I tried to watch the Villanova-Michigan game, but the game was over, and I guess they’re only showing the games live. But CBS did have a section for classic games, and I ended up watching the ’92 Duke-Kentucky game, which considered one of the greatest college basketball games. Here are some thoughts:
1. The tempo was pretty crazy fast, and it wasn’t all because of Kentucky. Duke pushed the ball up the court, looking for fast-break opportunities. When I first watched the game, I remember thinking the Duke players were gassed at the end. I think that was true, but I didn’t get that strong a sense in this viewing.
2. Duke killed Kentucky on the offensive glass. I didn’t watch carefully, but my sense is that the Kentucky players doubled Laettner, and this left a lot of easy offensive rebounds to other players. Having said that, Kentucky was totally outclassed in this game–including in terms of having taller players.
3. At some point in the second half (I’d guess around the half way point), Kentucky got out of their zone, and played man-to-man–while running their full-court press! This is pretty crazy, and it has to be super exhausting for the players. Kentucky used their bench, but still–this isn’t easy to do. I believe this switch gave Duke trouble, but I suspect Duke player fatigue helped Kentucky. (The only other team that I can remember playing a really aggressive full-court press and a stifling half-court man-to-man defense was the ’96 Kentucky team. They had a deep bench. Maybe Nolan Richardson’s Razorback teams did this, too, I can’t really remember, but that ’96 team not only had a great full-court press, but they had a great half-court man-to-man defense, and that’s pretty rare.)
4. Kentucky ran an open, passing offense, with a lot of high screens and backdoor cuts. I really liked it. (I believe Pitino brought the same offense to Lousiville when he first got there.)
A couple more remarks.
5. Duke’s defense was (typically) excellent. Add the really good rebounding, and just superior all-around talent, and there’s non way Kentucky should have been in this game. I really think the equalizer was conditioning/fatigue.
6. Kentucky’s team reminded me of many of the good college teams now–teams that specifically don’t have talent, but just play hard and play well together. Granted, Mashburn is bona fide talent, but pretty much everyone else was so so-so. (Sean Woods had to make an incredible shot–a fifteen foot floater, bank shot, to put them up.)