2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: Important Observation 66 Kemba Walker for Player of the Year
66. UConn 56, Kentucky 55 — Kemba Walker wins games in the final seconds, even if he’s playing defense. I don’t care if Jimmer Fredette already won the Player of the Year award, Kemba Walker is the best college basketball player on the planet.
I can’t think of a game that was too much better than this one in this year’s tournament. It was back-and-forth for about 15 minutes in the second half and both teams alternated hot and cold streaks for a while. There are plenty of plays that could have turned this one around, but it happened the way it happened and UConn won it with great defense and a solid game plan to wear down the Wildcats, whose only real weakness is a shallow bench.
It was a great game and UConn is a great team, but there are two specific plays in this game that showed Kemba Walker’s greatness. The first was in the second half somewhere around the 12-minute mark. Walker went down hard after fighting for a loose ball on defense. On the subsequent offensive possession, he barely moved, just standing in the corner bent over holding his knees. I can’t remember if Kentucky got a rebound or stole the ball, but the Wildcats had a fast break that looked like sure points, when Walker came out of nowhere to block the layup.
Anyone watching the game at the end had to notice Kemba’s defense on Brandon Knight during UK’s last possession. Knight has closed out games for the ‘Cats with incredible consistency during this tournament, but walker locked him up outside the three-point line, giving him no room to drive anywhere. Knight was forced to kick out for a bad look at a three-pointer, but the story of that possession was Kemba’s defense. He won the game for them. He’s been the best closer in the game all season long, and tonight was proof.
Speaking of Kemba Walker being the best something in the game all season long, I can’t be the only person who thought that the Player of the Year award voting was a little bit premature. First, I know it’s supposed to reflect the regular season, but I don’t know why we can’t at least let the tournament play out before voting. Second, I don’t know how anyone didn’t vote for Kemba Walker. Jimmer Fredette was good. I’ve already had posts on how untouchable he is on offense and how I believe in his ability to translate that to NBA success. But seriously, come on. Kemba Walker won games by himself too and even then, against better teams than Jimmer.
Kentucky had a great season, and a great tournament. Even if they’re going to eventually retroactively forfeit all of it because Coach Cal is cheating. Same for UConn, but they’ll have to forfeit one more game at least.
Give me your thoughts on the UConn-Butler matchup in the comments. I’ll post mine sometime soon, but I’m interested to see what you all think about things.