Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 28, 2014

Kentucky, Louisville rekindle Bluegrass rivalry

INDIANAPOLIS — John Calipari sent Andrew and Aaron Harrison and three other freshmen to sit behind the microphones and answer questions about Kentucky's upcoming Sweet 16 matchup against Bluegrass State rival Louisville.

Rick Pitino sent up seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.

That, as much as the 70 miles that separates the schools, is the gulf between the neighbors who play Friday in one of the most important meetings in their long, colorful and not-so-friendly rivalry.

Eighth-seeded Kentucky plays the one-and-done game and won a title that way in 2012. Fourth-seeded Louisville goes for a more long-term approach and took home its own championship trophy last season.

"There's so many arguments," Pitino said. "I think the best of all worlds, me personally, I would like to see exactly what football has."

Whether they stay a minimum of three years (football), one year (basketball) or something else, the issue of how athletes fit into a college campus was thrust into the spotlight by this week's National Labor Relations Board decision that defined football players at Northwestern as employees.

Neither coach would bite when asked how they felt about the ruling. "Has nothing to do with this game, so I leave it alone," Calipari said.

But both are well aware of the business side of their game that fosters the tenuous relationships between players, coaches and schools. The one-and-done rule has been key in Calipari's re-emergence as a Final Four coach over the last six years, and has weighed on the minds of other coaches, like Pitino, who don't land the NBA-ready kids as frequently but often find themselves competing against them.

"I think we're all playing the hand we're dealt," Calipari said. "Kids are going on to the league from us and performing, and I'm proud of that. Would I like to have had them for four years? Yes. But I also like what's happened for them and their families."

Calipari, whose 2012 title team came behind one-and-doner Anthony Davis, now of the Pelicans, saw the negatives of having to rebuild every year play out in stark detail this season. A starting lineup with five freshmen struggled with expectations, sharing, listening and handling criticism.

Now comes the payoff. Calipari has figured out how to get the most from the Wildcats (26-10) and, as a result, they are clicking. Aaron Harrison has scored 18 and 19 points in the last two games. His brother had 20 in Kentucky's 78-76 upset over Wichita State. Yet another freshman, James Young, made a 3-pointer that gave Kentucky the lead in that game with less than 2 minutes to go.

"They had to hear how bad they were as players, how selfish they were, they're not together, this isn't a team," Calipari said. "Instead of separating, they stuck together. They kept believing in the staff and wanted answers, 'How do we get this right?' and they accepted answers."

Not that managing a more experienced roster, with seven players coming off a national title, has been all smooth sailing for Pitino and the Cardinals (31-5).

Pitino dismissed Chane Behanan in December for violating school rules. The focal point of last year's title run, Kevin Ware, took a medical redshirt for more recovery on the right leg he snapped gruesomely during last year's regional final, also in Indianapolis.

"I know everyone wants to talk about experience," Hancock said when asked about the differences between what a senior knows and what a freshman knows come this time of year. "But they've got six, seven, eight, nine, 10 guys that are going to play real hard. We have the same. It's not going to be too big an advantage either way."

Since 1983, the teams have met in the regular season every year.

This season's game was a 73-66 Kentucky victory that served as only a brief respite for the Wildcats, who sank from top-ranked team at the beginning of the season to out of the poll by March 10.

The Cardinals were hardly a finished product at the time, either. Like Kentucky, they've saved their best basketball for March. They won their conference tournament games by an average of 33, then figured ways to grind out ugly wins against Manhattan and St. Louis.

Pitino said he's been in the state for 20 years — first as coach of Kentucky — "and the game, to me, has really only had difficult consequences for the loser twice."

No. 1 was the 2012 Final Four meeting, won by Kentucky. No. 2 will be Friday's game.

"People grieve for a year after the game. People celebrate for a year after the game," Calipari said. "I've tried to not make it bigger than it is. But it doesn't work."

Midwest Regional

Semifinals


At Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

Friday, March 28

Michigan (27-8) vs. Tennessee (24-12), 7:15 p.m.

Kentucky (26-10) vs. Louisville (31-5), 9:45 p.m.

Regional Championship

Sunday, March 30


Semifinal winners

1
Text Only
Sports
  • James_Ethan-(12)-vs.#2CC63C.jpg Back on the line

    RiverHawks’ Ethan James returns to the line healthy and ready for 2014

    RiverHawks offensive lineman Ethan James will enter the 2014 season healthy – something the team, and James, were not in 2013.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Sooners shifting several positions

    Experience comes from encountering the same things in the same ways over and over again. Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom and Julian Wilson have that at defensive end and nickleback in bunches.
    However, both will be seeing new things when practice begins. Grissom is moving to outside linebacker. Wilson will be getting a look at cornerback as his senior season begins

    July 25, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • BobBowlsby.jpg Media Week: Change is coming

    Changes are coming to college athletics.
    That was the theme of the state of the conference speech by Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the first day of Big 12 Football Media Days.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peterson.jpg Cowboy quandary: OSU defense trying to replace seven starters

    A year after the best defensive team in the Mike Gundy era, the questions now surround how those few returning starters and second-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer can maintain that high level of efficiency.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Really one true champion?

    I decided to spare the colleagues in front of me – and myself from making a scene – by holding back flipping my table at the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days in Dallas.
    I had become exhausted by the constant use and misrepresentation by the Big 12 with their moniker of “One True Champion.” If they are going to live with the slogan, then they need to abide by that slogan.
    Perhaps its a simple case that they are keeping constant with the poor math of the 10-team Big 12 Conference.

    July 23, 2014

  • Hill expected to be used in multiple facets

    The picture became a little clearer recently of how Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year Tyreek Hill will be utilized in the Oklahoma State offense.
    And the picture is rather wide.

    July 23, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • shock pic.jpg Time to rest

    Shock beats San Antonio before entering All-Star break

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy leads, Tiger Woods in contention after 1st day at British Open

    July 18, 2014

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Press Sports Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites
Stocks