NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.07.14 EditionPosted by Griffin Wong on April 7th, 2014
March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.
- Kentucky entered the NCAA Tournament unranked, but the Wildcats now find themselves playing for their second national championship in the last three years. With all the blows it took this season, it’s incredible that Kentucky is still playing. “It’s nuts,” [coach John] Calipari said. “We’re still standing.”
- With Final Fours at three different programs and on the fringe of his second National Championship, Kentucky coach John Calipari has a shot to cement himself as arguably the best coach in the game right now.
- Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein will be on the sidelines tonight, but he’s trying his best to accept his new role as a coach/cheerleader. He added, “I think that’s kind of my role now: staying in somebody’s ear. When you see something, make sure you let them know. It could help them. If they take the advice, cool. That’s really all I can do.”
- Starting five freshmen, the similarities between Kentucky and Michigan’s Fab Five are uncanny. Coach John Calipari sees the similarities between his team and the Fab Five not in appearance, but rather in the manner that both teams handle themselves. “What they did and how they came together, anything you ever watch on that [the Fab Five], can’t you just feel the brotherhood?” Calipari said. “These guys are the same way. They’re fighting for each other. They closed ranks as things got ugly. They were there for each other.”
- It’s been a wild road for Kentucky, and not even Coach Calipari can know what is coming next. However, what he does know is that his team can perform when it really counts. “Late in the game, they have an unbelievable will to win,” Calipari said.
- UConn All-American Shabazz Napier added another honor to his long list: the 2014 Bob Cousy Award for the Nation’s best point guard.
- Florida was arguably a better all-around team that UConn, but the Huskies excecuted a brilliant strategy to shut down the Gators. Behind its “Ace of Spades” strategy, UConn harassed Florida star Scottie Wilbekin and held him to just 4 points. In describing the his game plan, UConn coach Kevin Ollie kept it simple: “We wanted to take him [Wilbekin] out.”
- Kemba Walker led the way during UConn’s 2011 National Championship run, but now it’s Shabazz Napier’s turn. Napier may be his own man, but there’s no doubt he wants to end his career the same way Walker did. “A lot of comparisons are going to be thrown around. I’m not going to shy away from it. But at the end of the day, I’m not him. I want to do what he did and win the championship, but we’re walking our own path. We all want to get to the same promised land.”
- Check out some of the anecdotes that UConn players gave about their leader Shabazz Napier.
- UConn coach Kevin Ollie has a long way to go if he wants to measure up to his predecessor, Jim Calhoun, and his three National Championships, but winning tonight would be a good way to start creating his own legacy. “I’m not trying to be Coach Calhoun; I can’t fill those shoes,” Ollie said. “But I am trying to be the best Kevin Ollie I can be, and that’s what I am trying to do each and every day.”
- Wisconsin was obviously heartbroken about Saturday’s loss, but all it can do now is focus on next season. With just about everyone besides guard Ben Brust coming back, the Badgers can surely use this past weekend’s loss as motivation. “This should make people pissed off and hungry going into next season, this offseason,” [junior Frank] Kaminsky said. “We’ve got a lot to do. We saw what we needed to do in the postseason to get here. We’ll take that going forward and build on what we’ve accomplished this season. We want to be back here next year, and win a championship next year. We know we can be contenders, and nothing is going to stop us.”
- Wisconsin freshman Nigel Hayes was a big part of the Badgers’ success, but after some early foul trouble on Saturday, Hayes wasn’t able to do much. As a result, he blames much of Wisconsin’s loss on himself. “I didn’t play well at all, which is the reason why we lost,” Hayes said following Wisconsin’s 74-73 loss, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I said this earlier in the year — especially playing against good teams, I need to play well in order for us to win.”
- Both of Wisconsin’s potential NBA Draft prospects Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky will be back in Madison next season.
- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan fell in his first career Final Four game, but these losses, and even getting to the Final Four, don’t mean much to many coaches. “There are coaches who are as bright and as sharp and as tough and as good a mentor as anybody that you will ever want to see who might not ever have a chance to do this. … Tom Davis, Gene Keady, all the other guys that have really been great teachers, had some good teams,” Ryan noted.
- Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News believes that Wisconsin will be “stacked for the 2014-15 season.” It’ll be tough to get back to the Final Four, but the Badgers will certainly have enough talent to do so.
- Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin knows that he had a rough game this past weekend, but for now, he’s not too concerned about how poorly he played. “I’m not really thinking about my personal performance that much,” he said. “I’m just thinking about these guys and how it’s our last time playing together.”
- Florida’s season is over, but the team grew up a great deal en route to a 30 game winning streak. After a rough start, the Gators looked like the best team in the country for much of the season. “Every coach sits up here and is so proud of my guys, I’m so proud of my guys,” Donovan said. “Me being proud of them is from a totally different perspective, because for me personally, I saw how dysfunctional we were in September. Didn’t even know what we would look like.”
- Florida lost a tough one, but rather than dwell on defeat, the seniors recognize that they shared an incredible run. “Obviously the four seniors, we came together and we have been through a lot,” [senior big man Will] Yeguete said. “Just finishing up doing all the things we done this year, I think it’s really special. Going to a Final Four is something special as well. I think we’re going to continue to just cherish our friendship and we’re going to stay close after this.”
- Florida center Patric Young was very mature in both his on-court demeanor and his postgame comments on Saturday. “One thing I can take from this team is just when you can truly love a group of guys or people like this, you bring out the best out of them and you bring out the best out of yourself,” Young said.
- Scottie Wilbekin’s rough game was one of the big reasons why Florida fell to UConn on Saturday, but Florida coach Billy Donovan was the first to come to his senior point guard’s defense. “We would not be in this situation if it was not for Scottie Wilbekin,” UF coach Billy Donovan said Saturday night after the 63-53 loss. “You just never want to see a guy in his senior year do all things that he’s done, you just wish he could have played and performed a little bit better for us. But if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be sitting up here right now.”