Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Robert Morris 59 - Kentucky 57

"This is what college basketball still can be in a world of one-and-dones and broken conferences and coaches draped in Armani. Yes, there can exist a steamy night in a tiny gym high on a hill by the Pittsburgh airport where the little guy stands strong, the giant topples and a swarm of students clad in red spill from wooden stands and dance on the remains of a national champion."

I wish that I could take credit for that paragraph above.  It is actually the lead paragraph from Yahoo Sports' Les Carpenter on last night's positively stunning upset win by Robert Morris over the University of Kentucky in the opening round of the NIT.   If you know me, you know my bona fides where Robert Morris is concerned.   Marilyn and I are proud alums who have been attending Colonials basketball games regularly since 1990, so this is not bandwagon jumping on our part today.

Ironically, we were not able to attend last night's game due to a Caring Place commitment, but, thanks to the magic of the DVR, we froze out all information concerning the game and were then able to watch it in it's entirety when we got home.  When the game ended, it was then so much fun to go to Facebook and Twitter and see all the comments that were being made as this game unfolded and in its aftermath.

When the match-up was announced, it was, of course, thrilling to think of a storied team such as UK coming to the tiny Sewall Center for a game.  My hope was that RMU would be able to hold strong and give Kentucky a game for a half before the inevitable took place.  Never in my wildest hopes did I envision a Colonials win.   What can I say?  It was euphoric.

It is almost a shame that this tournament has to continue and more games have to be played.  I can't imagine that anything will be able to top that win over Kentucky, or that the Colonials will have any emotion left in the tank after that one.  However, I am not going to underestimate what Coach Andy Toole might be able to pull off with this team going forward.

And speaking of Andy Toole, there's the downside from this game.  I am sure that Toole was probably on the radar of larger schools as an up-and-comer young coach.  His days at RMU were probably numbered anyway, but that win last night will no doubt raise his profile higher, and some larger school will no doubt come calling soon.  That is life for a low/mid-major conference.

And a word about Kentucky Coach John Calipari, a native of Moon Township.  If you care about this stuff, you no doubt know how Calipari engineered having his Wildcats come to Moon Township for this game.  Kentucky fans probably thought it a sure win, but I'm not so sure that Calipari did.  In any event, he could not have been more gracious in his post game comments about his past connections to Robert Morris while growing up, and how he was glad that he and Kentucky were able to help a program like Robert Morris.  He acknowledged the Colonials' victory, to the point where he said that it would have been "a shame" had Kentucky's three point buzzer shot went in and Kentucky won the game.  He also gave a shout out to the late Gus Krop, the great coach of long ago who started the basketball program when it was Robert Morris Junior College.

I get that a lot of people don't like Calipari, and he can be criticized for much over how he has run his programs over the years, but he was a class act in bringing this game to RMU and in his post-game remarks.

Oh, and to those who have been making comments like "it's only the NIT" and "this isn't a really good Kentucky team"  and "Kentucky didn't really care about playing in a second rate tournament in a tiny gym" and similar remarks, I politely invite you to take those spoilsport comments and stick them where the sun don't shine!

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