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March 29th, 2015

Sunday Night News and Views

(H/T @UKPhotogs) They say a picture says a thousand words....

(H/T @UKPhotogs) They say a picture says a thousand words….

The Cats are Final Four bound.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you probably know that Kentucky defeated Notre Dame in a tight game Saturday night, 68-66. This post would be a lot different if Aaron Harrison hadn’t hit that clutch three towards the end, or if Karl-Anthony Towns hadn’t played absolutely out of his mind, or if Willie wasn’t the beast that he is, or if Andrew hadn’t knocked down those game-winning free throws, etc. Instead of celebrating all night long, the BBN would have collectively went to bed with tears in their eyes, proud of what their Cats accomplished but sad that they wouldn’t make it just a couple of more games. Thank God it didn’t go down that way. Now, Kentucky seeks it’s 39th win- two more away from a historic 40-0 and the ninth national title. Honestly, I still haven’t recovered, and I assume most of the Big Blue Nation hasn’t either. But, before you go to bed with visions of Harrisons dancing in your heads, here are tonight’s news and views:

The Final Four Is Set

Duke was the final puzzle piece in what is going to be an absolutely solid Final Four this weekend. After defeating Gonzaga, 66-52, the Blue Devils are on their way to their 16th Final Four and the 4th most of all time. In what was, I’m sure, a highlight of many of the BBN’s day, Louisville was downed in overtime by Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team earlier this afternoon, 76-70. So here is where we will stand come Saturday evening: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin at 8:49 on TBS, and Michigan State vs. Duke at 6:09. Better start preparing yourselves now.

Cats open as a six-point favorite over Wisconsin.

Saturday night is going to be fun and our friends out in Vegas know it. The Cats opened as the six-point favorite over Frank Kaminsky and his gang earlier this afternoon. The Cats are 1-3 against the spread in the tourney. I think I can speak for the whole BBN when I say ‘please, please, please cover Kentucky. I can’t handle another game like last night.’ According to VegasInsider.com Kentucky’s odds to win the whole thing are 2/3 right now.

Karl Towns has moved to #1 in the Draft Express rankings.

(draftexpress.com)

(draftexpress.com)

This certainly shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Towns was in beast-mode last night, ending the game with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. I saw many people on Twitter call last night’s game his “#1 in the draft game” and I can’t say I disagree. Draft Express has KAT going first to the Knicks (God bless him) right now in their mock draft, with WCS following at #6 to the Kings. Booker and Lyles go later in the first round at #17 and #19 respectively. Dakari is projected early second round with Andrew to Cleveland late after.

Last night’s game was the highest rated for a college basketball game in cable television history.

According to the NCAA’s website, last night’s match-up generated a 9.0/16 overnight rating/share, peaking with a 11.9/21 from 10:45-11pm. That’s the highest overnight rating for a college basketball game in cable television ever. Who run the world? Cats.

Kentucky’s open practice will take place from 3-3:50 on Friday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

I expect the BBN to show out in big numbers.

Stoops got a Yahtzee today.

He also got one yesterday, in case you missed it. Today’s Yahtzee was from 6’9″ OL/DL Calvin Taylor out of Augusta Christian. The 2015 commit also had offers from Temple and Charlotte. Yesterday’s commitment came from Kordell Looney, a three star 6’4″, 285 lb DT out of Ohio. This 2016 commit had offers from Bowling Green, Illinois, and Toledo before he decided to roll the dice for Stoops.

Kentucky knocked off the top ranked LSU Tigers today in baseball.

Kentucky defeated LSU 12-10 in 11 innings to win the series, 2-1, this afternoon, after beating them on Friday 5-4. Trey Huntsman has a good recap of all the excitement here.

 

That should do it for right now. We’ll be back around in the morning for more news leading up to Saturday’s forthcoming insanity. Two more games til perfection, y’all. Go Cats!

 


Sunday Evening Celebration Links

(H/T @UKPhotogs)

(H/T @UKPhotogs)

While most of us are still trying to get over that win (I was way too hyped to sleep last night), the national media was all over the game and has cranked out some really great articles today. Here are just a few:

-For The Win/ USA Today’s Chris Chase has an awesome article about how last night’s game was every sports fan’s dream. In the piece, Chase highlights six different reasons why this game was a prime example of why we all love sports.

-Kentucky basketball survives. That’s the statement Dan Wetzel makes in this piece about Kentucky’s game last night along with a little preview of what’s to come in Saturday’s Final Four. Best quote from the article? “Sure, they have great players, impossible size, and breathtaking skill. They also have an otherworldly will to win.”

