CRAWFORD | Sixty-four thoughts on March Madness, Part 2
ORLANDO, Fla. (WDRB) — Sixty-four thoughts on March Madness, Part 2?
33. With all of the talk about school exemption days and adding make-up days and all that, anyone remember the winter of 1977-78, when some of us around here went to school on Saturdays? I distinctly remember Margaret Myles letting our fourth grade class watch the early games of the SEC Tournament in the school room. We loved it.
34. The TBS sideline reporter who was interviewing players in the University of Louisville locker room had a great question while Vinny Tatum, Jordan Sucher, Stephan Van Treese and others of us were standing around talking. "So whose had a really fast horse named after them?"
35. AnswerL Well, uh, nobody, really.
36. Throughout the entire summer of 2012, Pitino obsessed over Manhattan. "People don't understand, he's had all summer to obsess about this game. We're in for it."
37. The Cards won by 27.
38. I expect a similar outcome Thursday, but remember, this is a team of New York kids playing for their city and their program and they aren't likely to just wilt now that they've gotten to this stage.
39. Obligatory Pitino quote: "We may be the more ‑‑ obviously we won the national championship and obviously we're more heralded, but this is anybody's game. This is not a 1‑16. It's not that type of‑‑ it's anybody's game. He's got a veteran ballclub that I have great respect for. We could lose the game if we don't play well."
40. A radio reporter from Colorado asked Pitino what to expect from Chane Behanan, Pitino's reply: "I've got no comment on that, I really don't. This is about the NCAA and I love Chane, but I've got no comment on it."
41. It turned into a bit of a mutual admiration society in Orlando on Wednesday with Billy Donovan of Florida and Steve Masiello of Manhattan saying nice things about Pitino, and vice-versa. The best of those exchanges was this from Pitino, on Donovan: "Billy the Kid to me is one of the special people in my life. I don't think anybody‑‑ I've said this, that Peyton Siva and Billy Donovan were the two most special people I've ever coached because I could never find a character flaw in them, and now I remember Christine, his wife's 40th birthday invitation, and it read Billy the Kid no longer, come join us at his birthday party. He's still a kid because he still has the passion of someone just playing the game.
"There's no finer person I've ever met in my life like Billy Donovan. There's no finer coach I've met in my life than Billy Donovan. There's no better assistant or player than Billy Donovan. He's just the most special human being I've ever encountered in my lifetime. He never changed. Success hasn't changed him, adversity doesn't change him. I'm just proud to have coached him, to have worked with him and to witness everything he's accomplishing in life. As a husband, as a parent, he's just in a class by himself. There's nobody like Billy the Kid in this world that I've encountered in my lifetime."
42. One last bit from Louisville's pregame interviews. Luke Hancock and Russ Smith on what it's like to play for Pitino.
Smith: "Coach P is very much involved in practice like no other. Even today we're going over something and something was forgotten to go over, and Coach P was on top of it like right away. I wouldn't just say that. It may look like it because the assistants do such a great job that they pretty much cover everything that needs to be covered, but Coach is always there, and he always makes corrections if things needs to be corrected, and as far as off the court goes, Coach texts us, he texts guys in groups. He's a guy, he's a person, so it's really cool to have a coach like that that worries about his players and that worries about how the team will rally. So for him to ask questions, keep in contact with the captains, I think that shows a lot of great aspects of the coach.
Hancock: "I've never seen a coach that's as involved as Coach is on day‑to‑day stuff, just for him to take as much time as he does to be at every individual every day and then go through a long practice. He's at every film. Sometimes at night he might not make the late ones at the dorm, the film sessions, but for him to be in an hour individual with three different groups and then go through two hours of practices and an hour of film every day is pretty impressive for a head coach and a Hall of Fame coach, somebody who's been around as long as him."
43. Kentucky boarded a charter plane to St. Louis on Thursday afternoon to head toward its Friday night first-round matchup with Kansas State. John Calipari Tweeted out this video that the school produced for the team: youtu.be/uPBtfEDFXcA
44. Thoughts go out to UK associate athletic director DeWayne Peevy, whose grandfather passed away this week. He'll miss Friday's game to be with family.
45. Kentucky has won 20 of its past 21 opening-round NCAA Tournament games.
46. UK is 5-1 in NCAA Tournament games held in St. Louis — including the 1978 NCAA championship.
47. John Calipari is 13-2 in NCAA Tournament games while coach at UK.
48. Kentucky shot 43.2 percent from three-point range in the SEC Tournament.
49. UK is a No. 8 seed for the third time in program history. The last time was 2007, when it beat Villanova in the opening round before falling to top-seeded Kansas 88-76.
50. Bracket time. I can't pick Wichita State in the Sweet 16 if the opponent is going to be Louisville, in fact, I think it is. I'm not even sure Wichita State gets past Kentucky, though I think it will.
51. Louisville to the Elite Eight, where it faces Michigan and wins to get through to the Final Four.
52. The rest of my Final Four: Arizona, Virginia and Syracuse.
53. How did Harvard over Cincinnati become a trendy upset pick? I don't see it happening.
54. Steve Andress says the tournament gets under way with a bang with Dayton upsetting Ohio State. I don't see that either. Though I wouldn't mind to see it.
55. Nobody's talking much about the second-round game U of L would face if it got past Manhattan. N.C. State is extremely talented, while Saint Louis is extremely experienced. I get the feeling U of L would rather face N.C. State. That'll be an interesting game. Saint Louis struggled down the stretch.
56. If anyone knows how Wichita State's players feel right now, it's Saint Louis coach Jim Crews. He was a guard on IU's unbeaten NCAA championship team in 1976.
57. Crews was coach at Evansville the one season I covered them full-time four The Evansville Courier & Press. They reached the NCAA Tournament that year, in fact. We'd just had our first child, Katie, and I would show up at practice with her in her baby carrier and the Evansville players would hold her while I did interviews. Crews gave me one of the great pieces of parenting advice I've ever gotten when we had lunch one day. He said his son had gone to some party and parents were letting some other kids drink or something, and he told me, "Used to be you just had to teach your kids to have more sense than the other kids. Now you have to teach them to have more sense than the other kid's parents."
58. Who wins the national championship? I still like Arizona. They lost a key player to injury, steadied themselves, and have what looks to me like the most manageable road to the Final Four. I don't like that they didn't win their conference tournament, but I think they've been the most consistently good all season, and that's what you look for.
59. No doubt, they could sell out Lucas Oil Stadium for next week's regional in a football/Final Four configuration. But they won't try. Lucas Oil is scheduled to have its regular basketball configuration, according to its official ticket site. Which puts available tickets somewhere around 40,000.
60. Steve Andress and I have filed more advance video material than you can watch without a restroom break. Check it out here.
61. In looking for winners in this tournament, I'm giving preference to teams with transcendent players, those who are able to take over a game, or multiple games.
62. Coaching also matters. Every round you go deeper, it matters more. From the Elite Eight on, it's a huge consideration.
63. We've had an amazing three year March Madness run here in the Bluegrass. Let's hope it continues.
64. The ball is tipped …
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