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March 5th, 2015

CBS NCAA Tourney Prep Notes, 3/4/15

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From: Steve Carlson, Production, CBS Sports
To: Sean McManus, President, CBS Sports
Date: March 4, 2015
Subject: Tournament production bumpers/teasers

Sean,
You wanted me to report back to you on the progress for the bumpers and teaser promos for the upcoming NCAA Tourney coverage. I’ve checked in with all teams and have some updates. I think you’re going to be really pleased with the creativity and outside-the-box thinking our teams have done on this project.

1. Coach K’s people are being difficult about the shots we have of him. They don’t want him to come off as having a “mad face” or look “mean.” We are currently fixing his eyes in CGI to make sure he looks less threatening. You won’t be able to tell the difference.

2. From the regular season, we have a file folder of nearly 800 clips of Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell sinking a shot, turning around and getting low to the ground and screaming at the camera dramatically as he runs down the court. Of course we’ll run one of these going into every commercial break when Louisville plays, as usual, but we’re going to have to find other ways to burn off these clips otherwise. Perhaps we can superimpose a handful of TD Ameritrade brochures into his fists for one, if that would please the sponsors?

3. Some great marketing/coach tie-ins this season: Mark Few has agreed to liberally apply Nivea for Men face lotion during the games, Roy Williams will eat out of a mason jar of Red Mill™ Gluten-Free sorghum at time outs and Mike Bray has sold advertising space on the band collar of his shirt to a company that makes band-collar shirts.

4.  Since the big story this season is Kentucky’s big dominance over the season and into the tournament, we’ve been working on some graphics for our analysis pieces and musical clip packages. Team has some good ideas:

-A stylish montage of each of the two Kentucky platoons shooting then cutting to a shot of a basketball goal comically overstuffed with basketballs because the team has shot so many, then the backboard and rim explodes into confetti spelling out “NCAA Tourney on CBS.”

-A clip of John Calipari devouring a large rotisserie chicken with his bare hands, stuffing it into his mouth to show his dominance as a coach. The rotisserie chicken is other teams.

-Superimpose crowns onto the heads of UK players. This signifies that they are the kings. Of basketball, or of a fictional land where basketball is a thing people can own and govern.

-We make all the basketballs Kentucky players dribble look like earths. We can do this with a Microsoft paint program. This means that they are really good and the world is their oyster, and the oyster is a basketball.

-A graphic where John Calipari loads his team into a bus and the bus starts down a highway toward the sun, and then the bus flies up into the sky and directly into the sun, and the sun explodes, and then night falls over the planet and most people die as the human race decreases its fossil fuels and resources,  but those who live forge a new world underground in caves along streams and underground rivers until one day they walk out of their cave holes and look up into the sky, blinking and shielding their eyes because they’ve lived underground for so long, and then the dark clouds of ash which have covered the earth in darkness suddenly part and there’s  big “NCAA on CBS” logo in the sky and animals come out of the woods and flowers begin to bloom again because life is new again and it’s time for basketball!

Let me know what you think.

-Steve

 

 


Willie Davis nails the building anxiety in the BBN

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

We’re all snowed in today, so why not turn off the TV and read another great article about the Cats? The latest feel-good read comes from Willie Davis at Insider Louisville, who writes that even though Kentucky has become “the action-hero basketball team,” the stress of an undefeated season is beginning to take its toll:

So why does the best start in school history bring as much anxiety as it does elation? Because, in spite of our reputation, even the craziest Kentucky Wildcat fans are tethered to reality. We know that this team is not made of gods, but men. Children almost, really, many of whom are still on their starter tattoos. As awe-inspiring as it is to watch Willie Cauley-Stein gallop down the court with nothing between him and the goal but a five-foot-six defender, we know he could flub the landing. He’s human, and if a swarm of anonymous ninjas snuck onto half-court at Rupp Arena and started kicking him, chances are he’d fall down.