-Sporting News said that the night belonged to all the Wildcats, but definitely Willie Cauley-Stein.

-“Kentucky is still perfect, and they have Karl-Anthony Towns to thank for it.”- Adam Zagoria

-Gregg Doyel says Notre Dame wasn’t scared of Kentucky; that thinking almost won it for them, but not quite.


How the Cats Transformed from Resented Goliaths into America’s Team

Photo by Chet White - UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White – UK Athletics

 

In recent years when March rolled around, I’d turn off ESPN, shut down Twitter and ignore sports-related emails from my out-of-state friends.  I got it — Kentucky basketball’s quick turnaround from Gillespie-era mediocrity back to the pantheon of college hoopdom stoked angry, jealous embers outside of Big Blue Nation into raging hate-fueled fire.  Of course, continued oxygen was provided by an outspoken coach with a controversial history and an improbably immediate success story in mastering a new college sports paradigm that everyone seems to hate.

However, as KSR’s mole embedded within the pseudo-elite and the jump-shot-challenged intelligentsia, it was my duty for the past few weeks to monitor and critique the Establishment resentment toward our boys in blue.

But a funny thing happened on the way toward the anticipated fear and loathing.  While certainly the haters remain (including a TBS broadcasting team that appears to root for every UK challenger), Kentucky’s fan base has seemed to grow nationally, significantly, as their wins pile up.  Although Notre Dame’s Coach Mike Brey declared audaciously that the Fighting Irish were “America’s Team” in their Elite Eight showdown with the Cats, that crown better fits the head of the team that pulled off the über-thrilling victory last night in Cleveland.

Yes, sports fans, like the Dallas Cowboys in the late 20th Century, the Kentucky Wildcats — at least during this unprecedented run — are now America’s Team.

How did this transformation happen?  I credit four variables behind the Cats’ surge in national popularity:

Making History

One unifying feature of sport is the specter of history being made, with the spectator feeling part of the shared experience.  That’s why in an era of DVRs and spoiler alerts, we still like to watch our major sporting events live — especially with basketball, where those in attendance really become part of the action.  For those of us creeping into middle age, consider how many office watercooler conversations, or dinner table talks with the kids, center around the epochal contests that we watched in our youth: from Goose’s greatest game, to the first Bird/Magic matchup, to Nova’s coke-fueled upset of Georgetown, to Jim Valvano furiously circling the hardwood for a hug…and on and on.

As Kentucky approaches an unprecedented 40-0 season (no I am STILL not jinxing it), the Big Blue Nation cheers and hopes and even prays for each consecutive victory.  But so are a lot of other Americans, particularly the more casual fans with no dog in the hunt, who are climbing aboard the bandwagon in time to be part of history.

Artistic Excellence

As I’ve mused in these virtual pages many times before, basketball wallops the other Big Three sports when it comes to the visual experience for its spectators. Basketball games are filled with relentless exhibitions of artistry in action — colorful feats of intensely-rehearsed talent and gravity-defying acrobatics, while the participants remain in near constant motion. Because the vertical plane is regularly pierced, only basketball can provide those rare, sublime moments of transcendental grace.

Critics have been carping all year about how the recent primacy of defense has resulted in lower-scoring, less exciting games.  And while Kentucky is certainly guilty of the former charge, and has endured several brutally ugly slug-fests on their way to the Final Four, the team inevitably has produced thrilling, breathtaking moments — Monster Dunks! Improbable Blocks! Clutch Threes! — even in their most lop-sided victories.  Their refusal to lose close games like last night make for suspenseful, goose-bump-inducing theater.  In the end, this team simply is fun to watch, and there are plenty of basketball aficionados outside of the Bluegrass State who don’t want to see this show leave town too soon.

Integrity

As the Wildcats have been pigeonholed to be the exemplar of the much derided “one and done” paradigm, many occasional hoops followers would naturally assume that our ball club would be filled with selfish, egomaniacal, entitled semi-pros who are focused on NBA glory, at the expense of the team, the campus and the greater community.  But as anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to this year’s squad could attest, these Cats have obliterated the stereotype.  Indeed, the adjectives most associated with this group of ballers — unselfish, likeable, team-focused, joyfully charismatic, and most of all, humble — belie the reputation applied ignorantly by the controversy-seeking screaming heads on talk radio and the Twitter-verse.

From the moment The Twins deferred the pros, to their gritty, unselfish contributions in the last seconds of the Notre Dame game, the spirit of integrity has permeated this year’s squad.  And the more the country has seen the true character of these Cats, the more they’ve cheered for a perfect season.

