Tag Archives: Final Four

Summitt reached the summit

Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com. Pat Summitt (pictured above) is retiring after 38 years at Tennessee. She truly reached the summit of her profession.

By Josh Kramer

Summit:  The highest attainable level of achievement (courtesy of dictionary.com).

Not too many people in this world can say that they reached the summit of their chosen field.  That they could climb no higher.  That all goals and aspirations had been achieved in regards to their industry.  The same goes for sports.  Out of millions of athletes and coaches, only a handful can truly say that they reached the “summit”of their sport.

John Wooden, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky Continue reading

A Pursuit for Gr8tness: Kentucky Basketball in a new era

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. John Calipari (pictured above) has revived Kentucky basketball and mastered the science of the one-and-done.

By Matt Murray

In the evening hours of March 25, 2009, Lexington, Kentucky was solemn and quiet. All that could be heard was the sound of a buzzer going off on the few TVs that had been left on long enough to watch the Kentucky Wildcats fall by double digits to Notre Dame in the NIT. It was rock bottom; the end of a long slide from the top of the mountain of college basketball.  Kentucky had missed the tournament for the first time in 17 years, and their new coach, Billy Gillispie, had seemingly put the finishing touches on running the program out of the spotlight.

For years, Kentucky had thrived in an era of college basketball in which dynasties were the key to success; building and sustaining programs was forged on the foundation of long-term players. But with the introduction of the one-and-done rule, Kentucky was unable to find a way to survive in a new era of basketball. That all changed on April 1st, 2009.

In the span of a week, Kentucky ousted Gillipsie and brought in one-and-done expert John Calipari, who promised the power of his recruiting, mixed with the historical prestige of Kentucky, would be a potent mix that would allow him to create a modern-day dynasty in Lexington. He admitted it would be a different feel, one that would put players before the program, but that’s how a team must survive in this basketball landscape. The teams will serve as revolving doors to the NBA, but it’s the only way to ensure the best of the best want to attend your school. They have to spend one year out of high school before they head to the league, and Calipari has made it nearly impossible to explain why you’d want to spend that year anywhere else but Lexington. Continue reading

Final Four Predictions

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Louisville has one edge on Kentucky heading into Saturday's showdown. That would be at the point guard position where Peyton Siva (pictured above) has played great as of late. Siva's heroics will not be enough for Louisville this time though.

By Josh Kramer

I have avoided it for the past few weeks.  I know it is a bad idea.  And when my bracket completely unraveled on the first Friday of the tournament by around 11PM, my desire to provide round by round predictions faded (thanks to Norfolk State and Lehigh largely).  But this the Final Four.  There is no bigger story in sports.  Plus, this year lacks a Cinderella and features two rematches of powerhouse programs.  Here are my predictions as the attention of an entire nation heads to Nawlins (New Orleans).

Matchup #1

Louisville vs Kentucky

The Skinny:  Round two in 2012 of one of College Basketball’s best rivalries.  There has probably never been a bigger sporting spectacle in the illustrious history of the Bluegrass State.  Come 9PM on Saturday, let’s hope that all cities in the state of Kentucky are still standing.  This is the 3rd straight year that the Big East Champion has made it to the Final Four.  Coincidentally, Calipari’s past two Kentucky teams have both seen the same fate in March: losses to the Big East Tournament Champion in the NCAA Tournament (West Virginia 2010, Connecticut 2011).  The third time will be the charm for the Wildcats though.  In my lifetime, I do not think there has ever been more of a heavy favorite heading into the Final Four.  This includes the 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (who oddly enough lost) and the 2007 Florida Gators.  Kentucky is the best team College Basketball has seen in the past 15 years.  They have no noticeable weaknesses and are currently playing their best basketball.

Interesting Stats:  Calipari is 8 and 8 career versus John Calipari (11 and 11 if you include NBA days)  Though it should be noted that Calipari is a career 0 and 4 versus Pitino in postseason matchups.  Lastly, Calipari and Pitino are the only college basketball coaches ever to take three different programs to the Final Four.

Prediction:  Kentucky 80 Louisville 67 Continue reading

Food for Thought 3-27-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Not even "Slick" Rick Pitino (pictured above) can pull off this upset. It appears inevitable that UK will cut down the nets on April 2nd.

By Josh Kramer

The race for second place

13 National Championships.  49 Final Four berths.  Big East.  Big Ten.  Big 12.  SEC.  An elite rivalry.  Rick Pitino.  John Calipari.  Bill Self.  Thad Matta.  Three of this year’s five first team All Americans.  Cinderella teams are fun for the general public.  But they have never been major moneymakers.  Four very tradition filled programs with large followings will take over Bourbon Street for the next week.  It appears Bourbon Street has hit the jackpot with this year’s Final Four.

Wrong. Continue reading

Weekly Nickel 3-26-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis (pictured above), there is little doubt that UK will be cutting down the nets next Monday night.