Not if Willie’s super stare hits them first, right? Davis nails the building anxiety in the BBN, so go check out the rest of his piece at Insider Louisville.

[InsiderLouisville]


Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, and Isaiah Briscoe make Jordan Brand Classic rosters

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Congrats to Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, and Isaiah Briscoe on being named to the Jordan Brand Classic rosters. All three of UK’s signees will play on the East Team, along with UK targets Jaylen Brown, Thomas Brown, Cheick Diallo, and Caleb Swanigan. Malik Newman, Ivan Rabb, and Stephen Zimmerman will play on the West Team.

The game takes place on April 17 in the Barclays Center in New York and will be televised at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. We’ll be watching.


Anthony Davis returns from injury in monster fashion

Photo by Nola.com

Last night was Anthony Davis’ first game back since injuring his shoulder and it looks like he hasn’t missed a step. Davis had 39 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocks and three steals in the Pelicans’ win over the Detroit Pistons.

Davis missed five games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder and the Pelicans only decided to play him 90 minutes before game time, but he returned in dominating fashion, coming four points shy of his career high and setting the Pelicans’ record for career blocks with 437…in only his third season. Monster.

Watch the highlights:


Jerry Meyer’s sources say it’s not looking good with Malik Newman

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A few weeks ago, it looked like Kentucky was in a VERY good position with five-star combo guard Malik Newman. Today, maybe not so much. 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer is citing sources that say LSU has stormed ahead in Newman’s recruitment to the point that one source says there’s “no way” Newman comes to Kentucky:

“I’m hearing from more than one source that there’s no way it’s Kentucky,” Meyer said. “They might be right or they might be wrong, but (playing point guard) is a huge issue.”

Newman can play either shooting guard or point guard, and with Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Ulis presumably in the lineup next season, the point is looking pretty packed. Also, Newman is close with Ben Simmons, the number one recruit in the class that’s committed to LSU:

“Malik has a really strong relationship with the incoming recruits at LSU,” Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “He’s dead-set on playing point guard. LSU gives him the best opportunity for him to be the guy at the point.

Newman took an unofficial visit to LSU for the Kentucky game last month, and recently said that both Simmons and Briscoe are recruiting him hard. Don’t count Kentucky out just yet; last night, Kenny Payne watched Newman play, along with assistants from Kansas, Mississippi State, and NC State.

To read more, check out the Herald-Leader.


Spend your snow day with KSR (Thursday Show Thread)

Good morning friends, and welcome to the Thursday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Winter Storm Thor dumped over a foot of snow on Lexington and Louisville, but that’s not stopping Matt, Ryan, and Shannon from bringing you two hours of KSR, even if Shannon had to stay at the Red Roof Inn across from the station last night. How was it? Tune in to find out. They’ll also talk about the Cats, 30-0, and Curt Schilling.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.

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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: More Evidence that Malone, Lanter, and Long should start….

I am making this my passionate plea this week to see Sam Malone, Todd Lanter, and Brian Long on the floor for the opening tip on Saturday.  First of all, I am simply calling for those guys to get 1-2 minutes of action, maybe 2 or 3 possessions.  They will be playing with 2 all-American caliber players and Florida stinks on ice.  Point being, the downside is very small.  Worst case scenario is UK is down 4-6 points.  Frankly, if you would be worried if UK is down 4 points just 2 minutes into the game, then you need to enjoy this season a little more.  But for me, the program has been changed drastically over the last 6 years, and almost always for the better.  Calipari is ahead of the curve in nearly every way.  And frankly, he has started 9 of 10 seniors so far during his tenure, and Twanny Beckham was injured his senior year.  So it’s not as if Calipari has set a standard of not starting the seniors.  I don’t understand why just because UK is 30-0 now means that this very minimal amount of playing time to honor the guys in the program should be trashed.

