Monday, April 07, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities - March Madness comes to an end!


Arlington, Texas & Nashville bring down the lights on NCAA Tourneys

There is no way the rest of the world could ever understand the American love of basketball and the frenzy of March madness.  This year has seemed to stimulate a revival of interest in the passion in both the men's and women's national championships, an increase in game attendance and higher TV ratings.

So many fascinating plots swirl around the contenders it would take a couple of television network series to even begin to scratch the surface.

Tonight the Kentucky Wildcats take on the U Conn Huskies in the men's championship, two of the most familiar names in men's basketball meeting in the most unlikely of places, the national championship.  Just last year neither team was even invited to the NCAA tourney.

They play in the A T&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and there will be an astounding 80,000 frenetic fans at the game joining the millions on television as the season long drama  reaches it's climax.

Tomorrow night the Notre Dame Fighting Irish square off against, you guessed it, the U Conn Huskies for the women's championship.  What is it with the U Conn name popping up?  Not far from the northern Texas men's site the women are in Nashville, Tennessee at the Music City Center Bridgestone Arena where 20,000 people will be in attendance. 

Now these two teams who used to share the same conference are now in different conferences and like a Hollywood blockbuster, U Conn has won 39 games and lost none while Notre Dame has won 38 games and lost none.  Between the two they have won 77 games and lost ZERO this season.

The Men

Kentucky - John Calipari
U Conn - Kevin Ollie

In the last 18 years these two teams have won 6 national championships and have been to the final four so many times I forgot.  Kentucky has won more games than any other team in college basketball history.

Now for the plots, sub-plots and just plain bizarre facts.

Neither team was invited to the NCAA playoffs last year.

Kentucky won in 2012.

U Conn won in 2011.

Kentucky began the year ranked number 1 in the nation and ended the year not even ranked in the top 25 by the AP.

U Conn began the year unranked and finished ranked number 18.

Kentucky was seeded 8 meaning it was considered one of the top 32 teams in nation.

U Conn was seeded 7 meaning it was considered one of the top 28 teams in the nation.

The U Conn men won national championships in 1999, 2004 and 2011.

Kentucky won national championships in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012, a total of 8 and second only to UCLA (11).

[UCLA won ten titles the 11 years between 1964 and 1975, and again in 1995.]

U Conn has one of the most successful basketball programs (men and women) in the nation since 1995.

Kentucky has the most successful men's basketball program in history.

Most wins, 2138 in history.
Highest winning percentage in history.
Most NCAA tournament appearances (53) in history.
Most NCAA tournament wins (117) in history.
Second in national titles (8) to UCLA (11).
Kentucky also won NIT tournament in 1946 and 1976 making it the only school to win multiple NCAA and NIT championships.
UK has a record 39 Sweet 16 appearances.
UK has a record 34 Elite 8 appearances.
UK has a record post season NCAA appearances (61).
UK has played in 16 Final Fours (3rd place).
UK has played in 11 Championships, 2nd to UCLA.

Kentucky is starting five freshmen, only the second team in history since the 1992 Michigan Fab Five, but they lost the finals.

Ten years ago, 2004, U Conn became the first school in history to win the men's and women's titles the same year.

U Conn had teams in both finals four different times, with both winning just once.

This year the 8 and 7 seeds are the highest total (15) in modern history.

Kevin Ollie of U Conn is in his 2nd year as head coach following legendary coach Jim Calhoun.

John Calipari is a legend himself having taken 3 different teams to the NCAA Final Four, and UK alone to three Final Fours.

Calipari has won 20 games 20 times and 30 games 8 times in his career.

The Women

U Conn - Gene Auriemmce
Notre Dame - Muffet McGraw

U Conn and Notre Dame were ranked number 1 and 2 all season.

U Conn 39-0 and Notre Dame 38-0 are first unbeaten teams to meet in national championship.

U Conn going for 9th national championship, most in history.

U Conn is the defending national champion.

U Conn and Notre Dame were in last years' Final Four.

U Conn had the longest winning streak in college basketball, 90 games.

U Conn has won 8 national championships and been in 15 Final Fours.

Gene Auriemmce is tied with Pat Summit of Tennessee for most women's championships, 8 and is just two behind John Wooden of UCLA (10) for most in men's and women's basketball.

This is the 5th time U Conn, under Gene Aurimmce, could finish unbeaten and he lost 1 once three years.

McGraw has led Notre Dame to 6 Final Four appearances.

Notre Dame has won 1 national championship in 2001.

Under McGraw Notre Dame has been in 7 of the past 12 Sweet 16s.

Also under McGraw Notre has been in 16 NCAA tournaments including 14 straight.

So you get the drift.  For the next day and a half politics and world affairs will take a back seat to March Madness as we come to the conclusion of a simply spectacular season in both men's and women's basketball.

The legends are coaching, the amazing pedigrees of the various programs are blue blood through and through, and no matter what happens history will be made, dreams will be fulfilled, and other dreams will be shattered.

Can the kiddie corp of Kentucky prevail over U Conn?  Which giant will be left standing in the woman's final?  Can Kentucky's Aaron Harrison nail an impossible 3 pointer and win his fourth straight tournament game in the last seconds?

Hang on folks and don't miss either one of the cliff hanger stories for you will be reading about them in the history books from now on.

No comments: