Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

'Cats big man likely to sit out

INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky F Willie Cauley-Stein had a walking boot protecting his injured left ankle Saturday, and coach John Calipari said the sophomore was doubtful for today's region final against Michigan.

"He's acting like he thinks he can do something," Calipari said. "I would be stunned if he played in this game."

Cauley-Stein left Friday's win over Louisville with about 13 minutes left in the first half and did not return. He told trainers he felt something pop in his ankle.

The 7-foot forward, considered a top-15 pick if he decides to leave for the NBA after this season, averages seven points, 6.2 rebounds and 24 minutes for the eighth-seeded Wildcats.

They play the second-seeded Wolverines today with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

ROLE MODEL: Kevin Ollie was taking the first steps down a road few have traveled with success: the replacing-the-legend road. There at the start was Tom Izzo, who had done it.

Izzo, who replaced program-builder Jud Heathcote at Michigan State in 1995, has taken the Spartans to six Final Four appearances and a national championship. Ollie assumed control of the Huskies when Jim Calhoun retired and drew Michigan State as his first opponent on Nov. 9, 2012. The Huskies pulled off an upset and set a tone for Ollie's first season and beyond.

Izzo's encouragement at the time still drives Ollie.

"He just said, 'Be yourself,' " Ollie said. "I can't be Coach Calhoun, I can't build his program from 1986 when he arrived. I can't do that. But I can be Kevin Ollie, I can take some great life lessons I learned, build on them and try to create my own, forge my own program going forward."

OLD BY CONTRAST: Compared to Kentucky, which starts five freshmen, Michigan looks like a veteran team. That's deceiving, however: The Wolverines are second-to-last in experience among Elite Eight teams and fifth from the bottom in the entire tournament.

The difference is, whereas Calipari embraced freshmen playing a massive role, Michigan backed into it.

"I didn't anticipate this," Wolverines coach John Beilein said of his program, which is starting three sophomores and a freshman. "This was never the plan to have in Year 7 (at Michigan). We thought we'd have a bunch of cagey veterans out here getting it done with so many ways, the way some of the teams that have been very successful in the past."

CLASS ACT: His college career over, Louisville senior Russ Smith took a long walk down the corridor, went into the Kentucky locker room and shook hands with a group of freshman he simply could not overcome.

Smith scored 23 Friday night in a 74-69 loss to the Wildcats that ended his quest to close out college with back-to-back national titles.

"I'm just glad that I have a lot of respect around the state, and people respect my craft and my body of work," Smith said.

BIG STATEMENT: The Big Ten can thump its chest a bit: Three of its teams — Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin — were among the Elite Eight, more than any other league.

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