Beyond “bracketologists,” pep bands and painted faces, the deep beauty of the NCAA basketball tournament is its suspense. We know shockers and surprises are coming, but who, when and where they will occur is the fun part.
Last week, Morehead State supplied the shocker, sending home Final Four-ambitious Louisville. It was a punch in the gut for the Cardinals, but a basketball moment for the ages for Rowan County’s other team.
Because Kenneth Faried stayed for another year in college, because coach Don Tyndall is what a coach ought to be — an inspiration — and because Demonte Harper had an answer when his number was called and swished a 20-footer (will be 40 by 2024). Suddenly, for another shining moment, Morehead was media darling instead of self-proclaimed “little nowhere town in eastern Kentucky.”
Postscript. Rowan County’s other team would be the high school Vikings who advanced two overtimes into a Sweet 16 title game at Rupp Arena before losing on a last-second shot. The Vikings finished 30-6.
Next, the NCAA surprises:
A category that demands hearing Howard Cosell’s epic “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” as a prologue, nine of 11 Big East teams are home this week — knocked out!
Talking-head favorites Texas, Purdue and UCLA — out!
Fun teams still standing – 11- seed Virginia Commonwealth; Jimmer Fredette’s BYU; Florida and Kentucky.
Adding spice to Friday night’s Ohio State-Kentucky match at the Meadowlands are these things …
• ESPN polled America asking who will win the East Region? 64 percent of 90,000 voters said Ohio State, 19 percent chose North Carolina and 11 said Kentucky.
Inside the Buckeye State 83 percent picked Thad Matta’s team. In the Bluegrass State 56 percent picked the Wildcats.
• UK is 10-8 against Ohio State all-time, but 0-5 against the Bucks in NCAAs.
Brings us to Josh and the Giant Killers.
For the Wildcats to defend Ohio State’s 3-point strikers, Josh Harrellson, the big kid who killed the “Free Enes” tee-shirt business, must contain two of the best big men still playing, 255-pound Jared Sullinger and the starter Sullinger replaced, 280-pound Dallas Lauderdale.
If Kentucky manages to giant kill Ohio State it will shocker enough to put Morehead-Louisville into total eclipse, and rank somewhere near 42-to-1 Buster Douglas busting Mike Tyson two decades ago, Mine That Bird’s 50- to-1 shocker in Kentucky Derby 2009, or UK over Indiana in 1975.
Crown For Christian
How perfect is perfect?
Could be a county team from western Kentucky playing a county team from the east. Or, could be a crown for Christian County High School far from the madding crowd, media ratings and anointed favorites ( Louisville Eastern etc.).
The parade, pep rally celebration and Sweet 16 big trophy is now a time zone away from the big city. It can now be found downstate, in Hopkinsville.
Coach Kerry Stovall’s Christian County Colonels needed two overtimes and a last second assist from Tournament MVP Anthony Hickey to Veontae Lewis who swished a game winner against Rowan County (30-6).
So, another exclamation mark placed at the end of what certainly remains, Greatest Show on Earth!
End of another high school basketball season in Kentucky tuted offensive line will look, if there’s a running back ready to replace the talented if often- injured Derrick Locke, if the deep receiving corps can sort itself out, if Trevathan can become even more of a ballhawk as Kentucky moves to a 4-2-5 defensive alignment.
The departures of Locke, Cobb and Hartline leave gaping holes to fill on offense. It’s not the first time the Wildcats have dealt with a mass exodus. He’s eager to start finding the answers on who will become part of Kentucky’s next wave of stars.
“We’ve got to continue to develop depth so when (stars) walk out the door, we’re ready to go,” Phillips said.