Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

One & Dumped: Championship Edition

NCAA BannerCall me an old fogey, but I’m delighted that Kentucky’s five much-hyped, “one-and-done” freshmen were defeated 60-54 in the NCAA Tournament Championship game by the University of Connecticut Huskies. And I’m especially thrilled that UConn led from start to finish.

This wasn’t a battle of David vs. Goliath – and there was no Cinderella team. Both teams had recent championship experience. UConn won an NCAA crown in 2011 and Kentucky won in 2012. Coach John Calipari’s Kentucky 2012 title-winning squad started 3 freshman and 2 sophomores.

Kevin Ollie, John CalipariBut it was still an unlikely matchup. Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats were an 8-seed and Kevin Ollie’s UConn Huskies were a 7-seed. It was the first time a #7 team and a #8 team faced off for the championship: the lowest combined seed in NCAA history.

Connecticut was the first 7-seed to reach the title game – but that’s not what made it such a compelling game for me – and for millions of college sports fans across the nation.

8-seeds like Kentucky have made it to the NCAA title game before: the last to do so was Butler in 2011. But, ironically, Butler lost to UConn. Before that, the Huskies beat Kentucky in the Final Four. That this year’s Connecticut team returned two veterans — now seniors — from that 2011 championship team proved the difference in the 2014 NCCA Final.

e3c7a58730fc398a7e6e76fdce54fd85_crop_northUConn head coach Kevin Ollie faced John Calipari’s “one-and-done” starting freshmen five with a balanced and experienced squad of true student-athletes: Phillip Nolan (Sophomore), DeAndre Daniels (Junior), Shabazz Napier (Senior), Niels Giffey (Senior) and Ryan Boatright (Junior).

In fact, last year Napier chose to return to UConn for his senior year because he wanted to get his degree and return to the NCAA Tournament with his teammates.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.20.18 PMAll that the unfazed, well-prepared senior Napier did in tonight’s pressure-filled game was score a game high 22 points with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. (NBA general managers, are you paying attention?) To get to the title game, the cold-blooded, been-there, done-that Napier helped his team beat #1 Florida by scoring 26 points, including a last-second jump shot that clinched the game by a single point.

There’s a reason that no college team has ever won a national title while starting five freshmen. Michigan’s legendary Fab Five couldn’t do it in 1992 – and neither could Calipari’s Kentucky mercenaries this year.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.21.41 PMThere were no McDonald’s All-Americans on UConn’s championship roster. On the other hand, Kentucky had seven McDonald’s All-Americans — six of whom were freshmen – on the losing team.

I’m going to go to Fatburger (not McDonald’s) tomorrow.

dm_140408_ncb_uconnI’ll order a bacon double cheeseburger with ketchup only – and while I’m wolfing it down, I’ll re-read the box score from tonight’s NCAA Championship Game.

And I’ll savor the satisfying flavor of experience over immaturity, impertinence and insouciance.

Go, Huksies!

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One and Dumped.

One and Done Pauley Pavilion at Duskslam167_cover1The very best thing about the first weekend of March Madness is that so many of the all-too-hyped freshman “one-and-done” NBA prospects were bounced from the NCAA Tournament.

Schools with squads laden with upper classmen earned upset victories over programs that rely on rented hoop mercenaries, whose only interest in college is as a one-season showcase for their talents.

When Mercer beat Duke and Stanford knocked out Kansas, maturity and team play proved superior to the ballyhooed skills of freshmen like Jabari Parker, who made only 4 of his 16 shots and was 0-3 from 3-pt range against Mercer —  and Andrew Wiggins, who managed just 4 points on 1 of 6 shooting against Stanford.

w&P

John CalipariIf only Wichita State had been able to close out Kentucky — whose coach, John Calipari, has embraced the “one and done” phenomenon.

In recent years, Calipari hasn’t so much recruited as reloaded, stocking up on NBA-bound prospects for short-term success. He started 5 freshmen against Wichita State.

Wichita State, led by senior Cleanthony Early’s 31 points, fell just 2 points shy of sending Kentucky home short of the Sweet-16.

coursey-parker-ap2Still, March Madness has already taken some of the overheated air out of the puffed-up one-and-dones. In fact, after Coach K’s Duke powerhouse – a 3 seed — got clocked in the first round by Mercer – a lowly 14 seed — USA Today is reporting that Jabari Parker is now “unsure” of the NBA draft.

fc28a0e298abf1f1fdfd3980e6ff99f1_crop_northFor years now, the NBA and the college game have struggled with the growing problem of student-athletes leaving school early to go pro. Largely it’s a problem of the NBA and NCAA’s own making.

But that problem may finally be getting solved in the best possible way: on the basketball court.

1380746998000-USATSI-7153278I’ll be rooting for UCLA – whose starting five include two seniors (Travis and David Wear), one junior (Norman Powell), two sophomores (Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson) – and not one freshman one-and-done!

If that makes me a grumpy old man, so be it.

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