Just look at the history of starting the seniors on Senior Day, starting with Rick Pitino:

1990 (1/2): Derrick Millar started, Michael Parks did not

1991 (1/1): Reggie Hanson started

1992 (4/4): Sean Woods, John Pelphrey, Richie Farmer, and Deron Feldhaus all started

1993 (1/3): Dale Brown started, Junior Braddy and Todd Svoboda did not (Svoboda did not play)

1994 (1/3): Travis Ford started, Jeff Brassow and Gimel Martinez did not (Rodney Dent was injured mid-season)

1995 (1/2): Andre Riddick started, Chris Harrison did not

1996 (2/3): Tony Delk and Walter McCarty started, Mark Pope did not

1997 (1/2): Anthony Epps started, Jared Prickett did not (Derek Anderson was injured mid-season)
UNDER PITINO: 12 of 20 seniors started on Senior Day

1998 (3/3): Cameron Mills, Allen Edwards, and Jeff Sheppard all started

1999 (3/3): Scott Padgett, Heshimu Evans, and Wayne Turner all started

2000 (2/2): Jamaal Magloire and Steve Masiello both started

2001 (1/1): Saul Smith started

2002 (2/2): Tayshaun Prince and JP Blevins both started

2003 (3/3): Jules Camara, Keith Bogans, and Marquis Estill all started

2004 (4/5): Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels, Cliff Hawkins, and Antwain Barbour all started, Matt Heissenbuttel did not

2005 (2/2): Chuck Hayes and Josh Carrier both started

2006 (4/4): Patrick Sparks, Ravi Moss, Preston LeMaster, and Brandon Stockton all started

2007 (3/3): Woo Obrzut. Bobby Perry, and Sherray Thomas all started
UNDER TUBBY: 27 of 28 seniors started on Senior Day

2008 (2/2): Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley both started

2009 (1/1): Jared Carter started
UNDER GILISPIE: 3 of 3 seniors started on Senior Day

2010 (3/3): Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, and Mark Krebs all started

2011 (1/1): Josh Harrelson started

2012 (2/2): Eloy Vargas and Darius Miller both started

2013 (1/2): Julius Mays started, Twanny Beckham did not (Beckham was somewhat injured)

2014 (2/2): Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson both started
UNDER CALIPARI: 9 of 10 seniors started on Senior Day

Pitino wasn’t huge on starting the seniors but since Tubby took over, 39 of 41 seniors have started on Senior Day.  That includes 2 teams that were going for undefeated conference records, 2 different national title teams, and 4 Final Four teams.  If those teams could do it, this one certainly can.  As evidenced by the comments section yesterday, the fanbase seems to be strongly behind honoring those 3 guys with the start on Saturday.  I only provide the above examples as proof that these 3 deserve it.  There are several walk-ons on that list, many players who did not play, and in all examples it did not cause UK to lose any games.  Last year, Cal started both Hood and Polson during a time when UK was firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble and instead of it hurting the Cats, those guys actually responded with strong performances.  Who knows what might happen Saturday?


Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets of the Day

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Our premium sandwich is made using only wild-caught North Pacific Cod, hand-cut from a whole fillet so it’s tender and deliciously flakey. It’s then lightly coated in a crispy, panko breading and topped with a creamy, dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles. Pair it with Natural Cut fries and a drink of your choice for a meal that’s definitely the catch of the day.
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You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtopten. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:

#10 Oscar Combs

ohhhhhh, Oscar. How we love you.

 

 

 

 

 

#9 Andrew Demrow

Boooooo.

 

 

 

 

 

#8 Keith Frank

Numbers are hard.

 

 

 

 

 

#7 W(x30)ildcats

When you’re that tall everything is a seat.

 

 

 

 

 

#6 Tod Lanter

Well. That’s not scary.

 

 

 

 

 

#5 Lyndsey Slone

Sign this into law, Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Matthew Terry

We can’t lose Crean. He gives us such joy. =[

 

 

 

 

 

#3 Your Drunk Caddy

Hate that ‘tradition’, but RIP.

