My kids would be the first to tell you that I’m hopelessly out of touch with today’s music and that’s probably ok with me, because I still can’t figure out how a ‘room without a roof’ makes Pharrell Williams happy.
Changing the perception---
I thought it was interesting that Ron Baker sent a draft evaluation to the NBA, league executives returned it recognizing him as a likely second round pick, so he’ll return to school. The point is that Gregg Marshall is producing pro talent. Cleanthony Early is a likely first round pick, Baker is likely to follow and that could just be the beginning. Of course, consistency is the mark of any great program, but I’ve got to tell you---I’ve known few people as perseverant as Gregg Marshall.
Shocker faithful can’t help but be a little whimsical about Kentucky playing in the Final Four; it might help lessen the pain for some, for others it may be a cruel reminder of what could have been. I agree that Florida is still the team to beat, but it’s an intriguing quartet.
Four seniors make this team a throwback to the years before the ‘one and dones’ in college hoops. As such, they’re the most career battle-tested group of the lot (although Kentucky has had the toughest tourney ride). Along with Wisconsin, this is the best defensive group in Arlington and they may be the toughest, but they’ve been beaten by both Wisconsin and UConn. Granted, that was back in November when teams are still trying to find themselves, but you can bet Kevin Ollie has reminded his team of it.
I’m not sure that Billy Donovan gets his due as one of the great coaches, but if he wins this weekend he’ll become one of just six coaches to have won at least three national titles. Add to the equation that Donovan is just 48 years old and you wonder just how far up the ranks he can climb
Shabazz Napier might be the player of the tournament. I didn’t even think UConn was going to get out of the opening round against St. Joseph’s (which had the Huskies beaten until allowing the game to slip to overtime where they lost), but here they are . It’s odd; UConn always looks like they belong in the Final 4, even in a year when no one was picking them. That has everything to do with former coach Jim Calhoun and the three titles he won with the Huskies, which still are underappreciated for their prowess, just as they are again this weekend.
The Wildcats are in position to win their second title in three years because John Calipari is one of the best coaches in the country. His act is sometimes viewed with a jaundiced eye, but the man can recruit and he can coach those recruits up. Calipari spent all season trying to figure out how to get this group of McDonald’s All-Americans to play together. He didn’t just wish for it to happen—this is a group that’s evolved from trying to create individual mismatches off dribble penetration to a team that runs really good disciplined sets. Getting such talented young players to buy in is Calipari’s magic.
I’m not so sure this isn’t the team I’m pulling for. Bo Ryan gets a bad rap for playing uninteresting basketball, but that hasn’t been the case with this team. Frank Kaminsky has been a seven foot revelation in this tournament with his quickness and the Badgers live up to their nickname on the defensive end. With Napier and Ryan Boatright at UConn, Scottie Wilbeken and Michael Frazier at Florida and the Harrison twins at Kentucky, Wisconsin doesn’t have the backcourt headliners of their rivals, but all three guys are tough, steady upperclassmen.
UConn appears to be the odd man out, which, I’m sure, is fine with them. I do like Florida’s weapons and seniority; I think the Gators win by nine or better. As for Kentucky, the big question is whether or not they’ll continue to shoot the ball as they have over their last three games. I’m going to take Wisconsin in a very close game, which should make their fans as happy as a room without a roof.