• GO UCONN – For one night, I’m shucking my Kansas Jayhawks’ apparel in favor of everything UConn Huskies.
I’m going to be the Huskies’ No. 1 fan tonight when they take on Kentucky for the NCAA championship.
The unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament is never more evident. Kentucky enters the game with 10 losses and a No. 8 regional seed. UConn has lost eight games and entered its regional as the No. 7 seed. Neither team even won its league.
Both teams could easily have lost earlier in the tournament, but have been touched by destiny, especially Kentucky. The Wildcats’ Aaron Harrison has won three games with last-minute 3-pointers even though he’s not regarded as a pure shooter, just a clutch one.
I want UConn to win because Kentucky is the poster child for what’s wrong with the college basketball system, which allows freshmen to leave after one year, using their particular school as nothing more than a stopover. The Wildcats start five freshmen and I wouldn’t be surprised if three, maybe four, are in the NBA next year. Do you really think those players will keep attending class once the NCAA tourney is over since they know they’re going pro next year?
Kansas, sadly, has fallen somewhat into the same boat, since Andrew Wiggins was one-and-done and Joel Embiid is expected to follow. The result for KU this year, with such a young lineup, was a 10-loss season, which is an aberration since Bill Self took over.
You have to give Kentucky coach John Calipari credit I guess since he works the system better than anybody else. He doesn’t apologize for being what amounts to the manager of a Triple-A farm system team. His goal is not to educate his players in the classroom, but to educate them in NBA 101.
The freshman-dominated lineup has worked in the past for Calipari, as he won the national title two years ago. It failed miserably last year when the Wildcats didn’t make the tourney and it appeared to be destined for failure again this year, but somehow, some way they caught fire. I only wish Wichita State had extinguished them in the third round.
Kentucky also doesn’t play what I call pure basketball. The Wildcats are a collection of athletes who basically throw the ball up around the rim and attack it. They punished Wisconsin on the glass Saturday, throwing down so many dunks that I thought I was watching Houston’s old Phi Slamma Jamma team of the early 1980s.
UConn plays the game the way I like it. It has a mentally tough backcourt and almost never misses a free throw. But I fear for it tonight, because it’ll have a hard time counteracting the NBA-like athleticism of the Wildcats.
My feeling is UConn is going to be the sentimental favorite because Kentucky is the team in the black hats. It was the preseason No. 1, spent much of the year playing like the freshmen they were, before growing up right before our eyes.
Get a good look at this Kentucky team. Chances are the roster will be flipped over again next year.
• ARSON SQUAD IN KC — Panic shouldn’t set in after one week, but the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen can be equated to the term “awful.”
The bullpen, the alleged strength of the team and the best in the American League last year, has allowed nine runs (eight earned) in its first 12 2/3 innings of the season. Last year, the Royals’ bullpen allowed just two runs in the first 12 games of the season.
All pitchers go through bad spells in the marathon season. But this has been a collective meltdown. Except for Greg Holland, it’s been a total failure, led by Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Wade Davis. Collins can’t throw a strike, Crow is throwing batting practice and Davis is the combination of both.
With this being James Shields’ contract year, you have to wonder what he’s thinking. Between the bullpen and a lack of offense, Shields’ great efforts were wasted last year and so far this season he’s pitched two beauties, only to be saddled with a no-decision (he left with a 3-1 lead) and a loss (he left trailing 1-0). If he leaves, all the Royals will have for giving up phenom Wil Myers is Davis.
By the way, who do you have in your office pool for the first Royal to homer this year? Kansas City hasn’t come remotely close to parking one as it once again appears to have the most paucity of power in all of baseball. Billy Butler’s bat looks slow, Eric Hosmer’s head is filled with his gaffes on the basepaths and Mike Moustakas is 0-for-April and found himself on the bench Sunday.