Why I’m Glad Kentucky Lost  

Kansas State Bruce Webber
Kansas State Coach Bruce Weber and Xavier Sneed

Kansas State just beat Kentucky 61-58 in the 2018 Sweet 16 in Atlanta. And I’m glad.  All week, Kansas State basketball players heard about how they had no chance against mighty Kentucky. College basketball experts said John Calipari’s team was bigger and better than Bruce Weber’s. They said Kentucky steam-rolled through its first two NCAA Tournament games and had an easy path to the Final Four playing in the friendly confines of Philips Arena while K-State got here on luck as much as it did on talent.

 Of all the teams that made it to the Sweet 16, K-State had by far the least respect. So I’m so happy for Kansas State, but not for the reason you think.

I should be glad for a positive and not a negative reason, right? I mean, I should be glad Kansas State won and defeated Kentucky for the first time EVER. But I’m not, at least not really.

I don’t like Kentucky.  I don’t. I don’t like what they represent or what they stand for. Coach John Calipari relishes the fact that he runs a “one and done program”. This year, he started five freshman who will all leave college after only one year.

Blue chip freshman, a.k.a. the best high school players in the Country, fight for the right to play for and wear Kentucky Blue. Why? Because they can and are encouraged to play one year for Coach Cal and then jump to the pros. It’s a known fact and a proven way for some, I said some, to go to the pros and cash in. And the list is long. Nearly 30 former Kentucky players line NBA rosters, with a few teams carrying several Wildcats. And many if not most of them are one and dones, including Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel and DeMarcus Cousins, just to name a few.

 And if that isn’t enough, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari announced on Wednesday that every member of his basketball team that is eligible — including the walk-ons — will declare for this year’s NBA Draft.

The announcement sounds shocking, even by the much-maligned Kentucky coach’s standards. And here’s my point: while this system may work for Calipari and the players that are successful in the NBA, is this what college basketball is all about? The Kentucky “system” is certainly not the model or the formula for success for your base and basic college basketball program. Period. 

Kansas State may not have one player who will go on to play in the NBA, much less be successful at the professional level. And that’s fine. March Madness, especially this year, is meant to pit the haves against the have nots. This year above any other year in recent memory, the teams with future NBA talent are destined and doomed to fall to the UMBC’s and the Loyola-Chicago’s and the Kansas-States of the world who have their one shining moment in the NCAA Tournament. And I’m glad.

So, let’s end on a positive note. I’m glad that Kansas State, a Nine Seed and understated underdog, defeated a heavily favored No. 5 Seed in Kentucky, with all of that potential NBA talent and all of those NBA factory prodigies. They won a barn burner of a game that went down to the wire. They won with grit and pluck and spunk and coaching. Good for them. I’m glad. In my humble opinion, this Kentucky team was full of egos and hubris and dare I say prima donnas. They felt that they should win just because. 

And so maybe, just maybe, this Kentucky loss will send a signal that staying in school for more than one year is preferable to going for only one year. In other words, what is the real reason you go to college? In sum, the Kentucky system of being an NBA factory is not the preferred solution for college basketball.

Note From Tua Tagovailoa: “Wait Your Turn”

Tua

Did you see the game? Don’t tell me you went to bed at halftime!  What? You didn’t know the College Football Playoff National Championship game went to overtime?  Seriously?  Yes — I know the game went to well past midnight (East coast time) and I know that Georgia looked like they had Alabama whooped, leading 13-0 at intermission, and I know you get up at zero dark thirty to get to work. I do too. Trust me, I paid for staying up way past my bedtime; but believe you me, it was worth it.

I’ll almost forgive you if you tuned out and turned the TV off at halftime. I’ll try to forgive you if you didn’t want to watch Alabama and Saban win AGAIN. And I’ll definitely forgive you if you didn’t know about the Alabama second string backup quarterback from Hawaii. All he did was start the second half and end up winning the whole dag gum game in OT in dramatic, unforgettable, and for Georgia fans, unforgivable fashion. I’ll give you that one, because before 10 pm on Monday night, there probably were more than a few Alabama players that couldn’t even pronounce this kid’s name.

Just who is Tua Tagovailoa?  Good question.  In 2015, Sports Illustrated told the story of Tagovailoa, who was considered to be the best high school football player in Hawaii. At the time, the junior quarterback at Honolulu’s Saint Louis High School was drawing comparisons to the school’s most famous alum, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  And not coincidently enough, Tua has this in common with his hero, Marcus Mariota: they are Christians whose goal is “to go out and show the world that Christ lives.” http://christiannewsjournal.com/throwin-prayin-samoans/

Tagovailoa is now the true freshman from Hawaii who everyone is talking about. Talk about a David coming off of the bench to slay a Goliath. One sports writer said that “sometimes, it pays to wait and watch, biding your time until you can show the world just what you can do” Amen. And the hymn writer gave us this gem:

 Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in his love.

