It is a character trait of which I’m not very proud.
Every tenet of the life philosophies I try to follow contradicts the behavior, tells me I’d be a better person if I acted otherwise.
But, as an ardent Louisville Cardinal supporter . . . I simply can’t help myself, when it comes to consideration of my team’s arch rival.
I rooted for Wisconsin.
I rooted against Kentucky.
I, to be honest, am glad UK lost.
I feel for the Wildcat players. At least the ones, who were man enough to shake the hands of the victors after the loss. At least the ones, who didn’t petulantly and immaturely utter racial epitaphs under their breath about Badger players.
I feel for the BBN, whose loyalty is legendary. At least the ones, who, with some perspective, can cheer for teams to beat their rivals without the need to demean or denigrate.
So, mea culpa, that’s my perspective.
* * * * *
John Calipari is wrong.
After the game, he said this: “This season is historic. I just can’t believe anyone’s gonna do what these kids did, to get to this point unblemished.”
There was nothing historic about this season for Kentucky at all.
It was a good, no, it was a great season.
38-1 is a glossy damn record, a W/L to be proud of.
But, Kentucky is not only not the best team of all time. It is not even the best team this year. When the Great Scorer comes to call, other than in the heart of the BBN, this campaign shall be but an afterthought. Like that of Duke, which was considered one of the great team efforts, when it lost to U of L in ’86. Like the UNLV team upset by Duke. Like Indiana State, which fell in the final to Sparty. Like Wichita State, which UK ousted just last season.
Reality check. Last year’s Wildcat squad, woefully imperfect but ready when it mattered, advanced further in March than this year’s team.
The Wildcats did not throw in a clunker at the wrong time against Wisconsin. UK hit 48% of its shots, which was better than the Badgers. UK hit 60% from beyond the arc, which was better than the Badgers. UK hit 90% of its FTs, missing only one, which was better than the Badgers.
UK had five steals and four blocks, which was better than the Badgers’ one and two respectively. UK committed only 6 turnovers, four less than the Badgers.
Only on the boards, where Kentucky was thought to be invulnerable, did Wisconsin surprise, outrebounding UK by a dozen. Kentucky had only six offensive rebounds, five in the second half, and four of those on just two possessions.
Wisconsin, experienced, more mature, simply schooled Coach Cal’s Cats down the stretch.
Wisconsin, a team with a single Golden Arches All-American on the roster, for sure last night, and, to be honest, on the season, is a better basketball team. The Badgers 7 point win was far from a fluke, absolutely not an upset.
Kentucky outscored Bo Ryan’s guys, 16-4, to take that 60-56 lead.
After which the victors overcame two officiating mistakes, one egregious, to prevail. The offensive foul on Josh Gasser, wiping out a Badger trey, was a bad, but understandable call. That Trey Lyles wasn’t called for a flagrant foul, after intentionally slapping Gasser in the face, is inexcusable.1
But, when it mattered, Kentucky cracked. Three shot clock violations in a row. A couple of Harrison air balls. Throwing it into the stands on an inbounds play.
Wisconsin outscored Kentucky 15-4 to win the game.
* * * * *
The difference in the game? It seemed to me, other than, of course, the reality that the best team won the board battle and prevailed, was how Kentucky never adjusted its switching man to man.
The Badgers exploited mismatches all night. Early in the second half, they picked on Devin Booker. I thought the sharpshooter, who, by the way, wasn’t allowed to launch a three, was going to twist his head off, so often were bigger Badgers blowing by him, after a switch.
Wisconsin went to the line a dozen more times than the Cats, doubling their charity advantage, 18-9. It wasn’t an accident. It was a key component of Bo Ryan’s exquisite game plan.
* * * * *
Badgers vs. Blue Devils on Monday for the title.
Kentucky, like the rest of us, whose teams were ousted earlier in the tourney, will be at home watching.
— Seedy K