Backlash

As sports criticism has proliferated — from thousands of new online avenues to the comments section of every web site — commentary has become more and more vociferous and hyperbolic, the language used more and more hostile and toxic.  Feeling the anxiety of competition, some more traditional news sites have tried to outdo their pajama-clad blogging brethren with breathless snark:  Check out this over-the-top, innuendo-filled attack on John Calipari in this week’s New York Times.  The social media has piled on, in one high-profile case forcing super-fan Ashley Judd to expose the vicious, misogynistic tactics of often-anonymous wannabes who desperately desire to expose their resentment-fueled bile to the rest of us.

I’ve never pretended that Coach Cal is perfect, nor that his recruiting tactics at the University of Massachusetts don’t deserve scrutiny and questioning.  But that was 20 years ago, and in a nation whose culture revels in the redemptive power of second chances, it’s about time to forgive him.  And when the critics continue to pile on about ambiguous transgressions from the past century — some taking it out on a talented actress who merely shows up to games to root for her alma mater — most Americans witness the current track record of a Cal-coached team that hasn’t even emitted a whiff of scandal, and view Kentucky as the embattled David against the monstrous media Goliath.

Don’t get me wrong: The “America’s Team” appellation will by no means stick for long term.  Our country loves an underdog story, and should the Cats post a perfect season, expect America to find new favorites in the coming years.  But while the United States is far, far from unanimous, do understand that due to all the reasons that make this team so special, our Nation — for the next week at least — is becoming a lot Big Bluer.

===

Postscript:  As a recovering politician, I’m especially aware when I have lost the people’s support.  And my valiant attempt to name this year’s squad “The Purr-fects” appears to have been a Dukakis-in-the-tank-like flopKSR commentor EdC may have put it best last week: “Purr-fects is TERRIBLE. It’s Kentucky Wildcats, not lap cats. Please just stop already. I am embarrassed for you and I don’t even know you.”  And Twitter’s @Pete_white00 did me the honor of making me the target of my first meme:

purrfects

So — back to the drawing board.  I find anything with “Un” to be clichéd and derivative of the unique, special branding of the nineties Unforgettables squad.  I will take your suggestions below — and if anyone comes up with anything original that sticks (and I will heavily promote any good ideas), I will take you to a UK home game next year.


Final Four Tees

FOKsr-FF-blog

Make room in your closet and add another Final Four shirt to your collection. I’d probably get 2. One to leave at home and one to rip off Hulk Hogan style after the win Saturday night.

The KSR Shop

Only 2 games left!!!


Gonzaga Falls to Duke….

(H/T @SportsCenter)

(H/T @SportsCenter)

Despite their best efforts, Gonzaga just could not take out the Blue Devils tonight; Duke wins 66-52. So with that, the 2015 Final Four is officially set: UK, Wisconsin, Duke, and Michigan State. This will be Duke’s 16th Final Four and 4th most all-time.

I’m heartbroken for Wiltjer, but he still has one more year to get his Zags to the Final Four.

So, opinions…. would you all like to see Duke in the championship game vs. Kentucky? Sound off below.

 


Reaction Videos from Around the BBN

Last night was fun, right? In what was definitely the most stressful game of the season, the Cats kept the Big Blue Nation on their toes. I admit, I was worried about the final few minutes of the game; all seemed lost. Then, Aaron Harrison once again proved he had ice in his veins and put some air back into Kentucky fans’ lungs. Here are a few good reaction videos from around the BBN of the last few seconds of the game:

Same though.

UK’s Christian Student Fellowship got in on the action. You may remember them from last season.

Well, that’s one way to burn a couch.

If you guys have any more good reaction videos, send ‘em our way. We’d love to see them! @JC_KSR


8 leftovers from a wild weekend in Cleveland

CBR3c5yWwAALoOd

Like most of the BBN, I’m running on a lot of adrenaline and very little sleep, but as is the case in times like this, I can’t stop thinking about last night’s win. Here are some leftover thoughts that have been running through my head since Aaron’s three with 3:15 left…

I keep coming back to that picture of Tyler Ulis

I have about a million pictures on my phone from the postgame celebrations last night, but this one of Tyler may be my favorite. While Aaron Harrison, Karl Towns, and Andrew had the most obvious heroics last night, Ulis’ three with 5:56 left was huge. Ulis’ time in the spotlight will come next year, but his leadership is essential to this squad right now. In the locker room, Ulis was blunt with his criticism of Kentucky’s performance, telling reporters he was not satisfied.

“I don’t like this win at all, honestly. I’m happy we won, but I feel like we have a lot of work to do,” Ulis said. “I don’t like how we won, I don’t like how we played as a team. We just have to get together and motivate ourselves and try to play better.”

