The terribly disappointing 2011-12 college basketball season was an utterly forgettable year for our U.C.L.A. Bruins and is mercifully about to end. But before it does, there is one final game. The NCAA 2011-12 Men's Basketball Championship (most all-time appearances, U.C.L.A. with 13) will feature a battle of bluebloods and, if Kentucky wins, the possible end of college basketball as we know it. Cue the music (John Williams, U.C.L.A. grad).
Coach Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats (37-2) will meet Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks (32-6) for the chance to hear that most cheesy yet most coveted song, One Shining Moment (most all time titles, U.C.L.A. with 11). Interestingly, both these coaches met in the championship game the last time we were in the Final Four, with Self's Jayhawks beating Calipari's Memphis Tigers in OT. Notably, both of these coaches have kept their programs among the perennial elite in the country while ours has turned to dust.
Tonight, we'll get to see the POY Anthony Davis and the runner up POY Thomas Robinson. Kentucky is more athletic. Kansas is deeper. This should be a close game, and I don't think Kentucky will be able to go on a dunkfest whenever Kansas gets close the way they did against Louisville. I'm rooting for all but one of the Jayhawk Nation tonight, but I think Kentucky's lineup is just too good. It will be interesting how many of their players declare for the NBA draft before the nets are cut down. Either way, I just want to see a single buzzer beater in this tournament. That's what happens when there is no Gus Johnson.
The good news for Kansas is twofold. If they win, they are outright champions. If they lose, they can still wake up every day for the next 5 years and think that maybe today is the day that Calipari gets #3 vacated and the title comes back to Lawrence. Talk about lasting hope!
On the other hand, this is almost a no-win situation for Coach Cal in my eyes. If he wins, so what? Look at that roster and how can he NOT win? On the other hand, if he couldn't win with Marcus Camby and couldn't win with Derrick Rose and can't win with this lineup, then he is exposed as an average coach. Sure, he is a great recruiter and team builder. But when it comes down to match ups and X's and O's and game time adjustments, he doesn't stack up to his peers. Bill Self may not be quite the tactician that Rick Pitino is, but Self made great halftime adjustments in his semi-final to erase a big deficit against a good tOSU team. Self also has a better roster than Louisville, and Kansas came from behind against both UNC and tOSU, so a deficit to Kentucky won't rattle them.
In the end though, I think Kentucky's talent will outweigh Kansas's coaching and team play. Kentucky won by 10 when these two met in November. I think this game is closer, but the outcome will be the same. Kentucky will win, and then college coaches will see the model to winning titles is to bring in the most one-and-done mercenaries they can, and college basketball goes completely over to the Dark Side.
Somewhere, Shabazz Muhammed is wearing Adidas shoes and watching this game tonight, and deciding between U.C.L.A. and Kentucky and a couple others as to what school he'll attend next season.. The NBA D-League team that is Kentucky is a Nike school, by the way.
Here's your open thread, Bruins. Have at it.