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March 31st, 2015

What’s Old and What’s New with Wisconsin

So Wisconsin, we meet again. One year ago the Wildcats and Badgers met for one of the most exciting games in Kentucky basketball history . That game, as you recall, was capped off by a shot from the deuce that defied the laws of physics. What’s different about the Wisconsin team they’ll be playing this season? Not much. Here’s whats old and new with Wisconsin:

What’s Old:


Josh Gasser, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, and Traveon Jackson were all on the court last season when Aaron Harrison launched a dagger that sent the Badgers back to Madison. You can bet that shot is being played to those guys on repeat to serve as extra motivation to knock off the unbeaten Cats.

Kaminsky and Dekker form a one-two punch as versatile big-men that can spread the floor and knock down 19 foot jump shots with consistency. Last year in the Final Four, Kaminsky was kept in check by a combo of Dakari and Randle, scoring 8 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.

Dekker played well as he shot 3-4 from the field on the way to 15 points in just 25 minutes. Alex Poythress was able to match Sam’s height and skill with physicality and athleticism. There are few players his size that can do what he does offensively. Unfortunately for Dekker there is a guy his size that can do amazing things defensively. Willie can contest every three while being quick enough to cut off a drive. It will be the classic battle of unstoppable force against an immovable object.

Traveon Jackson, who took the would-be winning jumper at the buzzer last year, has been hobbled by a fractured foot since January. He returned in the sweet 16 but has remained limited.

What’s New:

Via Chicago Tribune

Wisconsin lost just one significant player from last year’s Final Four team and that was guard Ben Brust. Brust scored fifteen points and went 3-7 from downtown to pace Wisconsin for much of the game. He won’t be missed by Kentuck fans.

His replacement in the starting lineup? Nigel Hayes. Last season Hayes logged just 7 minutes and 2 points against the Cats but the small forward has made an explosive leap for his sophomore year. Since the end of the regular season Hayes is averaging 14.29 points per game with 4.2 rebounds and 1 steal. He’s a guy that can put up a bunch of points in a hurry. Trey Lyles needs to be ready to defend in his hometown.


So Wisconsin returns just about every player from last year’s stinging loss but with an added year of experience. The Cats will have Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl Towns, Devin Booker, Ulis, Lyles, and two twins growing before our eyes. Its the same Badgers but a whole new group of Cats. I like our chances to repeat in the Final Four.

Ben Brust gets the smack talk rolling

Ben Brust had 15 points in Wisconsin’s loss to Kentucky last April, and even though he’s playing in the Lithuanian Basketball League right now, he didn’t miss out on the opportunity to trash talk leading up to Saturday’s game. Brust posted this tweet on Saturday night:

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 9.03.22 AM

Keep the trash talk coming, Badgers. You know how we love it.

Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison and Karl Towns look ahead to Wisconsin


Kentucky will meet Wisconsin once again in the semifinals and two of the players from last year’s game, Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison, along with newcomer Karl Towns, talked about Round 2 today.

Johnson said this year he and his teammates have a different mindset entering the Final Four. “Last year it wasn’t expected,” the sophomore told reporters. “This year it’s expected from us so you know we are going out there to win and last year it kind of just felt like we were happy to be there.”

Harrison, who hit the game-winner against the Badgers a year ago, is excited to have Willie Cauley-Stein this time around. If you recall, Willie suffered an ankle injury in the Sweet 16 and missed the remainder of the tournament. His defense will be crucial in slowing down Kaminsky, Dekker and the Wisconsin offense.

Having Willie on the floor is obviously a huge help. He’s probably the best defender I’ve ever seen in person. He’s a big help,” said Harrison.

Towns is ready to get a shot at Naismith Player of the Year finalist Frank Kaminsky. Towns said, “Kaminsky is a great player and it is going to be just one competitive game. I really can’t wait to play.”

Let’s do this.

Welcome to the SEC, Rick Barnes

Former Texas underachiever Rick Barnes and the University of Tennessee finalized a deal today that makes Barnes the Vols’ new head coach. Barnes is the second coach with Final Four experience to join the conference this month, teaming up with Ben Howland of Mississippi State in the new class of SEC coaches.

A press conference is currently underway in Knoxville to formerly introduce Barnes to his new fan base. It seems like just yesterday they were doing the same for Donnie Tyndall.

Fanatics’ Merchandise Map shows team gear sold by state since Saturday

According to, fans of the University of Kentucky have purchased the most Four Final merchandise since Saturday. However, the Dukies covered the most ground, owning 17 states to Kentucky’s 15. Michigan State was a close third with 13 states, followed by Wisconsin taking the other five.

By the looks of the map, Kentucky controlled Hawaii, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana and, of course, Kentucky. (It’s been a while since I’ve studied my states so that may not be accurate, although I did win West Broadway’s Geography Bee in fifth grade.)

Who knew there were so many Spartans in Alaska and the northwest?

