The Big Dance and Big Boy Basketball

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By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.


Remember those times when you were growing up and you literally hated to hear that dreaded remark from Mom and / or Dad that you knew was eventually coming , those certain times when you thought you knew more about life in general than they did , remember that stern and painfully correct response of " I told you what was going to happen " . Then you just had to hump up like an elderly Monk and turn your face downward with an I know , I know .
 
Well , I love it when I can say I told you so to my critics when I've made a rare correct assessment and prediction of the Wildcats .
 
I told you this particular UK team would finish strong down the stretch when it played four of it's last six games in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena . I told you UK would play more comfortable and confident on a neutral court than most other teams when March Madness rolled around . I told you Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson had not hit their ceilings at mid season yet and would be much more consistent down the stretch when needed most .
 
Now , barring the injury bug throwing a cloud over March Madness UK is set to make a deeper run into the Big Dance than many ever imagined back in October with or without Big Enes and I'll include myself into that group .
 
UK's first round opponent will be Princeton University of the Ivy League and the game site will be at The Times Forum  in Tampa , Florida on thursday ( time of tipoff will be announced on monday by the NCAA ) .
 
Having developed a friendship with a few NCAA Div. 1 coaches in the past I can share a story I've heard many times in the past with you . The unwritten word around the college coaching fraternity come this time of year when Pete Carrill was the coach at Princeton you could privately ask any top 25 NCAA coach on the eve of the selection process who they would hate to be matched up with and the quick answer was always Pete Carrill and Princeton University . 
 
Thank God ole crafty Pete has retired . Princeton's new coach is Sydney Johnson .
 
Could The Bluegrass Have The NCAA's Top Two Basketball Coaches
 
I admit I am a tad biased but I feel very confident and qualified in evaluating basketball players and coaches with a 40 year career behind me in basketball as a player , high school coach , and administrator .
 
I think the two best coaching jobs in college basketball for the 2010 - 2011 season have unfolded right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in front of our own eyes . John Calipari and Rick Pitino have in my opinion done a splendid job with their respective teams and situations . They have squeezed every ounce of talent and energy out of their players and every win possible out of their teams .
 
Also , let's not leave out another exceptional job of basketball coaching done over in northeastern kentucky at Morehead State University by one Donnie Tyndall . I suspect he will be leading another higher profile NCAA Div. 1-A  level program in the near future and making much more than the chump change you get at an Ohio Valley conference school like MSU .
 
Now , back to Coach Cal and Coach P . , both coaches would have privately told you back on October 15th that with the rosters they had returning and the demands and schedule that laid in front of them were just to much to overcome at schools with such lofty expectations . I just don't think 25 wins and a constant weekly spot in the  top 25 along with an appearance in each schools conference championship game would have been a realistic expectation , neither coach would have or could have had those goals realistically in mind .
 
Not to mention the constant scrutiny by Coach Cal of Big Blue Nation or the off the court problems of Coach P .
 
But they have both once again conquered the odds and lead their respective teams to quality seasons and are on the brink of another deep run in the Big Dance
 
 NCAA Always Gets Last Say
 
The NCAA has once again pierced and gouged Kentucky Basketball  ( pick your english language posion ) in the selection process by placing them as a # 4 seed in the toughest bracket of the tournament with Ohio State , North Carolina , and Syracuse . Not to mention another possible appearance with Bob Huggins and West Virginia .
 
Anybody out there think the folks up in Indianapolis have forgot about all those nasty e-mails and the internet chat line abuse that was addressed at the NCAA headquarters on the Enes Kanter case , also let's not forget our A.D Mitch Barnhart and President Lee Todd's public remarks toward the NCAA in the matter . UK and Coach Cal closed the book and moved on after The Kanter Ruling nobody will ever convince me that the NCAA didn't file all the abuse they took away .
 
I've expressed many times my opinion on the NCAA and it remains firm . They have been and it appears always will be one of the most vindictive organizations in America .
 
To certain member schools .
 
Don't give me that story about the everyday operations of the NCAA has nothing to do with the NCAA basketball selection committee .
 
Who oversees them and places them on the committee and isn't anything that comes out of the main office a direct reflection of the man in charge . Coach Cal is responsible for Kentucky basketball and Mark Emmert is the President of the NCAA and responsible for the management of NCAA events  . The man in charge is a direct reflection of the company or organization that he is responsible for .
 
Since I'm in sermon form can anyone explain to me why you would match up two in state schools like Louisville and MSU then send them to Denver , Colorado instead of five different 1st round sites that could have been sold out with the states passionate fan base and history for following college basketball in March .
 
I agree with the Mouth of the South Dick Vitale it's time that the NCAA steps up to the plate and creates a new selection committee for the NCAA Div. 1 - A basketball tournament with one basic criteria to be able to serve on the committee . You must have been a former Div. 1 basketball head coach who has been retired for a minimum of four years . The four years takes out of play the fact you still have players on a team that you coached still being involved in the tournament .
 
Presently , the NCAA is letting a bunch of A.D.'s and a few of them female I might add make these delicate decisions .
 
If your going to host the nations most elite college basketball tournament then let the nations most intelligent and experienced basketball people oversee it .
 
Coach Cal's Luck Finally Runs Out 
 
That rabbits foot and buckeye that Coach Cal has been lugging around in his left pants pocket since the season started  may have finally ran it's course for the season . Last week I talked about how tired UK looked at the end of the Vanderbilt and Tennessee games in the last week of the regular season .
 
Could that be the reason that Liggins and Lamb went down at the end of the Alabama semi final game in last weekends SEC tournament ? It's definitely something to think about .
 
Yes , both injuries were related to accidentally stepping on an opponents foot but could their lack of energy have caused their response or reflexes to fail them and ultimately result in injury . That reason alone would be enough for most coaches to consider substituting for starters or front line players when only days away from the most important part of the season .
 
Personally , I can't buy the opponents full court pressing ways as an excuse Coach Cal .
 
You just simply rolled the dice one to many times and lost . Remember your opening statement to the Commonwealth two years ago , " I can't walk on water , I'm not the second coming , I will make mistakes " . You just made one big one . But it appears you have overcome the mistake albeit with a great effort from your training staff saturday night . Having seen Liggins and Lamb in sundays championship game I can see all Cats ready for the tipoff this thursday in the NCAA tournament .
 
But most of all I hope you can swallow your pride and ego and learn from it just like your players learn the game from you .
 
It looked as though you did by playing the four lonely subs all of 35 seconds in sundays SEC championship game dangerously guarding a 16 point lead .
 
You can go online at www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more info on UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA basketball and football .
 

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