The state of Indiana has to be proud. The Hoosiers are number one in hoops. The Irish are #1 in football and in graduating their players. You can have student-athletes that win on the field and in the classroom. Mike Brey has been a winner in South Bend too. His Irish have a veteran feel with all five starters back and experience was a big difference in a blowout of Kentucky Thursday. Notre Dame put a world of hurt on John Calipari’s young team. Jack Cooley recorded a double-double and I was so impressed with the defense. The Wildcats were held to 50 points, the lowest total since Calipari arrived in Lexington. It was a great few days in that state. Plus I got to see Manti T’eo, who would get my vote for the Heisman. Notre Dame is 12-0 because the defense was so special. They would not be undefeated if the star linebacker was not there. Case closed, baby!
The Irish did it. Notre Dame is going to the BCS title game down in Florida, an amazing accomplishment. Brian Kelly’s team finished the regular season at 12-0 by beating USC in a hard fought game Saturday night. Once again, the defense came up with a great goal-line stand in the fourth quarter to ice the win. Think about the schedule that the Irish faced; Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Purdue, Oklahoma, Miami, USC. Twelve straight W’s baby! Now the Irish will see if Alabama or Georgia is the opponent, depending on the result of the SEC title game. There is excitement galore in South Bend!
I really enjoyed two great days of basketball at Brooklyn. Indiana was really challeneged by Georgia and Georgetown, but Tom Crean’s team got to the winner’s circle. Jordan Hulls and Cody Zeller led the Hoosiers over the Hoyas in overtime Tuesday. Indiana’s aggressiveness led to a big edge on the foul line and that paid off. My friends, Georgetown is one of the top 25 teams in America. UCLA is very talented though it may take a little time to perform as a unit. Ben Howland will get it done. I was impressed with Shabazz Muhammad and he will be a PTP’er. Georgia played hard but Mark Fox’s team fell short when it could have won.
What a great way to kick off the basketball season. Kentucky and Maryland battled at the brand new Barclays Center and the game was a good one. Kentucky dominated early, only to see Maryland make a 15-0 run to make it a Maalox Masher. In the end, the Wildcats got to the winner’s circle. The big surprise was Jared Polson providing quality minutes, making a couple key baskets and a pair of clutch free throws at the end for Big Blue Nation. I had a blast as I got to meet Jay-Z, was involved in a check presentation to the Red Cross as John Calipari and his team helped raise $1 million for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Then I got to see two teams square off. Maryland will be a good team and there is a lot of young talent. Alex Len is in great shape and he can do it all – step out and hit the jumper, score down low, rebound and defend. Mark Turgeon’s team will be better than the experts think. The Terps were picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll. Basketball is back, baby! I cannot wait to call Duke/Kentucky down in Atlanta on Tuesday. It is part of the ESPN basketball marathon.
I am so thrilled as I begin my 34th season calling college basketball games on ESPN! I cannot wait for Friday night as I will be courtside with my buddy, Dan Shulman, at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn as defending national champion Kentucky meets Maryland. It should be excitement galore. John Calipari has reloaded again after winning his first national championship. Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, these young men will try to form a new nucleus to contend for a national title. Transfer Ryan Harrow from NC State will be the floor general. The Cats are ranked #3 in the preseason because there is a lot of talent. Maryland just got some great news as transfer, Dez Wells, from Xavier, who averaged around 10 ppg a season ago, has been declared eligible. Look for good things from Alex Len in the post and James Padgett on the baseline. P’Shon Howard, coming off knee surgery, appears ready to return to form as Turgeon told me recently that he could not tell that the young man was hurt back in February. It all starts up on Friday night and the journey end with the Final Four in Atlanta in April!