Coach Cal was available for questions today before his team takes off for Atlanta and →
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:57 pm
According to Thomas Beisner, Mark Stoops will be the next Keeneland Maker’s Mark bottle soon. Beis posted this rendering of the bottle on Twitter earlier today.
What will they do when we win a bowl game? Stoops bourbon barrels?
UPDATE: A better view of the label, from @janetpattonhl…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:25 pm
So far, 11,500 tickets have been distributed to UK Football’s Spring Game, set for Saturday, April 26 at 3:30 p.m. On Monday, the tickets became available for season ticket holders and students, and now, the general public can get in on the fun. To get yours, head on over to Ticketmaster and use the promo code “WHYNOT” when prompted. The tickets are free, and the limit is six.
This year, capacity will be limited to 42,500 because of construction at Commonwealth Stadium, which means we won’t be able to break last year’s record of 50,831, but it will still be a blast, and the first time we’ll be able to see guys like Drew Barker, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Dorian Hendrix, Mikel Horton, and more.
Go on and getcha some:
I WANT UK SPRING GAME TICKETS
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:50 pm
Conference tournaments are starting all across the nation today, which means procrastinators everywhere have another excuse to avoid work and watch the games on their computer/mobile device. Because we’re basketball junkies too, I put together a viewing guide for the games throughout the day, starting with this afternoon’s slate. Here’s how to watch basketball during the day, just because we can:
Conference USA Tournament
PAC 12 Tournament
Feel free to discuss the games in the comments section.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:30 pm
In case you’ve missed all of the commercials, the SEC Network is coming to a TV near you this August. Today, the network announced its lead announcers: Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer. The two will be in the booth every Saturday, starting on August 28th for the Texas A&M at South Carolina game. Here’s the release from the SEC:
“Brent Musburger is a cultural icon who has been guiding fans through many of sport’s most spectacular moments for decades,” said John Wildhack, ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Production. “His big-game performance and unmistakable style will elevate our football coverage on the SEC Network. Serving as the definitive play-by-play voice for this major network launch represents an exciting new chapter in his legendary career and reinforces our commitment and investment in the SEC Network.”
Wildhack continued, “Jesse Palmer has quickly established himself as one of college football’s most insightful, entertaining and dedicated analysts. As a former SEC quarterback, he brings the perfect combination of playing experience and deep conference knowledge to the SEC Network. Partnering him with Brent on this new national platform will create a memorable booth for college football fans everywhere.”
Musburger was calling the national game of the week with Kirk Herbstreit, and it’s expected that Chris Fowler will take over that spot.
Odds Musburger’s making a pitch for Katherine Webb to be the sideline reporter?
Kentucky’s Julius Randle brought home a familiar piece of hardware Tuesday, winning SEC Freshman of the Year, marking the fifth straight year a Wildcat had won the award under John Calipari.
Even dating back prior to Calipari’s arrival, Patrick Patterson shared the honor with Nick Calathes, making six of the last seven years the SEC league office has mailed the trophy to Lexington.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©11:30 am
UK Hoops is getting ready to start their NCAA Tournament run, and on Monday, they’ll find out their path to the Women’s Final Four. Kentucky is actually hosting the first two rounds of the tournament in Memorial Coliseum, and with one of the regionals in Louisville and the Final Four in Nashville, this could be their best shot yet at making a big run.
To celebrate, the team is hosting a watch party for the Selection Show on Monday night at Memorial Coliseum starting at 6 p.m. Admission is free, and fans can join the team while they watch the show, which starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the big screens in the arena. Click here for more information.
The ticket office will also be open so you can buy tickets for the First and Second rounds. The games will be held Saturday, March 22 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET and Monday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Go UK Hoops.
Our man Rex Chapman has a stalker (and it’s not Josh Hopkins). Over on his new website iRex3.com, Rex tells readers about three 15-year-old fans whom he surprised with a pickup game back during his second year in the NBA (a favor for his mom), and how one of those fans turned creepy once they all met again about three years ago:
Flash-forward again to about three years ago (2011). I ran into one of The Nators – ALL GROWED-UP. I recognized him right away – even though he was now approaching 40-years of age. Looked just the same…He told me that if I was ever in northern Kentucky that I should look him up. I told him that if he was ever in Phoenix he should do the same. Then there was an awkward pause. I realized that there was no way he could reach-out to me – unless I gave him my phone number or email address. So as to not appear like a jackass, I gave him my phone number and said, “Just please don’t give this to anybody.”. He assured me that he wouldn’t.
