On a night where history was in the air, fans from the South, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions flocked to the World’s Most Famous Arena to see four of the top teams in college basketball. As impressive as coach Mike Krzyzewski’s record breaking 903rd victory was, the night might have been overshadowed by the sheer dominance of the Kentucky Wildcats. I left Madison Square Garden last night dreaming about the potential of a Duke vs. Kentucky match-up.
Of course the other draw of the evening was the arrival of diaper dandies Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis onto the big stage. On Rivers’ first attempt, he made a strong move to the baseline a la John Starks against the Bulls in the Garden back in ’93. Instead of finishing, however, he was fouled at the rim, and it would be that kind of night for him. He struggled to find his shot, took a few ill-advised ones, and was off the court for most of Duke’s best scoring runs. For the Dukies, the night belonged to Andre Dawkins, who just looked smooth. He converted 6-of-10 three-pointers for 26 points.
Michigan State didn’t look quite as bad as it did on board the USS Carl Vinson against UNC, but it still looked pretty inept. You never want to lay the blame on one or two players, but Michigan State’s centers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix cost them the game, going a combined 2-for-13 from the field, failing to provide any relief to Draymond Green against the Plumlee Brothers on the glass, and generally just looking like they’ve never ran or played the game of basketball before. Still lots of work to be done in Izzo-land.
The Kentucky/Kansas game definitely felt like the main event. I was amazed at how well both team’s fan bases traveled, and then a little relieved that no fights broke out in our section. The first half lived up to the hype, as Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson grabbed the momentum with early threes and dunks. Kentucky answered with defense and a well-balanced attack, with all five starters finishing the game in double-digits.
Like Rivers, Anthony Davis struggled to find his own shot, but still impacted the game tremendously. I counted five plays he made that made me jump out of my seat and go “No way did he just do that,” including four huge alley-oop slams and a monster fast-break block on Taylor. If all breaks down, the ‘Cats go to the “Throw it up to Ant” offense, and it kind of works. Of course, this is what’s expected out of the No. 1 recruit in the nation. But credit coach John Calipari, who masterfully recruits year after year to bring in guys like Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who buy into his system of “Maul the Ball” on defense and love to get out in transition for easy dunks and open threes. The sky is the limit for this year’s Wildcats, until they run into one of those two teams from the state of North Carolina.
What did you take away from the two games at MSG last night? Was the future national champion playing?
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