With the net around his neck and his phone blowing up, Ulis wanted to make sure his message was clear: not done, and not satisfied.

Speaking of Tyler…

…Did anyone notice that Tyler told Aaron to shoot it?

Hey, Drew, did you know Andrew told Aaron to shoot it too?

The scene in the Renaissance Hotel lobby was something

Drew and I wrapped up our postgame duties around 1:30 a.m., and because my flight back to Nashville left at 6:15 a.m. and there was no way I was getting any sleep anyways, my husband and I joined the party in the media hotel lobby. Plenty of UK fans stuck around after the postgame show to revel in the stunning win, and it was a great scene that became more bizarre as the night morning went on. At one point, the entire hotel bar erupted in CATS chants and somehow, we found the only Wisconsin fan in Cleveland, who entertained us by singing the fight song and letting us try on her pageant crown. Add in an appearance from Saul Goodman’s Ohio doppelganger, an Uptown Funk singalong and a bottle of Jefferson’s Ocean and you had a recipe for one of my favorite nights as a Kentucky fan. I can’t wait to recreate it in Indy.

Want to see all of the postgame action from the floor in Cleveland?

I had the GoPro running during all of the postgame celebrations, and EJ Floreal’s takeover was awesome enough, but if you want to see an unedited version of what happened before that, enjoy. There’s a lot of fun, random behind-the-scenes stuff, including what may be Andrew Harrison praying around the :23 mark. It’s not as clean or pretty as KyWildcatsTV’s masterpieces, but I thought I’d share it with you all anyways.

I love everything about this picture

CBSbTu-UgAA3T6G

John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, and Willie Cauley-Stein talked to the CBS crew during halftime of the Louisville/Michigan State game, and even though they didn’t say anything new or newsworthy, this screencap is enough to make me happy. From Cal’s smug smile to Andrew’s indifference and Willie’s total #TeamNF hair, it’s clear the Cats have some swag. And no, I don’t know where you can buy Andrew’s jacket.  

Marcus Lee says Cal has a “scared money don’t make no money” dance

Remember when Calipari said “scared money don’t make no money” after the Cats beat Georgia in Athens? Of course you do. That Young Jeezy lyric has been everywhere since then, and last night, Marcus Lee said that Cal says it all the time. “He says it like once a week. That’s his go-to,” Lee said. “He gets mad and he does a little dance with it.” Wait, what? Cal does a little dance with it? “Yeah, it’s like a scary little dance.” Sadly, Lee wouldn’t demonstrate it for me. “No! I’m not getting in trouble for that.”

Two great couch pictures NOT from State Street

Apparently there were a few couch fires last night on State Street, but I was sent two different sorts of couch pictures that I like a lot more. First, a couch fire cake from Whole Foods:

@TonyCecil

And the second a miniature couch that  set on fire in Alabama:

@IsaacMingoWX

Love it. Here’s a video of the mini couch fire:

It’s finally here

I’ll be honest: I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Michigan State finally took down Louisville. Next week will be stressful enough, the last thing we need is the Louisville rivalry on top of it all. It’s going to be a long week of waiting, but take solace in the fact that the moment we’ve been waiting for is now a reality. No more knocking on wood when we talk about Indy or living in fear of jinxing UK’s fourth Final Four in five years. The most important basketball is still to play, and ready or not, the final chapter is finally here.


Kentucky and Wisconsin will tip at 8:49 ET

Kentucky has been awarded the late tip once again, this time for its Final Four contest with Wisconsin. The rematch of last year’s semifinal game will begin at 8:49 ET and will be televised on TBS.

Michigan State and Duke/Gonzaga (looking like Duke) will kick off the doubleheader in Indianapolis at 6:09 ET.

Beat the Badgers.


Recap: Kentucky Knocks Off #1 LSU

@UKBaseball

@UKBaseball

Following their exciting 5-4 win over #1 LSU on Friday, Kentucky beat the Tigers 12-10 in 11 innings to win the series. Kentucky had to fight through some difficult deficits, but managed to pull out a hard-fought win over the nation’s number one team. The 2-1 series win over LSU showed that this team has an extreme amount of grit and a “refuse to lose” attitude.

The game appeared to be in Kentucky’s favor early. The Cats jumped on LSU starting pitcher Jake Godfrey in the second inning with four runs on five hits. Godfrey lasted only 1.2 innings before LSU head coach Paul Mainieri went to his bullpen. LSU’s bullpen held Kentucky’s offense in check while the Tigers scored six unanswered runs entering the seventh inning. JaVon Shelby hit an RBI double to score Evan White and cut the score to 6-5 entering the bottom of the seventh. Each time Kentucky would make a move, LSU would respond. Connor Hale and Kade Scivicque drove in runs to extend the Tigers’ lead to 8-5 entering the eighth inning.

