First and foremost, I have to send a congratulations to Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals for their Nation Championship win last night. I did not root for you and I certainly don’t like it, but the Cardinals earned it and I have to say that if they were not wearing red and white, I may even root for this team. But that is what a rivalry is all about. Duke fans don’t root for North Carolina. Red Sox fans do not root for the Yankees. And this Kentucky fan will never root for the Cardinals. But to be honest, I would rather Louisville win it than Indiana. So that says something, I guess.
That said, it was an amazing run for Louisville and in the end, a strong rivalry is a good rivalry and that just steps up the game on bost sides of it.
That said, this rivalry is not going away. Jason KIng just released an obscenely early College Basketball Top 25 and lookie, lookie, who is number one and two:
1. Kentucky Wildcats: Could the Wildcats really go from first-round NIT losers to NCAA champions? Absolutely. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being hailed as the best in college basketball history. The haul includes four players (Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle and James Young) ranked among the nation’s top 10 prospects by ESPN.com. From a pure talent standpoint, this might be the best college basketball team ever assembled. But will it jell? Even though injuries and chemistry issues ruined his most recent team, John Calipari has proven to be excellent at coaching players who only plan to spend a year or two in college. He’s great at getting them to play defense and share the ball. It will help that some of Kentucky’s key players in 2012-13 (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer) will return to provide veteran leadership, which is something the program sorely lacked last season. Another huge difference will be the point guard position, which lacked stability last season. Andrew Harrison could become the next star under Calipari, who has coached Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight.
2. Louisville Cardinals: Rick Pitino’s squad will be favored to make a third straight Final Four appearance. Point guard Peyton Siva is the only senior on the current roster. His leadership will be tough to replace, but Louisville signed two point guards (juco transfer Chris Jones and high school star Terry Rozier) who should more than make up for Siva’s absence. Forwards Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear are poised for breakthrough seasons along with Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, both of whom were rotation players this season. The biggest question surrounds leading scorer Russ Smith and top rebounder Gorgui Dieng, who are considering leaving school a year early for the NBA draft. The departure of Dieng, who is projected as a mid-first-round pick, seems likely. But if Pitino can get Smith to return, the Cardinals will be good enough to challenge Kentucky for the NCAA title.
That said, Twitter reports had Russ Smith’s father telling reporters after the game that Russ was gone, but we all know how post game comments turn out to be not true. Right Archie Goodwin?
The message is now clear though. The college basketball national title has to run through Kentucky. Over the last two years, Jentucky and Louisville have exorcized 14 and 26 year old demons in winning titles. And Kentucky is poised to emulate Alabama and Auburn by having a Kentucky – Louisville – Kentucky title run. Even though the confetti is still being swept up from Atlanta, some people thing next year is all about Kentucky:
Thanks to John Calipari’s otherworldly recruiting — a level of recruiting the game never has seen — the Wildcats will scratch out any element of surprise in 2014.
Calipari has a basketball dream, and it goes like this: 40-0.
Is 40-0 possible? Considering the roster being assembled in Lexington, you bet it is.
In 2013-14, six high school players from this year’s McDonald’s All-American game will suit up for Kentucky. That’s a record for one recruiting class.
“It’s the best (class) I’ve seen,” Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told me Monday.
Under the safe assumption Nerlens Noel leaps to the NBA, two former McDonald’s kids return from this year’s Kentucky team. That makes eight high school All-Americans.
Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated high school senior, also is considering Kentucky. It would be an upset of Wichita State-proportions if Wiggins is not playing at Kentucky next year.
What Coach Cal wants, Coach Cal gets.
One NBA scout sees the potential for six first-round picks from Kentucky in 2014. That’s without Wiggins, who, if high school players were eligible for the draft, would be the No. 1 pick this year.
This is the era to do it. What is being spun as parity is actually mediocrity. College hoops is as vulnerable to a dominant team as any point since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty.
Even in a year when the the Kentucky/North Carolina series comes off a hiatus, that will not be the most anticipated game of the year. That will be Louisville at Rupp and the continual theme of college basketball is whether the Commonwealth can win three in a row?
Once again, Kentucky and Louisville figure to be contrasting examples of how to put a team together.
The Wildcats will be loaded with one-and-dones as Calipari shoots for his second title in three years, while Pitino will have another experienced team of upperclassmen as he seeks his second title in a row and third overall.
“Well, for us to win this national championship truly a blessing from God,” Siva said in response to a question about how it felt to follow Kentucky’s win with one of their own. “We don’t look at it as who won it last year. We’re living in the present. We got this win for our team.
“I told somebody earlier, this is really what a team is. This is really what college basketball is about, a group of guys who are like family. With Kevin Ware going down like that, everybody rallying around him, it showed how much we love each other, that we are a family. We’re truly blessed to be here with this national championship trophy.”
And you can bet both Kentucky and Louisville will be in the hunt again a year from now when the Bluegrass State seeks its third championship in a row.