By Josh Kramer

A Final Four finally emerged.  Tiger Woods did his best Mariano Rivera impression.  Tim Tebow took his talents to Broadway. And South Beach brought the heat in terms of tennis.  Last week was a great one that will not soon be forgotten, but this one is poised to be pretty epic in its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  Canada’s favorite pastime is still going strong as the regular season nears a close.  There are eight or fewer games remaining for every team in the NHL.  And we all remember last year’s insanely unpredictable playoffs that made Game 7’s seem like a given.  Both Boston and Vancouver are once again heavy contenders to hoist Lord Stanley come June, but New York and St. Louis appear to be in pretty good shape in their own right.  My eyes will be focused on a colossal showdown in the nation’s capital on Tuesday. Continue reading

Throwback Saturday Part IX

Photo courtesy of kimoracochran.com. President Obama (pictured above) has proven that he really knows his hoops finishing in the 87.4 percentile of ESPN's Bracket Challenge last year.

By Josh Kramer

We have entered the third month of “Throwback Saturdays” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the routine.  This is a day where I look back at my posts on this date one year ago and two years ago.  Then we can decipher how spot on I was with my thoughts or how miserably wrong I was.  Typically, it is the latter scenario.  So what was happening on March 17, 2011?  How about March 17, 2010?  Let’s find out.

Nearly one year ago (March 18, 2011)..

Madness Highlights Thus Far

Here is a snippet..

No predictions today.  I will let my bracket play out a little.  But I wanted to check in and let you know my initial thoughts of this year’s edition of March Madness.

-Number one, I only went 11 of 16 in Round 2 (Round of 64).  That is not too good.  Shows how much I know.  President Obama went 14 of 16 and at the end of Thursday was in the 99.7th percentile in the ESPN Bracket Challenge (over 5.9 million participants).  Our President definitely knows his hoops.

-The Louisville game was by far the biggest shocker of the day.  I realize there were other upsets, but the Cardinals going down to an in-state Morehead State team?  I guess Louisville could technically be considered the 3rd best team in the state of Kentucky now?

-What a start to the first few games of the tournament. 4 of the first 5 contests came down to final second shots.  The tournament lived up to all of the hype and more in the first few hours of play.  And it is a good thing it did.  Because outside of the Michigan St./UCLA game, the nightcap was very weak, featuring multiple blowouts (To finish reading this post, click this link). Continue reading

Wittry’s March Madness Predictions

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. According to our guest blogger Andrew Wittry, John Calipari (pictured above) will be a happy man on the night of April 2nd as he finally gets the monkey off his back and brings home a national championship.

By Andrew Wittry

Andrew Wittry is a senior at St. Xavier High School who literally eats and sleeps sports.  He is looking forward to college and avidly pursuing a career in sports journalism.  Andrew has an already well- established blog called Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat., where he posts new content regarding both professional and collegiate sports a few times each week.

Which month would you give up to have more March? While Buffalo Wild Wings jokingly uses this phrase in their recent March Madness advertising campaign, in all seriousness, I would willingly give up a few days of each month to be able to have more of the NCAA Tournament.

After coming home on from practice the other night and looking at the bracket, I could not have been more pleased with the field. When the biggest complaint about a team being left out is Drexel, a team out of the Colonial Athletic Association, who did win nineteen of its final twenty games, but did not have a single quality win out of conference, the committee did an excellent job.  Though Drexel’s amazing late season surge in which they reeled off 19 wins in their last 20 games was highly impressive. I was very excited about how well the local teams fared as Xavier’s run in the A-10 Tournament earned the team a 10 seed and Cincinnati claimed a six spot.  UC’s six was due in large part to giving #2 Syracuse its second loss of the season.

Here are my initial reactions from Selection Sunday:

Is Kentucky’s road to the Final Four too tough? Continue reading

NCAA Tournament Bracket

By Josh Kramer

Take a look at the official March Madness selections from TheSportsKraze…

2012 NCAA Tournament Bracket

Elite Eight:

Kentucky over Duke

-The Laettner shot of 20 years ago is still fresh in the minds of Big Blue Nation.  Too much Kentucky talent and too much Anthony Davis for the Blue Devils this time around though.

Michigan State over Marquette

-Marquette’s dynamic senior duo of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have been impressive  all year.  But Tom Izzo’s smarts and Draymond Green’s unwavering work ethic will prove too much in this one as the Spartans make their 7th Final Four appearance in 14 years.

Florida State over Syracuse

-The Big East regular season champs would have proven to be far too deep for a Florida State team that vastly exceeded expectations this year had Fab Melo been on the floor.  No “Melo,” means no Final Four for a very good Syracuse team.

North Carolina over Kansas

Tyler Zeller and Thomas Robinson battling it out in the paint?  It doesn’t get much better.  North Carolina not only has the size to match up with Kansas, but they also have the depth.  There will be no Rock Chalk Jayhawk on this day as Roy Williams breathes a sigh of relief.

Final Four:

Kentucky over Michigan State

-This has been the best coaching job of Tom Izzo’s career.  Finally, the lack of talent in Spartyville will be put on full blast against the nation’s most talented group out of Lexington.  The Spartans will have no answer for Anthony Davis, much like the rest of the nation.