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Ryan Grogan

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an actual news article.

 

 

 

 

 

#1 Clifton Whitmer

I don’t know how he would have figured that out. No one knows that.

 

 

@Sealey_KSR


March 4th, 2015

Another Snowstorm’s Wednesday Night News and Views

© Dale Zanine

© Dale Zanine

Good evening, friends, and greetings from a sleety Nashvegas. Nashville escaped the brunt of the snow that’s buried the Bluegrass in the past month, but Winter Storm Thor may have its way with Music City tonight. It might even break the Snowdome, which has protected the city from measurable snow (over 1″) for over four years. But that’s just tiddlywinks for you guys. Seriously, I’ll stop complaining. Put down the snow shovel and back away, please.

The latest snow storm prompted Eli Capilouto to cancel classes again, but at this point, the joy isn’t as real as it was a few weeks ago. Now, the snow isn’t beautiful and fun anymore, it’s a nuisance, but I’m sure that won’t stop students from having a Snow Day party tonight.

Meanwhile, I’m about to fall asleep after one glass of wine, so let’s roll through the highlights of a very, very busy day…

Cal and Willie are Naismith finalists

Congrats to John Calipari and Willie Cauley-Stein, who were named Naismith Coach of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year finalists, respectively. Cal is one of 15 finalists for the award, along with Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan. If Kentucky goes undefeated, even just in the regular season, he has to win it right? Of course that means he won’t.

Cal will also have his jersey retired at UMass

It was a double big day for Cal, who found out he will have his jersey retired at UMass next season. The ceremony will be part of the 20-year anniversary of his 1995-96 Final Four squad. How did Calipari celebrate the news? By flying to Massachusetts…to watch his son Brad play and do some recruiting. After getting back to Lexington late last night from a crazy road win. The man never sleeps. Neither do his players, because…

…The team made it to their 8 a.m. classes today

Tweet of the Day goes to Evan Crane, who works in the UK Media Relations office and spotted Karl Towns going to his class around 7:45 this morning. After getting back to Lexington late last night from a crazy road win. Even better, John Robic said on the coach’s show that the team “really busted their tails today and had a great workout” to boot. These kids…as Jay Bilas said, they’re ruining the national media’s narrative.

UK will be in Nike gear through 2025

Bad news, adidas and Under Armour fans, good news everyone actually reading this: the Cats will be wearing Nike for at least the next ten years. Today, UK and Nike agreed to a $30 million extension through 2025, making UK’s deal the 7th most lucrative for any Nike school. Huzzah!

The ratings for UK/Georgia were massive

As the kids and Neal Brown say, Kentucky is the show, and there is no better proof than last night’s ratings. 2.8 million people watched last night’s game, making it the fifth most watched this season behind UNC/Duke, UK/UofL, Duke/UVA, and UK/Florida. In fact, five of Kentucky’s games rank in the top ten most-watched college basketball games this season:

We the show.

This quote from Cal about Tyler and Andrew makes me happy

When asked if his team turned to Andrew Harrison last night, Calipari had this reponse:

“Tyler really has a lot of confidence in Andrew. Tyler probably has more confidence in Andrew than anybody on the team. When I say to him, ‘Who do you want with you in the second half?’ he’ll say Andrew. Never blinks. ‘I want Andrew out there with me.’ So it’s him, Andrew and Devin. That’s why I like those two together because they both can score, they both can play the one.”

There they go again, ruining that narrative.

Let’s pause for a few seconds to watch Calipari’s hair jiggle

Because that’s how stressful things got last night.

