Sunday, March 27, 2011

Et tu, hoope'

We come to praise Carolina, not to bury it. Anybody who watched the Eastern Regional Final between Carolina and Kentucky knows how easily the last two minutes could have swung either way.

Suffice to say, Kentucky made shots. That wasn't by chance. UK got more of the looks it wanted out of its half-court sets, and it made them when it had to. The Heels showed heart and not a drop of quit. But they never found a rhythm when forced to walk the ball up, and Harrison Barnes, despite a breathtaking minute of end-to-end excellence, took too many off-balance shots out of set plays, and too few of them found net.

Yet, there's no gloating here from the SEC side. This is the most likable UNC team in years. The same, though, can be said for Kentucky, whose rebirth from last year's Elite 8 crash-and-burn, when John Calipari's gang of one-year mercenaries showed little mettle and major character flaws in falling to West Virginia, was as complete for him as it was for his team.

One point worth mentioning. This was not a vintage year for SEC basketball. But the teams at the top -- Florida, Alabama and Kentucky -- kept getting better.

Kentucky played .500 ball for a big chunk of the conference schedule. But little by little, Kentucky jelled. When the Cats plastered the Tide and the Gators to win the SEC Tournament, the secret slipped out with the subtlety of a train blasting out of a tunnel. Big Blue is back again, and now headed to Houston. Florida was one basket away from joining them. Alabama is in the Final Four of the NIT.

Not bad for a football conference.



Anonymous said...

That's a shame.

R. Trentham Roberts said...

So what's the biggest storyline of the Final Four?

* VCU there in the first place.
* Butler BACK there.
* Kentucky there a year after having 5 players picked in the first round by the NBA.
* And then UConn -- all they did was win 5 games in 5 days to win the Big East tournament.

Michael said...

I wouldn't want to play UConn, even if I could bring a tank. That said, UConn/Kentucky will be the bloodiest hand-to-hand combat since "Gangs of New York."

Michael said...

By the way . . . Welcome back, Trent.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that UNC-CHeat won't be there...

Hannibal said...

Thank you for mentioning Alabama. No SEC team with a 12-4 conference record has ever been left out of the NCAA Tournament until this year. Let's hope it never happens again. Roll Tide and Go Cats!

Anonymous said...

Get over yourselves.