Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why UMass Was Rooting For a Meteor

There was one thing guaranteed in last night's UConn-Kentucky championship game: UMass fans were going to feel screwed regardless. 

Why?

Because it was Kentucky coach John Calipari who turned UMass, briefly, into a power, and who did it by possibly using, shall we say, questionable techniques. He left, the whole industrial Marcus Camby complex crumbled, and the Minutemen ended up largely wandering in the basketball wilderness (aka "occasional NIT appearances") for decades. (Note to Bruiser Flint: You're a great coach. Don't hurt us.) So Calipari raised expectations, then broke hearts, fled town, and ultimately did the same thing at Memphis. 

Which, I suppose, is why all the "Coach Cal to the Lakers" rumors are so amusing; there's an element of wishful thinking in them. Folks in Amherst and Memphis want to see the big boys down in Lexington get played the same way they were.

But I digress. On the other hand, there's UConn, a great story under coach (and former player) Kevin Ollie, and a pretty good (if occasionally sanctioned) story under legendary previous coach Jim Calhoun. UConn, as the commentators belatedly noticed last night, has won 4 NCAA men's titles in 15 years, which is about a good a run as you are ever going to see in the post-Wooden era of college hoops. This, of course, is part of what drives the UMass fans nuts. Check the timeline, and you'll see pretty clearly that UConn's rise to power dovetails nicely with UMass' fall from grace. 

And one of those two teams - a 7 and an 8 seed - was going to win, while UMass stumbled into the tournament as an over-seeded 6 and got bounced in the round of 64 by Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin Audition Reel For His Next Job express.

So, sorry, Amherst and Springfield and Hadley. This one's going to sting for a while. But there's always next year, right? Right.

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