We’re on the verge of that panic state that precedes any big trip. We’ve had clothes laid out since the weekend. We have about 38 lists with things we need to buy, pack, and take care of before we depart Friday morning. I’m also writing a baseball preview for my paper, L. has a playdate scheduled for this afternoon, and there are still many errands to run.
Which means I best put down some NCAA picks before I forget and one of my Final Four picks has already been ousted.
First off, I watched parts of last night’s BYU-Mississippi play-in game. That was absolutely fantastic. We need more games like that.
Next, while this may surprise you, I’m hoping Kentucky does what everyone expects them to do and gets six more wins to close out the perfect season. It’s not a matter of wanting them to be successful and have something to lord over the rest of college basketball’s blue blood programs. Obviously I’m hoping they lose a heart-breaking game to KU in the Elite 8.
But after thinking about the ramifications of how their season could end, I think clinching the perfect season would be a good thing. First off, it’s not likely to happen again soon. Which means no matter what UK and John Calipari do from here on out, it will be a disappointment. I relish the thought of Calipari snapping at the media and fans who wonder “What’s wrong with Kentucky?” when his team is 26–3 next February.
Next, if someone beats Kentucky this year, we’re going to start this whole process over again. Which brings a double-edged sword of possibilities. First, to the good for non-Kentucky fans, the pressure on future UK teams will be immense to get to 3X and 0 and then close out the season. The undefeated question has dogged the program the past three seasons. It’s going to be even bigger going forward if this team doesn’t win the title.
However, if they don’t win, Calipari may go full supernova in recruiting. There’s no question he’s the best in the game right now. But what if he says, “Eff it, I HAVE to go undefeated,” and stops recruiting a couple top 30 guys to go with his 3–4 top 10 guys in each class? What if he says, each year, “I’m signing the best point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center in this class no matter what,”? At least Jahlil Okafor went to Duke and Andrew Wiggins went to KU. If Kentucky falls short, Calipari may not let those guys get away again.
That’s all meaningless chatter, though. Kentucky ain’t losing.
My Final Four:
Arizona (North Carolina upsets Wisconsin in Sweet 16)
As for KU, I feel better about their chances than I did when the bracket first got posted. I still think the odds are better they’re done the first weekend than the second, though.
I worry about Perry Ellis’ health. I’m wondering if he might not play a little like Wayne Simien did in the 2004 tournament, when he was fighting a leg injury. He played well in KU’s opening game and again in the Sweet 16. He was clearly hobbled in the second round and Elite 8. Will Perry be able to come back and play hard and well Sunday if KU gets by New Mexico State in the opening round?
But the thing that gives me a little hope is that they have played seven games now without Cliff Alexander. Landon Lucas and Hunter Mickelson have both provided some solid minutes in his absence. I think they’re both comfortable being asked to play important roles. Those seven games could be the difference in KU moving forward.
I also realized it’s a little funny that I was so disheartened about playing Wichita State. I don’t live in Kansas, or the Kansas City area anymore. I don’t have any family or friends who went to WSU. Why should I care so much about the chances of the Shockers being the team that sends KU home? Especially when KU could be playing Indiana in the second round. And I’m going to be spending a week in Florida with three IU alums. And then I’ll come home to a city full of IU fans that may be inclined to engage in friendly discussions with me should the Hoosiers be the team that ends KU’s season.
You know what? Screw them both. Wichita State and Indiana, I mean. Oh, and New Mexico State, too. And Notre Dame. And Kentucky. Screw the whole freaking Midwest bracket.
Rock Chalk, bitches!
- Worth noting, my jinx powers are strong this year. Witness what happened to Brannen Greene after I declared he was my favorite KU player. And how Iowa State lost two games immediately after I said they weren’t losing again. ↩
- Fortunately none of the three are big basketball fans, and likely won’t know that KU and IU could play until I tell them. They also know that I get grumpy when KU’s season ends and will leave me alone if that nightmare scenario occurs. ↩