Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sports Talk: The Trifecta is to Strike Again

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 14, 2012. 
Well, well, well, look at that wouldcha now! The trifecta states of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana lead the pre-season basketball rankings and are expected to be dominant forces yet again this year. Last week’s debut of games finally gave us all the taste of our teams we’ve all been waiting for and, luckily, we have no reason to doubt the rankings yet.

I am happy to see Indiana atop this list not simply because my husband is a Hoosier, but because of what Indiana basketball was throughout my childhood. Unfortunately the team began to slip on the radar as I grew older and did not even make NCAA tournament appearances a couple of times in the last decade.  Then an unfortunate Kelvin Sampson era only brought a bigger negative light to what was once a revered college basketball program.

I love that despite coming in with a 6-25 season—the worst in school history--Tom Crean has managed to not only keep the favor of the school and fans, but turn around began as a depleted team when he took over in 2008. Four years later, he has a team that consists of seniors who were merely freshmen during that 6-25 season but have stuck with him and took fifth in the tournament last year and are now holding the number one pre-season ranking. Hoosier basketball is back, baby!

My Facebook feed flooded with the name “Jarrod Polson” last Friday when the junior was the clutch player in the Kentucky win over Maryland. As the number three ranked team and defending national champions, it’s nice to already see the Wildcat bench is something to be worried about as much as the big name recruits John Calipari landed the last several months.

Last year’s dominant forces (that are now gone…) were a thrill, but a team needs bench depth and Polson’s performance proved that opponents will need to worry about more than those new recruits. While bringing in the best of the best was part of the coach’s tactic for replacing what went pro, he has not neglected the skill sets that have been sporting blue and white and working under him in previous seasons. I am hopeful Calipari will bring Big Blue Nation another loveable season.

On the flip side, while I do want to see a fun, winning Wildcat season, I am equally if not more excited about the Cardinal season with their pre-season number 2 rank. Because of UK’s basketball legacy, the Cards have always been overshadowed with its fan base being centered primarily around city residents, students and alums. However, the last 10-15 years, with thanks to Rick Pitino, UofL basketball has become a presence in the national scene.

After losing to UK in the final four, Louisville did not see their roster take an exit for the big leagues, but instead saw some seniors graduate and a few players transfer out. While UK fans were quite proud of their number one and two draft picks , I know Cardinal fans are proud to support a top-ranked team made up of the standard student-athletes who are pursuing educational goals as a primary focus. I am excited for Peyton Siva’s senior season. Even if you don’t care for UofL Siva deserves your respect simply for his personal story and the type of leader he is on and off the court.

Last but not least, are them Buckeyes! Most often football is the spotlight sport for Ohio State University. (Not to mention their marching band, of course!) I am always excited to see OSU’s basketball team in the higher ranks despite the shadow cast by football—and to prove their athletics are more than a one-sport-wonder.

There is no doubt I’m sad to be without Jared Sullinger, but Aaron Craft may have been my preferred Buckeye the last two seasons anyway. With defense having always been my (self proclaimed) specialty as a basketball player, I love watching Craft put pressure on an offense. The guy has averaged over two steals a game during his college career and, to me, nothing feels better than coming out of nowhere to snipe the ball. I sure hope he doesn’t disappoint this season.

Of course, we all know, pre-season rankings mean very little except to put excitement in the hearts of fans and give more to celebrate when a lower ranked team defeats a top 20 team. It’s nice to be officially into the season, and it makes me that much more excited to see our Rebels and Lady Rebels jump into play as well in the very near future.

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