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Would You Like to Play a Game?

March 27, 2012
War Games Screen

It's going to be an interesting week in Kentucky.

In the iconic 80’s movie War Games (Matthew Broderick before Ferris and Ally Sheedy before Breakfast Club launched her as a star and before Short Circuit unlaunched her); the words sit there on the screen in all their grayish, digital, DOS simpleness: “Would you like to play a game?” It’s an innocent question that of course nearly leads to the destruction of all mankind.

Even after Broderick tries to get JOSHUA (a giant National Defense computer that he somehow hacks from his home) to play Global Thermonuclear War, the computer gives him an out, asking in another bout of green digital peace, “How about a nice game of chess?” Unswayed, Broderick pushes on toward the earth’s demise.

More than once the basketball gods have said OK to that nice game of chess when it looked like Kentucky and Louisville would meet in the Final Four. In 1975 Louisville lost to UCLA. In 1986 Kentucky lost to LSU (after beating them three times in the regular season and SEC Tournament). But THIS year, oh this year the basketball gods went all Broderick on us and retyped Global Thermonuclear War, setting in motion a slow push to DEFCON 1 by Saturday night.

The last time these two teams met, we all spent a week having existential discussions about the relative existence of an entire city. And that was when the outcome DIDN’T MATTER. Sure it was a match-up of Top 5 teams (thought at the time to be a ridiculous ranking for Louisville) and in-state rivals, but in the end it was a regular season non-conference game. If it hadn’t been Louisville, losing would have been no big deal.

This is different. For Kentucky, the game is a next step on the road to a National Championship that is supposed to be their destiny. For Louisville, it’s a chance to deny that destiny to a hated rival.

Should Kentucky win? Absolutely. Will it be easy? I don’t think so.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Like he did at the South Regional last weekend, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dominated UK's last meeting with Louisville.

There is no team hotter in the country right now than Louisville (maybe it’s the infrared jerseys – which like Baylor’s “electricity” uniforms Louisville may not be allowed to wear on Saturday) and Gorgui Dieng is probably the most improved player in the country between January and now. His presence allows Louisville to play defense a lot like Kentucky. They can take chances on the outside, knowing that Dieng is there to help erase any mistakes. And at long last (how long has it been six years, seven?), Peyton Siva has really come into his own. He doesn’t SEEM to make as many of the crazy mistakes he’s made in years past, although even in the Cards’ run through the Big East Tournament and to the Final Four, Siva has 32 turnovers and only 27 assists. Kentucky absolutely locked him down in December.

On the other side, Kentucky has improved since these teams met in December as well and still has the best collection of talent left in the Tournament. First State Financial Sunday Morning Sports Talk (Sundays 9 am-Noon on NewsRadio 630 WLAP in Lexington) co-host Kyle Macy always says talent wins games. I’ll spend the rest of the week trusting that and trying not to freak out…again.

So far, things seem much quieter in the state than I had imagined on Saturday and Sunday when these two teams advanced. We’re definitely no higher than about DEFCON 3, although I did see my first Twitter reference to December’s ridiculous Louisville Doesn’t Exist campaign last night, so we’ll see what happens.

All I know is that nobody is typing in TIC TAC TOE before 6 pm Saturday night.

Final Four Take 2

Good luck tonight to the UK Hoops team as they face big bad UConn tonight for their own trip to the Women’s Final Four. Admittedly I don’t follow women’s basketball closely, but it would be great to see two UK teams make basketball’s final weekend.

This isn’t the invincible UConn teams of years past, so here’s hoping UK Hoops can make it happen. Neil Price will have the call on NewsRadio 630 WLAP beginning with the pre-game at 6:45.

Speaking of Women’s Basketball

Last night near the end of the Baylor-Tennessee women’s Elite Eight game Baylor mega-star Brittany Griner left the bench to break up a fight (that was already broken up, by the way) and was ejected.

Immediately there were questions on Twitter about whether or not she would be suspended for the Bears’ Final Four game. There were almost as quickly reports that she would not be because she “Did not actively participate in the fight.” She didn’t throw any punches, but she did leave the bench and get to the gathering — a spot that she didn’t belong – and was involved enough to be ejected. Maybe I don’t understand the rule, but I thought that merited the automatic suspension.

It’s not Griner’s first fight involvement. She threw a sad-looking punch at a Texas Tech player in 2010 and was suspended for two games then.

Also, on Griner’s regional semifinal dunk Saturday against Georgia Tech, she both hangs on the rim and slaps the backboard. The first is a judgment call; the second is an automatic technical foul – unless it’s not called, which it wasn’t.

Programming Notes

I’ll be filling for Dick Gabriel tonight on Big Blue Insider from 6-6:45 on NewsRadio 630 WLAP and wlap.com ahead of the UK Hoops regional final against UConn.

The station will expand its UK pre-game coverage for Saturday’s Final Four game and I’ll be in from noon-1:30 to talk Wildcats basketball.

Join me both nights.

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