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.

Who is Malik Monk – a.k.a., Why Don’t You Like College Basketball?

Kentucky North Carolina Basketball

Note to Kentucky Wildcat fans: Who is Malik Monk?

“If you watched that game, and if you never liked basketball, you’re going to start liking basketball,” Coach John Calipari said. “Play fast, score quickly, open the court up and let these kids do their thing.”

Malik Monk was considered by some to be an on again-off again collegian who was undisciplined and didn’t show up for or come through in every game. Yet come through he has, as he just played the game of his life just when his team needed him most. And he’s a FRESHMAN — and it’s only December. Come on March madness!

Monk’s scored 47 points against the North Carolina Tar Heels.  It was the highest-scoring game by a Tar Heels opponent since 1970. So it was only fitting that he took the go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 16 seconds remaining to cap his record setting outburst and lift No. 6 Kentucky to a 103-100 victory over No. 7 North Carolina on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Monk, who made 8 of 12 3-pointers, said he took the winning 3 instead of driving because he was “in the flow.” It was a packed house, and everyone was going crazy,” said Monk, who scored 27 in the first half.

Even after Monk set a Kentucky freshman scoring record, Calipari found a flaw in his 6-foot-3-inch star’s effort. “How many rebounds did he have?” said Calipari, who knew the answer was zero. “He’s special, but he’s got a lot to learn.”

And so the spiritual tie in is clear: if a freshman Phenom can carry his team on his back and beat an arch rival opponent on the big stage, then you and I can rise and shine and give God the glory as we disappoint the  devil and prove all of our haters wrong.

Kids These Days

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 I know that a kid is a baby goat, but the Urban Dictionary also says that a kid is what teenagers claim they are not. And the same uncertain source says that kids are any offspring of any age. When I say kids I’m talking about teenagers and twenty somethings and millennials and college coeds that, by-in-large, haven’t grown up or shown up or come up with what to say or how to contribute in a meaningful way. Without objection, we will go with this definition which is what you and I know a kid to be.

So, kids these days . . .

Kids these days aren’t like the kids of yesteryear. Kids these days aren’t like the kids I played with when I was growing up. Kids these days are self-centered and self-interested; they’re all about “me” and “my” and what happens to them without regard to history or antiquity or much anything else outside of their personal space.

Yes Kentucky lost. They lost because they lost it. And they lost it down the stretch. The kids on Kentucky didn’t have the stamina or the resilience or the fortitude to hold on and hold up and and hold down the fort when it counted. Kentucky, chock full of “kids” — a.k.a, freshman phenoms — couldn’t hold it together or hold out to the end against Wisconsin. Yes they beat Notre Dame, but Wisconsin was different. It appeared to me that in the Wisconsin game, Kentucky expected the opposition to just lay down and give them the game just because they were Kentucky. The Kentucky kids expected to win because they were undefeated and because they were destined to go 40-0 and because things were supposed to go their way . . . just because.

And so the question of the season has been asked and answered. Kentucky’s undefeated, unblemished and untarnished season is no more. It’s OVER. They finished 38-1, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Wisconsin in the Final Four. And it was a game that Kentucky could have won. Tied at 60 with about 3 minutes to go, the wannabe, would-be Wildcats wilted under waves of Wisconsin wear and tear. For their part, Wisconsin weathered and withstood the wall of seven foot tall ballers that really didn’t try hard enough to score in the paint.

Kentucky crumbled during crunch time and stumbled down the stretch. They flubbed and faltered, froze and fumbled away a game that was theirs to win. They looked lost and leery, appeared baffled and bleary, and played no way near like they were the top team of the Tournament.

And so the answer and the reason we don’t want freshman to jump to the NBA after one year is played out yet again. I submit that “One and Dones” aren’t mature enough or secure enough or for sure enough to win tough tight games when the stakes are high and the margin for error is low.  To say that the Kentucky kids were poor sports and sore losers would be an understatement.

Kids these days think they’re entitled to win and to succeed and to go undefeated, just because. Kids these days think they should have a high paying job and the key to a corner office, “just because.” Kids these days think that they are supposed to be indomitable and invincible and unconquerable all at the same time. Not so. There’s such a thing as “paying dues” before you cash in.

