Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein will miss tonight’s national title game against Connecticut because of a lingering ankle injury.
Cauley-Stein, who went to Olathe Northwest, called it “heartbreaking” that he would have to watch the championship game from the bench. He hurt his right ankle in his NCAA tournament opener against Kansas State, played with pain in a victory over Wichita State and then aggravated the injury against Louisville.
“That’s the only thing I can really do is encourage the team to stay positive,” Cauley-Stein said. “Even though I can’t play, you know, I still serve a purpose of uplifting people and staying in people’s ear and cheering and stuff like that.”
Poythress expects to play
With Cauley-Stein out, Kentucky can use forward Alex Poythress, who plans to play tonight after tweaking his knee during the Wildcats’ semifinal celebration Saturday night.
Poythress hurt his knee in the wild midcourt celebration after Aaron Harrison’s three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. Teammates rolled into Poythress’s knee, and he yelped in pain before screaming at them to get off.
He limped to the postgame news conference, where he vowed to play in the title game, and told The Associated Press on Sunday: “It’s fine. I’m ready to play. I’m good.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari dismissed the bizarre injury.
“I was going to go in the dog pile. My hip was bothering me so bad I couldn’t jump on there,” Calipari said Sunday, smiling. “But I was going in there, too.”Fashion statement
Michigan’s Fab Five team of 1992 was a popular topic Sunday. Those Wolverines of Chris Webber and Jalen Rose reached the national title game but fell to Christian Laettner and Duke in their quest to become the first team with an all-freshmen starting lineup to win the championship.
Kentucky can become that team with a victory over Connecticut. But Calipari claimed one victory over the Fab Five, who were known as the team that introduced baggy shorts to college hoops.
“I think we had long shorts at (Massachusetts) before Michigan,” said Calipari, who coached the Minutemen to the 1996 Final Four. “Will Herndon, my power forward was 6-3 and his shorts were 5-2.”
Not must-see TV
The Final Four’s television viewership is down after its move to cable.
The two NCAA semifinals Saturday averaged a total of 14 million viewers, an 11 percent decrease from last year’s games on CBS. That number included viewers of the main coverage on TBS along with the school-specific “TeamCasts” on TNT and truTV.
This was the first time the semifinals were on cable.