In regard to the above, I recorded the game last eve, & then sat up to watch it. It's really exciting to see, although I admit, there's a lot more "celebration" than I totally agree with. Hope you all enjoy this article. I watched the movie "Hoosiers" yesterday as well, & that gives one a better view of how important basketball is in Indiana, Kentucky, & Ohio. The Hoosiers movie was based on true story of Milan, Indiana's very small team being able by perseverance, to go to the state championship in 1951, & WIN! (My father, in his later years, lived near Milan, which is south of where I live.) Joan

NEW ORLEANS—Kentucky coach John Calipari finally found the right team and the right setting to outrace his tortured NCAA tournament history. For all the drama, all the investigations and all the late-season heartbreak Calipari has endured, the game that delivered him his first national title came against a program nearly as iconic as his own and in almost anti-climactic fashion.

With Kentucky star Anthony Davis dominating the game defensively, Kentucky built an 18-point first-half lead over Kansas on Monday night and held on for a 67-59 victory in the national championship game at the Superdome.

Davis, the consensus national player of the year, dominated the game without dominating the ball. A 6-foot-10 forward destined to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Davis scored only six points but blocked shots, intimidated shooters and rebounded with an otherworldly intensity that provided the night’s defining images.

As the final seconds ticked down, cheers of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” echoed throughout the arena. And as the buzzer sounded, Davis finally showed the personality that is sure to make him a megastar at the next level. Grabbing a national champions T-shirt and hat, Davis quickly put them on and strolled over to the Kentucky fans, pointing at the court as he did Saturday night.

“Well, it’s not me, it’s these guys behind me. They led us this whole tournament,” Davis said. “This whole game I was struggling offensively and I told my team every time down, ‘You all score the ball. I’m just going to defend and rebound.’”

For all of the tradition and passion that is tied to Kentucky’s eighth national title, the championship is nearly as notable for being the long-awaited first for Calipari, the Wildcats’ polarizing coach.

Unapologetic about recruiting players who toe-touch campus for one season, this Kentucky Final Four was as much a validation for Calipari and his turnstile recruiting methods as his team’s march to the championship game.

And on this night, with his team clearly more talented than Bill Self’s Kansas team, Calipari’s squad was never tested. The Wildcats finished a dominant season at 38-2, and Calipari exacted revenge on Self, who had beaten him in the 2008 final while at Memphis.

“I don't know of any team that has sacrificed for each other like this team,” Calipari said. “And they deserve this moment. They really do.”

Kentucky, with freshmen and sophomores leading the Wildcats to the No. 1 ranking for most of the season, was a decisive favourite Monday. That gave Calipari an excellent chance to stare down his NCAA tournament demons.

A demoralizing NCAA tournament loss came two years ago against West Virginia in the round of eight, when his team was led by future NBA standouts like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Calipari’s Wildcats never properly adjusted to a 1-3-1 zone, shooting 4 of 32 from three-point range.

In 2008, Calipari’s Memphis team squandered a nine-point lead in the final 2:12 because of poor free-throw shooting and an inability to foul late that allowed Mario Chalmers to hit a rainbow three-pointer in the final seconds to force overtime.

Calipari’s tournament troubles go beyond the court. Two of his Final Fours — one at Massachusetts in 1996 and the other at Memphis in 2008 — were vacated for rules violations under his watch. (Calipari has not been directly implicated in either case.)

While the Calipari’s reputation may be questioned because of the violations, his ability to recruit is beyond dispute.

The Kentucky sophomore Doron Lamb led all scorers with 22 points. With six McDonald’s all-Americans and as many as six players candidates to be drafted in this year’s NBA draft, Kentucky showcased the dominance that had been its hallmark all season. The Wildcats played stingy defence, fought relentlessly for loose balls and looked like a disciplined and unselfish team.

So Davis certainly did not care that his first field goal did not come until the 5:14 mark of the second half when he hit a 15-foot baseline jumper. It was his only basket in 10 attempts, but his fingerprints were already all over nearly every other aspect of the game.

Kansas (32-7) cut the lead to as few as five points after trailing by 15 with just more than five minutes remaining. A potential old-fashioned three-point play by Thomas Robinson cruelly rolled in and out. And while Robinson’s pair of free throws cut the Kentucky lead to five, Kansas never got closer.

Davis hit one free throw with 1:11 remaining to boost the lead to six, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocked a reverse layup attempt by Tyshawn Taylor. The block squandered a sublime backdoor play out of the timeout that could have cut the Kentucky lead to four.

Lamb followed the block with a pair of free throws, starting the squeals of joy from Kentucky fans.

On Monday night, it started with Davis, who dominated the first half even though he missed all four of his shots and did not score. Kentucky led by as many as 18 before entering halftime in front, 41-27. In the Wildcats’ student section, there was a sign that read, “Couches Burning Soon” — in a dual salute to the game’s broadcaster, CBS, and to the celebrations in Kentucky after the Wildcats beat Louisville on Saturday in the semifinals.

In the first half, Davis grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots. More important, the spectre of his condor-like wingspan on defence was engrained in Kansas’ psyche. The three blocks did not do justice to the amount that Davis altered, as it seemed every Kansas offensive movement was made with him in mind.

The driving Jayhawks guards short-armed shots to try and sneak the ball over him. Post players like Robinson, whom Davis dominated from the help side, shot the ball too hard and too quick to try to get it to the rim before he arrived and made only 3 of 11 attempts in the first half.

Self, the Kansas coach, prides himself on a high-low offence. But with Davis sagging off the offensively challenged Jayhawks centre Jeff Withey, Kansas’ offence could never click. The Jayhawks shot just 33.3 per cent in the first half, with guard Taylor looking out of control at times and their misses turning into either transition or early shot-clock offence opportunities for Kentucky.

Kansas turned the ball over just three times, with Kentucky sticking to Calipari’s philosophy of not gambling on defence and instead funneling the opponent into Davis.

On offence, everything clicked for the Wildcats in the first half. Point guard Marquis Teague shot confidently and did not turn the ball over. Terrence Jones played with an aggression and edge missing at times this season. Lamb shot 4 of 6 and scored 12 points, and Kidd-Gilchrist overcame two hard falls to score 11 points.

By the end of the half, Kentucky was on its way to its eighth championship, and Calipari was approaching his first.

April 03, 2012

Pete Thamel

With files from Associated Press