VaughtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s note: Larry Glover does a syndicated sports talk show nightly that originates on WVLK (590 AM) as well as the popular Sunday morning show from 9-11 a.m. on WVLK. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always one of the more analytical media thinkers Ã¢â‚¬â€ and all-around great guy. He shares his insights with vaughtsviews.com on KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quest to win the NCAA championship.
By LARRY GLOVER
It all begins on Thursday for John Calipari.Ã‚Â He was brought to Lexington to win a national championship.Ã‚Â I know it, you know it and he knows it.Ã‚Â ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why he said that the SEC title doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean anything to him because he knows it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean anything to the Big Blue Nation.Ã‚Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about the big prize, the one thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eluded UK since 1998.
Sure, the Wildcat faithful brag about the 44 conference titles.Ã‚Â They do so only to calm their disappointment in those Ã¢â‚¬Å“in between yearsÃ¢â‚¬Â.Ã‚Â If the Cats donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t win the national title this season it will be a disappointment.Ã‚Â I know it, you know it, and he knows it.
At times this season, UK seemed bored and they were.Ã‚Â Many experts said the message was that CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s young Cats were not capable of winning big in March I think the message was Ã¢â‚¬Å“letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s get on with it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The bar was set high for the super kittens and they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fall short, winning 29 regular season games.Ã‚Â In the SEC tournament, they outworked gritty Alabama, rolled cocky Tennessee, and crushed the spirit of Mississippi State with an escape act that would have made Houdini blush.Ã‚Â With the SEC tourney title in hand, the Wildcats chose not to cut down the nets.Ã‚Â The ones that they want still hang in Indy.
On Sunday evening the Cats got their mission.Ã‚Â As the top seed in the East, UK must contend with a variety of styles in region that many think is too tough for the Big Blue.Ã‚Â I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand that mentality.Ã‚Â If UK is the best team in the region, as all experts agree, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the region tougher for the other 15 teams than it is for Kentucky. So if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too tough for UK how is it not too tough(er) for the rest of the region? I think it will be.
Kentucky starts off with East Tennessee State.Ã‚Â The Buccaneers have had a great season but as all 16 seeds do, they smile for the camera, talk about shocking the world, and then they go home.Ã‚Â Make it Kentucky 87, ETSU 61.
A potential danger spot for the Cats is in the second round.Ã‚Â UK gets the winner of Texas and Wake Forest.Ã‚Â I think the Horns get it together one last time and bounce the Deacons but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it.
They say you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mess with Texas but this Texas is a mess.Ã‚Â A campaign once filled with promise has dissolved into a lost season for the Long Horns.Ã‚Â Injuries, shaken confidence, frustration, and finger pointing have turned a 17-0 start into a 24-9 resume.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Good for some but not the kind of results you would expect from a pre-season favorite.Ã‚Â Kentucky is too big, too talented and too focused to be derailed by these malcontents.Ã‚Â The Cats in a surprisingly easy 77-65 win.
UK will move on to Syracuse where the Cats expect to see either Temple or Wisconsin.Ã‚Â Jay Bilas may be talking up a Cornell magic carpet ride to the Elite Eight but what he ought to be doing is finding a way to get his credibility back.Ã‚Â The Big Red is not taking us on a big ride.
As far as the Owls or Badgers are concerned, does it really matter who escapes to play the Cats?Ã‚Â Their styles may be subtly different but the objective is the same: control tempo and wear down the opponent mentally and physically.Ã‚Â Some critics say that style is the perfect antidote to the CatsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ act.Ã‚Â I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree because if those critics feel that way then they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really know Kentucky.Ã‚Â TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve spent too much time watching highlight reels when scouting UK.
Sure, the SEC Champs have some spectacular plays every game but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve actually become a grind-it-out team.Ã‚Â It didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t start out that way but so many teams have tried to force the Big Blue into a half court chess match that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had to adapt and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve become pretty good at it.
It was all John Wall and his basketball ballet in the early season but UK depends on the rugged inside game more and more.Ã‚Â KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s underrated defense and superior rebounding will put the Owls (or the Badgers) in a tough spot.Ã‚Â UK pulls away for a 71-59 victory over Temple (or Wisconsin).
The regional finals is expected to be between Calipari and his old Conference USA nemesis Bob Huggins and West Virginia.Ã‚Â Instead, I think it will be between Kentucky and their old Conference USA nemesis Marquette.Ã‚Â The Mountaineers edged the Golden Eagles by a point back in December.Ã‚Â Marquette returns the favor in March. The Cats havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t traditionally fared well against the team formally known as the Warriors.Ã‚Â Kentucky is 7-7 all-time against Marquette but six of those losses came in the NCAA tournament.Ã‚Â Ouch!
This year will be different for Kentucky.Ã‚Â The Cats will be close and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll know that they are 40 minutes away from Indianapolis. This one wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get away.Ã‚Â Kentucky will play their best game of the year and send a message to Salt Lake City, Houston, and St. Louis that sleeping giant is now wide awake.Ã‚Â The Cats crush the Golden Eagles 83-60.
UK will head to Indy, knowing that three teams await them.Ã‚Â Also waiting will be the Big Blue Nation determined not to let their team lose.Ã‚Â Thousands of Kentucky fans will invade Lucas Oil Stadium giving the Wildcats something that North Carolina and Duke know all too well in the NCAA tournament Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ home court advantage.
Kansas, Syracuse and Baylor are all terrific teams so itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a shame that on the biggest stage it will be five against 35,000.Ã‚Â The Cats will slug it out against the Bears winning 77-70 in the semifinals.Ã‚Â Kansas will edge Syracuse setting up the game we all want.Ã‚Â UK vs. KU.
The national media will tell us for two days that Monday, April 5th will be a coronation for Jayhawks.Ã‚Â WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll hear all of the reasons why Kentucky canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seal the deal.Ã‚Â It will be a consensus, KU will win.
Except they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.
Every champion has a moment when the light switch goes on.Ã‚Â If the national media were paying attention they would have witnessed UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s future illuminate on Sunday afternoon.Ã‚Â All they saw was a close shave against a mediocre team.Ã‚Â They were watching the SEC title game with their eyes wide shut.
What I saw was the most talented in America prove they are the grittiest team in America.Ã‚Â At first you see the style but then you feel the substance.Ã‚Â They believe theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to win no matter what.Ã‚Â That confidence will serve them well in a clash with Kansas.
The Jayhawks will try to shake the Cats early in the title game but the Big Blue will hang close in the first half.Ã‚Â Cousins will begin to assert himself against Cole Aldrich after the intermission as the Cats take their first lead.Ã‚Â UK and KU will jockey for position as the game inches closer to the final possession.Ã‚Â With seconds to go, John Wall will do what John Wall does best.Ã‚Â He finishes.
Wall will slip by Sherron Collins and pound the final nail in the Kansas coffin with his velvet hammer.Ã‚Â The Cats will win by one and the Jayhawks will be done.