UCLA came within an eyelash of being in this game. Just a bad break and an unlucky bounce is all that kept us out. Which is why 48% of the fans voting during the Final Four games picked UCLA to win the whole enchilada.
First, the good news. And it really is good. With Kentucky having bowed out, no one has to hold his or her nose and root for Duke. There's something wrong about rooting for Duke, in my opinion. Not on a scale of rooting for just$c*, but wrong nonetheless. Fortunately, Wisconsin saw to it that we don't have to confront that issue.
One other item before proceeding to the big game itself. The great SB Nation Intergalactic Headquarters blog produces some really interesting articles. The Kentucky obituary is worth reading. It has nothing directly related to the big game, but it discusses and puts a fitting end to the Wildcat story. Well, at least until next year, when The Great Oz turns the crank on the machine and pulls in his next band of mercenaries.
Duke Basketball Report gives its view of Wisconsin and Kentucky. DBR's take:
For the second straight game, we saw a physically inferior team take it right to Kentucky on the boards. And we saw what happened when the steamrolling, the soaring dunks and the intimidation didn't work.
We saw Wisconsin, basically, had more courage and heart than Kentucky. You can spin it anyway you want to, but that's the heart of it. And we might add that dominating the SEC these days is not that much harder than dominating the Missouri Valley Conference.
In other words, it didn't do much to prepare Kentucky for a team like Wisconsin. For all its remarkable talent, UK didn't get pushed much and that caught up to them in the end.
DBR downplays the Blue Devils' earlier victory at Wisconsin, nothing that Sam Dekker was injured, and that Wisconsin is "experienced, composed and playing brilliant basketball." (No bulletin board material is likely to come from Durham.) DBR also thinks "the Badgers will see a much better Duke." Well, in the first game, Duke shot 65%, the best mark ever for a visitor in Wisconsin's arena, and the 80 points they got were a season high allowed by the Badgers. Is that an anomaly or does Duke have Wisky's number? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
There wasn't anything about Duke on Bucky's Fifth Quarter, the Badger SB Nation site as of the time this preview is being put together.
What about the blowhards? Well, none of CBS's experts picked Wisconsin, so their unanimous endorsement of Duke over MSU doesn't mean much. I looked at some of the betting sites, and couldn't really figure out what they were saying (although for only $29.95, I could get the absolute lock information (and, I think, a set of Ginsu Knives)).
Here's some news. I was going to describe it as "distressing" news, but it really isn't. It's just news. John Calipari has reportedly been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Here's the payoff paragraph:
The 56-year-old coach and his previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday night. Calipari has gone to the Final Four with three different college programs -- University of Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008, though both of those were vacated by the NCAA. He has made four trips to the Final Four in the past five years with Kentucky, winning the title in 2012.
I checked. Coach is in both as a player and a coach. I'm confident that Coach would only have praiseworthy things to say about Calipari, but I'm not Coach. I don't think it's right for Coach and Calipari to be in the same Hall of Fame. How is it that two of his programs got sanctioned, but he's still eligible for this hall of fame? It doesn't make sense to me, other than as an endorsement for cheating. But that's just me. The Wildcat fans think he's great (at least until he draws his third round of sanctions).
Finally, something everyone enjoys talking about - money. According to the Bloomberg article, the tournament TV contract brought $700 million into the ncaa's money bin. $498 million went to Division 1 schools, with $194 million given via the "basketball fund." You need to click on the bit about "basketball units" and how much that generated. It's really too much to list here, but you might pull it up to read during the time outs.
John Weinstein of the Washington Post says you'll have plenty of time-outs to do all the reading you want. (Yeah, I know it should be "times out." I'll call them "times out" when the baseball stat becomes RsBI. But I digress.) Here's one description from Weinstein:
[I]n the Notre Dame-Northeastern game, Irish Coach Mike Brey called a timeout with 5 minutes 20 seconds left in the first half. It became a full TV timeout. Thirty-nine seconds after play resumed, a whistle stopped play. That became the under-eight-minute TV timeout. Play resumed for a full 1:09 before another whistle brought on the under-four-minute timeout. That meant the teams played 1:48 of basketball with close to nine minutes of dead time surrounding it. In about 12 minutes of real time, fans watched the score go from 22-20 to 24-22.
Now for the nightly quiz: I'll give you two more Feinstein quotes (with emphasis added), and your task is to decide whether Fox 71 is a Weinstein fan:
Everyone knows that because Turner Sports and CBS are paying billions to the NCAA, they need to sell commercials to pay their bills. Fine. Use the ludicrously long 20-minute halftimes for more commercials and less of the meaningless blather coming from the studios.
One more thing: Once a free throw shooter has the ball in his hands, no one touches him. All the hand-touching and backing away from the line probably adds at least five minutes to every game.
That last one really gets me. I haven't figured out why it's mandatory after every free throw that we do the hand-slapping. And after a miss? Your guys have to give you a hand-slap to restore your confidence, or what -- you'll burst into tears?
Ah, well. And that's the news. Here's to a fine game, with a bold, precedent-shattering decision by the TV crew to just keep its collective mouth shut. My guess is that one of those things will happen and one won't.
It has been a very long time since UCLA got the final shot in One Shining Moment, but this never gets old. Enjoy and try not to tear up:
This is what UCLA basketball is supposed to be about!