Biggest mistake ever.
The fan now texts him around the clock, sending as many as 53 texts in a two hour period last night. At his wit’s end, Rex copied the conversation for readers on his blog and it’s both hilarious and very, very disturbing. Go check it out at iRex3.com.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©10:30 am
The SEC Tournament starts TONIGHT! If you’re headed to ATL, here’s all you need to know to keep up with the Cats and KSR:
10 a.m. – noon: KSR live from STATS (300 Marietta Street NW)
10 a.m. – noon: KSR live from STATS
2 p.m.: Greater Atlanta UK Alumni Club Pep Rally at the Hawk Walk at Philips Arena (Cost $15/person, $10/UK Students, children 10 and under free; first 500 fans will receive a FREE T-SHIRT)
4:30 p.m.: KSR pregame show (potentially live from STATS)
7 p.m.: Kentucky vs. LSU/Alabama
Approximately 10:30 p.m.: KSR postgame show live from STATS. Win or lose, we will party.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY: If UK wins, postgame shows will be at STATS (approximately 75 minutes after the game ends)
Right now, the weather forecast looks pretty good:
Perfects STATS patio weather if you ask me.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©9:55 am
Good morning, friends, and welcome to another edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. The SEC Tournament starts TONIGHT, which means we’ve got some serious previewing to do. Matt and Drew are still in Asheville enjoying the hippies and mountain views, and will be in studio this morning to talk about the Tournament and Kentucky’s chances before making the trek to Atlanta.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.
– That tweak, that tweak, that tweeaaaaaaak (Lauryn Hill voice)
– Seriously, what is that tweak?
– Much more…
KSR Affiliate List
WAIN (93.9 fm) Columbia
WHIR (1230 am) Danville
WCLU (1490 am) Glasgow
WHOP (1230am/95.3 fm) Hopkinsville
WJKY (1060 am) Jamestown
WLAP (630 am) Lexington
WFTG (1400 am) London
WKJK (1080 am) Louisville
WFMW (730 am/94.9 fm) Madisonville
WFTM (1240 am) Maysville
WKYM (101.7 fm) Monticello
WMSK (1550 am) Morganfield
WLME (102.7 fm) Owensboro
WKYH (600 am) Paintsville
WLSI (900 am) Pikeville
WPRT (960 am) Prestonsburg
WSFC (1240 am) Somerset
WTCW (920 am) Whitesburg
WBTH (1400 am) Williamson, WV
On Delay (ALL TIMES LISTED EASTERN)…
WBGN (1340 am) Bowling Green 11am-1pm
WMTL (870 am) Leitchfield 11am-1pm
WLBQ (1570 am) Morgantown 3-5 pm
WRIL (106.3 fm) Middlesboro Thur 8-10 pm
WPAD (99.5 fm/1560 am) Paducah 5-7 pm
WHAY (98.3 fm) Whitley City 2-4 pm
By Bryan the Intern on ©9:00 am
Taking Florida out of the equation, there is little doubt that LSU is probably the worst matchup for Kentucky in the league this season. The 2 games against the Cats proved that. An absolute beatdown in Baton Rouge (yes, it was) and then an incredibly tight game in Lexington that the Cats were lucky to win. I’ve heard it said but numerous UK fans that they wanted no part of LSU in the SEC Tournament. And normally, I would completely agree. Give me the easiest route to the SEC title as possible. But this year is special. This year I think the mentality should be:
BRING ON LSU!
Why would I want the Cats to play a team that is more likely to beat them than Alabama? Because this team needs challenges. They need as many of them as they can in Atlanta. I wouldn’t mind seeing Florida again. But for the time being, let’s focus on LSU. I want the Cats to see the Tigers again. First off, it will be a nice rubber match for UK. A chance to win the season series. But more importantly, what does this team need most right now? A confidence boost.
