Kentucky had everything going for them. They had an undefeated season. They had the cat who might be this summer’s No. 1 draft pick. They had a great coach, a favorable matchup, the size, strength, and talent to win it all and pull off one of the greatest seasons ever. Too bad they had to contend with Wisconsin and Frank Kaminsky, who dominated the Badgers’ Final Four upset win this weekend with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Kentucky’s “NBA” front line.
Unlike West Virginia, who somehow forgot you should never talk smack to an undefeated team, Wisconsin merely went out and controlled Kentucky from start to finish, advancing and avenging last year’s national semifinal loss and setting the stage for tonight championship showdown with Duke.
Style Points is never about what you do but how you do it and while we can at least commend the Wildcats on a nearly perfect season, the fact is they didn’t finish it off. They took a punch in the mouth from Wisconsin and couldn’t recover when it mattered most, depriving us of what would’ve been an EPIC championship game between Duke and Kentucky. Too bad.
The past few weeks have consisted of a lot of crazy basketball. From NBA teams fighting for the final playoff spot in both the East and the West to the aforementioned March Madness, if you can’t love this time as a sports fan there’s something wrong with you.
This week, we’re highlighting some of the best on-court sneakers we’ve seen recently, as well as DeAndre Jordan‘s dunk show in New York City. In this week’s edition of Style Points: Wisconsin Unleashes a Smackdown; DeAndre Jordan Is a Dunking Machine.
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5. D’ANGELO RUSSELL
As good as Ohio State’s star freshman was in his first NCAA Tournament game — 28 points and six rebounds against VCU — he was equally bad in the Buckeyes’ season-ending loss to Arizona. We can’t really fault him for that. He was being hounded all game by ‘Zona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’ll also be in the NBA next year and might be the best defender in college ball. Still, Russell threw this absurd no-look pass, one of the best passes we’ve seen in college ball in a long time. Straight out of Magic Johnson‘s playbook. That’s next-level stuff.
4. RUDY GAY
Sacramento’s small forward is on the short list of biggest sneakerheads in the NBA and he recently had the game on lock by donning the super limited “Just Don” Air Jordan II during a 107-106 win at home over Philly. Gay didn’t shoot well, though he did finish with 21 points and eight rebounds. However, it’s the kicks that really stood out. He took advantage of the squad going with old school royal blue Rochester uniforms and that deserves some love, even if he’s not the only player rocking this instant classic.
3. DeANDRE JORDAN
Not only did the Clippers take New York City in the most embarrassing fashion possible, but DeAndre the Giant just about broke both rims with what felt like a dozen different dunks throughout the game. His two best? Right here, including the poster on Jason Smith that was so rugged Smith did a 360 in the air. Duck next time, my man.
2. UNC BASKETBALL
Yeah they blew a lead against No. 1 seed Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. So what? At least they looked good while doing it. Jordan Brand issued the squad a special team-wide PE just days before the big game against the Badgers, with a University Blue upper complete with a rendition of the school’s Rameses logo, as well as a blue midsole and white outsole. They told us they would use that performance Woven upper to get a little crazy and they were right. We dig it. Too bad we won’t get to see more of it this year.
Kentucky’s ugly 78-39 thrashing of West Virginia — 78-39!! — in the Sweet 16 was just the latest example of why you should never pull on the tail of Shere Khan. Before game day, West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr. had been spouting off at the mouth about how Coach Cal‘s squad would be “36-1” real quick. Well, the dude didn’t score a basket and the game was over basically five minutes into it.
Both Tyler Ulis and Willie Cauley-Stein talked afterward about how that was the plan, to demolish the Mountaineers so thoroughly that they’d lose their heart and their will to compete. Devin Booker took it one step further, using Instagram to coin the phrase #36andWon. No chill.
Take all of that into account and you could probably say everyone was surprised to see the Wildcats lose to Wisconsin in the Final Four. Surprised, perhaps, but not totally unexpected. The Badgers have been a top team all year and Frank Kaminsky is probably the nation’s best player. He was certainly the best player on the floor on Saturday night and sometimes that’s all you need.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney