“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win.” — Margaret Thatcher
So it is, Old Kentucky Home brethren who hitch highest hopes onto our stars — two Sweet 16 entries headed north.
Before Thursday, Kentucky’s unbeatens will be reminded five springtimes ago that Bob Huggins’s underdog West Virginia outflanked (and schooled) the Wildcats and stole their Final Four berth. This week Big Blue Nation rejoins the battle at Cleveland.
Before Friday, Louisville will be reminded of a score to settle with North Carolina State. A month ago the Wolfpack exacted a 74-65 whuppin’ on the Rick Pitinos at Yum Center. This time, a neutral battle field at Syracuse.
So, button up, boys and girls, break out the battle flags, blow the trumpets and set upon their skirmish lines fiercely. Charge into them with Blue/Red state vengeance and apply a new exclamation mark on our Kentucky birthright claim anew, we are supreme at something.
Only a full-on charge into Yankees fortifications at Syracuse and in Cleveland will stir our hearts (and sell some new teeshirts). Old scores will be settled, then push Kentucky’s rally flags through to where they belong, land of Elite Eight (for now).
Meanwhile, let’s all calm down, have lunch and consort over did you see that! moments from another NCAA weekend. v Roxanne Chalifoux. Villanova’s brave and teary piccolo player. v West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’s idea of living in the moment after his team sent Maryland home on Sunday was, “John (Calipari) has a day and a half on us (to prepare for Thursday night).” v Thank you card, John Calipari to Cincinnati coach Larry Davis. The Bearcats roughhouse 40 (minutes) gave Kentucky a game film of what is sure to come from Mountaineers at Cleveland. v Cincinnati forward Octavious Ellis got himself ejected from the Bearcats’ game against Purdue, then tried thug ball against Kentucky. A storm of ugly and racist tweets followed. But no public criticism for Cincinnati’s coach Larry Davis for not controlling his player? v Louisville. Chris Who? Since Quinton Snyder showed up, Terry Rozier has never been better. Helping free up Rozier’s game (25 points, seven assists and five rebounds against Northern Iowa), Snyder had 10 points and one turnover in 36 minutes. v Much praise was spent on R.J. Hunter at Georgia State, Melo Trimbo at Maryland and others. Best penetrator/pull-up guard in the field of 68, Rozier at Louisville. v Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa. Quintessential NBA-type power forward at 6-8, 240. An alpha-dog leader, where does Tuttle figure in the NBA June draft? Nowhere, in the first round 30, according to ESPN.com. v NBA mock draft — Why would Mark Cuban spend a 23rd pick for Dallas Mavericks on Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson when Seth Tuttle’s name is on the board? v Lost in shadow of R.J. Hunter at Georgia State … whatever happened to Ryan Harrow (ex- Kentucky) and Kevin Ware (ex- Louisville)? v For 22 years Kansas declined to add in-state rival Wichita State to its regular season schedule because “… what have we got to gain?” The two met in the NCAA in Omaha, Nebraska last week. For those old enough to remember The Dream Game in Knoxville (1983), sound familiar? v What happed to Villanova? A nervous breakdown. Nova earned a No. 1 seed by shooting 53 percent in regular season. Against NC State, the Wildcats clanked 23 of 33 2-point tries and all but four of 23 3-pointers. Familiar? In 1984 Final Four Kentucky had the same breakdown against Georgetown in Seattle. v The storm is gathering over basketball and football programs at North Carolina. The university settled recently with ex-learning specialist Mary Willingham for $335,000. She was fired after blowing the whistle on the school’s academic fraud case.
UNC still faces two lawsuits from athletes, problems with accreditation and an NCAA academic misconduct investigation. Because the fraud claim report spans 1993 to 2011 and included more than 3,100 students, roughly half athletes, coaches Dean Smith to Roy Williams are implicated.
Comment: The NCAA won’t dare besmirch Smith’s revered reputation and Williams will likely get a pass as well using the Calipari and Jim Boeheim precedents, i.e. “I didn’t know what was going on in my program therefore I am not responsible.” v Under headline: Kentucky Is the Only Team That Matters, an Internet columnist sank venomous fangs into Kentucky basketball last week.
I mention the “hateful” items from Grantland’s Andrew Sharp, with a comment or two, to remind us what superficial, ill-informed ignorance, packaged nicely as column-writing, looks like on the Internet. To wit …
• It’s impossible to root for John Calipari. … John Calipari doesn’t play by the rules. … Oneand dones are ruining college basketball.
• “But Kentucky fans are psychotic hill people.” … “The Harrison twins are obnoxious.” … “Kentucky is like the Yankees of college basketball.”
• “Everyone is writing articles telling me to like this team, and it’s so unbearable, and it’s only beginning. … God, I hope they lose.” … “It’s more fun to hate Kentucky.”
Comment: Fashion statements usually reserved for Duke.
Finally, my favorite from this self-righteous pup: “Adolph Rupp was an a–hole.”
Isn’t that a sweet list?