There was also a YAHTZEE today: 3-star OT Luke Fortner

The 6’5″ 278 lbs. Ohio native is Kentucky’s 14th commitment in the 2016, class, which ranks fourth nationally. Fortner is Marrow’s ninth commitment in the class, further proof he’s been on a tear since turning down Michigan. Fortner visited Kentucky most recently for Junior Day and hinted that Kentucky is building a pretty fantastic class for 2016. #InMarrowWeTrust In bad football news…

Reese Phillips ruptured his Achilles today

I knew I felt a sympathy pain as I passed through Chattanooga. The backup QB will miss spring football, leaving Patrick Towles and Drew Barker as the only scholarship quarterbacks left. Remember, spring practice starts Saturday.

John Short called in to The Paul Finebaum Show today

I didn’t hear John’s call, but I turned the show on in time to hear Finebaum call him “a Kentucky legend”:

Next time, Pawwwwl will know to call him a great American.

Blue got in to Louisville/Notre Dame tonight

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Okay, it was black, but someone has to tell the dirty birds about decent basketball, right?


Isaiah Briscoe’s latest mixtape is impressive

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The future Cat just wrapped up his season in impressive fashion. Let’s take a break to appreciate his latest mixtape:


“We Ask You Wednesday” Vol. 35

(EHarmony.Uk.com)

 

The season is on the home stretch now, and the folks here at KSR love getting your input on things… relevant and bizarre. We have to get a little creative around here sometimes.Earlier this summer I started a weekly series called “We Ask You Wednesdays,” that brought in some great responses from many readers via Twitter.

Each week, the question will change and we will hit on a variety of topics, mostly UK-related… but you never know. Each week the best responses will make it on to the website.  This week’s twenty ninth volume of the “We Ask You Wednesday” allowed Kentucky fans to answer the following question via Twitter in 140 characters or less:  WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE (JOHN CALIPARI, PLAYERS, MEDIA, ETC.) IN THE CALIPARI ERA?

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One of my personal favorites….Liggins to West Virginia the year after they beat Kentucky and did the John Wall dance. 

DORON, LMFAO!!!

BEST ANSWER OF THE WEEK:

BEST USE OF A MIDDLE NAME OF THE WEEK:


Young UK fan made an “All About Them Cats” music video

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Just when I thought to myself, “You know, it’s been almost three whole days since someone made a song about UK basketball and uploaded it to YouTube,” this young UK fan comes through with “All About Them Cats.”

Look out, Taylor Swift.


UK Fans of the Day Want a Couple Quick Notes

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Let me start this post by thanking all of you for the tremendous feedback we have gotten on the new KSR app.. Folks seem to really like it and you guys have been great with all your comments. We spent a lot of time trying to make it right and I think we have done a pretty good job with it so I am glad people seem to like it. We hope to continue to make it better in the weeks/months to come and by next season, it will be an even bigger part of your UK Gameday experience.

A couple of notes:

UK extended its deal with Nike for eight more years at a total cost of $30 million. With the two years that were remaining on the current deal, that means UK will be a Nike school until at least 2025, thus meaning no awful Adidas gimmicks in these parts. Some have asked what those numbers mean and it basically means that UK will get a cash payment of a little over half of that $30 million over the course of the eight years and the rest goes for free equipment for all the sports. It is a very common deal that you see at virtually every school and it is the 7th largest of any Nike school (football schools tend to get more for obvious reasons). Adidas and Under Armour pay more than Nike to their schools (like Louisville for instance), but then you are stuck wearing Adidas gear…and who wants that.

— It has gone underreported due to the basketball madness, but Kentucky now has 14 commitments in the 2016 class, an absurdly high number. When one considers that a class can only have 25 players, if all these commits were to stick, then UK would be over halfway done with the class and we are just a little under a year from Signing Day. Of course, that isn’t how this usually works, as we learned this year. Decommitments can happen and my guess is this early rush is a response to last season. Kentucky is trying to find its talent and get commitments early, but also allow themselves the time and resources to have backup options. Of the 14 current commitments, nine are from Ohio, further showcasing how this program is basically becoming Southern Ohio in the football recruiting world.

