What a weekend!
Well, if you are a basketball lover, this was a weekend built for you. And thanks to Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins, it will be one to remember for a LONG time.
We had our beloved Wildcats in the SEC tournament this weekend, and it turned out to be quite the roller coaster ride. Starting Friday with a harder-than-it-should-have-been game against Alabama, the weekend was off and running. After escaping Friday, the match-up with the hated Vols was in line for Saturday. For most of the game, UK looked to be controlling the game, even if they weren’t dominating it. That all changed around the 9-minute mark in the 2nd half. UK went on a run sparked by Darnell Dodson and opened it up for good, putting a complete beat-down on UT and setting up the expected rematch with Vandy for Sunday…but Mississippi State had other plans.
After knocking off Vandy in order to keep their slim NCAA hopes alive, the Bulldogs would put it all on the line Sunday in what figured to be a messy game. It lived up to expectations. Neither team held a lead larger than 4 or 5 points for the game. It was back and forth, physical, and just plain brutal. Neither team wanted to hit their free throws and UK’s 3-point shooting troubles, which were largely missing against UT, showed up again.
Down 5 with less than a minute-and-a-half to go, it did not look good. Patterson scored off a Dodson miss to cut it to 3. Cousins then fouled Varnado on a dunk attempt, and he missed both his free-throws. UK could not cash in on it, as Cousins missed a turn-around shot and Miss. St. got the rebound. UK fouled, giving the Bulldogs the ball out-of-bounds with about 42 seconds and UK still down 3, and I was ready to throw my remote.
Then, John Wall became John Wall.
On a bad inbounds pass, Wall took the ball away and drove for a basket, cutting the lead to 1. UK then fouled Bost, who had been cramping up for the last few minutes. He missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, giving UK the chance to take the lead with around 25 seconds left. However, John Wall would end up missing a fairly close jumper, and the rebound went to Mississippi State and UK had to foul with only 8 seconds left. At this point, I’m not even sure if my heart was beating or if I’d blinked for about the past 5 minutes.
This time, they hit them both, giving them a 3 point lead, and making me very one unhappy Cats fan. Which brings us to the ultimate game decision…with a 3-point lead, do you foul the opposing team and take away their chance for the tie, or do you let it play out, especially against a team that is not really hitting the 3 all that great? Well, Rick Stansbury made his decision, and he’s probably regretting it today.
Mississippi State fouled Bledsoe with 4.9 seconds left. Bledsoe then made the first shot, setting up the play that almost never works…the deliberate miss, hoping to get the rebound and put it back in to tie it up. Bledsoe’s second shot was beautiful, arcing WAY high and giving a good sideways bounce. Patterson had a shot at it, but it got away from him and fell into Wall’s hands. Wall made a move to get the defender in the air and fired up the shot…no good…but big, bad, beautiful Boogie was right there under the basket to grab the rebound, and with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, the ball left his fingertips and quietly rolled through the basket…setting off complete madness. I jumped off the couch and let out a yell that probably scared my neighbors, then had to wait to make sure that the shot actually counted. For a second, I will admit that I was like Wall, thinking that UK had won on the shot.
The referees ruled that the shot was good, sending the game to overtime, where you had to figure it was an advantage to UK. The Bulldogs were already dragging, but they didn’t give up at all, giving UK all they could handle until the buzzer sounded, falling by 1-point and allowing everyone in the state to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
At 6pm, it was time to unveil the NCAA tournament brackets, and what a disappointment they turned out to be.
Despite being the 2 highest seeds, you could easily argue that UK and Kansas ended up with the 2 toughest brackets of all. Add to that the fact that SOMEHOW Duke got a higher seed than Syracuse, while at the same time ending up in arguably the easiest regional of all, and it was good reason to be angry. West Virginia, which probably should have gotten a #1 seed over either Syracuse or Duke, ended up as the #2 seed in UK’s regional. I somehow feel like they’ll end up losing before a potential match-up with UK, but UK’s road won’t be easy to get to the regional final at all. Potential games against Texas, Wisconsin, Temple, or Cornell are lurking out there, and all of those could be very tough games for the Wildcats.
For now, I say we just enjoy the fact that we went from being OUT of the tournament last year to the overall #2 seed this year and are SEC regular season and tournament champions. A national championship would be incredible, but I’m awfully happy at this point. A national championship would also be interesting in that it would be sort of a bookend on the last 2 years. Last year, North Carolina won the NCAA championship, and this year is in the NIT. Last year, UK was in the NIT, and this year…national champions? We shall see.
I’ll talk more about the upcoming tournament this week, but for now, let’s just all take a deep breath and start filling out our brackets.
If you are interested, I started an open group on ESPN where you can fill out your bracket and take part in the MorganMinute bracket challenge. It is open to everyone, and while I don’t know of any prizes that i could give away to the winner, if enough people join up, I’ll try to figure something out.
Just head over to: http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/en/group?groupID=68563 to fill out your bracket(s), and let’s see how it goes!
And, if your heart can take it, here’s the important parts of the SEC Championship…