“For Tua Tagovailoa, his chance came on college football’s biggest stage, when Alabama Coach Nick Saban decided at halftime to replace quarterback Jalen Hurts with his freshman from Hawaii, a guy who had been offered a scholarship only after Jake Fromm flipped his commitment to Georgia.

“It was a wild ride from there, with Tagovailoa completing one of the best game-winning passes in college football since Doug Flutie in 1984 as the Crimson Tide won in overtime. But the glory of that 41-yard touchdown pass came after an ugly moment in which he took a sack. “Tua probably couldn’t have thrown that pass if I could have gotten ahold of him after the sack,” Saban said afterward, “but I couldn’t get out there fast enough.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/01/09/who-is-alabamas-tua-tagovailoa-and-why-wasnt-he-playing-all-season/?utm_term=.278650168bee

Yes, let’s not forget about Nick Saban, probably the best college football coach, ever. EVER!  Nick Saban most certainly deserves credit for changing quarterbacks, and he also deserves credit for how both players handled themselves.  Sometimes things work out better than our wildest dreams, just because we went with our gut (Saban), waited our turn (Tua) and maybe even handled adversity with grace (Hurts).

Tagovailoa had played only sparingly as a freshman, but Saban turned to him with the Tide down 13-0 at halftime and he threw two touchdown passes, along with an interception. He completed 14-of-26 passes for 166 yards and left everyone wondering why Saban hadn’t turned to him before. I’ll tell you why. Because his time had not yet come.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia

So the lesson from the Polynesian lad from Hawaii is this: be patient. Wait your turn. Don’t get a big head and don’t get down on yourself.  Things will work out, just you wait and see.

UVA, Your Time Has Come

UVA Baseball

Virginia is for lovers of baseball. College baseball.

Virginia doesn’t have a professional team of any kind in any sport to speak of. Yet we do have the University of Thomas Jefferson. And the University of Virginia Men’s Baseball team just won it all. And they won when one would wonder why and how. Why not last year? Why not the year before? And how in the world did they manage to win the College World Series with this team and with these freshman and without last year’s juggernaut of stars and standouts?

They weren’t even ranked. They barely made the postseason. And they weren’t supposed to be any good this year. After all, last year the Virginia Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 and were the favorites to win in all. This year they weren’t supposed to win at all. Last year they fell to Vanderbilt in the College World Series. This year they beat Vanderbilt in the College World Series (CWS). Because this year their time has come.
Six weeks ago, it looked as though Virginia might not even qualify for its conference tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament. That was then. This is now.

And just look at the Cavaliers now.

They’re national champions for the first time in baseball after finishing a magnificent postseason run with a 4-2 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.

“This team was a crazy ride this year,” said Coach Brian O’Connor, who was born in Omaha. “Certainly, we had a lot that went against us through the year, but this team found a way and got into the NCAA Tournament. It’s an amazing example of what you can do if you put your mind to it, play for each other and have each other’s backs.

“Not many people thought this could happen. I couldn’t have forecast it. But we’re darn glad we’re sitting up here with this trophy.” Freshman Pavin Smith homered and drove in three runs and Brandon Waddell turned in another strong College World Series pitching performance.

The Cavaliers (44-24) prevailed in the CWS finals rematch against the defending champion Commodores and won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first title in baseball since Wake Forest in 1955. “We were just a team that never gives up,” Smith said. “We’re really resilient. And it showed in the first inning when we were down 2-0 and didn’t stop playing.” Wow.

I’ve NEVER watched the CWS. Never. But this year, a buddy at work told me that the Cavaliers had made it into the College World Series, excuse me, the CWS, and I said, “OK.” So for the rest of you that never even heard of the CWS, much less watched it, I watched for you. I watched as Virginia came back from being down two runs and went on to win 4-2. With a FRESHMAN leading way! A FRESHMAN! I love it.

So, here’s more juice for your jug and fuel for your fire. If the Virginia Men’s Baseball team can come out of nowhere after years of futility and sterility and bareness and barrenness and athletic poverty and paucity and win it all, you (and I) can too.

Because our time has come. So until it manifests, let’s join Job and say, 

“All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”  Job 14:14, KJV