Massachusetts vs. Georgetown is the kind of matchup Minutemen coach John Calipari loves. Two talented teams duking it out, each with star players capable of taking over a game, and two passionate coaches who emphasize tenacious defense as a catalyst for their offense.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Calipari said. “We live for games like this.”
As for Georgetown coach John Thompson: ho, hum.
“We’re here, and I’m proud of my team,” Thompson said. “I don’t remember having any dreams about this game. We’re ready to play. All that talk and stuff doesn’t matter now. You’ve got to play.”
Regardless of the coaches’ perspectives, the East Regional final between top-seeded UMass (34-1), the No. 1 team in the nation, and second-seeded Georgetown (29-7), a team playing at its peak, has the feel of a Final Four matchup. The game, which will be at 3 p.m. PST today in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, sold out on Thursday.
UMass has never made it past the round of eight. Last year, the Minutemen lost to Oklahoma State, 68-54, in the East Regional final. They would like nothing better than to certify their prominence in college basketball with an impressive victory over Georgetown to advance to the Final Four at the Meadowlands next weekend.
The last time Georgetown was in the round of eight was in 1989, when it lost to Duke, 85-77, in the East Regional final.
Coach coaxes Duncan
Wake Forest center Tim Duncan will eventually have to decide whether to go pro or play his senior year. Coach Dave Odom said he will leave it strictly up to Duncan.
Odom, however, isn’t above some subtle arm-twisting.
“If he decides that another year of being a 20-year-old (in college), when he reaches that, is in his best interests, then God bless him,” Odom said.
“If he decides being a 20-year-old in the pros, 50 nights in a hotel with 35-year-old men is what he wants to do, then God bless him for that.”
When Duncan collected 27 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday’s victory over Louisville, he notched his 23rd double-double of the season. He has reached double figures in points and rebounds in seven of his eight career NCAA tournament games.
Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said the tournament is a little too structured.
“I think there’s too much media,” he said. “I think the players need to have a little more time off to enjoy it.”
The NCAA requires each team to hold an open, 1-hour workout the day before the regional begins. After games, players have a brief cooling-off period and then the locker rooms are open for an hour.
“We tell you certain things and then you write what you want anyway,” Pitino joked. “I would just rather read you and get your insight.”
Marcus Camby of UMass still fields questions about his collapse prior to a Jan. 14 game at St. Bonaventure.
Five days of extensive tests found no abnormalities, doctors said, and Camby was cleared to play, even though no one knows why he was unconscious for 10 minutes.
“I don’t think about it unless you guys (reporters) ask me,” Camby said. “I’ve tried to put it out of my mind. I’m fine, I’ve been fine and I’ll always be fine.”
Football player at heart
Georgetown star Allen Iverson, who always bounces right back up after one of his frequent tumbles to the court, said that goes back to his days as a high school quarterback.
Football, in fact, was his true love.
“It hurt a lot when I gave up football,” he said. “When I started playing, I thought I would be doing that for the rest of my life. Every time I see a game on TV, it’s hard not to get emotional. I miss the game so much.”
Nice game plan
Someone asked Pitino what kind of game plan he would devise to beat his Wildcats.
“I would run and gun, press Kentucky 94 feet, make them use their bench and try to score 150 points,” he said.
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