All the Cats have been hearing from fans is how bad a matchup LSU is. How we don’t want to see them again. How they can very well beat us again in Atlanta. That on top of all the struggles this team has faced over the last 3 weeks, and you have a team with a serious confidence issue. You have a team playing incredibly tentative right now. A team who is having doubts about it’s abilities at the worst possible time. But if UK could come out and beat a team people don’t think they would, that would go miles in helping fix the minds of these players.
Could the Cats lose again? Of course. Does that risk grow bigger against LSU? Of course. But if they can’t beat an NIT team like LSU in a key situation like the SEC Tournament, then it doesn’t really matter who they play does it? This team needs to play LSU again. It will tell us everything we need to know for the postseason.
So I say let’s root for LSU against Alabama on Thursday and then let’s see if the tweaks that Calipari has put in has any affect. And most of all, let’s see if this team can get over the mental problems that has surely plagued them over the last couple weeks. Might as well learn as soon as possible.
By Drew Franklin on ©11:00 pm
It’s that time of the year, folks, when Cats fans from all over the southeast get together for a weekend of basketball, fanfare, camaraderie and Golden Flake potato chips. It’s our annual Big Blue getaway with thousands of our best friends, most of whom we’ve never met before and will never see again. It’s the only time of the year we’ll willingly watch Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State, and the only time of the year we’ll drink Sunkist. It’s a little thing we call the SEC Tournament. And it starts on Wednesday.
This year Big Blue Nation will flood the mean and scattered streets of Atlanta for the tourney’s last stop in the city of Ludacris for at least another decade. The house that sparked UK’s unexpected Final Four run in 2011, welcomed a tornado in 2008, and saw back-to-back UK titles in ’98 and ’99 is passing the torch off to Nashville for nine of the next 11 years, plus two in Tampa. I hate goodbyes, and this is a big one.
If you’re one of the many making the trek to the ATL, we encourage you to join KSR at STATS not far from the dome for Thursday and Friday morning’s radio shows and Friday night’s postgame show. (Pregame show is TBD.) If you’re not one of the many making the trek to Atlanta, you should really consider it. It’s going to be a grand ol’ time and the Cats could really use your hollarin’. This weekend could potentially be the beginning of something great, and if it’s not and the basketball is a letdown, there will be plenty of blue clad shoulders to rest your head on. We’re in this together.
Sooooo… see you there?
That’s what I thought. Cats.
Tweak, tweak, tweakity, tweak, tweak, tweak.
I’m all tweaked out for the day (probably for the week) but you can catch Matt’s opinion on the tweak in the post just south of this one. We share a similar belief that the tweak is more of a motivator for the players than an actual adjustment to the offensive scheme. To me, and I could be 100 percent wrong here, Cal is using all of this tweak talk to convince his team “everything has changed” so they’ll enter the postseason with the confidence they once had. I think he’s playing mind games, and if you saw James Young and Julius Randle’s comments Tuesday, it might be working. They both said they expect elevated play on Friday.
Speaking of Tuesday comments, Calipari explained why he made said tweak now, during his pre-SEC press conference:
“Because it was very clear when you saw it. You run a business and do something for real and all of the sudden you have this business and something’s not working right and you can’t put your finger on it. You do a couple things and you try this and OK, and then something happens and you look and say, that was it. And I think they all kind of got it and, you know, and like I said, I’m just disappointed in me that I didn’t do it earlier. You know, why didn’t I catch this and why wasn’t I thinking in those terms? I think a lot of things this year, there were so many things that we were having to do to get individual players right and then get them together and then get them to fight through things; there were a lot of things. Now it’s, you know, let’s go, let’s do this.”
The Cats will be physical on defense.
If “tweak” was the word of the day, and it was, “physical” wasn’t far behind. We must’ve heard it 50 times on Tuesday. Cal said his players will be more physical defensively and they are working on bodying up since the officials haven’t been calling games as tight as originally expected.
“What we did yesterday, first thing was defensively it was physical, put your arms up, let me see your hands and then foul with your body,” he explained. “Do it on every drive and every post-up. For two reasons, one, we can play against it because that’s how everybody is playing now and I’m not just talking our league, I’m watching around the country. The second thing is if we get in a game where we’ve gotta play that way then we gotta have – we gotta play that way. You know, we went for a season saying hands off, don’t touch the body and it was, you know – obviously as each month and week went on, it got more and more physical. So basically we’re back to where we were a year ago when everybody said you foul on every possession to win. So we just had to practice that way.”
