the highlight of which was the 1985 season, the one where the Big East sent three teams to the Final Four - Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's.

The best part of that season was the sweater that Lou Carnesecca wore during the Big East tournament the replica of it that John Thompson (not the Princeton John Thompson) wore for the final.

And the line that the Princeton John Thompson had after last year's Big East tournament, when he said that he would have preferred that Syracuse not leave "all this, for a few more dollars."

TigerBlog will make another prediction for the championship game - Bill Bradley's record for most points in a Final Four game will stand.

Bradley, back in 1965, scored 58 points against Wichita State in the consolation game, something that used to be played between the two semifinal losers. As an aside, the NCAA refers to the "losers" as "non-advancing," presumably so as not to have to call someone a loser.

Princeton defeated Penn State and North Carolina State to reach the 1965 East Regional final in College Park, Md., where the Tigers destroyed heavily favored Providence 109-69.

Princeton's run to the championship ended with a 93-76 loss to Michigan, who in turn lost to UCLA in the final. Meanwhile Princeton came back to defeat Wichita State 118-82 in the consolation game.

Bradley had scored 41 against Providence in the regional final. For the tournament, he averaged 35.4 points per game and earned Most Outstanding Player honors.

Nobody will come close to his 58 points tonight.

TigerBlog doesn't think UConn will come all that close to Kentucky.

Of course, he hasn't been right about too many predictions lately.

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