By Guest Writer Hamish Girvan
For once College Basketball completely overshadows the NBA with the final four. This is the culmination of the “Big Dance” with the final four teams in a winner takes all weekend in New Orleans.
Four storied basketball programmes are left with two intriguing semi finals. The Bluegrass State derby (e.g. should really be Redneck State) between Kentucky and Louisville is apparently going to be the State of Kentucky’s largest television audience in history is semi one. Both coaches are not the best of friends – the two teams are rivals – although they play in different conferences and match ups are rare. Kentucky are the team to beat and have been the form team since the tournament started. They seem to recruit players who spend a year in college then are able to go straight to the NBA – Coach John Calipari has never won a National Championship – he got close in 2008 with his Memphis team however lost in OT to Kansas. He joined Kentucky in 2009 under pressure to bring Kentucky back to the force they once were having last won it all in 1998 in their seventh title – then coached by current Louisville Coach – Rick Pitino – sense the hatred ?
Pitino and his Louisville team are the weekend underdogs – having surprisingly won the divisional Big East title this season (again as the underdog). Pitino has been the coach since 2001 – he left the Kentucky programme to coach the storied Boston Celtics in the NBA and failed miserably. By taking a job at his previous team’s rivals begins the start of the hatred. Louisville – two national titles in the 1980’s.
Ohio State play Kansas in the other semi. Ohio State are big physical team and are always tough. Not a great history – one title 1960 whereby a certain Bob Knight (College Basketball coaching legend) was a reserve on the team. Sixth year coach Thad Matta has turned the team around after being stripped of all honours in 2003 dating back over 5 years after major violations of the College Athlete system – in other words players getting financial benefits outside of their scholarships.
Kansas – a different history. The home of the game, (where a certain Dr James B Naismith who invented the game and had his first coaching job, and set up the whole programme) is a place where many young players dream of playing. Playing in a small historic arena they have one of the best home records in college basketball. The Kansas Jayhawks last won it all for the third time in 2008 under current coach Bill Self. This year’s team was not expected to do so well being in a rebuilding year however this team has unity and has one of the best players in the USA in Thomas Robinson. The sentimental favourite.
Watch it all unfold on Sunday morning here and the final on Tuesday afternoon (coverage on ESPN) – where the Big Dance will conclude for another year however there will be plenty of storylines over the next four days.