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Random Notes

on the


NCAA Tourney

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The tournament is organized by day

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Women's Final

Caitlin Clark is the greatest offensive player to play the college game. Period. She and the Hawkeyes were no match for the South Carolina juggernaut. What coach Dawn Staley just pulled off is basically unimaginable. Last year's Gamecocks squad, led by #1 WNBA pick Aliya Boston, was undefeated going into the 2023 Final Four. They memorably lost to Iowa and said farewell to Boston and the four other starters. 

South Carolina developed a deep bench last season, but no one expected them to go undefeated when they took over this year. And yet they did, led by new star Kamilla Cardoso, who logged 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in the finals on her way to being named tournament most outstanding player. USC dominated the boards 51-29, leading to many second chance opportunities.

Caitlin Clark scored a record 3,951 points in her college career.

Over 24 million people watched the finals, smashing the previous record viewership set by the Iowa-UConn Final 4 match-up (14 million).

The Eclipse

We made the pilgrimage to Vermont for the solar eclipse, staying with friends right between the Mad River Glen and Sugarbush ski resorts. When I got out of the car, I was immediately pelted with a snowball. That was unexpected. The person who threw it, I never could have guessed. My old pal from Penn Stewart Anderson, a long-time member of our little Notes family. Stew was also visiting friends for the big event, a group of Amherst College pals and their families. Stew had met our friends earlier in the day and was laying in wait for our arrival, snow projectile in hand. Small world. We immediately settled into the communal vibe of the place. Tequilla might have been involved.

An eclipse is definitely worth the effort. We sat in the Spring sun for an hour watching the moon slowly move from 5:00 to 11:00 if the sun were a clock face. The world slipped into shadow, the temperature dropped precipitously. At 3:27 pm the orange dot that was the object of our obsession disappeared. We cautiously lowered our eclipse glasses. Amazement ensued. The image cannot be captured, not even by seasoned professionals. It was spectacular. An experience enhanced by the likelihood of it being unique.

This picture, which was taken in Montpelier, almost captures it. At totality, the corona turns blue. Thrilling. After about 90 seconds, the slightest hint of the sun re-emerged. It was blinding. 

Men's Final

The pace wasn't exactly hectic, but it was fast enough to favor UConn. Edey had 16 in the first but tired noticeably leading to missing layups and baby hooks. UConn played Edey straight up. He got his, but everyone else was putting up contested shots (Purdue hit only one 3 in the first).  36-30 Huskies at the half.

UConn changed tactics in the second, sending Spencer (typically) to double Edey who was uncharacteristically rattled. He got the ball deep in the post twice and traveled. On offense, UConn went right after Edey scoring effectively in the paint. The Huskies (finally) hit a couple 3s to extend the lead to 17. The Boilermakers were helpless. UConn was inevitable. 

Edey had 37 and 10. But it was an awfully quiet 37. For most of the first half, he was unstoppable. Then he was, mostly ineffective over the last 5 minutes of the first half and well into the second. When UConn built their lead, they were content to let Edey score on the block while continuing to shut down any perimeter scoring (Purdue was 1-7 from 3!).

The UConn rebuild wasn't as extreme as the USC women, but UConn lost 5 of their top 8 scorers from last season. Didn't matter. The pieces Hurley collected fit perfectly together. Returning big man plus star freshman plus impact transfer plus a bunch of guys who know their roles. They are your repeat national champions.


Who could have imagined that Southern Methodist firing their basketball coach would ultimately lead to Calipari moving to Arkansas. SMU fired coach Rob Lanier after just two seasons and immediately poached Andy Enfield from Southern California. I found this puzzling. SMU is joining the ACC, but USC is moving to the superior Big Ten. Dallas over Malibu? To each their own. USC then landed Arkansas' Eric Musselman, a SoCal native. Arkansas contacted Chris Beard and Jerome Tang but both turned them down flat. The Hogs were seriously considering the Arkansas Little Rock coach. Then the Tyson chicken family got involved (Arkansas is the chicken capital of the world).

Turns out John Tyson and John Calipari are golfing buddies. Tyson, curiously a SMU grad, was not much of an Arkansas booster. He offered to get involved in a major way going forward, if Arkansas hired Cal. Leading to the Sunday night news flash timed to eclipse the eclipse and the national title game.

