More Catching Up …

Presumably, everyone has their tax returns completed and in the mail as of last night.  And so, without further distraction or anxiety, let me continue my commentary on things that went down while I was on hiatus…

I have mentioned before that I have seen every final game in the NCAA basketball tournament on TV since 1954; even though my long-suffering wife and I were on travel this year, I kept that streak intact; it now stands at 70 consecutive years.  Congratulations to the UConn Huskies for their suffocating victory over Purdue by 15 points in the final game last week.  Purdue was a dominant team all season long with a powerful inside offensive game (Zach Edey) and a highly efficient outside offensive game (ranked 2nd in the country in the regular season).  UConn put on a defensive clinic taking away the outside offense; in that 40-minute game, the Boilermakers were only able to attempt 7 three-point shots and were only able to make 1 three-point shot.

I enjoy watching UConn play; five players play together; it is not five separate games of one-on-one.  I admire Dan Hurley as a coach here because he gets this type of play from his team in the era of “Hey-Look-At-Me basketball” which is the style that is predominant around the country.  He says that he learned his coaching techniques from his father who was legendary as a high school coach at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey.  The UConn players are very good on offense based on their talents; what Hurley has done here is to get them to play hard and to play effectively on defense creating this dynamic:

  • Opponents have to work hard to get good/open shots – – and then – – UConn comes down the court and runs efficient offense that gets good/open shots most of the time.

That is bad news for UConn opponents…

Moving on – but staying with college basketball.  John Calipari and the University of Kentucky have parted company.  Calipari resigned at UK and signed a 5-year contract with Arkansas just after March Madness ended.  He had been at Kentucky ever since the school fired Billy Gillispie (remember him?) when the Wildcats failed to make the NCAA Tournament after 17 consecutive trips to March Madness.  Kentucky certainly belongs in any conversation about the bluebloods of college basketball, but the expectations of the fanbase there are quite unrealistic.  It is almost as if they believe that Kentucky should have a slot in the Final Four each year as its birth right.

Calipari’s coaching vision is to play the “one-and-done” game by recruiting top shelf high school players who are only in college because they are not allowed to play in the NBA by dint of the CBA between the league and the players’ union.  Most of those players are extremely gifted with physical talents but Kentucky does not win lots of championships that way because:

  • Those players are 19 years old at most and they often have to play against opponents who are 23 or 24 years old.  Physical maturity matters; that is why many one-and-done lottery picks in the NBA take a couple of years to have any real impact on the NBA game.
  • Those players know they are not into Kentucky basketball for the long run.  They appear to resist hard coaching, and they certainly do not play defense with the intensity or the dedication of teams like UConn.

Consider these data compiled over the 16 seasons that John Calipari was the head coach at Kentucky:

  • In those 16 seasons, Calipari recruited 52 players who went on to be first-round picks by NBA teams – – and yet – –
  • The school won exactly 1 NCAA championship.  That is the same number of championships won by Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith.

Mark Pope – late of the BYU basketball program – has been hired to replace Calipari at Kentucky.  I hope his teams do well starting in November 2024 because he is probably on a much shorter leash with the fanbase there than he realizes at this point.

Switching gears …  I would be remiss if I did not point out that the women’s tournament this year was historic.  For the first time ever, the women’s final game out drew the men’s final game on TV.  Surely, the celebrity factor that Caitlin Clark brought to the Iowa games and the undefeated status of Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team generated tons of interest in those tournament games.  Presumably, some of that interest will carry over to next year – – perhaps most of it?

And another thing …  When we got home last week, I spent some time watching The Masters on Friday.  Look, I am not a big “golf guy” but I usually check out some of the coverage of the majors.  The coverage last Friday was not for The Masters; it was for Tiger Woods.  He was not really in contention although he did “make the cut” but I saw him on camera more than any three or five other players combined.  [Aside:  Woods did make the cut and then proceeded to shoot 82 followed by 77 to finish 100th in the field – – 27 strokes behind the winner, Scottie Scheffler.]

When Tiger Woods was clearly the best golfer on the planet, that level of coverage was excessive; but at least, there was a basis for the excess.  Tiger Woods is no longer anywhere near that status.  Maybe it’s because I am not a ‘golf guy”, but the constant and fawning coverage of Woods is a turn-off for me; I want to see and follow the guys who are vying for the lead not the guys scrambling to be allowed to play on Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, since much of today dealt with college basketball happenings, let me close with these words from Al McGuire:

“Winning is overemphasized.  The only time it is really important is in surgery and war.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “More Catching Up …”

  1. Opposite of your NCAA streak, this year marked the first time in over 60 years that I didn’t watch one second of the Masters. The LIV versus the PGA kerfuffle, combined with the unmitigated greed all those players who joined the “Saudi tour“, plus the fact that sleazebags like Phil Mickelson and Jay Norman have succeeded in subsidizing their ego and financial difficulties have made watching golf virtually unpalatable for me.
    I wonder if CVS is decision to overexpose Tiger Woods, was the consequence of other golfers feeling the same, plus the fact that Woods has more face recognition to the casual viewer than many of the other contestants.
    I do, however, agree that i would have been more interested in following the actual competition as rather than witnessing the demise of Woods’ golf game.

    1. J Houck:

      Surprised to hear you boycotted The Masters. That says a lot about the condition of golf at the moment.

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