My Dad’s generation believed in work. Hard work. And they had a work ethic. They worked hard for everything they got and fought for everything they had and I believe they appreciated it more. I believe that’s a part of God’s Playbook. Kids these days want everything handed to them on a silver platter. Am I right? Of course I’m right. Now if you’re one of those millennials that I’m writing about, you probably disagree, (if you’re still reading) but if you take a minute to measure your standards and your values and your ethics and your morals against, say, Depression Era Die Hards or Bursting Baby Boomers, you will agree that there are distinct differences and clear-cut contrasts between the generations.

But that’s a bigger discussion for another day. I just hope that I passed some of my Dad’s work ethic on to my two millennial sons, and by the looks of what and who they are, I think I did. For now, if the Kentucky kids represent kids these days, then we’re all in for a rude awakening if we symbolically and figuratively hope to win big games or have unbeaten streaks or even have undefeated or unblemished “seasons” in the next generation.

Save The Best For Last

Bobby Knight and indiana_

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon
Just when I thought a chance had passed
You go and save the best for last.

Impossibilities, yes, but then again, we believe in miracles.

And sometimes teams go unbeaten and sometimes winning streaks go unbroken as the best team of the season goes into the final weekend looking for lore and longing for more. The last time a college team went undefeated was 1976. Bobby Knight took his Indiana Hoosiers to the title and a perfect season.

“Save The Best for Last.” The song sung by Vanessa Williams is considered her signature.  And if the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament story pans out the way wishful and wistful fans furtively feign, the best basketball of the season will indeed have been saved for last.

But first things first. This is a Final Four; emphasis on FOUR. And so the favorite son’s not home yet.  Kentucky will need to be more than lucky to defeat Wisconsin, and if Duke can dash Michigan State, we’ll have the final folks are hankering and hunkering for.

Saving the best for last is more than proverbial; it’s theological. When I was young and my mother cooked all the meals, my younger sister Anne would eat everything on her plate and save what she didn’t like for last. Her strategy was to hopefully not have to eat that vegetable because if she saved it for last, it would be cold and tasteless. This was long before microwaves, and sometimes, but not all of the time, Anne managed to manipulate my mother out of eating those blessed Brussel sprouts or bleeding beets.

On the other hand, my method was to look over my plate and pick out the one thing I liked best. Once I had determined that, I proceeded to eat, but I saved the best for last. And that’s what God does. And that’s what we should do in life. The following is borrowed from Eamonn Brennan, Sports reporter for ESPN:

“The final weekend of the 2015 NCAA tournament appears to have been ordained by the basketball gods. And they said, let there be dream matchups, and there were dream matchups. And they saw that it was good.

The lone surprise, the one lightweight — Michigan State — qualifies only in relative terms. Because Michigan State has saved it’s best basketball for last. Oh, sure, you remember Selection Sunday. Oh, how you mocked the careless analysts. They would talk about all of the reasons why this Michigan State team wasn’t very good, or they’d skip over those entirely, but they’d always end with a hoary old cliche: ‘Then again, never count out Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.’

If ever there was a year to do exactly that, it was this one. The Spartans may have pushed Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten tournament title game; they may have even deserved to win. But they’d also been merely OK for most of the three months preceding it, matching each step forward with at least a half-step backward. These undermanned, talent-drained Spartans lost to Texas Southern at home in December, and sure, they got better. But they still finished sixth in a soft Big Ten in points allowed per possession, and fourth on the offensive end.

Naturally, in three straight March games, Michigan State dropped a onetime national title co-favorite (Virginia), the Big 12’s best defensive team sporting its conference player of the year (Oklahoma; Buddy Hield) and, on Sunday, in a heart-pounding overtime thriller, a surging, talented team brilliantly coached by one of the game’s grandmasters (Lousiville, Rick Pitino). Last season, when the Spartans were loaded, with seniors who were the only class in Tom Izzo’s career to never get to a Final Four — that was supposed to be the run. And now look. You’ll never mock the cliche again.

Once you accept that Izzo somehow just pulled off his greatest tourney trick ever, the temptation to pencil Duke in to Monday night’s national title game wanes — though only slightly. Michigan State came together at the right time. It seems, though, with the Spartans that happens nearly every March.

