Commonwealth Journal

Columns

March 31, 2012

The big game ... and patterns

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Life is full of patterns. Everywhere, all around us — complex, improbable patterns.
Patterns account for déjà vu, that sense that something has happened to you before, because it probably has — different time, different context, same thing. It seems so random — but is it really? We might see in a celebrity, or someone on the other side of the world, someone with the same features, the same mannerisms, the same something-or-other as someone else we know. It’s like a video game with background animation, where there’s a limited number of faces in the crowd programmed in, and you keep seeing the same faces at various intervals throughout — patterns.
So it is in life, so it is in basketball.
A few months ago, I unearthed a stack of old newspapers, keepsakes from the Kentucky Wildcats’ trip to the 1996 Final Four. It was neat to flip through them — something I did again this week, for reasons that should become obvious — over a decade-and-a-half after the fact and relive those times.
In case you don’t recall, Kentucky — coached by one Rick Pitino — met up with the University of Massachusetts, or UMass — coached by one John Calipari — in the national semifinal, in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey, on March 30, 1996.
Kentucky was considered the team to beat by most observers, due largely to a roster stacked with players presumed to be future NBA professionals. This assessment was not off-base, as all but one player in the starting line-up (the lone exception being Anthony Epps) was a first-round draft pick, several more on the bench were drafted as well (Ron Mercer, Nazr Mohammed, Mark Pope), and a couple more (Wayne Turner, Jeff Sheppard) at least got a cup of coffee in the pros. The Wildcats were a robust 32-2, their only two losses coming early in the season to an upstart UMass squad out to make a name for themselves, and in the conference tournament final to Mississippi State.

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