Ira D. Combs Tri State Sports Media
March 31, 2014
Let’s get something out of the way quickly this week that needs to be addressed before we proceed.
In my humble opinion, John Calipari needs to have some much earned Kudos thrown his way because his Kentucky “Wildcats.” That team that is adored by the majority of the Commonwealth’s sports fans would have been back home in Lexington in the Wildcat Coal Lodge immediately after the Louisville game had he not made some strategic coaching decisions early in that game which I seriously doubt most of America—especially those national analysts—realized he had made.
Coaching decisions that quite possibly gave them an opportunity to salvage victory.
But then again, those few national pundits I’m talking about those that love to critique and dissect Cal on his supposed lack of ability to do anything other than recruit, especially bench coaching or in game coaching ability … didn’t realize themselves what he was doing or had done at the end of the day.
What did he do? Was it another tweak? Actually it was, and more importantly it was an in game tweak from the bench.
He used up not one but two of his valued TO’s extremely early, but it finally stopped the bleeding so his young team could regroup, get that deer in the headlight look out of their systems, and have a fighting chance to get back in the flow of the game before it was too late. The first one came when Louisville jumped out to a quick seven-point lead just seconds after the under 16 minute TV timeout. Then after Louisville extended the lead out to 13 points (18-5) and it appeared UK was destined for an old fashioned butt whipping blow out he used his own second timeout again just seconds after the under 12 minute TV timeout. That’s four timeouts he carefully manipulated and utilized to right his ship which was quickly sinking in the first 8 minutes of the game.
You’ll never convince me any other coach in college basketball would have used two of their preciously allotted five full game timeouts that early in a game when his team just came out of two TV timeouts seconds before and only had two other TV timeouts still left in the first half, and I might add he made these decisions with an agitated mental approach pending from excruciating pain from a hip problem that needed obvious surgical repair work done like two or three months ago.
But I doubt you’ll ever see it mentioned other than in this column here especially now that the Wildcat ship has another win under it’s sails and is now floating at high tide into Dallas for it’s 16th Final Four appearance.
Not only has this UK team grown up right in front of college basketball’s eyes, the last three weeks it’s starting to look like it has “the heart of a champion.”
While we still don’t know if this UK team is one of destiny yet, as they say out in Las Vegas, they’ve definitely been playing on house money for quite some time now.
However, what is getting most of Big Blue Nation real excited now is that I’m not so sure that except for Florida the other two teams in Texas (Wisconsin & Connecticut) are as good as the last three teams UK has beaten.
Cal’s Young Wildcat Litter Now Grows To 7 For The Final Weekend Of The Big Dance
There has been a lot of talk about this UK team being the first college basketball team to start five freshman and make it to a Final Four since 1993, but you can now replace that with this being referred to as Kentucky’s Super 7 Pups with the latest effort’s over the weekend by 6-foot-10-inch freshman forward/center Marcus Lee and 6-foot-1-inch freshman guard Dominique Hawkins.
Lee’s overall contributions in the Michigan game were very obvious (10 points/6 rebounds/2 blocks) and Hawkins’ defensive efforts in both the Louisville and Michigan game were if nothing else stabilizing minutes of the intangible type that are sometimes needed yet not recognized by many especially the media to win a gut wrenching NCAA tournament game.
Cal’s young felines now take the really big stage, the one that most everyone thought would never happen during the January and February swing through the regular season schedule, that being the grand stage of college basketball, the Final Four.
They’re a long way from being 38–0, what many basketball gurus originally predicted, but they have arrived on the scene none the less where Big Blue Nation hoped they would be. Coverage of this coming weekend’s Final Four festivities will begin Saturday around 3 p.m. with the Road To The Final Four Show then pre-game coverage of the U Conn–Florida game begins around 5 p.m. with tip-off for that semi-final game to be around 6:10 p.m. and tip-off for the UK–Wisconsin semi-final game set for approximately 8:45 p.m.
Both semi-final games will be televised on the TBS Network with Jim Nantz as the lead announcer.
Wisconsin and more than likely Florida stand in the way of UK’s 9th NCAA championship … who knows how it will end, but it’s been a classic magic carpet ride so far.
You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football or KHSAA basketball and football.