Final Four….One for the Kids

Posted: April 5, 2012 by centennialsports in Hoops, NCAA

By Matt Parker

The stage was set.

Fake smiles all around....these two men hate each other

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the largest fixed-domed structure in the world.

New Orleans, Louisiana, a city recovering from natural disaster, the founding of Lob City, and Bountygate.

For one long weekend residents could forget the torture they’ve endured in recent years and focus on a multi-billion dollar business built on the exploitation of unpaid labor.

Ahhhhhh the NCAA.

The first matchup had all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood production; the Final Four, an inter-state rivalry, future NBA stars,and two big-name college coaches who can’t stand each other.

It was the Calipari family versus the Pitino family, and they were going to the mattresses in the Big Easy.

Yet another version of Calipari’s lottery pick factory was making a run at a national title, even though someone messed up Anthony Davis’ face on the assembly line.

A lock for the first overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Davis is best known for this cameo on Family Guy:

Kentucky’s superior talent had them as 8.5 point favorites so it came as no surprise when they jumped out to a quick lead, but Louisville weathered the early storm and seemed determined to deny the Wildcats their predicted destiny.

Louisville sparkplug Peyton Siva was held in check by the Wildcats’ athleticism on the perimeter, and was held scoreless for the first 30 minutes. Louisville shot just 35 percent but, it was their rebounding that kept the game close, finishing with a 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

Future Stars

With 90 seconds remaining the Kentucky lead was only five, but the nail in the coffin came courtesy a thunderous Davis dunk. Still, the scrappy Cardinals had the mighty Wildcats on the ropes and could leave New Orleans with their heads held high.

Kansas-Ohio St. didn’t exactly bring the same kind of hype, but the final product delivered.

Ohio St. controlled the tempo from the outset. Their half-court offense slowed the pace of the game, while Kansas seemed clueless and error-prone. Jayhawks’ star Thomas Robinson was frustrated by Deshaun Thomas, and Big Ten defensive player of the year Aaron Craft was wreaking havoc. The Buckeyes were in cruise control.

Then all of a sudden, Ohio St. fell apart.

Foul trouble in the second half relegated Thomas to the bench, and Robinson reaped the rewards. Kansas rallied from a 13-point deficit to take the lead late on.

Sullinger's reaction when he saw how far he dropped in draft status

Jared Sullinger shot a dreadful 5-19, as the first-team All-American finished with just eleven points. Let this be a lesson to all: when the NBA says it wants to give you big money, take it before they change their minds. If you’re a projected lottery pick, returning to college can only hurt you and your wallet. If you don’t think you’re good enough to go to the NBA don’t be the one to tell them, let them learn the hard way. Sullinger may be teaching a course on this next year at Fall So Hard University.

Kansas led by a total of 3 minutes, 48 seconds. It wasn’t pretty but it was enough to earn a date with Kentucky on Monday night.

The title game presented matchup of ideologies between the two winningest programs in college basketball history. Calipari‘s one-and-dones against Self’s juniors and seniors. Could Calipari finally win a title? Could Kansas pull off the upset?

One thing we know for sure is that Self is one helluvacoach. Eight straight Big 12 titles, a national championship in 2008, and this year’s Naismith Coach of the Year award leaves no doubt he’s one of the best in the biz. Another national title would cement his place in history.

But under the intense spotlight, Calipari’s prodigies dominated. Kentucky jumped out to an 18 point first half lead and weathered a Jayhawks’ run late on to hold on for an eight-point victory.

Throughout the tournament Kansas showed an innate ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but Kentucky refused to fall prey Monday night. The best team doesn’t always win in college basketball, but the Wildcats left no doubt Monday night.

A one point loss at Indiana, and a setback to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game were their only losses all year. Poise, toughness, and unselfishness are qualities rarely held by teams led by freshmen, but Calipari’s kids are changing the landscape of college basketball.

This is a squad that can beat you in a number of ways. Against Louisville, Kidd-Gilchrist had an off night and Davis, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, picked up the slack on the offensive end. In the title game, Davis had only six points but led the team in assists, rebounds, and blocks as Doron Lamb led the team in scoring.

But this title is all about Calipari. He joins a very exclusive club of coaches with national championships and stakes his claim as one of the best in modern college basketball history. He can exhale. But he’s not about to rest on his laurels, on Friday he’s going recruiting.

The factory rolls on.

That is all.

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