This needed to happen. Calipari said he was making no staff changes at Kentucky. There was talk of adding a seventh freshman to Calipari's Kentucky roster next season. The amount of pressure on everyone, centered on the young players, promised to be intense. Few were optimistic; many expected a train wreck. There was a fundamental disconnect regarding the meaning of success. Kentucky fans are happy that our former players are killing it in the NBA. Unlike Calipari, however, that's not how the fans define success. And we all agree that failure looks a lot like losing to Oakland in the first round.

Not thrilled with the way things went down, but a separation was best for all involved. Cal will take his whole recruiting class to Fayetteville and they'll win their fair share of games next season. What happens next for Kentucky will be interesting.

Calls will be made to Dan Hurley, Billy Donovan and Jay Wright. All will turn us down. I expect the more realistic calls will follow - to Scott Drew and Nate Oates. By the way, the UK AD will never, ever hire Bruce Pearl. 

Hurley was asked about moving after the game. "Oh my God, Kentucky or anywhere that's going to take her [his wife] further from New Jersey? I mean, we just went to Rhode Island, which I had to drag her to, and then to Connecticut. I got her closer. And now further? I can't afford a divorce right now, too. I just started making money." 

Nate Oates also released a statement saying he's staying at Alabama. We'll see. If all of the above take a pass, things get dicey. But we'll be fine. 10 years ago Dan Hurley was coaching high school. There's plenty of coaching talent out there, it's just a matter of finding the right fit. There'll be plenty of money to support whoever ends up coaching my Cats. 

I hope that Calipari is rejuvenated by the move and that he does well at Arkansas. Except when he plays my team.

The Random Notes Pool Winners!

Leonardo emerged as our singular champion! He only picked one of the Final Four teams but it was the right one!

Your (fake) prize is an all expense-paid trip to title town, Storrs, Connecticut! Named, in 2005, as "America's Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster." (I swear I am not making that up). Storrs is actually not a town at all. It's a village within the town of Mansfield. Storrs exists solely because of UConn, which was originally known as the Storrs Agricultural College. It was founded by Charles and Augustus Storrs, brothers and business partners who raised themselves out the subsistence farm family they were born into (in Mansfield). They donated land and money for the school due to "having experienced the intellectual privations that are too commonly incident to farm life."  

Enough history, what exciting things are on the itinerary for your weekend in Storrs? No trip would be complete without a visit to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, the third largest puppetry collection in the US! The Ballard has over 2,500 puppets from all over the world including marionettes, glove puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets and body puppets. They have it all! The Ballard Instutute offers UConn degrees in puppetry, both undergarduate and graduate. One can only imagine the graduate puppetry curriculum. It is the only institution in the US offering a Master's in puppetry. (nope, not making that up)

After all the puppet excitement, you'll undoubtedly have worked up an appetite. So head on over to the UConn Dairy Bar, where you can purchase dairy products from the "award-winning" UConn dairy heard. What awards these cows have garnered is unclear. But the ice cream is supposed to be quite tasty.

Might need a walk after all that dairy, so take a stroll up Horsebarn Hill to take in views that are described as "magnificent". Some might describe the view as "a field". Moving on.

UConn is home to the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. If you are lucky you can take in Snarky Puppy, described as "a night of musical exploration, mind-bending improvisation and infectious rhythms that will have you dancing in your seat." Actual dancing is apparently not allowed. Or you might be there on the night the Jorgensen is hosting the Piano Guys, one of whom plays the cello.

Late night, head over to Huskies Tavern. Famous (?) for beer, burgers and wings. But never a cover to get in!

[Editor's Note: Storrs is 140 miles from NYC. Might want to cut Sunday short and stop by on your way home to Philly.]

A six-way tie for second place among Mat, Lisa, AJ, Dan, Irwin and Price. Whoa! A great number of people for a book club. The Notes will sponsor the first meeting by distributing copies of "Chasing Perfect: The Will to Win in Basketball and Life" by Bob Hurley (father of Dan and Bobby). Bob Hurley was the legendary coach at St Anthony's High School in Jersey City, where his teams won 28 state titles (!). St Anthony's had total student body enrollment of about 230, no gymnasium and an operating deficit that threatened to shut the place down every year. Indeed, the school closed in 2017 when enrollment dropped below 200. Prepare yourself for "empowering insights to help coaches, players and the rest of us to walk a more purposeful path". [Editor's Note: Someone got paid to write that sentence.] Please let us know how you end up incorporating principles of the motion offense into your daily life. I'm sure it will be empowering.

OK, that's a wrap. Thanks for coming along for the ride! Congrats all you Huskies. See you next year.