Daily Archives: April 6, 2013

Saturday musings before the big one

* Louisville’s first season as a Missouri Valley Conference was in 1964-65, the same season in which the Shockers reached the Final Four. That Cardinals team was 15-10 and coached by Bernard “Peck” Hickman, who had been at Louisville since 1944. Hickman lasted only two more seasons at Louisville, retiring after the 1966-67 season, when the Cardinals were 23-5.

* Louisville was a Valley member from 1964-65 through 1974-75 and during its brief time won or tied for seven MVC championships.

* Wichita State never beat the Cardinals in Louisville. The Shockers came close a few times. In 1969-70, Louisville beat WSU, 59-58, at Freedom Hall. The next season, the Cardinals won, 98-97, in overtime. And in 1971-72, Louisville eked out a 65-64 win. Three of the 11 WSU-Louisville games played in Wichita went to overtime and one went two overtimes. Louisville won two of them.

* My memories from Louisville-Wichita State center around the Cardinals’ Wes Unseld and Wichita State’s Warren Armstrong. They matched up many times and had an epic battle in 1967-68 at WSU’s Roundhouse, one of those overtime games won by Louisville, 93-91. Even though Armstrong was only 6-foot-2, he had the strength and athleticism to match-up against the powerful 6-8 Unseld, one of college basketball’s all-time greats.

* There were many outstanding players from WSU and Louisville during that era. Some of the best from the Shockers’ side included: Armstrong, Jamie Thompson, Kelly Pete, Ron Washington, Melvin Reed, Greg Carney, Ron Mendell, Ron Harris, Terry Benton, Preston Carrington, Vince Smith, Rich Morsden, Bob Wilson, Calvin Bruton, Robert Elmore and Cheese Johnson, whose career started the season after Louisville left the Valley but included one game against the Cardinals.

* Some of the best Louisville players of that era included: Unseld, John Reuther, Butch Beard, Mike Grosso, Jim Price, Al Vilcheck, Ron Thomas, Allen Murphy and Junior Bridgeman.

* This is the biggest game in Wichita State history. I know the Shockers were in another Final Four, back in 1965. But college basketball wasn’t the three-headed beast it is today. Those national semifinal games in Portland, Ore., were played at 9 and 11 p.m., CST. On a Friday night. They were not nationally televised. If I remember correctly – and I was 10 at the time, so don’t take this to the bank – the game was shown at the Roundhouse on closed circuit television. Was I there? I was afraid you were going to ask. I’m not sure. Isn’t that terrible? You would think I would remember something like that, which I don’t. So that must mean I wasn’t there. But I was a rabid WSU fan as a kid so I’m sure I must have begged my father to take me. If the game was televised at the Roundhouse, which I’m not sure it was. Wow. This is embarrassing.

* The Shockers didn’t leave for Portland until the Thursday morning before the Friday night game. There were no news conferences when they arrived in Oregon. It was just another game. Yes, it was a Final Four and a relatively big deal compared to the rest of the college basketball season. But it wasn’t like it is today.

* Of course, Wichita State lost to UCLA in the national semifinals in 1965, 118-82. The Shockers played a third-place game against Princeton, and again lost in a blowout. The national championship game between UCLA and Michigan, won by the Bruins, was televised nationally and in Wichita on then-KTVH, Channel 12.

* I often played basketball by myself in my backyard as a kid. No, it wasn’t because I didn’t have any friends. It’s just what kids did then. Not so much now. Anyway, being the Wichita State fan I was, I would broadcast the imaginary games I was playing. Something like this: “Pete’s got it at the top of the key, he passes to Stallworth, who dribbles to the corner. Bowman is open inside, he’s got it for a 10-footer. Good. Bowman puts Wichita State in front of Cincinnati, 45-44.” Rick Weaver, who later went on to become the radio voice of the Miami Dolphins, is the first broadcaster I remember. Gus Grebe, who I believe followed Weaver, is the most popular. I wanted to be those guys when I was a kid and I practiced my play-by-play for hours and hours while also practicing basketball. It was a two-for-the-price-of-one thing. I remember those imaginary games like they were yesterday. Unlike whether or not I went to watch a broadcast of WSU in the Final Four. Funny how the brain does – and doesn’t – work.

* I have completely lost touch with my television viewing during the NCAA Tournament. But I was able to see the season finales of “The Walking Dead” and “Justified” during my pit stop in Wichita, before heading for Atlanta and the Final Four. Those are two incredible shows. I’m looking forward to the debut of “Mad Men,” tomorrow night.

* My son, who has been covering this incredible Wichita State basketball journey with me, is a little star struck. He tweets about exchanging pleasantries with CBS studio host Greg Gumble and about walking past talk-show radio host Jim Rome. It’s cute. He’s 30, but it’s still cute.

* Jeff and I have to figure out a way to watch “Wrestlemania” tomorrow night. Somewhere, somehow.

* Not happy about the way the St. Louis Cardinals have limped out of the gates at 1-3. I’m worried about everything at the moment: Pitching, defense, hitting, bullpen. Thank goodness I’ve had a big distraction that has kept me from stewing about all of this.