Kentucky squad learns lessons on the way to what may be a historic season
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The Kentucky Wildcats enter the postseason with a familiar pressure: Hang a banner and catch UCLA. “We’re second in national championships and we want to be first,” said Cameron Mills, a member of the Wildcats’ late-’90s title teams.
Fans heaped on a second goal this year, though. In the season’s final week, Kentucky had a chance to be the first men’s squad to finish 40-0 at the Final Four.
Mills knows what being a part of a championship team can mean. Preparing for ministry since age 12 and open about his faith while at Kentucky, Mills began Cameron Mills Ministries upon graduation in 1998. The gospel gets more platforms—literally and figuratively—because he’s a Wildcat, despite being mostly a benchwarmer, he says.
For Kentucky again to leave a lasting impression when the Big Dance starts March 17, records and mistakes must be forgotten. “We have to pick ourselves up, we have to continue on, we have to press on towards the goal, which is to win a national championship,” Mills said.
Coach John Calipari did his part to ensure the Cats played the season to learn—sometimes not calling timeouts to stem momentum when his players were making mistakes. “I want them to know I’m not worried about losing. ... This is about us getting better,” Calipari said after surviving LSU Feb. 10. “We have lessons here.”
But learning can be harder when undefeated because, if even subconsciously, “You start to buy into your press clippings,” Mills said. And with 18- to 22-year-olds, potentially devastating mistakes aren’t far away. The rest of the field knows that well, with other top squads carrying heavy baggage. Louisville and Virginia live on the edge with crushing defense but little margin for error on offense. Notre Dame outscores its opponents despite generally poor defense.
Such flaws aren’t lethal if a team can forget what’s behind and win its last six games. Last year’s champion, Connecticut, lost its final regular season game by 33 points. But the time for lessons is over. Calipari’s squad knows that moral victories don’t exist in March. “In two weeks if we lose a game,” Mills said, “we lose both goals.”
The City of Angels may soon witness its first pro football since 1994 as three teams wage a bidding war for privately funded stadiums. The San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and St. Louis Rams, along with at least two Los Angeles suburbs, are in regulatory and fiscal fisticuffs to secure stadiums. And with demand so high, private investors—not taxpayers—would likely foot the bill. Inglewood and Carson, Calif., are trying to bypass environmental reviews to fast-track new palaces, while managers of a long-approved site near Staples Center protest. Meanwhile, the three teams are using their well-funded suitors as leverage to bargain with city governments in their current locations. —A.B.
Massachusetts-born entomologist Robert Copeland paid tribute to home with a species of wasp he discovered in Kenya. The Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask is the honored namesake. Copeland and his colleagues’ paper, to be published in April, pays tribute to the goalie, “whose glove hand is as tenacious as the raptorial fore tarsus of this dryinid species.” Of course, the human Rask doesn’t lay eggs as murderous parasites on other insects’ larvae. But Rask told The Boston Globe the comparison is “pretty neat,” nonetheless. —A.B.
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