Gang, remember the mailbag for Friday.
From the "Talks too much" studios, with a name like Shabazz, it has to be good.
UConn cuts down the nets. Kentucky limped to the finish line (and the foul line — more on that in a moment). We enjoyed the Dance. We forgot the regular season.
Another college hoops season is in the rear view and as we speed toward Washington Road, spring games, the May draft and a summer of baseball spent waiting for football, let's ponder what we thought and what we know.
We thought this was the season of the freshmen. It belonged in the end to senior Shabazz Napier and his UConn classmates who won titles as freshmen and again last night to cap their college careers. Sure, the baby-faced UK Cats got to the title game but it was underwhelming for the other ballyhooed members of the class of 2018 (2019 if they redshirt, and possibly 2022 if they leave early and get their degree online).
We thought this was going to be a crazy and wild tournament, and it was with close games and nail-biting finishes throughout the tournament. Was it enough to make up for three months of blah? Maybe, but it's a trade-off that has been crafted by the miracles of March.
We thought UK's size and depth would be too much in the title game, but it was UConn's skill and perimeter athleticism that proved to be the difference. The defensive firm of Napier, Boatwright and Associates hounded the UK guards and changed the game. Every time UK was within a basket — and that was almost every other possession in the second half — the UConn guards either forced a turnover or created a negative shot-clock scenario that forced UK into bad shot after bad shot.
The tournament was good times, but this is the high point of every season. The afterglow of One Shining Moment ringing in our heads and the images of sports and emotion and drama wrapped in highlight reel of reality.
But is one glorious month enough to mask the ills of the game? The bellyaching about the ones-and-dones. The real possibility that the big boys breakaway. Declining attendance and a regular season that is part preseason, part practice with the occasional rivalry showdown mixed in.
Now add the known maladies of the game that once was great theater to the perception of the two teams that played for the title last night and the two teams that are among the modern-day powers of the sport.
Kentucky is a way station for 6-foot-8 studs, a fly-over state for freshmen and fresh talent in a one-year side route to the NBA. It's the system in place and UK is better at it than everyone else. That's not UK's fault, being good under the situation is a compliment — heck the best tax attorneys in the world are those that know how to work the system to achieve the best results — it's the game's fault.
UConn now has two titles in four years, with the an APR-issued timeout in between. Napier and Co.'s first title four years ago happened when UConn was on probation. Early Tuesday morning, Napier started taking shots at the NCAA.
The duality and the hypocrisy of a system that now wonders aloud if one-and-dones are good and an APR sham that lends itself to academic fraud more than academic progress for the big boys is picture perfect NCAA in general and college hoops in particular.
So it goes, and so it went. UConn won the title because they played better and Napier did Napier things. Despite everything else, this morning that One Shabazz Moment is good enough.
Gang, the Masterfully Mastering the Masters Challenge is in full swing.
Send in four golfers in this week's Masters. Your best three will count and the lowest cumulative score will win some Masters stuff. And best yet, it don't cost nothin' to play.
Here's our list and why:
Jason Day. Dude powers his way around a golf course and can control the par 5s. Plus, he's already won this year and he's consistently good here and sneaky consistent in majors.
Keegan Bradley. Intensity. Bravado. Crazy enough to be standing at the end with a green jacket. Check, check and check.
Jason Dufner. Well, you know why. War Dufner.
Rory McIlroy. Feeling.
Here's the other ones we have so far, and there are a slew in the email we'll post around lunch.
tcase08 — Mickelson -Scott -Cabrera -Donald
StuckinKent — Adam Scott, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood
McPell — Put me down for Mickelson, Dufner, Harris English & Justin Rose.
Dawg747 — Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Harris English, Angel Cabrera
Spy — My four ... Rory. Dufner. Jason Day (if he's healthy). Big time wild card - Victor Dubuisson.
Billy in Brainerd — Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Francesco Molinari, Matteo Manassero + Thongchai Jaidee
Sportsfan — Scott, Cabrera, Westwood, and Kuchar
Braves home opener
Forty years ago today, a young 5-at-10 was in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium when Hank Aaron hit homer No. 715.
We were 3 and we were sound asleep when it happened.
So it goes.
The Braves are celebrating that milestone tonight, which begs the question is Hank Aaron the most underrated player of all time, considering his stats and the fact that he rarely is mentioned among the best players ever?
If asked for your all-time outfield, most toss out names like Ruth and Mays and Williams and Cobb, and the current crop — PED-stained as it may be — of Bonds and Co.
Aaron's were better than almost all of them
This and that
— We have to admit that we are intrigued by the bad blood between Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and UConn's Geno Auriemma in tonight's women's title game. Side question: If Geno wins tonight, he's the best women's coach ever, right?
— We have UTC football coach Russ Huesman on Press Row today. Anyone have any questions as the Mocs get ready for Friday's spring game?
— Joey Logano won the NASCAR race. He went fast and turned left. Atta boy Joey.
— Caddyshack prevailed in the Press Row sports movie madness bracket. So it goes.
If you need a talking point, here are but three:
— In honor of their home opener, who is on your Rushmore of Atlanta Braves?
— Will you watch the women's title game, and if Geno wins, does that move him past Pat?
— Happy belated 25th birthday to Major League, which debuted April 7, 1989. Good times.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...