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Stupid Basketball: A Scathing Missive

They say never go to bed angry.  But they also say it’s best to cool down and not speak from anger. I’ve chose to ignore both pieces of advice.  Why?  Because despite the general disarray of all of my brackets, one was alive – if Kentucky could beat UConn, I’d win the money.  Then the game happened. And the general lousiness with which the game was played got my blood boiling a bit.  So I went to bed, tried to cool down.  Didn’t work.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

I guess there’s any number of things a Kentucky fan could be angered by in last night’s game: the consistently poor shot selection, tendency to panic – hurry up and turn the ball over, the fact that they went 4 of 12 from the free throw line (Seriously? 4-12? Was Shaq the only one shooting?), or the compete lack of effort on the offensive glass when Josh Harrellson was out of the game (Which is odd because Kentucky dominated the boards for most of the game – but watch the last couple minutes, a shot goes up  and there’s not a Kentucky player to be found). But what I’m most angered by, in what was an excitingly poorly played game, is not an effort play, but an experience and basketball IQ play.

How in God’s name do you take the ball in with sixteen seconds left, shot clock turned off, down two, waste about ten seconds, then throw up an NBA range three point shot with a hand in your face?!  Really?  You think that shot’s going in?  You’re team shot 34% from the field last night.  You couldn’t hit water if you were sitting on the deck of the Titanic as it sank.  But yeah, that’s probably a good shot, it’ll totally go in this time.  It’s probably not a better idea to hold the ball until about seven seconds, then drive the paint and try to get a good look at a two to tie the game and put it into overtime.  Kentucky panicked.  They’re inexperienced and had no clue what to do.  The end result? Straight Up. Poor Basketball.

And doesn’t this bring up the bigger point?  The one that has been the theme of this Final Four, experience versus talent, Cinderella versus the big names.  Kentucky is a young team, a team of superstars in waiting who will soon be in the NBA.  The same can be said about UConn.  However, check the other side of the bracket, VCU and Butler?  Those teams, that side of the bracket, represents small conference, Cinderella teams.  Teams of doctors, lawyers and maybe one or two NBA players. These guys don’t play a year then bolt for the paycheck.  They stay together, gain experience playing together, learn the game together.  They’ve learned what to do in situations like that.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

After a Round of 32 win over West Virginia, Kentucky coach John Calipari said that given the choice between talent and experience, he’s taking talent.  Yeah?  Are you sure about that, John?  This is now the second time a team of yours, comprised largely of NBA players, has panicked in the last seconds of a game and cost themselves a chance at a title.  We all remember the 2008 Championship Game when Calipari’s then Memphis squad took on Kansas and choked away a nine point lead with just over two minutes left.

So is talent really better than experience?  Not in this guy’s opinion.  I think there’s something to this experience thing.  Perhaps a team that knows how to play together, knows not to panic in the big spot, can pull off the upset on a team of eighteen year old talent.  That’s why Butler and VCU exist.  Because while other programs roll through a new starting roster every year or two, these guys mature together and know exactly what to do in every situation – because they’ve faced it.  To me, I’d take a little less talent and a ton more experience over talented and clueless.  What do you think Coach Calipari?  Still think experience isn’t all that important?  Or do you need a player to foul someone in the closing seconds of a tie game? Or call at time out when you don’t have any?  Will that change your mind?

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