Have you heard the one that starts out like this?
So, Christian Laettner and U.S. Reed walk into Check’s for a bowl of Bean Soup . . .
No, well, neither have I.
But, if there exists a joke, the punchline has to be Robert Morris or Kenneth Fareid or, if it’s really sick, Billy Clyde Gillispie.
But Reed’s name did come up, when I was lunching yesterday with my pal, fellow Cardinal acolyte, Bruce. Because, well, because we talk U of L hoops, regardless of the season, most especially now, and, because I mentioned that, as locked into Cardinal basketball as I have been for decades, I was stunned when I realized this is the first time Louisville has made it to four straight Sweet Sixteens.
Because, historical reminder here, Razorback Reed’s midcourt shot in the opening round of the ’81 NCAA thwarted U of L’s advancement, not only to four consecutive Sweet Sixteens, but, possibly four straight Final Fours, the Cards having made it to the last weekend in ’80, when it won it all, again in ’82 and ’83..1
Were I a betting man, I’d lay a farthing that Mr. Laettner’s name has come up a time or three among denizens of the BBN over a platter of SOBs at Missy’s Out of the Way Cafe in Raywick. Surely preceded by the descriptor, “that sumbitch.”
Anyway, my point is this.
Is this a fun time, or what?
I mean, the funnest time.
There are those who would argue that the couple weeks, leading up the first Saturday in May, are the best this burg has to offer.
Allow me to disagree.
Yes, I acknowledge that an event which causes tight sphinctered partners of Grumph, Harrumph and Tweedleball to set aside their legal briefs, don lavender blazers and lime green slacks adorned with embroidered julep cups; that would cause the Ladies of Upper River Road to walk about, their heads adorned with millinery the size of beach umbrellas, an event that would have that effect obviously indicates a sense of elevated community gaiety.
But, it’s nothing like tournament time.
Especially seasons like this. Years when the Wildcats are on a run toward history. When the Cards are showing mettle in March, that couldn’t be conceptualized in January. When Bellarmine is churning toward its second national crown.2 When the U of L women are on a collision course to overachieve, as far along the tourney trail as possible at least until they have to play UConn.
At the grocery the other day, there wasn’t an aisle without fans talking ball. Flags are flying from truck windows. Wearing school colors is de rigueur.
This, the importance and fun of Derby notwithstanding, is what we do.
This is who(m) we are.
* * * * *
The writers who cover college hoops nationally are of course all a twitter this time of year too. Literally. Figuratively.
They’re trying to find a unique hook to assess the action, to grab our attention. Not to fret, guys and gals, we in Hoopsylvania digest it all.
One list, which purports to rank the Sweet Sixteen games in order of interest, places U of L vs. N.C. State at the bottom of the hierarchy, i.e. the least compelling game.
Well, tell that to Bruce. Or, to the lady using a walker at the DK (Dirty Kroger), attired head to toe in Cardinal red.
UK vs. Bobby Huggs’ West Virginia Mountaineers topped the ranking, thanks to the Cats’s run into the history books. Of course, there’s also the intriguing aspect that, well, Huggins seems to have Coach Cal’s number.
Frankly, I don’t need to rank ’em. Notre Dame/ Wichita, Wisconsin/ Carolina, Duke/ Utah, Oklahoma/ Michigan State — those are some righteous matchups.3
Another wag attempted to rate the level of stress being felt by each coach. Calipari, of course, topped the list. Deservedly so. Should Kentucky somehow fail to achieve perfection and the title this season, he could become a fallen man of Shakespearean proportion.
I would have put Rick Pitino at the bottom of any such list. While the Cardinal faithful want to survive again and advance over N.C. State, it seems to me most are just pleased as punch to have gotten this far, after a season full of potholes deeper than the one in the Cochran Tunnel that blew out one of my tires the other day.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, among the also rans, disgruntled ballers are transferring . . . by the drove. Some, their usefulness complete, are simply being sent packing.
Coaches heads are rolling.
Will the Koch Brothers match Alabama’s fat cats dollar for dollar to keep Greg Marshall at Wichita State?
Will Bobby Hurley really fall into the trap of taking the DePaul job, a black hole if ever there was one.
* * * * *
John Calipari is the Coach of the Year.
* * * * *
Several readers, thinking, I suppose, that I know what I’m talking about, have asked whom I like in the regional semis? Silly them. There’s a reason I don’t fill out a bracket.
I can talk the talk. But don’t really walk the walk.
I’m but a fan, who spends the few bucks a month to pay for this website. I claim zero expertise.
But, I did start something, by naming a projected Final Four throughout the season. It’s too late to stop now.
So, with a hearty caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), I give you:
Today’s Final Four: Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah.
— Seedy K