Freedom Hall Extra

There’s no getting around it. You write your 850 words or so on a subject, sit back a few hours later and read it, and think of so many more things you could have included, especially on a day like today.

In a column like the one I wrote this morning, the best you can hope to do sometimes is give people a feel of what the place was like, and try to give them a couple of glimpses of things they probably didn’t have a chance to see.

But there’s more. So here are some more nuggets that wound up on the cutting room floor.

U of L athletic director Tom Jurich, long after the crowds had gone, came down to the Freedom Hall court to get his picture taken with his sons at center court.

“I’ve been to Super Bowls, bowl games,” Jurich said. “I haven’t seen anything like what I saw today.”

Then he reminded me of a major Freedom Hall moment that I hadn’t thought about, because it had nothing to do with basketball. With a trip to the Orange Bowl in the balance, about 25 people packed into Jurich’s Freedom Hall suite to watch Rutgers upset West Virginia in a nail-biter, sending U of L to its first BCS bid. We were in Freedom Hall because U of L had played a basketball game after that afternoon’s football finale. There was no one in the stands in the Hall by the time Rutgers pulled out its upset win, but it was definitely a meaningful moment.

Pitino’s fashion statement. From the time Rick Pitino arrived in Louisville, one thing I thought we’d never see — in fact, something Pitino once said we’d never see — was him wearing a red blazer. On Saturday, he broke out the red blazer. And actually, it worked pretty well. Not as well as Darrell Griffith in the red velvet, but well.

Pitino’s classiest statement of the day came when he turned the microphone over to Crum to say the final words of the official postgame ceremony. “Nobody else should say the last words,” Pitino said later. “This is his building.”

Fans might have been surprised when it came time for the starting lineups. Instead of the voice of public address announcer Sean Moth, they heard the voice of the late John Tong, longtime Freedom Hall announcer, with his trademark welcome.

U of L officials had several tapes of Tong welcoming crowds before reading the starting lineups.

“We got the tape and listened, and I was crossing my fingers hoping the game he was introducing was Syracuse,” Moth said. “Because that would really have been neat. But it was Arkansas.”

Still, the moment was fitting, Moth said.

“I am not from here, and I feel like I’ve been privileged for years to come into someone else’s house,” Moth said. “Today, that moment belonged to him, and I really wanted to make that happen.”

Not Freedom Hall-related, but pertinent …
Syracuse most likely didn’t lose a No. 1 seed with the loss to Louisville, but did the Orange give up the No. 1 overall seed? Maybe it did.

At this point, the strongest No. 1 looks to be Kansas. From a standpoint of talent and experience, the Jayhawks have it all. I put Kentucky right behind Kansas if I’m ranking them, with just a slight reservation because the Wildcats have been pretty much all-out to beat pretty run-of-the-mill SEC competition. And when they faced a legitimate top 15 SEC team on the road, they lost. I don’t think any of that means anything come NCAA Tournament time, but it does leave you with some reservations.

I feel pretty confident that Kentucky is a better team than Syracuse, or any Big East team I saw play this season. I don’t think any team in the Big East is quicker than Kentucky, and no team has better interior play. The Wildcats figure to have one scary moment in the first three rounds of the tournament. If they escape it, look for them in Indianapolis.


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