While Saturday was painful for me and ended with me drinking a magnum of wine and watching “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” I think I have sufficiently recovered from the sting of defeat to post my thoughts here. So, without further ado, here are my observations of Cream Game ’05:
1) This was the worst, most lifeless CBS Broadcast of UK-UL ever. C’mon guys, this isn’t Missouri-Kansas or IU-Purdue or some other lame rivalry that no one cares about — it’s Kentucky-Louisville. I remember the pageantry and production quality of the Jim Nantz-Billy Packer games of the 90s, and this last broadcast paled in comparison. I’m sure that had something to do with the fact that the game was a total rout, but I couldn’t help but notice that the spark just wasn’t there this year. The Rupp crowd was better than ever, but the call of the game was subpar.
2) Woo. Wow. While you won’t be able to convince me that he didn’t commit 15 fouls in the first half alone, he played with a ferocity that I’ve never seen from him. He actually pursued rebounds rather than waiting for them to fall into (and out of) his hands like he usually does. On offense, he set some great screens (so what if 1/2 of them were moving), and he was a big reason why the middle was so open for Rondo. Great game for the big man.
3) Rondo was the difference. He absolutely abused UofL’s big men and took advantage of every switch. He made Palacios and Padgett look silly. Jenkins did a decent job on him head-to-head, but the big guys just couldn’t contain him or challenge that little runner in the lane. On defense, he had Dean so freaked out that Dean walked about halfway across the floor on the first UofL possession. On a side-note, Rondo looked more ET-like than ever on Saturday. I keep waiting for the tip of his freakishly long finger to light up.
4) The game was as badly-called as any game I’ve ever seen. Horrible calls both ways. Louisville walked and got away with it almost every time down the floor. Kentucky mugged Louisville’s inside guys numerous times with no foul calls. It seemed that the more open and obvious the call, the less likely that a ref would make it. Both teams deserve better officiating.
5) Joe Crawford actually showcased his athleticism and rebounding prowess rather than standing on the perimeter, and that added an extra dimension to UK’s offense. Did everyone else’s TV go funny for just a second after Crawford dunked (great screen, Woo!)? That was a pretty amazing dunk.
6) Andre McGee is very very quick and, if he had any basketball IQ, could be very good. The move that he used to blow past Bradley on the baseline was obscene. Of course, Bradley bumped him with the body and he missed the shot (no body control), but the move was impressive. For a little bowling-ball shaped player, he has great quicks.
7) Louisville has absolutely no leadership. Taquan Dean jacked up bad shot after bad shot, and Brandon Jenkins drove to the basket without any understanding of what he wanted to do once he got there. Palacios played like a guy with a tender ankle, and Padgett committed an absurdly bad offensive foul (can’t stick your leg out like that and expect the refs not to call it).
8) Tubby coached a great game. He eased up on his weird substitutions and punitive benchings, and the players played more cohesively and confidently. I think this team would respond to a more laissez faire attitude from Tubby, and maybe this will be the beginning of a kinder, gentler Tubby. Pitino, on the other hand, coached as if he didn’t care about the outcome of this game, but wanted to try some stuff out. He is stubborn to a fault, and he would not adjust. Once he saw that the Cards weren’t shooting well, he should have adjusted and made this a half-court game. It is no secret that UK can go into prolonged scoring lulls in the half-court, but Pitino never made them run their half-court offense. Instead, he threw in a half-hearted press that UK beat every time. He should have zoned UK and not devoted as much attention to Patrick Sparks (unless Sparks started out hot). As it was, Taquan Dean was in Sparks’ face unnecessarily the whole game. That allowed Rondo the freedom to penetrate at will. Bad coaching, but maybe there is some method to his madness.
9) Either I’m mellowing with age, gaining perspective or becoming a Cat fan (or, God forbid, all three), because it wasn’t all that traumatic for me to call my Kentucky friends, including Mr. Jones, to congratulate them on this victory.
10) Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is, quite possibly, the worst movie ever (or at least the worst movie not starring Drew Barrymore). I would rather watch Joe Crawford’s dunk on endless loop than listen to those four chicks talk about their magical pants.