Big Blue Links on the way to the Final Four


Big Blue Links for Monday are all about Kentucky’s win over Michigan in the Midwest Region final sending the Cats to their third Final Four in the past four years.

Kentucky makes an improbable run to the Final Four, says my column.

And, of course, this Kentucky basketball team that had been doubted and discarded, dissed and derided, seeded eighth by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, is now skipping all the way to the Final Four in Texas thanks to yet another dramatic victory, 75-72 over Michigan in the Midwest Regional finals. Was there ever any doubt?

Aaron Harrison’s three-pointer takes down Michigan, reports Jerry Tipton of Herald-Leader.

That shot — farther away from the basket and much more hotly contested than the winner against Louisville — came with 2.6 seconds left and punctuated a furious finish that saw four clutch scores in the final two minutes. “I’m not really afraid to miss, really,” said Harrison, who hit a go-ahead shot against Louisville with 39.1 seconds left on Friday. “Even if I had a bad game like today, big shots are big shots. I just like to take big shots.”

Kentucky’s forgotten All-American comes through, writes Mark Story of the H-L.

After scoring 17 points in the Cats’ season opener against North Carolina-Asheville, Lee had scored 28 points the entire rest of the season before Sunday. Yet with Cauley-Stein sidelined, “Coach (Calipari) was telling (Lee) he needs to be ready,” Kentucky senior guard Jarrod Polson said. “Coach even told Marcus he expected him to have a good game.”

Kentucky makes Michigan and the skeptics disappear, writes Rick Bozich of WDRB.

Check the pictures. LeVert had his left hand extended as if he was giving Harrison a high-five. Aaron said that LeVert actually touched him on the release of the shot. LeVert said he could not think of one thing that he could have done better. “In the timeout we wanted to foul with about 10 seconds on the clock and we did that,” LeVert said. “Then we were set to switch every screen. We switched them. Make them shoot a contested shot. We made them do that. He just hit the shot.”

Kentucky wins the battle of the two youngest teams in the tourney, writes Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal.

The Wildcats are on another wild ride driven by a top-notch recruiting class. They won the NCAA championship in 2012 but staggered to a first-round loss in the National Invitation Tournament last year. This crop of newcomers was the school’s best yet, and becomes the first starting five freshman to reach the Final Four since Michigan’s Fab Five in 1992.

Kentucky’s kids were too big, too athletic for Michigan, writes Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press.

This game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, or as Kentucky fans like to call it: “Our home away from home.” The stands were filled with wild, insanely loud, intense fans dressed in blue-and-white, as a group of overachieving Wolverines faced Kentucky’s Fab Five, a collection of five freshmen starters blessed with size, athleticism and length; and they are just waiting to end up in the NBA.

Wild finish leaves Michigan just short, writes Brendan F. Quinn of

Stauskas finished the night with a game-high 24 points, but wanted 27. Now the question will fester whether him walking off the Lucas Oil Stadium floor, head slung low, is the final image of his Michigan career. The lure of the NBA may tug him away from Ann Arbor.

Deal with it America, Kentucky is back in the Final Four, writes Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News.

On the evening of the first preseason meeting John Calipari held with his new Kentucky players, in the basement rec room of the old Wildcat Lodge, back in September 2009, Jon Hood was there. He was but a freshman himself then, an all-state prospect surrounded by classmates who were All-Americans, soon to be all bound for the NBA Draft. He has been there pretty much every day since, a teammate to more different Kentucky Wildcats than anyone in the program’s history, to more eventual first-round choices than probably anyone who has played, anywhere.

Kentucky’s freshmen conjure memories of Fab Five, writes Bill Rhoden of the New York Times.

Calipari has said he is merely using the rules of the N.C.A.A. and the N.B.A. to his, his university’s and his athletes’ advantage. Talented players receive a year of seasoning, and a taste of college, before turning pro. “We’re doing what we can do with where we are,” Calipari said. “The rule is not my rule. I believe it should be a two-year rule. But it’s between the N.B.A. and the players association. Has nothing to do with me or the N.C.A.A. So I just think we’re all playing the hand we’re dealt.”

The kids will play on, writes Brian Hamilton of

Michigan begged for a timeout before the inbounds pass to reorganize what Calipari had drawn up, but the Wolverines got what they wanted anyway: They would switch every screen and happily agree to Kentucky hoisting a long, contested three-pointer instead of bull-rushing into the lane. And Aaron Harrison did indeed hoist a long, contested three-pointer, his hand even hit as he released it, and he fell to the floor as the ball fell through the net. “Shake his hand,” Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan said. “If that’s the shot you make to go, you deserve to go.”

Harrison, UK cap turnaround, writes Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated.

The latest chapter came Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Harrison’s three-pointer with 2.6 seconds to play propelled No. 8 seed Kentucky into a most improbable Final Four with a 75-72 win against second-seeded Michigan in the Midwest Regional Final. “I said it, so I guess I saw it coming,” Harrison said after 12 points on four three-pointers, all in the final 8:05. “I wouldn’t say that I told you so or anything. But we knew we had a few things to fix.”

Kentucky never stopped believing, writes Adam Himmelsbach of the Courier-Journal.

Over the past eight days, UK has defeated three teams that were in the last Final Four. Now they’ll try to topple two teams that are in this one. UK will face Wisconsin on Saturday evening in Dallas, and if it wins, either Florida or Connecticut would be waiting. The Wildcats have as good of a chance as anyone, and they are the No. 8 seed that no one wants to mess with.

Aaron Harrison shows poise beyond his years, writes David Schuh of the Kentucky Kernel.

When he caught the pass from freshman forward Julius Randle and made his third 3-pointer of the game, the Cats surged ahead of their in-state rival, beating the Cardinals for the second time this season to advance to the Elite Eight. Sunday’s shot was on another level. With 10 seconds left in a tied game against the University of Michigan, Harrison took a handoff from his brother and dribbled out toward half court.

Kentucky’s Final Four run based on coolness, writes James Pennington of KyForward.

Kentucky’s rapid maturation since then seems to have come as a result of Sinatra-level coolness, starting with Calipari and on down to his players. Frank Sinatra earned every bit of his legacy, at least musically, because he was always under the most control during a song’s climax, when the band had been building momentum behind him and the melody had been ranging higher until the drive and the register got where they needed to go so he could take over in the way only he could. Young musicians don’t realize the power that lies in control, nor do they understand how difficult it is to harness. Kentucky didn’t, either.

Cats’ talent takes them to the Final Four, writes Myron Medcalf of

Every year, coaches scour the country for talent, NBA-level talent, if possible. They don’t search for the guys with heart alone. They don’t want a guy simply because he’s energetic. They want players. Good players because this game is built around talent. Creating a Final Four-level team is certainly a puzzle. This Kentucky team’s journey proves as much. But that’s what they’re all after. Many say they don’t like the idea of one-and-done prospects. Yet, they pursue the same prep superstars that Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina attract each season.

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