Beyond Golf — 26 March 2012 by Jim Street
My Old Kentucky Home — in Big Easy

The most popular song along the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans this week could be “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Not one, but two teams from the Bluegrass State have reached the Final Four in what definitely has been March Madness in college hoops.

Long gone are Syracuse and it’s arrogant head coach who should look up “humility” in the dictionary and learn what it means. Practically every press conference he has had during this tournament has demonstrated his arrogance and disdain for something called “class”.

Good riddance Jim Boheim and have a bad summer.

Moving right along are Kentucky and Louisville, separated by only a few miles and legions of followers, along with Ohio State and Kansas. All four teams have a tremendous history and this should be one heckuva Final Four.

Kentucky punched its ticket to the Big Easy on Saturday with an 82-70 win over Baylor, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates, and Kansas toppled top-seed North Carolina in the Midwest Final.

Not that Kentucky is good, but my guess is that this college team could give a few NBA teams a tough game and I am sure the Wildcats could whip the Michael Jordan-led Charlotte Bobcats.

New Orleans hosts the Final Four, which features semi-final games on Saturday between Kentucky and Louisville along with Ohio State against Kansas. The championship game will be played Monday night.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 19 points, Anthony Davis added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Terrence Jones led the Wildcats (36-2) on Sunday. For all the excitement the next game in its basketball-crazed state, Kentucky won’t consider the season a success unless it wins two more games — culminating in a national title.

“I’m not satisfied yet,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

This semifinal is a rematch: Kentucky beat Louisville 69-62 on New Year’s Eve.

While the Kentucky-Louisville skirmish will get most of the attention during the week, Sunday’s clash between two storied programs – Kansas and North Carolina – was a must-watch game.

Tyshawn Taylor broke out of his scoring slump with 22 points and the Jayhawks handcuffed top-seeded North Carolina for the last 5½ minutes of an 80-67 victory over old coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels.

“This would have been a year, if we got to the second weekend (of the tournament), most Kansas fans would be happy. But that’s not how those guys think,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They think this is their year, and I’m certainly not going to tell them anything different.”

Kansas is on its way to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2008.

The Jayhawks’ win was especially difficult on Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. But that would have been the case win or lose.
This was only the second time Williams had faced Kansas since leaving the school where he spent his first 15 years as a head coach, taking the Jayhawks to the NCAA title game twice — they lost in both 1991 and 2003 — and two other Final Fours. Though Kansas fans have softened some — Williams was still greeted with a chorus of boos, and one fan held up a sign that said, “Roy Down, 2 to Go” — Williams said that facing his old team will always be unpleasant.

“(It’s) too emotional for me. That’s the bottom line,” Williams said, calling Kansas his “second-favorite” team. “I don’t think it’ll ever feel good for me, regardless of the outcome. I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable with it.”

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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