Typically around this time of year, I am excited for one of my favorite sports I love, Opening Day in baseball. This year for the first time in probably my life before I found out what baseball is, it will have to take a back seat to what may be one of the best days in Wisconsin sports history.
Man what a game… As I write this, the replay is currently on CBS Sports Network. It may be one of the best Final Four games since Duke beat UNLV in 1991 considering the circumstances. Wisconsin playing for respect vs Kentucky playing for undefeated history.
This game had everything: Great plays, poor officiating, clutch shots, momentum swings, answer shot after answer, and even poor sportsmanship. I will get to that later.
I went through so many emotions in this game: Excitement, concern, happiness, and even anger (the slap at the end of the shot clock violation that the referees blew even though they reviewed the play).
In the end, Wisconsin is playing Duke on Monday after slaying Arizona last Saturday and Kentucky this Saturday on 4/4 which would be #44 Frank Kaminsky’s (National Player of the year) 22nd Birthday. He was solid as always with 20 points on 7-11 shooting with 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
How about that Sam Dekker? The pride of Sheboygan put the Badgers on his back with 16 points including taking over the last two minutes of the game.
A star is born on the national stage and his shot that gave the Badgers the lead was “cold blooded.” What many won’t say about what happened before is give credit to the Badgers for having lock down defense where Kentucky had back to back to back shot clot violations in the closing moments.
Sam Dekker’s clutch three switched the momentum from Kentucky up four to the Badgers up three. By the way, the shot that took the lead both in 2015 and 2014 look eerily similar. Wow.
I have been in the minority and getting ripped in social media by my friends but I said all tournament long two things:
1) Kentucky instead of dominating like a undefeated team should, plays down to their competition.
2) They really run a bad offense for a team that has been #1 most of the year.
When your offensive sets rely on bricking shots, grabbing rebounds, and getting to the free throw line without actually running a sound offense, a good defensive team like Wisconsin is not going to let you get to the lane or foul you.
Instead, you will have to make shots to win the game. And the back to back to back (3 in total) shot clock violations late in the game proved me right. A couple times they did not even get a quality shot up during that stretch. Up four to down three in about 2 and a half minutes. Look at tapes of the Badgers in the second half of their wins or just ask Michigan State, North Carolina or Arizona if you don’t believe me. From controlling the game to down in a flash.
Notre Dame exposed Kentucky as a fraud offensively last week but just stopped running their offense late and they lost the game more than Kentucky won it. Wisconsin just finished the job because they are one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the country and you have to flat out hit almost everything you throw up to beat them or they have to beat themselves. Duke earlier in the year shooting lights out and the hiccup @ Rutgers with many players out or hurt are two good examples.
Now you can argue that Kentucky shot better than Wisconsin (48 % vs 47 %). Here is the thing:
Wisconsin beat Kentucky on offensive rebounds 9-6, rebounding 30-22. Basically they out Kentucky’d Kentucky at what they like to do offensively. Also Wisconsin got to line 22 times vs Kentucky’s 10.
Here is the other stat of note: William Cauley-Stein no showed with 2 points and 5 rebounds. His only FG? A showtime dunk in the first minute of the game…After that he pretty much called it a night. The plan to make the guards on Kentucky make shots to beat Wisconsin over the big guys getting offensive rebounds worked brilliantly. Maybe that is why he walked off the court showing poor sportsmanship as the game ended.
Also shame on Andrew Harrison for this:
Harrison has since made a public apology about his comments which I give him credit for being an adult and admitting wrong.
At least Ashley Judd took the loss more gracious than some of the players.
All in all Kentucky fans be proud. You were 38-1, you ended up in the Final Four. But as many times as March Madness can prove every year, on this night and on this court, Wisconsin was the better team and deserves to play for a national championship Monday.
Can you believe we have rematch #3 in a row to avenge the loss vs Duke at home early in the year? A win cements Coach K as arguably the best coach ever and a win cements Bo Ryan as getting the credit he finally deserves; a soon to be hall of fame coach and just as much of a big name in college basketball as the other top coaches in his profession.