— We are really good at basketball. I thought last night’s win was the most impressive yet in conference play, because of the unique circumstances of the environment. Georgia is a good team, was up 9 on their home court and had the crowd in a frenzy. Yet, Kentucky fought back at two important moments (down 9 and Andrew scores 7 points in 23 seconds to get UK to 2 and then down 6 with 5:30 left) to get the victory. That is the most hostile environment that Kentucky will face for the rest of the season and they handled the challenge without losing their poise. As Dan Lebatard said on ESPN today, it is fun to watch a great team turn it on when they have to and find another gear. UK did that last night and the result was a great win and having the stage set for one more game to history.

— The UK/Georgia game did a Huge rating for a random SEC game and won the night on cable for sports. Here are the list of the ten highest rated college BB games on cable this year:

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Notice a theme? Five of the ten highest rated games are UK games. Duke has four, which showcases once again that when it comes to ratings, UK and Duke are at the top of college basketball and no one else is close. Throw in the fact that the three highest rated CBS games are all UK games (UNC, Arkansas and UCLA) and…as Neal Brown would say, we are the show.

Just so you know, Saturday is going to be a circus at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile at Indiana, they have this:

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Sucks to be a Hoosier


Eight leftovers from a thrilling trip to Georgia

TeamGa

After 30 hours, 600 miles, one win, and probably three gallons of caffeine, I am back in Nashville from Athens. I’ll admit I didn’t expect this trip to be quite as thrilling as it was, and even though I may have aged twenty years in the process, I think Kentucky’s dramatic win has me more excited about this team than any 30-point blowout could.

The scene at the arena after the game last night was frantic, so I have a lot of leftovers to dish out before I crash. Let’s get started…

Kentucky survived the perfect storm

Since the beginning of conference play, the Georgia game in Athens has been circled as a trap game on most of our schedules. The rout of Arkansas dulled the hype quite a bit, but Josh Hopkins the worrywart was right: UK had its hands full last night. It started to look like the perfect storm. Georgia fans were surprisingly confident about their chances, showing up early and being LOUD throughout the night. Senior Nemanja Djurisic played out of his mind, scoring 18 points and pulling gritty little Georgia along like an old Serbian bear. Somehow, Georgia was able to crack Kentucky’s impenetrable defense and score in the post while also confounding the Cats on offense. During their big run in the second half, Georgia couldn’t miss and I’ll be honest, JJ Frazier’s NBA three felt like a dagger; however, as they have all year, Kentucky found a way to win. That’s why they don’t need to lose a game. That’s why it may be time to start throwing around the d-word and the f-word. (Destiny and fate, you potty mouths.)

Andrew accepting the Bill Keightley MVP Award from the Greater Atlanta UK Alumni Club last night (Photo @UKAlumni)

Stone Cold Swaggy Andrew

If Djurisic was Georgia’s old Serbian bear, Andrew Harrison was Kentucky’s bulldog. With Georgia up by two with 2:38 left in the first half, Andrew scored 7 points in 26 seconds. Andrew’s been on a tear in the past month, but he kicked it into another gear during that stretch. The normally stoic point guard gritted his teeth, motioned to the UK crowd, and clapped his hands in the Georgia players’ faces, essentially daring them to come at him. After the game, Karl Towns told me that when Andrew’s playing like that–in Stone Cold Killer mode–the rest of the team never loses its confidence. Cal said that Tyler Ulis has been especially inspired by Andrew’s progress. It’s been a long, hard two years for Andrew, but he’s emerged an even better leader than we dreamed he could be.

There was a whole lot of random in that gym last night

From Nemanja Djurisic’s bizarre parents to Bill Belichick, Charles Barkley, Ashley Judd and the random older Georgia fan doing jumping jacks the entire game, there was a lot of random stuff in Stegeman last night. There was a buzz around the arena an hour before tip, with fans lining up to get a selfie with Jay Bilas and ESPN cameras scuttling around the court like beetles to capture every second. Call it Kentucky’s traveling circus.

