Kentucky got a must win over Missouri at Rupp Arena Saturday night. The fans of Big Blue Nation, the most passionate ones in college basketball, had reason to celebrate. The Wildcats needed a statement win to add to their resume. Going into the game, the best victories to date this season came against Maryland and Mississippi. The ‘Cats played more aggressively. Down the stretch, Kentucky came up big on the foul line to put the game away in overtime. Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress were more aggressive. In the second half, Archie Goodwin came through after being held scoreless in the first half. John Calipari has a very young squad which is still adjusting to the loss of Nerlens Noel to a season ending knee injury. This was a great win for the Wildcat resume, but the VBDI tells me there is still a lot of basketball to be played. For now, Big Blue Nation can celebrate a key victory.
I want to thank the people at Sarasota Mercedes for their generosity, as we had over 250 people attend the event on behalf of the V Foundation. I can’t thank Mary Kenealy and her team for the phenomenal job they did in helping us raise over $15,000. I also want to send a special thank you to Lary Wade for selling raffle tickets. It was great to have in attendance friends and people who have been so successful like Bob and Billie Delaney, Nick Bollettieri, John and Pam Valvano Strasser, Tom Niedenfuer and Judy Landers. I can’t thank Nick Bollettieri for his introduction and Bob Delaney for handling the emcee. Also a big thank you to John Saputo and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing for providing all the Budweiser products. Thank you to Ernie Withers, General Manager of Sarasota Mercedes, for providing the showroom and making it happen for us.
I had a blast calling the Indiana-Michigan State game with Magic Johnson and Mike Tirico Tuesday night. I loved the passion and fire of both Tom Crean and Tom Izzo. Both guys really wanted this one badly. Indiana had not won at East Lansing since 1991. That was until Victor Oladipo took over on both ends of the court. He led the Hoosiers to the winner’s circle and first place in the Big Ten. I felt that that situation where Derrick Nix appeared to nail Cody Zeller with an elbow or forearm was a big turning point, taking momentum from Michigan State. No flagrant foul was called, which I could not believe. It still took something from the home team. It was a wild, physical game. It was exciting and intense. I believe both the Hoosiers and Spartans can make serious run in the big dance. On Tuesday, Indiana was just a little bit better.
Wednesday night was a typical North Carolina-Duke battle. There is a reason why this is the best rivalry in all of college sports. These two schools are separated by just eight miles. They have dominated the ACC over the years, combining for nine national championships. They currently have a total of 35 players in the NBA. Both coaches – Coach K and Roy Williams – are in the Hall of Fame. When these two teams meet, forget about the records. You will see all the passion and emotion which makes college basketball oh so special. This time around, you can break down the game by one simple fact. Down the stretch, the Dukies made free throws and the Tar Heels struggled from the foul line. Coach K is now 38-37 against Carolina. That shows how close this series is. The Tar Heels fought hard, led at halftime, but the Blue Devils got to the winner’s circle because of foul shooting. I cannot wait for the rematch, baby!
I was absolutely heartbroken with the news that Kentucky big man, Nerlens Noel, will be out for the rest of the season. He suffered a torn ACL last night against Florida. The injury occurred on a hustle play, trying to stop a Gator from getting a layup. Noel is a quality kid. I spoke to him last year when he was in high school, and also this year. It is a shame that he is done for the season. Kentucky will have to get more out of Willie Cauley-Stein. Others will also have to step up. I still believe that John Calipari’s team will win enough games to make it to the big dance. There are not that many tough games left on the schedule, but the Wildcats will have to make adjustments with Noel out of the lineup.
Are you serious? The Louisville/Notre Dame game on Saturday night was unbelievable. To be honest, it was tucked away, start up the bus, Rick Pitino and Louisville leaving South Bend with a W. Then it was the Jerian Grant show. He had 12 points in less than a minute to rally the Irish. Notre Dame had a bunch of kids that played with so much passion and emotion. It was one overtime after another, and then absolute pandemonium as the Irish won in five OT’s! Garrick Sherman, who came off the bench in overtime and finished with 17 points and six boards, was sensational. Eric Atkins played 60 of the game’s 65 minutes. Pat Connaughton played 56 minutes despite an ankle injury. I really believe this was the biggest win for Mike Brey at Notre Dame.
The Michigan-Ohio State game lived up to its billing. It was a real dogfight, and the Wolverines pulled out what I felt was a must game for them. Coming off the loss at Indiana Saturday, plus games at Wisconsin and at Michigan State ahead, this was a huge win for John Beilein’s team. Tim Hardaway, Jr. was outstanding hitting the trifecta in the second half. Trey Burke controlled the offense, ran the show and hit a big three pointer in overtime. Thad Matta’s kids were so tough, coming back time after time. Just another tough one in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have Indiana next…
Just another great Saturday of college basketball, baby! I had a great time calling the Michigan-Indiana game. Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and company got to the winner’s circle over a determined Michigan squad. Indiana did a great job at the foul line to wrap up the hard fought victory. This coming week, the Hoosiers will be my choice for numero uno. I am putting Florida in the number two slot as Billy Donovan’s team has been pulling off blowout city to all comers in the SEC land. Michigan will be at number three in my rankings. My friends, February is going to be special as a prelude to an incredible March Madness.