Larry Ness' 10* Elite 8 GOY (4-0 weekend?): Last weekend was a mixed bag in the Big Dance but Larry has come thru this week by winning his BIG PLAYS. He's cashed with his Sweet 16 Total GOY on Wisc/Syra Ov (Thu), his Sweet 16 GOY with Kentucky (Fri) & then with his Elite 8 Total GOY with Fla/Lou Ov (Sat). Join Larry as he completes a 'grand slam' with his 10* Elite 8 Game of the Year!
Game: Baylor at Kentucky Mar 25 2012 2:20PM
Grade: Winner (100)
Reason: My 10* Elite 8 Game of the Year is on Kentucky at 2:20 ET.
John Calipari’s team fell one win shy of getting to last year’s championship game (lost to UConn in the Final 4) and he’s now one win away from a return trip to the Final 4. Waiting for him and Kentucky is Rick Pitino (only other head coach to lead three different schools into the Final 4) and Louisville, Kentucky’s most-despised rival. Clearly, I’m getting ahead of myself, as the Baylor Bears most assuredly think they get take Kentucky’s place in that Final 4 showdown with Louisville. What Scott Drew has done in Waco is quite remarkable. None of the current players were around in 2003 when Baylor men's basketball program was nearly destroyed. It all started when a player was murdered by one of his teammates. Soon after, there were allegations of drug use and illicit payments and a widespread cover-up. When all the dirty laundry was aired, the NCAA came about as close to imposing the death penalty as it could; a lengthy probation and heavy sanctions, which included a shortened season without any non-conference games. Enter Scott Drew and while the Bears didn't have another winning record until 2008, it’s been quite a ‘ride’ since. The 2008 team ended an NCAA drought which had gone back to 1988 and the 2009 team made it all the way to the NIT championship game before losing (set a then school record with 28 wins). The 2010 team made it to the Elite 8 and after an “off year” last season, this year’s Bears are back in the Elite 8 with a new school record for wins, at 30-7. The scandal? That's ancient history! Baylor is a No. 3 seed and clearly not some overmatched ‘Cinderella.’ The 6-11 Perry Jones III (13.4-7.6) can be erratic but he’s an outstanding talent. This Baylor team can be ‘scary’ good. The 6-7 Acy (11.7-7.4) and 6-9 freshman Miller (10.8-4.9) are tough matchups for many teams plus the 6-10 Anthony Jones (5.3-2.9) is more than capable off the bench. Jackson (13.6-5.9 APG) is a very good PG with Heslip (10.4) and Walton (3.9-2.8 APG) providing solid support. However, the Bears are NOT facing the likes of South Dakota State, Colorado, and Xavier in this one (Baylor’s three opponents so far). The Bears are fluid and dangerous in the open court but have a tendency to play loose with big leads. That shouldn’t be a problem here. Don’t expect any kind of a lead by the Bears in this one, no less a “big one!” Gone from LY’s Kentucky team are Knight (17.3-4.2 APG) plus important role-playing vets like Liggins (8.6-4.0) and the 6-10 Harrellson (7.6-8.7). However, Calipari has successfully ‘reloaded’ again this year, getting the Wildcats to the Elite 8 for the third time in his three seasons at Lexington. The 6-9 Jones (12.6-7.1) and guard Lamb (13.6) returned for their sophomore seasons (Kentucky considers sophomores, vets!) and the master recruiter brought in the 6-10 Davis (14.2-10.1), the 6-7 Kidd-Gilchrist (11.8-7.6) and PG Teague (10.0-4.9 APG). Throw in 6-8 senior guard Miller (10.0) and that’s basically it for the Wildcats. There’s little depth but at 35-2, who needs depth? Kentucky owns seven NCAA titles but head coach John Calipari is still looking for his first. It’s “national championship or bust“ at Kentucky. Kentucky owns three straight double-digit wins in the tournament, including a 102-90 shootout with Indiana in the Sweet 16. Kentucky was hardly at its defensive-best vs the Hoosiers but with Davis (many think he'll win player of the year honors) saddled with foul trouble (scored just nine points), five players scored in double figures, led by Kidd-Gilchrist’s 24. The win was ‘iced’ with a dazzling 35-of-37 performance at the free throw line. Baylor is too often guilty of some sloppy ball-handling and the team’s zone defense just simply has too many soft spots. I still remember Baylor’s four regular season gams vs Big 12 ‘heavyweights’ Kansas and Missouri (Bears were 0-4 SU and ATS) and while the Bears did avenge their two losses to Kansas in the Big 12 tourney, they lost the very next game to Missouri, 90-75. That margin sounds about right here. Lay it, as the ‘Cats get that matchup next Saturday in New Orleans vs the Cards (Calipari vs Pitino, WOW!).