For Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, and Louisville, the road has reached New Orleans. One Shining Moment awaits one of the travelers. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Men's National Basketball Semi-Finals get underway this evening. Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, and Louisville are your Final Four. This is our open thread to chat about the game, our own program, anything college basketball, or pretty much whatever you want.
Speaking of the Final Four, U.C.L.A. is tied with UNC for the most all-time FF appearances with 18 (yes, I'm conveniently forgetting that one of ours was vacated). Just wanted to throw that in up front.
The first game tonight features bitter rivals Univ of Kentucky (36-2) and Louisville (30-9). The game will be at 6pm ET on CBS. Kentucky was a border state in the Civil War 150 years ago, and the people are just as divided today with half the state wearing Kentucky blue and half the state wearing Louisville red. The hatred between the two sides runs so deep that there was a fist fight between a pair of dialysis patients earlier this week, which I think is just awesome. Nothing shows your team passion like interrupting treatment of your kidney failure so you can punch out your enemy. However, Kentucky being Kentucky, the ridiculous bet between opposing mayors leaves something to be desired. While both parties undoubtedly dreamt of winning such rare spoils like literacy, cleanliness, and teeth for their cities, they each sadly only had rusty banjo strings, moonshine, and a coonskin cap to offer up (allegedly!). Apologies to all Kentuckians who can't take a joke. Hang in there, the Derby is only 4 weeks away and your cute cousin has a brand new hat.
As for the game, UK Coach John Calipari has the tournament's #1 overall seed in prime position to claim the school's 8th national title, as well as his record-breaking third vacated Final Four appearance, and he can ruin college basketball forever by winning it all with his annual group of one-and-done'ers. Of course, some coaches can still win every year despite early defections from their program every year. On the other bench, Rick Pitinio, who brought UK the 6th of those 7 titles, will try to bring the Cardinals their third championship, and become the only coach to win a title at 2 different schools. Louisville has the country's #2 defense which will be sorely tested to slow down the dynamic, potent, and diverse UK offense. Kentucky's rock is center, freshman (oops, sorry, Calipari team, so that's redundant), and AP player of the year Anthony Davis. Even though Calipari can easily be out-coached, and Pitino is a guy who could do it, If Davis stays out of foul trouble, no one can match up with the Wildcats. My mind tells me that KY has much too much talent to be denied, but my heart hopes someone does it for the sake of any remaining decency in the sport. I can't stop clinging to hope in college basketball. Go Bruins! Pick: Kentucky.
The second game features a pair of 2 seeds in Kansas (31-6) and Ohio State (31-7). These teams carry significantly less hatred for the other than the first semi-final, but provide a much more intriguing on-court matchup. Jayhawk coach Bill Self is trying to win his second title in 4 years and Buckeye coach Thad Matta is trying to bring the school its second title ever since their win in 1960. Kansas features POY runner up forward Thomas Robinson, a junior who could have gone pro last season based on his potential, but inexplicably chose to stay at his school, work on his game, and lead his team on a deep tourney run. He averaged 18 and 12 this year and will likely be a lottery pick. tOSU is led by forward Jared Sullinger, a sophomore who could have gone pro last season based on his potential, but inexplicably chose to stay at his school, work on his game, and lead his team on a deep tourney run. He averaged almost 18 and 9 this year and may be a lottery pick. Huh. Who knew? Must be nice... Anyway, Kansas and tOSU met in December with Kansas winning by 11, but Sullinger missed that game, and the Buckeyes will want payback. I'm rooting for Kansas, partly for their far less disturbing mascot, partly because the KS folks at Rock Chalk Talk were really cool last year, but mostly because tOSU let Tressel be their fall guy while their AD and President knew they were cheating all along and skated (allegedly!). And Sullinger is back for this one. But if I'm rooting for KS, then you should pick: tOSU.
Open thread, everyone. Pile on!