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Meeting Charles Barkley was really cool

Sorry Jay, Ashley, and Belichick, but the coolest celebrity appearance of the night had to be Charles Barkley. Twitter being Twitter, I didn’t even realize Barkley was in the arena until I saw someone tweet a picture of him, so I immediately stood up and looked for him, finally spotting him in a crowd of fans and security guards. If this job has taught me anything, it’s to seize moments like this, so I maneuvered my way across the arena to his section. He was surrounded by three security guards who were turning people and their camera phones away, but I kept my head up and snuck up to the row above him. Shoutout to the super nice Georgia fan who tapped Charles on the shoulder and moved aside for me, and all the shoutouts to Charles for agreeing to take a picture with a starstruck blogger. He couldn’t have been nicer, and I’ll always look at that picture with a smile.

Blue didn’t just get in, it took over

The Big Blue Nation always puts in impressive showings on the road, but this season has been a different animal. Kentucky fans are traveling to each road venue in droves, desperate for the chance to see this team in action. Grantland’s Mark Titus likened it to a religious experience, and he’s right; each Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the Big Blue Nation has made pilgrimages across the South to witness history. Come rain, come snow, come sleet, the BBN is there, praising, prodding, and picking up the Cats when they need it the most. 

Last night’s UK crowd was especially loud, starting “Go Big Blue” chants as soon as the game began. I took plenty of videos (seriously, six GBB videos on my phone) and I know some came across on TV, but the chants were deafening in person. My favorite came in the game’s final seconds, when Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis motioned to the crowd to get even louder: 

A video posted by Tyler Thompson (@mrstylerksr) on

We’re just getting started, bro. If the regular season was church, next week’s SEC Tournament will be our revival.

The “March shakes” are back

I feel like I spent the entire month of March and first week of April last year shaking. UK’s improbable tournament run and Aaron Harrison’s flair for the dramatic gave me something I’ve coined the “March shakes,” or the nervous, uncontrollable trembling one gets towards the end of a late game. A few hiccups aside, this season has been a breeze, but the shakes returned with a vengeance last night during Georgia’s second half run. My entire body succumbed to the shakes and I only had control over my fingers, and even then, I could only cap up and sway along to the live blog. That’s one thing I learned about the March shakes: you can’t stop them, you can only ride them out. Kind of like Kentucky this season.

The media swarm around the team right now is staggering

If you’ve heard it once over the last few weeks, you’ve heard it a million times: the media coverage around Kentucky is insane right now. The Cats are all over ESPN, and the Worldwide Leader took over Stegeman Coliseum last night. Jay Bilas, Brad Nessler, Shannon Spake AND Jeannine Edwards were there, along with countless cameramen, cables, and carts. I’m used to this zoo at places like Rupp, but at tiny Stegeman Coliseum, it became a circus.

Just so you guys know, normally at road venues, visiting teams do their press conferences in a press room with a table, microphone, and plenty of seats for reporters to set up their computers/cameras/etc. Georgia has that setup, but for some reason, John Calipari, Karl Towns, Andrew and Aaron Harrison all did their postgame media stuff in a small hallway outside the visitor’s locker room. The players each went to separate corners in the room and the media mobbed them to the point that the group around Karl blocked the door the players needed to use to exit the gym, which Marcus Lee loudly and hilariously blamed Karl for:

 

The protocol is kind of the same for player interviews at Rupp, so I’m used to it, but it got even crazier when Calipari came out. A pack of 20-30 reporters and cameramen swarmed around Cal so badly that he had to yell at everyone to back up five steps. And then five steps more. This shorty doesn’t enjoy being squished into armpits, so I stayed off to the side and slid my recorder in against the wall.