Kentucky wasted a lot of time early in the year adjusting to how the game was to be called in 2013-14, only to see the referees call it the same way they have been. If the refs are going to let ‘em play in March, the Cats might as well body up and play physical — make them blow the whistle.
Julius Randle is Calipari’s fifth SEC Freshman of the Year in five seasons.
Randle joins Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and DeMarcus Cousins in the UK basketball trophy cabinet as SEC Freshmen of the Year under Coach Cal. The power forward from Dallas was also named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team, an honor he shares with James Young, and First Team All-SEC. Young earned a spot on the conference’s second team.
UK watched Trinity’s Ray Spalding Tuesday night.
Coach Antigua was in Louisville to watch Trinity junior Ray Spalding help his Shamrocks to a regional championship and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen over top-ranked Ballard. Spalding, ranked No. 88 in the country and No. 1 in Kentucky according to 247Sports, was held to four points and nine rebounds in the win. The 6-foot-9 forward has an offer from Indiana and is catching heavy interest from the Cards.
The New York Daily News says Cal is a candidate for the Knicks job.
Kentucky is now 40-1 to win the NCAA title.
Once the favorite to hoist the Wooden National Championship trophy in 2014, your University of Kentucky Wildcats now have 40-1 odds out in lovely Las Vegas. That’s quite a difference from the 7/2 odds on Kentucky to win the title in the preseason. A $100 bet will pay out $4,000 if you were to get it in now, as opposed to the $350 you would win if you made the same bet last fall.
A woman was drawing on children at a Lexington Salvation Army.
From the @LexKYScanner Twitter account:
Report of a female at the Salvation Army approaching other people’s children and drawing on their faces with lipstick. LexPD en route.
We’ll stay on top of this one.
I’ll leave you with this video, just because.
By Matt Jones on ©10:00 pm
This is an easy one to forget but one that is on my list of all-time favorites. The 2010 Kentucky team beat up on Tennessee in Nashville and showcased some of the best features of that group. You have the dancing, the Bledsoe/Dodson shooting and the Cousins’ toughness. It is a fun watch and a memory of a time when a team had it clicking. Watch to get yourself ready for the weekend to come.
By Matt Jones on ©9:07 pm
Coming to you from Asheville, North Carolina, where they grow hippies like Idaho grows potatoes. The people watching in this play is fairly unbelievable and includes some of the odder scenes I have ever encountered. But everyone is nice, generally happy and accommodating and it is a good 2-day layover before the SEC Tournament. With that in mind, a few quick thoughts heading to Cat-lanta:
— I am not sure a word has ever gotten more play in a state than the word “tweak” got in Kentucky this afternoon. Calipari’s announcement last night on his radio show that he has found a tweak in the offense that could “change everything” had Big Blue Nation stirring today. Ever since that moment, folks have been guessing what said tweak could be and others have been assuming that no such tweak exists and writing off the whole thing to “Cal being Cal.” I of course have no idea if there has been a tweak or not, but I think it is likely Calipari is doing this to try and reset the game for his team going into postseason play. At this point, confidence may be his group’s biggest issue. Calipari apparently went before his team and apologized for not finding this tweak sooner and said that this can be the change that is necessary to make a move forward. At least with his team, there can be a belief that Calipari made a mistake (not them) and now they are headed in the right direction. It could all be for naught (and likely will be) but I think it is a smart move by a coach doing his best to try and get the bad vibes out of his players’ heads so they can focus on trying to reclaim their season over the next few weeks.
— Speaking of the SEC Tournament, the bracket in Atlanta is set up well for Kentucky to find its way to the Tournament finals. While everyone wanted to avoid LSU, a team that has given UK fits and is as physical as any in the conference, the rest of UK’s side is fairly convenient for the Cats. If they get past the LSU/Alabama winner, taking on Ole Miss or Georgia shouldn’t cause too many problems. The reality is that if Kentucky doesn’t play better than they have for the last two weeks, they won’t beat anyone and the draw won’t matter. But to have Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri end up on the other side (not to mention Florida), means that if Kentucky finds some kind of real tweak and plays closer to its potential, a spot in Sunday’s final shouldn’t be too much to ask.
