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    • SEC "Fast Break": February 26

      Apparently, eight Southeastern Conference teams were having so much fun last Saturday they didn’t want it to end.
    • SEC Fast Break with Chris Dortch

      The first month of the season was largely forgettable for the Southeastern Conference by almost any barometer. Where to start?
    • November Offers Challenges for SEC Teams

      It seems like only yesterday Kentucky players were cutting down the nets in the New Orleans Superdome after winning the Southeastern Conference’s third national championship in a seven-year span. But that was more than seven months ago, and now it’s time for college basketball to crank up again.
    • One on One with Chris Dortch: Marquis Teague

      Was there ever a question Marquis Teague could take his place among the elite point guards coached the last four seasons by Kentucky’s John Calipari? We profile Teague, a likely first round pick in this week's NBA Draft.
    • Instant Reaction: Kentucky Claims Title

      About a month ago, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari asked a question of his team.

    Dortch at the Final Four: 56 Not Magical for Kentucky

    HOUSTON — Fifty-six.

    That was Kentucky’s magic number before its Final Four matchup with Connecticut. Hold the Huskies to 56 points, Wildcat coach John Calipari told the Wildcats, and you’ll be back in Reliant Stadium on Monday night, playing Butler for the national championship.

    The ‘Cats held up their end of the bargain. Overcoming a miserable first-half start, they dug deep and held UConn to that magic number. But Calipari had miscalculated ever so slightly.

    “Coach didn’t count on us shooting 33 percent,” senior center Josh Harrellson said. “You’re not going to win many games shooting like that.”

    Most of the damage was done in the first half, when Kentucky shot a season-low 28.1 percent to UConn’s 51.9 percent. The Wildcats trailed 31-21 at halftime.

    “I just think everybody was a little nervous,” Harrellson said.

    “I think we were timid,” guard DeAndre Liggins said.

    “We didn’t play as aggressive as we should have,” said Darius Miller.

    As timid, nervous and passive as the Wildcats were in the first half, they were the polar opposite in the second, outscoring the Huskies 11-2 to take a 35-33 lead. The game was Kentucky’s for the taking, but another dramatic finish wasn’t meant to be. Even the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament hero, Brandon Knight, couldn’t pull them over the edge. He drained yet another three-pointer as the final buzzer sounded, but it was one agonizing point short of sending the game into overtime.

    Fifty-six points was enough for UConn to escape into Monday night’s championship game. Fifty-five points ended Kentucky’s season.

    “We had our chance to win the game,” Calipari said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask. Give us a chance to win. They gave us a chance. It’s disappointing, but it’s been a heckuva year.”

    Calipari’s second team at Kentucky fell one game short of its goal, but it will be remembered. After five players were taken in the first round of last June’s NBA draft, Calipari had to start over with freshmen and a trio of returning players, one of whom, Harrellson, had been an afterthought much of his career.

    Worse, the player Calipari and his staff thought would be a difference maker, Turkish center Enes Kanter, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because he’s competed in a pro league in his native country. Harrellson had to step into the void.

    If there’s a player who epitomizes Kentucky’s season it’s Harrelleson. The Wildcats had to have him, and he delivered, finishing second in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding and turning himself into one of the heroes of March Madness.

    “A lot of people doubted me,” Harrellson said. “I think a lot of people were looking on to next year. I’m happy with the way [he progressed], but I’m also happy for my teammates. For this team to get as far as it did, that means a lot.”



     
     

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    Chris Dortch Bio

    Chris Dortch estimates he’s covered close to 1,500 college basketball games since he was sports editor of his college student newspaper back in the late ’70s. “And it never gets old,” he says. “I always get pumped up to watch college hoops.”

    Dortch came to love basketball growing up in the basketball crazy state of Illinois, watching Missouri Valley Conference and Big Ten games every Saturday and pouring over the sports section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think I learned how to read a box score before I learned how to read,” he says.

    In college, first at George Mason and later at East Tennessee State, he came under the influence of two coaches that gave him a behind-the-scenes look at basketball from a coaching perspective. “After that I was hooked,” he says. “I knew I wanted to cover college basketball for a living.”

    And so he did, focusing on the Southeastern Conference at four newspapers and then for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the famed “bible” of college basketball which Dortch began editing in 1996.

    In a 30-year career, Dortch has written for numerous publications and websites, served as a college basketball correspondent for Sports Illustrated, appeared on more than 1,000 radio shows and written five books, including String Music: Inside the Rise of SEC Basketball.

    Dortch has provided commentary for CSS, Fox Sports South, NBA TV and the Big Ten Network and also taught sports writing at East Tennessee State and Tennessee-Chattanooga, where his students call him “Professor D.”