After this year, office pools will never be the same.
An NCAA Tournament already packed with surprises sprung one of its biggest Saturday night, when Utah upset North Carolina to earn yet another shot at Kentucky in the title game.
“It’s great to have another chance at them,” Utah center Michael Doleac said. “Obviously, we struggled with them the last few years. But it’s a new year and we’re playing great ball.”
The Utes played tough defense and kept their poise down the stretch to knock off the top-ranked Tar Heels 65-59. Kentucky outlasted Stanford 86-85 in the night’s first game, behind a career-high 27 points from Jeff Sheppard.
The teams have played seven times over the years, with the Wildcats winning five. Kentucky knocked Utah out of the NCAA Tournament the previous two years - in the West Regional championship last year and in a Midwest semifinal in 1996. In 1993, the Wildcats beat the Utes in the second round.
Utah’s last win in the series came in the championship game of the 1976 University of Kentucky Invitational Tournament.
“I know a little bit about them from last year,” Utah coach Rick Majerus said. “I don’t know them much.”
So how soon will he start familiarizing himself with them?
“I’m going to go out and get a bite, then come back tonight and watch some film,” he said.
The hero wore a tie
The madman kept his tie knotted all game long. He tried to compose himself one last time at the end. Tubby Smith still didn’t fool anybody.
Moments after Kentucky beat Stanford 86-85, the kids who have grown to love playing for Smith could not resist busting his chops. They know their coach’s abiding love of order. Nearly all of the previous 45 minutes had been filled with chaos. They clearly enjoyed it a lot more than he did.
“A one point, we really had to straighten coach out,” said Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard, recalling the scene on the bench just before the extra period tipped off. “He kept asking whose ball it was. We told him, ‘Coach, they put in a new rule. It’s called a jump ball.”’
Tech coach cries foul over refs
Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore seemed to be stirring up controversy on the eve of his showdown against Tennessee in the women’s NCAA title game at Kansas City, Mo.
During his news conference Saturday, Barmore said that all three officials working the championship game would be from the Southeastern Conference, the Vols’ league.
“If (Tennessee coach) Pat Summitt was sitting here knowing that three Sun Belt officials would call the game, I wonder what she’d be thinking,” said Barmore, whose team plays in the Sun Belt Conference.
“I’m sitting here knowing that three Southeastern Conference officials will call the game. I don’t know how they’re selected, don’t have a clue about it. But it does make me have an eerie feeling.”
Said Summitt, “I don’t think the officials will determine the outcome of the game. I think the players will.”
Who’s the best?
Tennessee is trying to become the first women’s team to go unbeaten since Connecticut won the 1995 NCAA title with a 35-0 record.
So what would happen if it were possible to get those two teams together?
“That’s funny, because last night, I turned to someone on the team and said, ‘You know what would be great is to have our ‘95 team play against them,”’ said Kara Wolters, a former UConn star who’s now on the U.S. national team.
The 6-foot-7 Wolters was the starting center on that Connecticut team, which beat Tennessee 70-64 in the finals and also featured Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti.
Virginia hires Gillen
Pete Gillen has left Providence to sign a seven-year deal to become Virginia’s new men’s basketball coach.
Virginia athletic director Terry Holland confirmed Gillen’s selection Friday.
Gillen replaces Jeff Jones, who resigned March 15 after eight seasons. An official news conference will be held Thursday.