Now, Duke could go toe-to-toe with Kentucky. But before we find out, the Blue Devils have the small matter of an insanely hot Michigan State. And, by the way, the Wildcats have to get past the mother of all Final Four draws: Fellow No. 1-seed Wisconsin.

Two stars, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, have the Wisconsin Badgers back in another Final Four. Why did Dekker and Kaminsky eschew the NBA? To spend another year with friends, sure, but also because of the pain. A year ago, they had Kentucky beat, if only barely, when Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison sank that deep and downright spooky three pointer. Every day since, Wisconsin has been single-mindedly focused on returning to the Final Four — and, if need be, repaying the Wildcats once there.

Now they have their chance.

Of course, these are not last year’s Wildcats. Last year’s Wildcats muddled through a mess of a campaign before flipping some transcendent switch in March. This year’s Wildcats have never flipped that switch off. They’re undefeated, and maybe you’ve heard something about that. But of course you have, because from the moment the Harrisons and Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson (and more) all said they were coming back for another season, Calipari has stood above college basketball like a conquering general: surveying, deploying, dominating. His players, as he keeps saying, are his reinforcements: tanks coming down over the hill. It is, in case you hadn’t heard, 38-0 — two away from 40, two steps from immortality.

There has been only one question worth asking about the 2014-15 season: Who could possibly stop the Wildcats? The answers have always been halting and hedging. But they’ve always been consistent, too.

Wisconsin. And Duke. And just maybe, just maybe, Michigan State. Two of these teams stand in the way of the perfect season for Kentucky. If the Wildcats want those last two wins — and they very much do — they’re going to have to earn them. How epic is that?” http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/tournament/2015/story/_/id/12584844/an-epic-end-ncaa-tournament-awaits-final-four 

So save the best for last. Don’t eat up and woof down the desert before you earn the right to. That is how it was in John Chapter 2 when Jesus performed His first miracle. When Christ changed the water into wine at the wedding banquet, he taught us a valuable lesson. The master questioned why the bridegroom chose to save the best of the wine to serve last. We know that Jesus changed the water into wine, and this teaches us to do and save and be our best both early on and late in the game. Because the best is always better when saved for last.

Who’s Better? The Girls or The Guys?

Kentucky 38-0
Are the girls as good as the guys? Or are the dudes so much better than the dames? In college basketball, at least this year, it’s fairly debatable. And so the age old debate over who’s better at sports has reared its ugly head and pretty face yet again.

In the women’s Final Four, we have Maryland (GO TERPS!) contesting Connecticut, and South Carolina trying to knock off and knock down Notre Dame. It’s a classic Final Four – one which should draw a ton of attention, regardless of gender or age or political affiliation. Yes, this year’s Final Four is one for the ages. While each of the coaches for all four teams are equally impressive, I must give a shout out to Dawn Staley, Coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, who is a Philly Home Girl and a former Temple Coach to boot, I might add. But let’ not forget about Brenda Frese of Maryland and the Dean of women’s coaches, Geno Auriemma of UConn.

In the Men’s Final Four, we have dominant Duke, almost a miracle Michigan State, wannabe Wisconsin and King Kentucky. It’s a collection and collision of creditable coaches trying to cast their company of college characters in a championship light.

So who’s better? The guys or the girls? Both final four’s should be fun to watch and a sight to see. Better? No, that’s not the measure. Equally entertaining and similarly scintillating is what they will be. It’s just a shame that male chauvinism and women’s lib have tainted and tinted and soiled and spoiled a spectator’s sense of what a great sporting event is. The guys still get all of the hub and the bub, but the girls, especially this year, deserve some of the buzz too.

God created us male and female. And of course there are physical and natural and tangible and palpable differences between men and women, but we both want to win in the worst way. So after you attend services this weekend, root, root, root for your own team, or at least adopt one, because the games in both the Men’s and Women’s Final Four should be equally fantastic, and the fans, on both sides, should be utterly enthusiastic about watching high level, high caliber basketball on both sides of the gender coin.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve got my Lady Terps upsetting UConn, going all the way and beating Dawn Staley and her gals in a final to be remembered. As for the guys, of course Kentucky will go undefeated at 40-0 and take the title.

Luck Runs Out On the Irish

demetrius-jackson

Kentucky 68: Notre Dame 66.

