Kentucky's Anthony Davis soars for a dunk against Louisville during… (Shane Keyser / McClatchy-Tribune )
NEW ORLEANS — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, after Saturday's NCAA national semifinal defeat, had the courage to compare Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis to Bill Russell.
"When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why they're so good," Pitino said of Davis. "Not that their other players aren't, but he's so much of a factor."
Davis had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in Kentucky's 69-61 win against Louisville.
Sunday, though, came the true test.
"Do you know who Bill Russell is?" Kentucky Coach John Calipari asked Davis during the media's question-and-answer session at the Superdome.
"Yes," Davis said.
Calipari: "Who did he play for?"
Calipari: "Give him a hand. I love it."
The Davis-Russell comparison is understandable. Russell was a lanky, selfless defensive specialist who affected every aspect of the game.
Davis has many of those same qualities.
But it's really not fair to compare most players, let alone a freshman, to one of the two or three greatest basketball players of all time.
Russell won two NCAA titles at San Francisco and 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics.
Davis has not yet played his first — and probably only — NCAA title game.
And consider this: In two NCAA title game victories, against La Salle in 1955 and Iowa in 1956, Russell had 49 points and 52 rebounds.
…Or, don't believe the hype
Kansas star Thomas Robinson, probably the nation's second-best player this season behind Davis, said he's not ready to crown Davis the king of anything.
"I mean, Anthony Davis is a great player, but he's not Superman. We just have to be Kansas, do what we do best, keep being aggressive. He is a good player, but we're not going to change anything we do."
Shots in the dark
Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor is having a very strange NCAA tournament. He is averaging 11.6 points per game and has led Kansas to the title game despite missing all 20 of his three-point attempts.
"I think I'm definitely due, man," Taylor said. "I think the basketball gods are with me tomorrow. I've got to make one. I can't leave like this."
The basketball gods might suggest Taylor move in a few steps.
Taylor has made 24 of his 43 two-point attempts.
After making two free throws with eight seconds left to give Kansas a three-point lead against Ohio State in Saturday's other national semifinal, Taylor stole the inbounds pass from William Buford but then threw the ball away.
"Tyshawn can make plays you can't coach, which is the steal against Buford," Kansas Coach Bill Self said Sunday. "And he can make a play that looks like he's never been coached, which was the pass, two seconds after that."
The town is just flipping over this team
Kentucky guard Doron Lamb was asked about the excitement back home in Lexington following Saturday's win over Louisville.
"Well, I hear they were flipping cars and burning cars and shutting down blocks," Lamb said. "They were so excited that we made it to the championship. I know that tomorrow night is going to be crazy."
How much crazier could it get?
Kentucky has won seven national titles, second only to UCLA's 11. So much for the motto: "Act like you've been there before."
Peace in the valley?
Only days after Louisville and Kentucky fans brawled in a dialysis center came this shocking pronouncement from Pitino:
"Louisville will be rooting for Kentucky, which doesn't happen very often, to bring home that trophy to the state," Pitino said.
Yeah, and UCLA is rooting for USC to win next season's Bowl Championship Series title in football.