March. Kentucky’s basketball team has laid claim to a peak where Big Blue fan expectations live. Full summit.
A high place where 46 SEC titles brings more yawn than yea!
Smothering quick-and-cocky Arkansas in the surgical way it was done moves the blue team to a place that transcends RPI, wins and polls.
Perfect rhythm and harmony among men and in the perfect place — the top.
Yes, we know what pollsters have said all winter, but more convincing and far more entertaining is the 5-man-mesh, synchronized, well-oiled, yours-mine-ours approach. Gone to the scrap heap is the weak little contradiction to team game, go-to-guy.
UK’s summit moment? Four minutes in against the Razorbacks, Karl Anthony Towns sat down with two fouls. Normally, an NBA lottery pick put in neutral with 16 minutes to go is big trouble.
Instead, the Wildcats doubled the score. Hogs coach Mike Anderson’s encouragements were lost in the cacophony from a zillion throats. He stood agog as his bunch surrendered to dry-mouth and scared-to-death (see Bobby Portis). The Hogs played that way until halftime.
Postscript: Hunch is these two will meet again in Nashville.
For that, Big Blue Nation hopes its team gets the first-half-in-Lexington Razorbacks who couldn’t throw a three into the Mississippi (oh-for-nine), instead of secondhalf Hogs outscored, 42-41.
Meanwhile, there is much to maintain suspense. v One writer trying to be clever declared: “Might as well engrave the NCAA trophy now. Put Kentucky’s name on it.” v Kiss of death? The bandwagon is officially loaded. ESPN’s Dick Vitale picked UK to win the NCAA title. v Next, the righteous will weigh in.
Much as some Kentucky fans will never lighten up on Duke, Forbes Magazine, Rolling Stone and other national heavyweights will single out, assail and satirize the “Basketball Culture at Ken- tucky.” While I support the tail-wags-dog premise, it is March and time to put aside elephant-in-the-room Calipari ism and enjoy a kind of ballet. Case in point: The Harrisons. There is also Trey Lyles’ styling as a get-outon break, medium-range shooter, ball fake-and-go, reverse lay-up off a spin move. Ballet.
Epilogue: Anthony Davis, the leader of the 2012 NCAA title team took a question in February: How would his UK team in 2012 fare against this one? “… We would destroy them. No question.”
Maybe. But, welcome to the delicious arguments of March.
Observations v Alex Poythress a model for Calipari system? Scenario: Encouraged to return for 2015-16, improves his draft spot from 48th, lets UK athletics trumpet academic progress, muffles one-andd o n e critics, helps team graduation rate, and inflates team GPA next season. v Andrew Harrison is 50th on one NBA draft board and brother Aaron’s name is nowhere. Four reasons why neither will return: Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, newest one-and-doner, 6-3, 200-pound Isaiah Briscoe, and a shrug to stay from the coach. v The formerly pouty, at times sullen, kid wearing No. 41 has bloomed into Trey Lyles, man-child with a moniker: X Factor. v Favorite headline last week: UK Athletics to Deepen Investment in Center for Academic and Tutorial Services. v Phil Jackson. When a CBS camera leered into the face of New York Knicks’ boss at Rupp Arena last Saturday, we wondered if the Zen master might be re-thinking his franchise’s first pick in the June Draft.
Jackson is expected to draft Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Better investment: Willie Cauley-Stein. v NBC Sports World’s end-of-February NBA mock draft projections affecting Kentucky and Louisville?
Fourth overall pick by Los Angeles Lakers, Karl Anthony-Towns; 10th pick by Indiana Pacers, Willie Cauley-Stein. Trey Lyles 14th to Houston Rockets; Dakari Johnson 37th to Sacramento; Alex Poythress 48th to Oklahoma City; Andrew Harrison 50th to San Antonio.
Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell projects 13th to the Phoenix Suns and Terry Rozier 16th to Philadelphia.
Florida will be in Rupp Arena for Kentucky’s Senior Day on Saturday. Last weekend the Gators gave Billy Donovan his 500th coaching win. From Gator- Zone.com: “… it was at that moment when the Rowdy Reptiles began serenading something even rarer.
“ BIL- LY D! BIL- LY D! BIL-LY D!”
“A true college basketball treasure,” wrote Chris Harry.
And so it goes.
You can reach me at bob. Watkins24@aol.com