— If Kentucky gets to the finals of the SEC Tournament, then I think the Cats would get a 6 seed, not a terrible place to be all things considered. Lose before that and I would say a #7 seed is likely in the cards. As much as any other year ever, a lot of the Tournament success will be based on sheer luck of the draw. There are some #2 seeds that I think are simply not very good (Villanova) and some 4/5 that could be great (Michigan State, Louisville, etc). What you are seeded matters less than who you are seeded against and thus we will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best on Selection Sunday.
— If you are going to Atlanta for the SEC Tournament, here is the schedule of events:
10 am: KSR Radio live from Stats
10 am: KSR Radio live from Stats
2-6 pm: UK Pep Rally like at the Phillips Center next to the Georgia Dome
After the Game: KSR Postgame Show with UK fans at Stats
In addition, the Atlanta Hawks have home games on Thursday vs the Milwaukee Bucks (and Brandon Knight), Saturday night (after the SEC Tournament games) vs the Denver Nuggets and next Friday versus the New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis and Darius Miller). They are offering discounts to UK fans for all these games by clicking on this link and using the promo code: CATLANTA. Check them out if you would like and see some more basketball.
— Finally, KSR is going a bit old school this weekend and bringing back the KSR LIVE RUNNING DIARY FROM THE SEC TOURNAMENT on Thursday. Drew, Aaron Flener and I will be doing what I used to do when the site first started…covering the tournament from the arena and focusing on all the side things going on (goofy pictures, people, etc). It will be a lot of old school KSR fun on the site and I hope you will tune in.
We head to Atlanta tomorrow and will be in the Georgia Dome in the KSR Suite tomorrow night. See you folks then!
By Ally Tucker on ©8:00 pm
A month ago, this entire conversation might have gone a lot different. In the last few weeks, some of the coaches in the SEC who were sitting on burning hot seats have cooled off a bit due to some big wins, or a string of wins. After a mediocre (or even terrible in many people’s eyes) overall season in the SEC, many of the coaches were the brunt of the criticism and blame for putrid performances by their teams and empty arenas across the south. With the SEC tournament just a few days away, standing as the last chance to prove anything one way or the other, it’s time to take a quick heat check on some of the seats of the coaches around the SEC.
Anthony Grant, Alabama (13-18, 7-11 SEC)
I think it’s safe to say that Anthony Grant coached his final game in Rupp Arena, at least as the head coach of the Crimson Tide. Grant’s career at Alabama started off with such promise, as he always had the Tide in the tournament or right there on the edge at the end of the season. Grant, known for his team’s stingy defense, was brought to Alabama with high expectations but never was able to get Alabama over the hump. Grant has probably seen the last of his days at Alabama.
Heat check: Boiling.
Mike Anderson, Arkansas (21-10, 10-8 SEC)
Anderson’s Arkansas team reeled off 6 straight SEC wins at the end of the regular season before dropping the finale to Arkansas. Although the Razorbacks aren’t the image of consistency right now and struggle out of the conference against marquee opponents, Anderson’s team is strong at home and they’ve shown signs of major improvement and promise for the future. Mike Anderson likely still has another year or two before he has to put up or shut up as far as taking Arkansas to the next level in the SEC.
Heat check: Luke warm
Tony Barbee, Auburn (14-15, 6-12 SEC)
Tony Barbee is in his 4th season at Auburn, and the Tigers have yet to have an overall record above .500. The Tigers have also finished no 10th, 14th and 12th in the SEC regular season over the last 3 years. Auburn hasn’t had more than 6 SEC wins since Barbee’s arrival. The fans aren’t showing up either…
Heat check: Boiling
Frank Martin, South Carolina (12-19, 5-13 SEC)
Martin hasn’t exactly made the splash South Carolina and SEC fans hoped for since his arrival from Kansas State. Martin’s team finished 2nd worst in the SEC standings, but a late season win over Kentucky might have bought Martin an inch of breathing room. Martin only has a 26-37 overall record and a 9-27 SEC record at USC in his 2 seasons. Martin will probably have 1 more season to improve what’s going on at South Carolina before his seat reaches the boiling point.