That was the best college basketball game of the year. The Notre Dame Irishmen gave Kentucky all they had. They gave Kentucky fits and fists and battled and baffled the presumptive champions until the final buzzer. They left nothing in the tank and put everything on the court, and that’s the way the game should be played. Wow.

What a lesson in how both to preserve and give 100% and how to hang in there and give it all you’ve got. You’ve got to give it to Notre Dame, and you’ve got to take your hats off to Kentucky too. It was both an awful win and an unlucky loss at the same time. Both teams played their hearts out, played their guts out, and played the lights out; unfortunately only one team can walk out a winner.

So let’s learn another lesson; let’s not be intimidated by the Kentucky’s in our life. Let’s not be afraid or alarmed or overawed or overwhelmed by unbeaten seven footers or undefeated three-point shooters. Learn the lesson. You can. You can beat King Kentucky. And Kentucky can, and did, abolish the Irish.

Decisions, TKO’s and Knockouts

 TeamWVU_cw

Everybody loves a mixed metaphor, right? Right. Well here’s one for the ages. Boxing terms for how to win in the ring are: 1) By Decision; 2) by Technical Knock-Out; and 3) By Knockout. Last night, in the Sweet 16, No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky KO’ed, decisioned and TKO’ed, i.e., they utterly destroyed West Virginia. The score after about 8 minutes was 18-2; the score at half-time was 44-18, and the final score was 78 – 39. That’s a margin of 39 points, and it wasn’t that close. One sports writer said that it was a “public reprimand.” That, sports fans, is a win by decision, technical knock out AND by a knockdown knockout.

Most everybody had Kentucky winning, but not by 39 points! We all thought that West Virginia would give Kentucky a game; but after  their brash and boastful freshman point guard boldly made a moronic miscue with his mouth, it was more than over before the game even began.

So here’s what happened. Freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. declared that his team would beat Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. OK. So if that wasn’t dumb enough, the WAY he said it was even dumber. Dumb and dumber, right? The poor, misguided kid from West Virginia said this, and I quote:

[I] salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.

Talk about being a false prophet. Chris Chase from www.USA.com writes “For The Win.” In his blog, Chris said that there are three rules for making sports predictions as an athlete:

  1. Don’t make predictions.
  2. If you’re going to make a prediction, be the best player on your team about to play in a game against an evenly matched opponent.
  3. Ignore No. 2 and only pay attention to No. 1.

Daxter Miles Jr., (did I say he was a FRESHMAN, meaning he’s got more in his heart than he has between the ears in his head), disobeyed all three of these rules during a talk with the media on Wednesday, making a guarantee that the undefeated Kentucky team, to whom he gave “props” and a “salute” to, would be 36-1 after his Mountaineers were done with them on Thursday night. Wrong answer. And the sad part is that Miles didn’t ever score! Not ‘nare a point! Pitiful.

You can play hard and play smart and just plain play, and still lose. But West Virginia neither played hard nor smart, and got obliterated in the process. I mean! West Virginia got beat up and beat down and beat all around from the jump. Miles’ mouth got his team beat badly, and it didn’t’ have to go down that way. Oh yes, West Virginia probably would have lost to Kentucky, but not like that! It was a good ‘ole fashioned whuppin, and all West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins could do was watch.

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Kentucky is not just a good team, they’re a VERY good team, and some would even say they’re a great team; maybe and possibly the best college team ever? That’s fairly debatable. And for West Virginia to act arrogant and virulent was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It was like an angry alley cat playing with a rag doll. I mean, the game, and I stayed up to watch this one, was like watching a senior beat up on a sixth grader. It was like the Varsity playing the middle school intramural team. It was like the jocks verses the nerds — with no pads — in the back parking lot littered with broken bottles, bashed in bear cans and busted bricks. And to return to our mixed metaphor, it was like a heavy weight going 15 rounds with a fly weight, minus the mercy rule. In other words, it was pretty ugly.

And so the moral of the story is that “discretion is the better part of valor,” which is usually taken to mean that caution is better than rash courage or that discretion is the best kind of courage. We take this from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I have saved my life.”

So let’s all learn the lesson from Daxter Miles, Jr.; being bold doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. Do your talking on the court.

I’m just sayin’.