When Aaron Harrison sank the three-pointer that stunned Michigan and sent the Kentucky Wildcats to the NCAA Final Four, Dr. Bob Guyette had a pretty good sense of how great that moment felt to the boys in blue.
Thirty-nine years ago, he experienced a similar high when his UK team shocked previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Indiana, 92-90, in a regional final that came to be regarded as one of the best games in NCAA tournament history.
"I have a picture taken right after that game with a piece of the net my hand, and I have to smile every time I look at it," he said from his medical office in Arizona.
Guyette was a 6-9 senior from Ottawa, Ill., where he had earned Illinois "Mr. Basketball" honors in high school.
He played forward and center on the veteran UK team that advanced to the 1975 Final Four in San Diego. The Wildcats defeated Syracuse, 95-79, in one semifinal, and UCLA edged Louisville, 75-74, in overtime in the other.
The day before the final, UCLA Coach John Wooden announced the game would be his last before retirement - a well-timed extra incentive for the Bruins. UCLA won, 92-85, giving the "Wizard of Westwood" his 10th national championship.
Did the better team win that night?
"I think we had more talent," Guyette said. "But they elevated their game, stayed cool under fire and played the best they could. We didn't."
I was sports editor of the Lexington newspaper then, and I admired Guyette's quiet leadership and steady play. While he wasn't the team's biggest star (Kevin Grevey was) he excelled on both ends of the court. He got into early foul trouble against UCLA but was still the team's second-leading scorer with 16 points. For his career at UK, he shot a healthy 51 percent from the field.
While he and three other seniors on that team (Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner and Mike Flynn) were drafted to play in the NBA, he chose instead to join a team in Barcelona, Spain, where he spent five good seasons and loved the Catalan culture. An academic all-American while an undergrad, he returned to UK to earn a dental degree and went on to the University of Alabama for a medical degree.
Now 60, Guyette lives in Phoenix where he has built one of the state's leading practices in oral and facial plastic surgery.
Our paths crossed again during the years I worked for the Phoenix newspaper. We would see each other at a local health club and talk over the latest UK basketball news. He had to be one of the biggest Kentucky fans living in Arizona.
I caught up with him this week by phone shortly before he took off on a trip to Japan. He has developed a new medical device to deliver nitrous oxide to patients more effectively and is marketing it in many countries. It's an important business trip but not more important than the games in Dallas, and he plans to watch them at the Tokyo American Club.
Here are his Final Four predictions:
Florida-Connecticut: "I see Florida winning by about eight points. That team plays together so well and has the experience. (Scottie) Wilbekin is as tough a guard as any in the country. Billy Donovan has been there and knows how to prepare. He will have his guys at just the right emotional pitch."
Kentucky-Wisconsin: "I'm as surprised as anyone by how much Kentucky has improved in the past three weeks. They still have a habit of falling behind early in the game and seem to always need some time to adjust. Wisconsin will go up in the first half, but the Wildcats will start figuring out the defense and how to score. I see Julius Randle coming up big and UK winning by three points."
Kentucky-Florida: "I'm not all that concerned about Florida's previous wins over UK; the Gators won't be playing the same team this time. Coach Cal has instilled a lot of confidence in this young team, and they are capable of playing even better. I expect this will be an awesome game played with great emotion. I think it could come down to the last shot with Kentucky winning its ninth NCAA title."
Steve Wilson is executive editor of The Paducah Sun.
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