Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Dexter Strickland sat quietly in a corner of the North Carolina locker room in Rupp Arena Saturday afternoon.
After talking about all the “little mistakes” that led to No. 5 Carolina’s 73-72 loss to No. 1 Kentucky, Strickland said he wants the rematch.
“Oh, absolutely,” the former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick star told SNY.tv. “Absolutely, we gotta get them.”
A year ago, of course, the two college basketball heavyweights met twice, with Carolina winning the regular season encounter at home and then losing the big one in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in Newark.
After Saturday’s scintillating game featuring as many as 10 first-round NBA Draft picks was played at such a high level, college hoops fans can only hope for a second go-round.
“Let’s hope if we have to play them again, when it is the very last game of the season, for both teams, in one place, and that’s when we play them again,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
The NCAA championship game is set for April 2 in New Orleans, and Strickland — who won the 2009 New Jersey Tournament of Champions title alongside Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — believes his team can make a run at playing in that game.
Carolina started this season as the preseason No. 1 and has already dropped two games — to UNLV and now Kentucky.
But Jackie Manuel, a guard on the 2005 Carolina NCAA championship, told this year’s Heels that his team won a title despite losing four games that season.
“He said they lost four games and they won the national championship,” Strickland said. “We lost two games so far and we can’t hang our heads. We gotta get better.
“No team’s gonna go undefeated. I think we’re a great team. I think we have all the tools to get the job done.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.