Saturday, March 26, 2011

'Cats Hyperbole

It's probably just me, but the game last night between Kentucky and Ohio State has to rate as one of the best NCAA basketball games I've seen in the last ten years.

It had the feel of a championship game--high tension, close scores, furiously contested--though it was just the Round of 16. Both teams had breadth in the quality of their starting fives and top reserves, though not a lot of bench depth. Each had a good mix of freshman talent (now, getting seasoned) and veteran mental toughness.

The defense was excellent--particularly from Kentucky, and from Ohio St.'s freshman point guard Aaron Craft--but there were not a lot of turnovers, a credit to good ball-handling from both teams. Fouls were a big factor, but Kentucky showed a great deal of poise in playing solid defense without fouling through the second half, when most of their players were in some foul trouble.

Finally, a great finish, and the right team won, from my point of view. I will of course pat myself on the back for identifying this game in my tournament preview as a pivotal one (let's not talk about the other one, the never-to-be Louisville-Kansas showdown that should've been happening last night, too).

Kentucky eliminated the #1 team in the tournament, in a game reminiscent of the one in the quarterfinals last year in which it was eliminated, but the Wildcats' work is far from done. Their regional final will be a difficult matchup with a team with some similarities (the height, the freshman talent) which they played early in the year: Kentucky's narrow loss at North Carolina proved a turning point in the Tar heels' second turnaround, from overrated to under-regarded, then to a truly powerful, dangerous squad. I hesitate to predict another Kentucky win: this one took huge mental energy, and they will have little time to recharge, while North Carolina coasted to an easy win over Marquette.

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