Kansas faces balanced Kentucky
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the coolest things in a college basketball player’s career is to be introduced in the starting lineup for the national championship game.
Everybody involved in the sport is watching. The dome du jour — this year it’s the Superdome — has a football-sized crowd waiting for the season’s final game.
On Monday night, when Kentucky meets Kansas for the title, it would be great to save one player from each team to be introduced last and let them bump fists at midcourt to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
“From Kentucky, the consensus national player of the year, freshman forward Anthony Davis.”
“From Kansas, the only unanimous first-team all-America, junior forward Thomas Robinson.”
Forty minutes of dominant inside player against dominant inside player. Let the better man walk away with a net around his neck and the satisfaction of having outplayed the other best big man.
Well, Kansas coach Bill Self threw some water on that thought.
“I don’t see it as a matchup between Davis and Robinson,” he said Sunday. “I don’t see that at all.”
They did go head to head all season as the two favorites for national player of the year honors. Neither was on the landscape when the season got started. Davis was known as point guard turned big man after a late growth spurt. Robinson played seven minutes a game as a sophomore and wasn’t expected to be a factor on the national stage.
The 6-foot-10 Davis leads six double-figure scorers on Kentucky with a 14.4 average, and he grabbed 10.2 rebounds per game. His 180 blocked shots lead the country and are a Kentucky season record.
The 6-10 Robinson averages 17.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, and his 71 assists are third on the team.
Both are impressive dunkers, and that was on display Saturday. Davis had a one-handed slam of an alley-oop pass that was part of every highlight reel. Robinson went up strong over and over in the second half against Ohio State all-America Jared Sullinger, and after one of his dunks he landed and let out a primal scream.
They are fans of each other.
“Thomas is a good player. A great rebounder and jumper,” Davis said Sunday. “He’s a beast, one of the best we’ve faced this year. It will be a great challenge, and I can’t wait to see what happens Monday night.”
Robinson said he has seen a lot of Davis on television.
“Anthony is a great player, all respect goes to him,” Robinson said. “He’s well deserving of the (player of the year) award. I gave up on that a long time ago. I just want to get a ring. Me going against him is not me versus Anthony Davis, it’s Kansas versus Kentucky.”’
Wildcats coach John Calipari praised Robinson then threw the same damper on the potential matchup that Self did.
“We know how good Thomas Robinson is. We all know. We went against him in New York. He is as good as they get,” Calipari said. “He’s a vicious competitor, great around the rim, expanded his game. He can make the top of the key 3. Loves driving that thing hard left and getting to the rim. He has become a better handler and passer, rebounds. So we know how good he is.
“I don’t really know who is going to guard him. We may play a 2-3 zone. Those guys are so big, we may fall into a zone. I haven’t played that very often, but we may do it.”
So Robinson and Davis will spend some time guarding each other, just not a lot. Robinson, who played a very physical game against Ohio State, is ready — for anything.
“I’m sore. I can rest come Tuesday morning,” he said starting to smile as he talked. “Right now I can’t really feel nothing. I can’t complain about how I feel. I got one more game. … Only thing that will stop me from this game is a bullet, and I doubt that stops me.”