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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

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    • One on One with Chris Dortch: Marquis Teague

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    • Instant Reaction: Kentucky Claims Title

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

    Instant Reaction: Kentucky Beats Louisville

    By Chris Dortch
    Twitter: @CDortch
    SEC Digital Network

    NEW ORLEANS — Conventional wisdom before Kentucky and Louisville squared off in the Final Four on Saturday suggested that if the Cardinals were their usual dominant selves on the offensive glass and if the Wildcats shot poorly from 3-point range, Louisville might be able to pull off an upset.

    So much for conventional wisdom.

    Louisville did dominate the backboards, snaring 19 offensive rebounds to just six for Kentucky. And the Wildcats managed to make just 2 of 7 3-pointers (28.6 percent). So how did Kentucky pull out a 69-61 win to advance to Monday night’s national championship game?

    Call it unflappability.

    Though Kentucky coach John Calipari has started three freshmen and two sophomores most of the season, this is a group of old souls whose play belies their youth. When Louisville’s Peyton Siva tied the score at 49 with a 3-pointer at 9:12, the Wildcats weren’t rattled. They just reached back for an extra gear and won the game, just as they had done 36 previous times this season.

    Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had contributed the grand total of one point but quickly made up for lost time after Siva’s 3, taking a pass from fellow freshman Anthony Davis and scoring to give Kentucky the lead again. And he made sure the Wildcats stayed ahead. An MKG dunk with 8:03 to play gave his team a 53-49 lead and handed the baton to this team’s only senior contributor, Darius Miller, who provided final separation with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws that inflated the lead to 60-51 with 4:29 left.

    About the same time Kidd-Gilchrist began to assert himself, so did sophomore Terrence Jones, who grabbed four of his seven rebounds in a quick burst of about three minutes.

    Then there was consensus player- and freshman-of-the-year Anthony Davis, who at one point late in the game approached Calipari, and in an uncharacteristic moment, pretty much demanded the ball on the low block. His final numbers: 18 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots.

    “I thought we dug deep,” Calipari said.

    That’s what Kentucky (37-2) has done all season, save for a couple of late-game slipups at Indiana and against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament finals. If the Wildcats win the national championship on Monday night, sheer talent will be a factor — this team has seven NBA Draft picks. But maturity, mental toughness, will to win — all that intangible stuff coaches beg for but never receive often enough — will be the key.




    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.”