North Carolina over Florida State

-So much for the ACC being down this year.  Beating a team two times in the same year is one of the most difficult things to do in college basketball.  Defeating a team three times is almost unheard of.  Just ask a Kentucky team that was clearly better than SEC-foe Vanderbilt.  UNC is the better all-around team.  And it will show on this day as they avoid a clean sweep from Florida State.

National Championship:

North Carolina over Kentucky (73 to 72)

-As we learned in the BCS Championship Game this year, beating a great team two times in the same year can be very difficult. Not only did UK defeat the Tar Heels back on December 3rd, but they also beat North Carolina in last year’s Elite Eight. Young Kentucky learns the hard way on April 2nd against a surging Tar Heels team that can match their depth and athleticism.  Let the Calipari questioning begin.

Good luck with your picks and enjoy the best three weeks we have in sports.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

Throwback Saturday Part V

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. I proclaimed Jon Diebler (pictured above) as the Buckeye "X" factor last year. Ohio State truly misses the Big Ten's all-time leader in 3-point field goals made.

By Josh Kramer

Welcome to the fifth edition of “Throwback Saturdays.”  Though this campaign was originally intended to just last a month, I couldn’t resist.  It is always fun to look at the past when analyzing the present and the future for that matter.  What was going on in sports on February 18, 2011?  What was transpiring on February 18, 2010?  Let’s find out.

One year ago..

Buckeye X Factor

Here is a snippet..

As I have mentioned many times on this blog, dating back to well over a year ago, Ohio State will go to the Final Four this year.  In my opinion, they are the nation’s best team.  I do feel that Duke would have been the favorite had Kyrie Irving not have gone down.  But injuries happen.

I have talked about what makes Ohio State so good.  They have the perfect mix of talent, experience, and chemistry.  When rumors of an outstanding incoming freshman class started transpiring well over a year ago, many considered Ohio State to be a team that would be in contention.  But when Evan Turner left for the draft, people already wrote them off.  They decided that Ohio State would be solid, but probably a top 20 team that was not quite as good as the Big Ten’s elite teams, Purdue and Michigan State.  I stuck by the Buckeyes and will continue to.  And here is why.

Freshman talent is a great thing.  Just ask University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari.  These one and done phenoms can make your team an instant contender.  But sadly, they are not enough generally to bring home the crown.  UK last year had arguably the two best players in the country, in John Wall and Demarcus Cousins.  They had 5 guys get selected in the first round.  Yet they did not even make the Final Four..

Experience still matters even in the one and done age people.  Though I will state that Kentucky will put this theory to the test next year when they bring in 4 of the top 5 rated players in America.  Experience is something that this Ohio State team possesses though.  They returned 4 starters from last year’s very talented squad.  3 of these gentlemen are seniors while the other is a junior.  Then they brought in this phenomenal freshman class.  And little did most people outside of Buckeye Nation know, but 4 of these diaper dandies came from the same AAU team.  An AAU team that dominated the summer circuit more than any team has in recent memory.  This team brought home 3 consecutive National Titles and really just laid a smack down on any and all teams nation wide.  These 4 kids are good friends.  And they all decided to take the next step together.  Thad Matta hit the jackpot when he visited the All Ohio Red Basketball program.  Or maybe he hit the jackpot in that JJ Sullinger (Jared’s older brother), played for him at Ohio State.  Either way, Matta reeled in the perfect class that had a great winning demeanor and was ready to work from Day 1 (To finish reading this post, click this link). Continue reading

Throwback Saturday Part IV

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. A little over a year ago today, Jerry Sloan (pictured above) was forced into stepping down from his position as the Head Coach of the Utah Jazz.

By Josh Kramer

So when I originally constructed the idea of “Throwback Saturdays,” I figured I would do it for a month or so.  It would be a change of pace for you all and give you some time to reflect a bit. With that being said, I feel as if this idea has been a rousing success thus far, at least from the feedback you all have given me.  Please provide further feedback in the comments section.  I have a feeling next week you may be seeing “Throwback Saturday Part V.”

Unfortunately, I did not put up a post on February 11th in either 2010 or 2011.  So I apologize for letting you all down on those particular dates.  We will just have to settle for dates very close in proximity.

One year ago (February 10, 2011)..

Sayonora Sloan

Here is a snippet from the middle of the post..

Sloan is one of the greatest offensive masterminds of our generation.  The guy has won his entire career.  He handles his business the right way.  No ridiculous off court mishaps with this guy.  Yet ownership has chosen Deron Williams as the future?

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know who Deron Williams is.  He is a 5th year All Star point guard who played college ball at Illinois.  The guy is arguably the best point guard in the League (I would currently rank him behind Rose, Rondo, and Paul in all honesty though).  Any guy that puts up 20 points and 10 assists a night is doing something right.  But it has been well documented that Williams and legendary coach Sloan have had their fair share of tussles over the past year (To finish reading the post, click this link). Continue reading