It may sound weird to say this, but Julius Randle was the most important player on the floor for the Wildcats in Saturday’s win over LSU despite the fact that he managed just eight points on 3-for-8 shooting.
He guarded Johnny O’Bryant, the LSU big man that torched the Wildcats in their first meeting in Baton Rouge, forcing him to take 25 shots to get his 20 points and turning him over five times. He switched onto Anthony Hickey on regulation’s final possession, keeping him from penetrating and forcing him into a tough, fadeaway jumper. He grabbed 15 rebounds, one of which led to his game-winning lay-in with 3.9 seconds left.
Randle is Kentucky’s best offensive weapon, which means that his value may lie in being a bit of a decoy offensively while setting the tone for the Wildcats with his effort and his hustle. He may be the star, but he needs to play like the glue-guy that only gets minutes when he gets floor-burns.
It seems like he’s embracing that.
“It is what is (on the scrutiny). I don’t care about that. It may or may not be true, but I’m playing basketball. I didn’t come here to be liked. I came here to win a championship,” Randle told Larry Vaught of VaughtsViews.com.
Last week, Jason King of Bleacher Report published the story of four days behind-the-scenes with Kentucky’s basketball program.
It’s well worth the read, with plenty of insight into what it’s like to be a basketball player representing Big Blue Nation. But the most interesting passage is this quote from Calipari during a film session with Randle.
“Look at yourself!” says Calipari, raising his arms. “Look at what you’re doing! Normal human beings can’t do that! If you play like that and go 2-for-9, we’ll win!
“The question is whether you can go 2-for-9 and still play like that.”
I guess he can.
National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1
6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.
After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.
These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.
North Carolina advanced to the Final Four for the second consecutive season and 20th time overall as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.
Reserve forward Luke Maye knocked in the game-winning jumper for the Tar Heels with 0.3 seconds left to break a 73-all tie after Kentucky’s Malik Monk tied the game with a three-pointer on the previous possession.
The Tar Heels (31-7) overcame an ankle issue from junior point guard Joel Berry as North Carolina was led by Justin Jackson’s 19 points.
Maye also stepped up with a big game for North Carolina as he continued his strong March with 17 points. Berry added 11 points, as he went to the locker room during the first half to get his ankle looked at before returning to play later in the half.
Kentucky (32-6) won the regular-season matchup of these teams, 103-100, in Las Vegas in December as their freshmen guards struggled to perform on Sunday. After De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 71 points in that previous win over the Tar Heels, the two freshmen studs couldn’t get going.
Both of them dealt with first-half foul trouble as Fox finished with 13 points while Monk was held to 12 points. Also battling foul trouble in the first half, freshman Bam Adebayo added 13 points for the Wildcats.
With Fox and Monk struggling to generate consistent offense, the Wildcats were able to stay in the game thanks to great performances from reserves like Isaac Humphries (career-high 12 points) and senior Dominique Hawkins (10 points.
North Carolina advances to face No. 3 seed Oregon in next weekend’s Final Four.
South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four with its win over SEC-rival Florida on Sunday.
The Gamecocks made sure to celebrate properly when head coach Frank Martin hit the locker room after the game by dousing him in water before Martin gave another speech.
Darius Rucker, the former front man of Hootie and the Blowfish and a current star in the country music world, is a lifelong South Carolina Gamecocks fan.
This isn’t really a secret.
Hell, on Friday night at a concert he was playing, Rucker set up TVs so that he would be able to watch South Carolina take on Baylor:
You probably didn’t realize just how big of a fan he actually is until you saw him, sitting second row at the regional final in New York City on Sunday afternoon, tearing up as the Gamecocks advanced to the Final Four:
Let ’em cry, Darius, if the tears fall down like rain.