Mar 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; A general view of the tip-off from the national semifinal game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals in the 2012 NCAA men's basketball Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE **EDITORS NOTE** - Image was created from HDR toning.
Kentucky and Kansas clash in the 2012 National Championship Game in New Orleans Monday night, so get ready for the showdown with some thoughts and a preview before the biggest night in college basketball.
It's the first Monday in April, and that means it's time for the National Championship. Kentucky and Kansas have gotten here in completely different ways, but that's part of what makes tonight so much fun. UK is the unstoppable force, KU is the
immovable object that's sort of tumbled into this moment by accident.
It's more fun this way. Anyone playing Kentucky wears the underdog's hat, but with this Kansas team, it fits perfectly. Anyway, to get ready for Monday night, some scattered thoughts are below.
1. Thomas Robinson Is A Monster. God he's fun to watch. He'll never be the type of NBA star he is at Kansas, and he's not Anthony Davis From Outer Space, but that's as good a reason as any to savor this run while it lasts. He's like a wrecking ball with a jumpshot. No matter what you think of tonight's matchup, watching Robinson hurl himself into Kentucky's superstars is as good a reason as any to get excited about Monday night.
2. One Shining Moment. No matter who you're rooting for, can we all agree that Mark Emmert handing over a National Championship trophy to John Calipari would be the absolute greatest?
3. REMINDER: Kentucky Fans Are Completely Insane. Aside from the phenomenal awkwardness of the NCAA president rewarding the NCAA's most infamous (alleged!) nemesis, there's also Kentucky fans. After Saturday night's win, they took to the streets in Lexington:
Authorities issued an advance warning to fans that fires and vandalism would result in arrests, but parties and drinking started early."They try to flip a car. Police push them off and they try to flip another one," said Logan Johnson, a UK freshman. "It’s pretty crazy. We are going to the championship. I don’t blame people."
Joey Frederick, who joined the revelry in Lexington, said Saturday's win warranted a party on campus. "We are the best team in America," he said. "I think houses should burn."
AND THAT WAS THE SEMIFINALS. Can you imagine what happens if these people actually win a title? Nobody's rooting for riots, but if UK wins Monday, expect raw anarchy in Lexington and (maybe!) on Bourbon Street. Alabama fans won a title in New Orleans two months ago, so the standard for debauchery has been set. Here's to betting UK clears the bar with room to spare.
4. The Tyshawn Taylor Show. Tyshawn Taylor is the Vince Young of point guards. Terrifying for KU fans, but so, so much fun for everybody else. He could pull off a 360, and-one layup in the lane one possession, and the next, he'll throw a no-look pass to the scorer's table. If there's any justice in the world, he'll end up playing with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in Milwaukee.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Is The No. 2 Pick. Here's how good Kentucky is: Their second-best player was invisible for 80 percent of Saturday's semifinal, and they didn't miss a beat for even a second. The odds of Kidd-Gilchrist disappearing two games in a row are slim to none, so as much as everyone's written about Anthony Davis over the past few weeks, expect Monday to be a showcase for MKG. He wreaks havoc on both ends, he can guard four positions, and... Yeah, this Kentucky team's dominance will make a whole lot more sense when Davis and MKG go 1-2 in the draft a few months from now.
6. John Calipari Is The Best. On Saturday during the halftime show for Ohio State-Kansas, the CBS analysts joked about Anthony Davis wanting to play point guard and Calipari said something like, "Yeah he can play point guard. If he comes back next year, we'll play him at point guard all year long." Only Cal would openly mock the idea of his freshman superstar coming back to school ... and that's why we love him.
7. Bill Self Is Whatever. This pregame speech, man. Whatever.
FWIW, in Kentucky's locker room, Worldwide Wes gave a lecture on brand awareness in front of table with $600,000 cash. Allegedly. Then Calipari came in riding last year's Kentucky Derby winner, to show them "what a champion looks like." Then a Jay-Z concert broke out. Allegedly.
8. And Here's A Cloud That Looks Like Kentucky. Allegedly.
9. Bill Self Is Totally, Completely The Coach Of The Year. The role of a basketball coach is always a little murky -- we tend to give them too much credit in college and not enough in the pros -- but Self deserves a lot of credit regardless. This Kansas team had no business getting this far, but they've been the most resilient team in the country all year long. You saw it in the Missouri game, and then all throughout the tournament. After a certain number of comebacks, it's not even coincidence anymore. That's just what this team does. And it's why Kentucky should be very, verrrry careful tonight.
10. 2008 Vs. 2012. Kansas-Memphis in 2008 was probably the best NCAA Title game we've seen in ten years. It was as close as we've gotten recently to the dream of the two best teams in the country going toe to toe, and it delivered on every single front. 'Course, that was Self and Calipari, so everyone's going to re-hash it before Monday's final, but let's be clear: Kentucky's better than that Memphis team, and KU is nowhere near as talented as the team that won in '08. Four years ago was Goliath vs. Goliath, this year's a whole different story.
11. So, Can Kansas Win? Maybe!
12. How? Luck? Let's say luck. Kansas will have to play its best game of the tournament, Anthony Davis will have to get in foul trouble -- which is incredibly rare -- and guys like Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, and Marquis Teague will have to go cold from the perimeter. Meanwhile, KU needs Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford, and Elijah Johnson to hit from the perimeter and play a more complete game than they have all tournament. It's possible, too -- KU hasn't played an A+ game all month, so maybe they're due. The real X-Factor is UK coming out flat.
13. Jeff Withey The Earthbound Superfreak. He had seven blocks against Ohio State on Saturday, including a few that A) saved an easy Buckeye basket and B) gave KU fast-break buckets on the other end. That's a serious weapon in a close game where every possession counts. It makes no sense because he looks like every other lumbering, white seven footer on earth, but Withey's like Jeff Foster with NBA Jam superpowers. And KU needs his superpowers now more than ever.
14. Can Kentucky Win? Duh. Tonight's game is like every other Kentucky game for the past four months; the drama's not so much in the outcome, but whether Kentucky can even be tested, and how their superstars respond. So far they've passed every test with flying colors. In college basketball, we remember title winners forever, and unless you're Butler or the Fab Five, everyone else tends to fade into the ether. This Kentucky team has NBA players all over the roster, a great coach, and the greatest player college hoops has seen since Kevin Durant. It sure seems like a title team we'll remember forever.
15. You know... Unless we spend the next 25 years talking about Jeff Withey and the Kansas team that somehow took down Kentucky.