Trending — Up⬆: Gators, Eagles, Billikens, Orange & Down⬇: The Cats

b-ballThat the two best contests of the day had already played out by mid-afternoon on Saturday was of little consequence.

At least, in these parts.

That the Russkies went down — with Putin in the house no less — and Boeheim’s boys pulled another one out of nowhere, and that St. Louis remains America’s most unappreciated club . . . no biggie.

At least, in these parts.

It was that heralded and anxiously anticipated nightcap in Rupp that had everybody in the commonwealth’s attention. Lovers. Haters. The few in-betweeners who apparently exist, though I’ve still never met one.

Digger was in the house. So too his bloviating compadre, Dickie the V.

And, of course, She Who Would Be Ashley, UK’s biggest, bestest, most famousest fan of ever.

So, let’s start with the end of the day, in Rupp, and work our way back.

* * * * *

Some teams are ready. Some are not.

Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators certainly were last night. Harried John Calipari’s over-hyped Kentucky Wildcats were not last night. And, from all appearances, seem not equipped to make this a season to remember for the Big Blue Nation.

The game’s leading scorer was the visitor’s Casey Prather with 24, 14 of which were tallied against UK’s ballyhooed front line.1

Then, of course, there was Prather’s dagger of an offensive board when he soared above a phalanx of Cats with 1:25 to play. Followed a few ticks later by another off the defensive boards. But, by then, it appeared that the still young, still befuddled Wildcats had spit out the bit.

But, let’s be fair, steady, senior-laden Florida won one for the stalwarts, the stick around crowd. Which was more why the Gators went home the victors than the less than stellar team play of the not ready for prime time Cats.

When the game was on the line, Florida simply performed almost flawlessly in a heated environment on the road.

Behind 38-45 with 11:13 to play, the Gators scored on every single offensive possession the rest of the way. Patrick Young layup +1. Scottie Wilbekin threeball. Then two FTs, followed by a Casey Prather layup. Patric Young jumper after a Dorian Finney-Smith offensive board. Two FTs by Prather, followed by another couple from Wlbekin. Michael Frazier trey after another Finney-Smith offensive board. Then four more Wilbekin FTs — Does this sound familiar? — one by Prather, then another by Wilbekin. And a Prather layup +1.

That, mes freres, is a team ready to prevail.

Kentucky matched that 31 point interlude with scowls, inefficiency, a technical on Coach Cal and an epidemic of deer in the headlights looks. And, only 14 points.

The Cats were schooled.

Florida looks ready, after stalling in the Elite Eight the last several years.

As for UK, well, let’s just say the rest of the season is going to be fascinating to watch.

* * * * *

OshieIt is stating the obvious when I observe that there are significantly more sports fans, nay Americans — myself included — who know the name T.J. Oshie this morning than when they woke up yesterday.

In as delicious a breakfast treat as one could hope for — a shootout W over the Russkies on their home ice in the Olympics with Vladimir Putin in the house — Oshie rose to the occasion. To say the least.

Few game endings are as fraught with tension as a hockey shootout.2 Cucumber cool Oshie never faltered.

You know the scenario by now. Game tied after regulation after a late Russian goal was correctly disallowed. A scoreless five minute OT of four on four. A standoff after the initial three-attempt apiece shootout. Then Oshie’s game winner during the fifth extra sudden death go round after that.3

Which winning tally, it must be pointed out, came after two other scores, which, if they hadn’t been made, would have given Russia sudden victory.

It was just the other day I waxed ecstatic over big sporting events that come during the first coffee of the day. This one started at 7:30 am here, and was magnificent from the first drop of the puck.

Sure it was just a preliminary round, but, truth, since the Miracle on Ice, every Olympic hockey encounter between the U.S. of A. and Russia since then has taken on a sense of the epic.

Stay tuned, the two could meet again. Of course, Canada looms large.

* * * * *

UConn’s W at home over Memphis State was easily the second best game of the day.

Back and forth. Overtime. A career best performance by Shabazz Napier, with 34. His threeball at the end of regulation was in, then, somehow, spun out to send the game to extra time. He and backcourt mate Ryan Boatwright drained 20 of 24 FTs between them.

Here’s a winning combination. Make FTs. Don’t throw the ball away. Memphis State had 18 turnovers, the Huskies only 6.

* * * * *

If Florida is proving this season that there is something to be said for senior-dominated teams, so too St. Louis.

The Billikens start five seniors.

Last year, St. Louis entered the NCAA tourney with a glossy 27-6 record as #4 seed. They were a favorite darkhorse Final Four pick on many folks bracket.4 They were throttled by Oregon, 57-74, in the Round of 32.

This year, Jim Crews’ seriously experienced five is 23-2 after yesterday’s hard fought two point W over VCU. They lost to Wisconsin in November and Wichita State on December 1st. And that’s it. They’ve beaten everybody since, including five conference foes on the road.

They’ll be a tougher out this season in the Dance.

* * * * *

Syracuse keeps prevailing by the hair on its chinny chin chin.

But, operative word: prevailing.

25 up. None down.

As long ago U of L play by play announcer Ed Kallay would say, “You can’t get any better than that.”

Rakeem Christmas, one of the Orange’s less heralded ballers, came up huge. Both on the stat line. And with his very late steal, leading to C.J. Fair’s winning layup.

I’m still hoping for undefeated Syracuse vs. undefeated Wichita State on the last Monday of the season. That is, of course, if my team doesn’t make it that far.

As for NC State? Well, the Wolfpack is coached by Mark Gottfried. Enough said.

* * * * *

Other quick shots:

Duke prevailed in Cameron Indoor, as Duke usually does in Cameron Indoor. When Maryland Terrapin Charles Mitchell’s two late winning attempts were swatted from the rim by those Blue Devil specters that always seem to appear at such moments.

Cincy, San Diego State, Kansas — league leaders all — held service on their home courts.

Improving Carolina held off Pitt in the DeanDome.

— Seedy K

2 thoughts on “Trending — Up⬆: Gators, Eagles, Billikens, Orange & Down⬇: The Cats

  1. This is written at halftime but your weekend wrap up was written just a wee bit prematurely says Bucky Badger who at the moment is killing the team in gawdawful highway department yellow

  2. I finally agree with you…when it comes to da Cayuts, you are either a lover or a hater… tu, Brutus?

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