Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Frosh, Final Four & the Portal

How many conversations did I have with my bestie hoopaholic pals — Smarts and Doc — over the weekend?

Correct answer: A whole lot.

During one with Doc, he asked rhetorically how many freshman were playing significant roles for the teams still alive?

The only name that immediately came to mind was UConn’s Stephon Castle.

We agreed that college hoops success is now — and possibly always has been frankly — predicated on experience. Among other factors, like, oh, talent and a great guard running the show, etc.

So, looking for some anecdotal evidence, I actually did some research on the squads of the Final Four survivors.

Of the players on UConn, Alabama, NC State and Purdue who have averaged double digit minutes over the course of the season, exactly four are rookies. Castle, one kid balling for the Boilermakers, and a couple rolling for the Tide.

Other than that, nada. Last men standing are mostly seniors, grad students, grad transfers with a smattering of juniors and sophs.

NC State, Underdog of the Month, starts all transfers. Their Flav o’ Flav of the Month big un DJ Burns used to play for Winthrop.

Hmm, where have I heard that school’s name recently?

Oh yeah, U of L’s Pat Kelsey used to mentor there.

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Which brings me as matters b-ball always do back to the Cardinals.

Where the total members from this year’s squad remaining total one.

But Kelsey has already convinced a couple of his CoC guys to join him.

A guard from Australia. Who nets the three. Love dudes from Down Under. Always seem to be tough.

And an undervalued soph to be pivot, who has gained praise from pro scouts for his intangibles. He’s an if come talent, kind of like a more talented version of this past season’s half and done Dennis Evans, he of the mysterious medical ailment from which he appears to have been cured.

It is the nature of today’s game. Thus any questions whether Kelsey can recruit five stars don’t matter as much as can he recruit the portal? Fellas, for example, like that Grant Nelson contributor for the Tide who found his way to Dreamland BBQ land from the hoops hotbed of Devils Lake, North Dakota, and his instate Bison basketballers.

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A couple of things about the first few days of the Pat Kelsey era resonate, underscore why Louisville is legitimately considered the most hoops-addled metropolis in the land.

One, the media coverage.

Two, everybody’s talkin’. I’ve had at least a half dozen folks engage me in conversation since the intro press conference, whom I don’t know and I’ve never spoken to before.

Then there’s that incident at white table cloth Volare. When Kelsey and family walked into the restaurant, the place spontaneously broke out into applause, then the C*A*R*D*S cheer. Do not believe Rob Hickerson was in the house, except spiritually.

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If the Wolfpack should somehow someway prevail, it will be the best story in the history of the game. How the same school twice improbably took the same path.

That said, I really want Purdue to win it all. (Though UConn is a beast and it’s hard to see them falling. But it happens.)

For a longing dedicated fanbase, for Gene Keady, a truly great guy.

Given my allegiance to Cardinal basketball, I understand and admire those with loyalties to other schools with the same passion.

I remember sitting next to a couple HS kids during the ’82 title game in the SuperDome.

Young, they had never experienced a title for their beloved Tar Heels. They were so nervous, so full of hoping.

It reminded me of my emotions just three years earlier in Indy.

So Go Boilers.

Go Cards.

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As I’ve texted and told pals many times over during the decades:

I. Love. College. Basketball.

— c d kaplan


4 thoughts on “Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Frosh, Final Four & the Portal

  1. Good one Seedy. Great insight. Excited for Cards and Red Bull overdosin’ (or whatever makes him so hyped) Kelsey as they enter 5th dimension called the Portal. Meanwhile go Wolfpack and Burnsie.

  2. Nice column. One minor correction – the ’83 title game was in the Pit, won by the aforementioned Wolfpack. You were referring to the ’82 game in the Dome, won by the MJ shot. Cool that you were there. I was all in for NC State, because I love watching unusual players such as Burns. But you’re right, it would be good for Gene Keady to see a win. It will be a fun final 4.

  3. Interesting, I was in Indy for the final four when the Boilermakers had Joe Berry Carroll, their last F4.
    I was in Albuquerque with Doc in ’83 when Valvano’s Wolf Pack knocked off Phi Slamma Jamma, their last F4. I think I’ll pull for NC State. What a story, and they are coached by Kevin Keats, a past Louisville assistant coach under Pitino. Also, I just love the “Big Burner”. What a joyous man.

  4. I was there in ‘82 at the pit
    Still remember Billy Thompson showboating at the end probably costing us the came

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