Heat check: Hot
Mark Fox, Georgia (18-12, 12-6 SEC)
Fox’s seat was near a boiling point following the non-conference schedule. Georgia started the season poorly with 4 straight losses in the first 5 games. Georgia came alive though in SEC play, shocking everyone by finishing 3rd behind Kentucky with an equal 12-6 record. Fox’s Georgia team still might have to do some work in the SEC tournament to make the NCAA field, but it’s safe to say that Fox won’t be going anywhere this year– even though at one point it seemed almost certain.
Heat check: Cool
Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee (20-11, 11-7 SEC)
Tennessee fans were starting to get a bit disgruntled after another disappointing start to the season for the Vols. Tennessee had plenty of talent, but the slow start had fans wavering on Martin as the head coach. Much like last year though, Tennessee hit its stride late in SEC play. Other than Florida, no one has looked more dangerous in the back half of the SEC schedule than the Vols. Tennessee has probably done enough to be the 3rd SEC team to make the NCAA tournament as well.
Heat check: Cool
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss (18-13, 9-9 SEC)
Kennedy’s seat was hot last year until Ole Miss rode the back of Marshall Henderson to the SEC tournament title, taking the heat off of Kennedy for the time being. After another average (.500) regular season in the SEC, that has Ole Miss in a position where only another SEC tourney title will ensure an NCAA berth, Kennedy is teetering on the edge again. Kennedy will have to prove next year that he can win at Ole Miss without Marshall Henderson. That will be the deal-breaker moving forward in the next year or two for Kennedy.
Heat check: Luke warm, but heating up
Johnny Jones, LSU (18-12, 9-9 SEC)
Jones’ best years at LSU are likely still to come. LSU should probably be a little bit better than they are this year (watch them play Kentucky, and then watch them play someone else…two different teams), but Jones has hit the recruiting trail hard. LSU will be bringing in some top tier talent over the next year or two. LSU could be a team to watch in the next few years in the SEC.
Heat check: Cold
Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt (15-15, 7-11 SEC)
Stallings has been at Vandy since 1999 and has certainly experienced some good years for the ‘Dores. Vanderbilt hasn’t been the same though since their one really, really good class graduated (Jenkins and company). Vandy has been the epitome of mediocrity in the SEC the last 2 seasons, and add on to that the fact that Stallings has underachieved in the NCAA tournament when he’s had talented teams. The question is…. Do the fans/administration at Vandy really care enough to unseat a guy who has been there for a long time and has done reasonably well?
Heat check: Luke warm
Rick Ray, Mississippi State (13-18, 3-15 SEC)
Although Ray’s team was the worst in the SEC this season, Ray inherited perhaps the most depleted roster in the SEC last season. Ray still needs a year or two buffer to recover from how bad of shape the program was in when he took over. He seems like the right kind of guy when you hear him talk and watch him instill passion in an under-talented team… but how long will he get to make a splash?
Heat check: Heating up
By Andrew Cassady on ©7:00 pm
Tomorrow the SEC tournament will tip off with Auburn taking on South Carolina and Mississippi State squaring off with Vanderbilt. It is officially the post-season. Cal’s first three years saw SEC tournament gold with three straight championship appearances. Last year the results weren’t so great to put it gently. The tournament is one final chance to get things right before the big dance so let’s take a look at what the national media has to say about our chances this week:
Kentucky and its ubertalented freshmen grabbed the headlines in the preseason, a squad so once-in-a-generation special it spawned silly talk of a 40-0 season. The Wildcats instead endured the reality of growing pains, and they have yet to realize their potential.
Team with the most to gain
Kentucky. Yes, the Wildcats are firmly in the NCAA tournament, but if there is a team that can use a dose of feel-good medicine, it is the Wildcats. Kentucky ended the regular season with a 19-point loss to Florida, the disheartening exclamation point on a season that never quite became what anyone expected.
But nothing cures the November-December-January-February blues quite like a good month of March. Kentucky is one good run from becoming a very dangerous team, and a hot start at the SEC tournament could be the spark
Along with Florida, Kentucky is the only other SEC team that is a lock for an NCAA tourney at-large berth. The Wildcats field the youngest team in the nation, often starting five freshmen, including standout forward Julius Randle. But they limped down the stretch and fell out of the top-25 poll this week after losing three of four games, including an overtime home loss to Arkansas and a road loss to lowly South Carolina.
