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In context of losing ten times, surviving Kansas State, unbeaten Wichita State, defending NCAA champion Louisville, then Michigan, Kentucky’s unlikely advance to the 2014 Final Four, is reminiscent of ...“... the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” – Russ Hodges, New York Giants radio, 1951.
Or ...“Do you believe in miracles?” Al Michaels, Olympic Games, 1980.
Or ...“I don’t believe what I just saw,” Jack Buck, St. Louis Cardinals radio, 1988.
Or ...“... and here they come to me now.” Cawood Ledford (any Kentucky Derby).
Me, in this instance, is you of Big Blue Nation. They, in this instance, are three front men — Marcus Lee, Aaron Harrison and John Calipari. Each personifies what has emerged from March’s mad wilderness, a team.Harrison had nerve to seize a moment, step back with 2.3 seconds left on Sunday, and stick it.
Lee stayed engaged to explode out from Willie Cauley-Stein’s long shadow and, well, step up.And, Calipari recognized the media love and dividend to be gotten from preparing his team, leave them to talk together before tipoffs and time outs, shut up and let ‘em play.
For Kentucky fans: “... and here they come to me now.”A month ago, Big Blue’s basketball bunch dribbled onto the court in Atlanta wearing the same clothes. By Sunday evening, March 16, the Wildcats had lost to Florida by a point, accepted an NCAA selection committee slap-in-the-face eight seed in the Midwest Region. K-State was waiting. No. 1 ranked Wichita State, defending NCAA champion Louisville and 2013 title game finalist Michigan too.
In a fortnight that beckons a Jack Buck: “I don’t believe what I just saw!” the Wildcats came upon us like daffodils. Suddenly, there they are! Next, UK gave its fans four games so gorgeous even Uncle Adolph Rupp would’ve allowed an approving smile.Not since Anthony Davis’ Inc. highlight reels has Big Blue Nation had reason to revel in 160 minutes of gorgeous basketball. Four games. Silk. Efficient, good decisions, unselfish, soaring, push-for-shove, incredible clutch shooting, and no blink.
Kansas State was game but surrendered.
Wichita State was determined, but too nourished by a negative: “we don’t get any respect.”
Louisville simply cracked under pressure. Rick Pitino was so crushed he could not do the hand shake queue with one-and-done Wildcats.
And, by then, Michigan faced a Kentucky team destined to put in full eclipse the ghost of Christian Laettner. Even if these Wildcats had no idea, you did. Aaron Harrison’s step-back swisher at 2.3 seconds ... then guard the in-bound pass.
Epilogue? NCAA Midwest All-Region Team: UK’s Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison of course. But, (wait for it) with 15 minutes playing time in one box score, Marcus Lee. Perfect.
‘... and here they come to me now.” ... Kentucky is going to the Final Four.
America’s glam team is bringin’ its best, driving the band wagon past all the “told ya so’s” to Lone Star’s Big D.
As surprised by his team’s blossom as the next man, Calipari, in three weeks, given new life to the word, tweak which means: “I’m gonna shut up-and-let ‘em play!”
Media herd allowed itself to be tweaked by John Calipari too. By Sunday critics to one-and-done-ism were U-turning faster than Charles Barkley’s bobble head move.
“Hey, maybe John’s got it right,” they yodeled.
Michigan’s John Beilein, one of the five best coaches in college basketball today (Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski), offered the best quote last week.
About Michigan Fab Five and so much attention given Kentucky freshmen “... is a media thing,” Beilein said at a press conference. “I wish we’d all just embrace the kid that’s a grinder for four years instead of making this huge thing about freshmen stars. Let’s reward the kid that really works hard just as much as the freshmen stars.”
If someone whispered four words into Alex Poythress’s ear before he checked into a game, the kid might be an All-American. “It’s show time, man.”
Stunning, life and times parallels of Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and John Wooden at UCLA. Seth Davis’ Wooden: A Coach’s Life, is quite a read.
Oddsmakers make it an all SEC final on Monday.
Florida versus Kentucky would be a second meeting this year. The Wildcats Billy Donovan’s team played in Lexington February 15 and in Gainsville March 8, is no more. Florida would play a team it beat by a point at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
UK basketball fan who said: “Kentucky basketball this year? Look at it on the bright side. It could’ve been worse. The Harrison twins could’ve been triplets,” stand up, please?
And so it goes.