CRAWFORD | NCAA Tournament notebook: The view from the good seat - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | NCAA Tournament notebook: The view from the good seats

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From this courtside seat, you could see two angles of Louisville's team huddle. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) From this courtside seat, you could see two angles of Louisville's team huddle. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) -- If Kentucky coach John Calipari didn’t like being up doing a news conference at 12:30 a.m. after Kentucky’s closer-than-expected 79-70 win over Northern Kentucky, he certainly wouldn’t approve of me sitting in the hotel room writing after 3 a.m.

We both blame the NCAA. I can see the NCAA headquarters building out my hotel window. But like Calipari, I’ve got to take care of this obligation. There are several things I need to write, before a whole slew of new material comes tomorrow. Or, later today.

Let’s get moving . . .

1). LOUISVILLE PRODUCT HOLLAND SHINES AGAINST KENTUCKY. Lavone Holland II, who played high school basketball at Ballard, was excited about the chance to play home-state power Kentucky after his Northern Kentucky University basketball team punched its NCAA Tournament ticket in school’s first season of eligibility.

Holland made the most of it. He was the game’s high scorer with 22 points, and had a thunderous dunk after driving the lane in the second half, a moment that made all the highlight shows.

But he wouldn’t bite on any of the feel-good questions after the game.

“It was all in a loss,” Holland said. “At the end of the day, it really doesn’t count for much. It’s a loss. If you’re a championship team, you can’t really be happy with that.”

I asked him how he might feel, one day talking to his kids about his big game against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. He smiled, but didn’t take the bait.

“I don’t really know about that one,” he said.

About the only time he showed some enthusiasm was when asked about his dunk.

“I remember maybe, like, five plays before I had a chance to dunk and I ended up letting it just get blocked,” Holland said. “I came to the bench and coach said, ‘You thought about it too long.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah. If I get another chance I’m going to put it down.’”

So I went along and worked on some other things. Then, right before leaving the arena, somewhere around 1 a.m., I noticed that NKU still had players on the court, and walking off was Holland, and a manager, who said, “When we got it to eight with two minutes left, we had them worried.”

Holland just smiled a little. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess we had them worried for a minute.”

Holland, who transferred to NKY from Coffeyville Community College, will be worrying a lot of people when he returns to NKU as a senior next season.

I was happy to see NKU make a good showing. I covered the Norse as members of the Great Lakes Valley Conference along with Southern Indiana, Kentucky Wesleyan and Bellarmine in my early newspaper days. I could always call NKU coach Ken Shields and get something good. What the program has done is remarkable.

2). VANTAGE POINT IS EVERYTHING. I used to watch every game from court level, and every University of Louisville home game from the court level, at about midcourt. This season, I hadn’t sat courtside on the sideline until I sat in the third row of sideline press seating for the SEC Tournament.

I forgot how much of the game I was missing by sitting up high, or in the end zone. You don’t capture the coaches’ intensity from the end zone, or from halfway up in the stands. You don’t hear the player communication, or see their glances at each other.

It’s a strong reminder that there’s no substitute for being as close as you can be to the action, and that fewer and fewer local journalists get to be that close.

For Louisville’s NCAA opener against Jacksonville State, I sat right behind the Louisville bench, two seats down from CBS’ Tracy Wolfson. For a reporter, being able to watch the coaches at that close a range makes it the best seat in the house. (I sat behind Calipari at just about this range during the 2012 NCAA championship game and behind Mike Krzyzewski when Louisville beat Duke in the 2013 regional final. Sometimes you get lucky.)

From this vantage point, I was amazed at how often Cardinals coach Rick Pitino told his players exactly what was about to happen -- and how often it happened anyway. The team remains a work in progress.

Deng Adel, however, was a bit of a revelation. I saw him grab to guards, Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider, almost simultaneously in the hectic opening minutes, and exhort them to pass the ball. And Adel was talking a great deal to teammates in timeout huddles.

Because I haven’t really been sitting close, I asked after the game if that had been the case all season.

“No, he’s gotten a lot more vocal,” Mitchell said. “He’s really coming on.”

3). CAL WAS RIGHT ABOUT TIME. Kentucky tipped off  at 10:07 p.m. That’s ridiculous. It shouldn’t happen.

It was the first topic Calipari addressed when he took the podium after Kentucky’s win.

“Folks, can you make this really quick?” he said to reporters. “It's 12:30. A college kid shouldn't be playing at 12:30. The old man that's coaching their team has to watch tapes tonight. Can you just ask a couple questions? We shouldn't be playing this late, but that's another issue for another day.”

Kentucky was going to have to be back at it, at practice, in about 13 hours. It will have to be fulfilling media obligations in about 15 hours.

I know network TV runs the show, but the NCAA ought to treat its athletes and coaches better than that.

4). LITTLE REST FOR KENTUCKY STARTERS. The Wildcats played their five starters for a total of 165 out of 200 possible minutes.

That means the bench played only 35 minutes, the lowest total for the Wildcats this season. Every Kentucky starter played at least 29 minutes. Calipari played only nine players in the game, and payed Mychal Mulder and Isaac Humphries 4 and 2 minutes respectively.

If conditioning becomes a problem against Wichita State on Sunday, Kentucky might regret not putting away NKU when it had the chance.

5). LOUISVILLE NCAA (INFRACTIONS) UPDATE. While Friday marked 60 days since Louisville and coach Rick Pitino filed their responses to the NCAA Notice of Allegations, it was unclear whether the NCAA had filed its own response to the university. Early in the day, U of L officials were unclear whether they’d receive anything from the NCAA or not. Late in the day, after the basketball game, Louisville sports information director Kenny Klein said he hadn’t been notified if the school had received anything.

6). LOUISVILLE WINS A TITLE. It’s not in basketball, but what Louisville sophomore swimmer Mallory Comerford did across town at the NCAA Women’s Championships is worth a closer look. Comerford chased down the most dominant swimmer of her generation, Stanford’s Katie Ledecky, to tie her for the 200 free national title.

I spoke with Louisville coach Arthur Albiero after the race, and you can read my column about Comerford’s accomplishment here.

7). QUESTION. If restaurateur Jeff Ruby was going to buy a steak dinner for the entire NKU student body if the Norse beat Kentucky, will he do anything or the Norse having won the second half. NKU outscored Kentucky 46-41 in the second half.

That ought to be worth at least an appetizer, right?

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