It starts with Kentucky. The Wildcats entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country and have, since then, essentially remained the same team. That’s not a compliment. The best teams in the country improve throughout the year. Kentucky hasn’t gotten any better. Every step forward is followed by a step back. Their performance in March this season is going to be used as a referendum on head coach John Calipari, the Kentucky program and the way Cal uses the one-and-done. It just is. If Kentucky is going to put it all together in the NCAA tournament, that momentum will need to be built this week.
I don’t really want to pick Kentucky as the second-most likely team to win the SEC tournament, but there really isn’t a choice here. In terms of talent, it doesn’t even compare. The Wildcats are head-and-shoulders above anyone else in the league, and they are probably more talented than Florida. But that doesn’t make them a better team. All of Florida’s pieces fit. All of their guys buy into their roles. They have a senior point guard that’s a leader on the floor and capable of taking and making big shots while spending the rest of the game distributing the ball around.
Kentucky doesn’t have any of that. But if, somehow, everything does happen to click, this group will have a real chance to make a run in March.
Do you think the Cats will get it right and pull out their 28th SEC championship?
By Drew Franklin on ©6:15 pm
The Glitter Gulch neon sign on Fremont Street is one of the most popular images associated with old Vegas. And right down from the sign you’ll find a familiar flag hanging in front of the Golden Goose Gentleman’s Club.
Look closely. Yup, that’s the UK logo, flying among the bright Fremont lights.
By Courtney Sealey on ©5:30 pm
The SEC Tournament Championship round won’t count toward the NCAA tournament seeding, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. While they are already predicted to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky can use this opportunity to not only bring the fans back, but to also give them the confidence and experience they need to continue their careers in basketball no matter where they end up.
Kentucky has the chance to face several teams they have lost to throughout the season as a chance to redeem themselves, giving the Cats a confidence boost they have needed all season. A run in the SEC tournament will also bring back fans who have been left disappointed from the season. Fans might be surprised to see the games go more in Kentucky’s favor in the SEC tournament.
As Matt has said on the radio show, a lot of SEC refs have not been following the new hand check rule. Cal didn’t expect for this to happen so he has taught his players to play under the new rule. In the SEC and NCAA tournaments, each game is like an audition and whoever calls the best games will go on to call the next. This will encourage the refs to follow the new rules and thus giving Kentucky the advantage.
This along with good play will help push Kentucky to the championship game, which is exactly what the team needs to gain the confidence we saw in them in the pre-season. Kentucky needs to have a strong run in the SEC tournament to give them the determination they need to play in the NCAA tournament. That determination is something the team currently does not have.
Since Cal’s arrival, excluding last year, UK has put up very impressive tournament runs and it would be a huge injustice to not expect the same out of this team. The positive runs(2010,2011, and 2012) far outweigh the negative one(2013). One aspect to think about is the matter of who is going to step up and be the “General” that we need. The old term of “Floor General” has been thrown around erroneously over the years in college basketball.
When someone from the media throws out the term, 9 times out of 10 the point guard shows up and is the one setting things in motion and relaying what the coach calls out. Floor Generals are great to have, but sometimes the real general is someone that might not necessarily be your point guard. Sometimes, it is simply the most intense young man on the court that has the “refuse to lose” attitude, has the eyes that will shoot fear into the opposition and who doesn’t shut off until the final buzzer.
In 2010’s tournament run Cousins filled the General role in the SEC title game. Did Wall score 7 in OT that sealed the game? Yes. But without Cousins’ effort turned what was almost certainly about to be Mississippi State’s title win in regulation into an overtime loss.
In 2011, lightning struck twice in the NCAA tournament with Brandon Knight hitting game winners against both Princeton and Ohio State.
In 2012, Big Blue Nation saw a team that was something special. Many believe the MKG’s motor was a huge driving force behind that championship. In 2013, a General was hardly noticed and the result doesn’t need to be brought up again in this post. Who’s it going to be this year? Someone needs to grow up quick and be our General. If not, we know what will happen.