Buckle up

It’s only going to get crazier as we keep going. Everything: the media, the coverage, the nerves, the stakes, the shakes. When my mom asked me about my trip this afternoon, I told her last night was when it got real. For the most part, this season has been like a blissful sail on a pretty day–calm seas and sun everywhere. Now, the wind’s picking up and the water’s getting choppy, making everything exciting and terrifying. On Saturday, Kentucky can close the book on a historic regular season at home, one last warm fuzzy comfort before the madness begins.

The SEC Tournament starts in one week (one week!), and Nashville will be a Kentucky fan’s fantasyland. Someone needs to invent a TiVo/DVR for life, because I’m seriously going to need it. One day when I’m old and bored or maybe when the Cats aren’t as good, I’m going to want to relive these moments. Whether it’s Ryan Lemond crowdsurfing during the pregame show at Tin Roof Broadway (oh, this will happen), Aaron making another big shot, EJ Floreal performing the ritual pregame dance, or simply seeing Marcus Lee and Karl Towns playfully bicker, this season has been unlike any other, and we’re getting near the last chapter. Like with any great story, it’s bittersweet because the last thing I want is for this to end.


Five Spring Practice Storylines

Stoops-awesome-practice-pic

While the rest of the Big Blue Nation is distracted with basketball, the football team will be putting in work on the practice field, starting Saturday.  Without a Spring game, progress can only be dictated in practice.  Here’s a quick glimpse into what lies ahead.

1.  Are the redshirts ready?

Mark Stoops’ 2014 recruiting class was the best in school history, ranked #23 by 247Sports.  Some guys have already made themselves household names in the #BBN – Boom Williams, Blake Bone and Dorian Baker – but few of them even had the chance to see the field as true freshmen.  59% of the class redshirted – 16 of 27 – and their services will be needed immediately at important positions.  Not only will we get to write stories about how much Josh Krok has grown in the High Performance training system, but we’ll also talk about how difficult it will be for Denzil Ware to fill Bud Dupree’s shoes.

2.  Plugging holes in the defense

This is where many of the redshirts come into play.  The linebacker position last year was almost as soft as cookie dough, despite Josh Forrest’s incredibly high number of tackles (110).  Nico Firios and Dorian Hendrix will be called in for big hits frequently.  It’ll also be interesting to see how the dynamics of the defense work with Andy Buh back to working alongside D.J. Eliot and Mark Stoops.

The biggest question is at cornerback.  The Cats didn’t lose much at the position, but they lost to tall SEC receivers on the reg throughout 2014.  Can Cody Quinn and J.D. Harmon grow into into the position, or will it need to be a new guy like Jared Tucker or will the staff need to move Kendall Randolph wide?  We won’t know for awhile which way the position battle will turn, but improvement is certain with Stoops dedicated to putting in more personal time with the corners.

3.  Tighten Up

With ZERO production returning, it’s another important position relying on young talent.  Hopefully the words heard from afar about Daryl Long, C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart match their performance on the field this Spring.

4.  Is Patrick Towles the Quarterback for Shannon Dawson?

I certainly think so, but don’t be quick to forget how close the competition was last year.   Besides, nothing gets beat writers going quite like a hearty QB competition.

5.  Are the upperclassmen acting like upperclassmen?

Last year’s unsung heroes were the upperclassmen.  When young receivers faltered, Demarco Robinson and Javess Blue were prepared to make the plays needed to have a chance to win.  They don’t necessarily need to be the most difficult (like Javess’ one-handed snag against ULM), sometimes they’re the fundamental play (Demarco’s comeback that turned into a 60-yard TD against #1 Miss. State).

This season, Stoops’ original troops no longer get the benefit of the doubt for being the ‘new guys.’  Ryan Timmons can’t drop wide open passes (especially deep flags against Florida), Jordan Swindle can’t commit a dozen false starts and Jojo Kemp has to consistently and correctly hit open holes.  Having experienced shoulders to lean on can be the difference between five and eight wins.