The eighth inning is where Kentucky showed they would not go down without a fight. White drove in a pair of runs on an RBI double and Ka’ai Tom beat out a groundout at first to score the tying run. Following a second inning home run, Dorian Hairston delivered yet again. The junior hit into a fielder’s choice that scored the go-ahead run and gave UK a 9-8 lead headed to the bottom half of the eighth. After a dominating performance against LSU on Friday, Kentucky turned to Zach Strecker to pitch late in the game. The Tigers began to feast off of Strecker in the bottom of the eighth. An RBI single by Mark Laird followed by a sacrifice fly by Bregman gave LSU a 10-9 lead through eight. Kentucky would be down to their last three outs in the ninth with Storm Wilson, Marcus Carson and Riley Mahan due up.

LSU reliever Parker Bugg got Wilson to fly out and Carson to ground out to begin the inning. With a one run lead and two out in the ninth, Bugg needed to retire Mahan to end the game. Mahan hit a line drive to left that LSU’s left fielder dove and missed. The ball continued to roll to the wall with Mahan trucking around the bases and scoring on an inside the park home run to tie the game. LSU could not respond in the bottom of the ninth and the game went to extra innings tied at 10.

Due to SEC Travel Regulations, no inning could start after 3:05 CT. If the score was still deadlocked, the game would end in a tie. After a scoreless tenth inning, the 11th inning began just a few minutes before the curfew. Kentucky fans were elated to see this be a benefit for the Cats. In his only at-bat of the game, Greg Fettes hit a leadoff home run to give Kentucky an 11-10 lead in the 11th. The home run was Fettes’ third on the year and first since Opening Day. Kentucky added a much-needed insurance run on a Tom RBI single. After the top of the 11th, Kentucky led 12-10 over LSU.

The Tigers would have to score three runs to win and two to tie in the bottom half of the inning. Kentucky closer Spencer Jack finished off a fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 12th to wrap up a 12-10 win for the Cats. 

Box Score

More to follow on Kentucky’s upset win over LSU.

@TreyHuntsmanKSR

 


Good Luck KWiltj!

wiltjergonzaga

HUGE game starting right now for Gonzaga and Kyle Wiltjer, who seek a Final Four berth. Gonzaga looks to be the final piece of the Final Four puzzle with Kentucky, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. The Zags are playing Duke right now on CBS.

Best of luck to Kyle and the Zags (BEAT DUKE!)


Louisville fans won’t be joining us in Indianapolis

uofl

Huge shout-out to Tom Izzo and Michigan State for keeping the streets of Indianapolis clean next weekend for the Big Blue takeover. The Spartans sent Louisville home from the tournament with an overtime victory in the Elite Eight.

The Cards led by eight at halftime and had won 94 consecutive games when winning by six or more at the half. That streak ended today as Michigan State punched a ticket to the Final Four.

Now, go Zags.


Kentucky is a six-point favorite over the Badgers

The know-it-alls out in Las Vegas have spoken and Kentucky is a six-point favorite over Wisconsin in the Final Four. The Cats were favored by one in this same game a year ago, and won by one. Big Blue Nation would love to see another push in 2015.

Kentucky is 1-3 against the spread in the tournament, the lone cover being the dismantling of West Virginia.

The odds to win the title are now 2/3, according to VegasInsider.com.


A cool time lapse video of the crowd at State Street last night

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 2.34.49 PM

Last night was a good preview of what next weekend will probably be like on State Street. The folks at WKYT are on it, and posted this excellent time-lapse video of the crowd after UK’s thrilling win. Thankfully, it seemed like everyone behaved themselves.

Here’s another time lapse of the crowds on State Street that continue to grow as Big Blue fans celebrate the Wildcats’ win over Notre Dame. #WKYTMarchTo9 http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/Kentucky–297909711.html

Posted by WKYT on Saturday, March 28, 2015


Listen to Ashley Judd on last night’s postgame show

Ashley Judd made a surprise appearance on the KSR postgame show in the lobby of The Renaissance last night. Have a listen as she joins Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond and a ton of Kentucky fans as they celebrate UK’s exhausting win over Notre Dame.

No radio equipment was damaged, although Ashley gave it her best when she destroyed the table with her excitement.


Brian Long burned a twitter troll

 

A twitter troll tweeted Bring Long this:

And Brian Long replied a perfectly as you can: