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Wildcats’ win over undefeated Wichita State ‘best game’ of tourney, says CBS sportswriter


The University of Kentucky Wildcats beating Wichita State, an undefeated No. 1 seed, was sportswriter Matt Norlander's "best game" of the NCAA tournament.   This final shot from Wichita's Fred VanVleet fell to the right. (Photo from USATSI via CBS Sports.com)

The University of Kentucky Wildcats beating Wichita State, an undefeated No. 1 seed, was sportswriter Matt Norlander’s “best game” of the NCAA tournament. This final shot from Wichita’s Fred VanVleet fell to the right. (Photo from USATSI via CBS Sports.com)

 
CBS Sports college basketball writer Matt Norlander named the University of Kentucky game against Wichita State his top pick for “best games of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.”
 
Norlander wrote about the game in which UK defeated No. 1 seed Wichita State by a single bucket:
 
“The only thing this game was missing was a shot that fell as time expired. The Shockers proved they earned a No. 1 seed by playing the best game of the tournament. Kentucky, which had to win four games by five points or less, never played better at any point this season than in this game.
 
“An undefeated team, a group chasing 40-0, was beaten by a squad that hoped to go 40-0 back in October. There was some moaning over pairing these two teams in this spot, but if we’re going to get this game at the Round of 32 or never at all, I’ll take it when we can get it.
 
“You know who was really good in this game? Andrew Harrison, not Aaron. Andrew had 20 points. Cleanthony Early (season-high 31 points) and Ron Baker hit huge shot after huge shot. The game was tense from tip to OT, and that’s why it’s No. 1.
 
“No game was nearly as thrilling or gripping as this one, and remember, there was a lot of hype coming in as well. It exceeded it. Ten years from now, I think we’ll remember UConn winning it all, the Kentucky freshmen salvaging a season, and Wichita State’s perfect year coming to an end in an all-time classic. This game stands out above all others.
 
“Each team brought out the best in the other, which is always the sign of an NCAA Tournament epic.”
 
Norlander, it seems, wasn’t finished being impressed with the freshmen team of Wildcats because they appeared in his Top 10 best games twice more – in his No. 3 and No. 4 slots. UK was the only team to appear more than once on Norlander’s list.
 
The UK-Wisconsin game that once again ended with a crucial three-point play by Aaron Harrison was the sportswriter’s No. 3. “This is freaky,” he wrote about Kentucky’s 74-73 win over Wisconsin.
 
“Every year, I basically go into the Final Four hoping for one thing: Give us one really good game of the three. That’s all. Expecting anything more than that is setting yourself up for disappointment,” wrote Norlander. He elaborated:
 
“Many college basketball games aren’t very close or exceedingly entertaining as is. Toss in the stage and pressure and anxiety of a Final Four, and the odds aren’t great you’ll get something spectacular. But Kentucky and Wisconsin gave us that, and it was the best game in Arlington over the weekend. Bucky was superb in the first half. The way it was finding its offense was so impressive. Kentucky made a late run behind Julius Randle to cut the lead.
 
“Then James Young, who had a game-high 17 points, helped key a second-half run. Wisconsin hit eight 3s; Harrison’s winner was just UK’s second long ball of the game. Neither team played badly. Traevon Jackson had an awkward attempt at the winner, but it didn’t fall. (If it had, maybe it’s No. 1 on the list.)”
 

UK defeats Michigan on top and UK defeats Wisconsin on bottom. (Photo from CBS Sports.com)

UK defeats Michigan on top and UK defeats Wisconsin on bottom. (Photo from CBS Sports.com)


 

Kentucky’s 75-72 defeat of Michigan was Norlander’s No. 4, although he admits to not having seen much of it live. He writes:
 
“And now we enter the UK version of the program. Truth be told, I saw very little of this one live. I was writing a game story on UConn-Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. When Aaron Harrison hit the 3 to send Kentucky to the Final Four, I had climbed into an MSG suite and was watching alone in the arena on one of the TVs. (I was able to watch the whole game on CBS Sports Net the next day.)
 
“Some game! Michigan proved itself worthy of a No. 2 and saw a terrific season end at the hands of a late-game killer in Harrison. Somewhat forgotten from this game: Julius Randle’s 16 points and 11 rebounds. The sequence Michigan had to tie the game was outrageous. Incredible passing around the country in a flurry of action. The play-by-play read like this:
 
“Nik Stauskas missed layup
Caris LeVert rebound
Nik Stauskas missed 3
Caris LeVert rebound
Derrick Walton Jr. missed 3
Jordan Morgan rebound
Jordan Morgan layup
 
“From there, Harrison did the rest. Michigan couldn’t get a shot off in time to tie the game.”
 
Norlander’s other seven top game picks were:
 
2. Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 in OT;
5. Michigan 73, Tennessee 71;
6. North Carolina 79, Providence 77;
7. Dayton 60, Ohio State 59;
8. Michigan State 61, Virginia 59;
9. Stephen F. Austin 77, VCU 75 in OT; and
10. Texas 87, Arizona State 85.
 
To read the entire column, click here.
 
From CBS Sports.com


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