The Adolph Rupp Maker’s Mark Bottle is Revealed


Maker’s Mark’s first bottle to be released as part of a series to raise money for a new UK Athletics Academic Center will be released on Friday. A picture is floating around the internet of it and you can see the look above. Cool image of Rupp and a bottle that I know will sell out immediately

Your Final Four #TeamStream broadcast crew has been announced

Dave Baker, Rex Chapman and Michael Eaves will handle the TeamStream announcing at the Final Four, CBS announced today. They will be the voices of your homer coverage for the seminal game with Wisconsin beginning around 8:30 pm on TNT.

Baker and Chapman are back for a second year, while Eaves replaces Rob Bromley in the crew.

My plea for Lukasz Obrzut, Lukasz Obrzut and Lukasz Obrzut was ignored. Maybe next year, Woo.

LIVE STREAM: Pre-Final Four Press Conference

Julius Randle writes about BBN, the NBA and Kobe Bryant



Julius Randle made his writing debut today for The Cauldron, a website that describes itself as “Intelligent Sports Storytelling.”

Randle’s subject? Big Blue Nation, one-and-dones and teaming with Kobe Bryant.

Here’s a brief glance at his work:

Before I even stepped foot on Kentucky’s campus, I was confident in my ability to become a member of the so-called “One and Done” club that quickly passes through the college ranks on the way to the NBA. What I didn’t expect was for my college experience to be so amazing. It helped me in a ton of ways on and off the court, and gave me a lot to think about before I made the decision to declare for last year’s draft.”

First off, there’s no college experience like playing for the University of Kentucky, and it starts with the fan base. The fans are absolutely ridiculous, in a great way. When you play for the Wildcats, you’re like a member of their family. Those who wear the blue and white are treated like rock stars around town. Our fans live and breathe the game, and the passion runs year-round.”

When people ask me what makes playing basketball there so different, I laugh, and I tell them, “Imagine practicing in front of 10,000 people; that’s why UK is the most amazing program in the country.” Elements of that level of devotion may exist elsewhere, but in Kentucky, you are never forgotten. Guys who played there 20 years ago will get mobbed if they show up on the streets of Lexington. Antoine Walker, Jamal Mashburn, Rex Chapman, Tayshaun Prince, it doesn’t matter — every single one of them is beloved.

There’s plenty more from your favorite UK player last season, including why he chose to play for Calipari and his thoughts on the current state of college basketball.

DEFINITELY give it a read.

The NBA Choice: No One-Size-Fits-All Approach: By Julius Randle

Woman accused of giving toddler alcohol at UK watch party

We took a few steps back with this one, Big Blue Nation.

Angela Spoonamore of Garrard County is accused of giving beer and rum to her 14-month-old nephew Sunday night at a game-watch party for Kentucky’s Elite Eight game. According to WKYT, others at the party said Spoonamore got out of control and the toddler was thrown to the ground at one point.

The baby’s mother said her son never drank any of the alcohol — thank God — and he is fine.

Spoonamore faces felony charges with the possibility of five to 10 in prison.

John Calipari named NABC Coach of the Year


The National Association of Basketball Coaches named John Calipari its Coach of the Year for the 2014-15 college basketball season. It is Cal’s third time winning the NABC award; he took it in 1996 while at UMass and shared it with Mike Anderson in 2009, the year before he came to Kentucky.

This also marks the fourth time a UK coach has won the award. Adolph Rupp, Eddie Sutton and Tubby Smith each took honors while coaching the Wildcats.

Barnhart nominated for Athletics Director of the Year


Mitch Barnhart is one of four nominees for Athletics Director of the Year, presented by the Sports Business Awards. Barnhart joins Jeff Long of Arkansas, Ian McCaw of Baylor and Dan Radakovich of Clemson in the running for the award. The winner will be announced at the Sports Business Awards ceremony on May 20, 2015 at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square.

“I am honored just to be mentioned for Athletics Director of the Year,” Barnhart said in release from UK. “I am thankful for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Big Blue Nation. This recognition, as well as our growth as a department, has come because of them.”

The nomination comes the same month UK Athletics completed the final stage of Barnhart’s 15 by 15 by 15 Plan.

Go Mitch!

BREAKING: The cow has been captured


Well it was fun while it lasted. The crew finally got the UK cow wrangled up and loaded into a truck, almost two hours after it escaped on Cooper Drive.

UK student Adam Menker gets credit for lassoing the steer. Menker is the President of the UK rope team. You can’t make that up.


The team bus is ready for the Final Four


The team bus got a makeover for this week’s trip up to Indianapolis for the Final Four. The blue, Blue Grass Tours look was replaced with a black wrap and “Champions Play Here” across the side.

I assume the bus still has Nintendo 64 capabilities on the television inside. If not, that needs to be fixed, immediately.

Look for this on the road in a few days.

Campus cow update: Nap time


After an exhausting run all around Cooper Drive and the surrounding neighborhood, it’s time for a quick breather before the chase picks up again. The cow is seen here resting between a crowd of onlookers and a man wearing – What is that man wearing? Oversized scrubs and cowboy boots?

The cow has been on the loose since 10 a.m., according to WKYT. It was captured around 10:45 a.m. but broke free for another run.

A cow-wrangling truck is now on the scene.