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April 1st, 2015

The tide continues to turn in Karl Towns’ direction for the #1 pick

USATSI_8483707_154849602_lowres

During his weekly chat this afternoon, ESPN NBA guru Chad Ford said he believes Karl Towns is now the slight favorite for the #1 pick in June’s draft:

I’d say, talking to NBA folks this weekend, that the a small majority of them now have Towns ranked ahead of Okafor which is why I made the chance to the Top 100 on Sunday. However, it doesn’t mean he’s the consensus No. 1 (yet). When you check out our Lottery Mock Draft, you’ll see scenarios where Okafor is still the No. 1 pick. It’s been that way for over a month however. They are different players, both elite prospects, and just fit differently on different teams. Scouts are praying that Kentucky and Duke meet in the NCAA Finals. To see them go head-to-head could determine who goes No. 1 overall, though I’m still a pretty firm believer that who’s No. 1 between the two is pretty contextual.

Ford also said that while Andrew Harrison’s stock is rising, his brother Aaron’s is not. “Aaron’s stock is still in pretty bad shape,” Ford writes. “He hits big shots, but not every game is the March Madness and shooting guards who only real strength is shooting, need to hit every day three point shots with much more efficiency.” Ford projects that Aaron will go late second round to undrafted.

For more of Ford’s insight, including where he thinks Trey Lyles will be drafted, head on over to the newly redesigned Worldwide Leader.

[ESPN]


Gotta be an April Fools’ joke, right??

@Sixers

The Philadelphia 76ers just posted this picture of a flattop-less Nerlens Noel on Twitter. Obviously an April Fools’ joke, but at least it’s a creative one.


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****

Hello, friends. Have we all recovered from today’s slate of emotional Willie and Karl features? Me neither. Tried to work at the coffee shop earlier and even with sunglasses, I couldn’t do it. As excited as I am about this weekend, the fact that at this time next week, the season will be over is really starting to hit me. It feels like only yesterday we were in the Bahamas watching the team goof off at the pool, and now we’ve only got two games left with them, at best. Hopefully, they’re two games to remember.

Now, before I fall into a puddle of tears again, let’s get some notes rolling…

— In case you haven’t fallen victim yet, today is April Fools’ Day, and even though I hate the holiday, I have to give kudos to the folks behind the Green Bay Packers reddit page, who turned it into a Kentucky page to mess with Wisconsin fans:

aprilfoolsgreenbay

I’ll be honest, I still don’t really understand reddit, but that’s funny. (Also, if you’re wondering, yes, there is a reason I have two KSR bookmarks on my toolbar and no, I’m not telling.)

— Remember those 40-0 shirts that popped up a few summers ago? Well, the guy who designed them tried to trademark “40-0″ and is now fighting with UK over who should own the term in court. For what it’s worth, the creator says he’s a die-hard UK fan and would be fine with UK using “40-0″ on national championship items, but not as a “stand-alone brand.”

I can’t even think about any of that until late Monday night.

— What if I told you there was a Kentucky fan that has Wisconsin blood running through his veins? That’s the case for Salvisa native Scott Logdon, who received bone marrow stem cells from a Wisconsin student two years ago when he was being treated for high-risk leukemia at the UK Hospital. This is a really cool story, so go check it out at The Courier-Journal.

— The team has arrived in Indianapolis, but before they left, Sam Malone took a chance to reflect on his last practice at the Joe Craft Center:

My last practice ever in this gym. It’s been real #BBN

A photo posted by Sam Malone (@sammaloneuk13) on

Oh god here come the tears again…agh!!!! Happy, something happy…

— How much does this guy at my local coffee shop look like Tom Crean?

I originally took the picture to make fun of this guy for bringing his desktop computer to a coffee shop, but the resemblance is uncanny. Maybe that’s what Crean is doing with his time these days.

— How awesome is this sign at the Space Center on Winchester Road?

@CherylTruman

Yes, yes, he would have. Ditto for Bill Keightley, who passed away seven years ago yesterday.

Let’s close it out with today’s podcast, which features a great interview with Orlando Antigua in the first hour:

Hour 1:

Hour 2:


John Calipari, Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, and Coach K release joint statement about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act is going to be a huge issue this weekend in Indianapolis, and in an attempt to get ahead of the story, John Calipari, Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, and Mike Krzyzewski released a joint statement in support of the NCAA’s stance this afternoon:

“We are aware of the recent actions in Indiana and have made a point to talk about this sensitive and important issue among ourselves and with our teams. Each of us strongly supports the positions of the NCAA and our respective institutions on this matter – that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. As a part of America’s higher education system, college basketball plays an important role in diversity, equality, fairness and inclusion, and will continue to do so in the future.”

I’m sure each coach will still be asked about the law, but kudos to them for trying to get ahead of the issue.


A Karl Towns profile that finally does Karl Towns justice

Photo by @bigbluexpress

Photo by @bigbluexpress

If I had my way, every day on KSR would be Karl Towns Day, but today certainly feels like it. First, we found out Karl was on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated and then we saw quite possibly the best baby picture ever, and now, we have an extra special treat for you guys: Ian O’Connor’s excellent profile of Karl for ESPN.

O’Connor covers a lot a lot of familiar ground: Karl’s big heart, his work ethic, and the time he gave one of his shoes to paralyzed UK super fan Matt Bunk after the Florida game. O’Connor’s piece focuses on Karl’s remarkable kindness, a trait which will make even the biggest Kentucky hater fall in love with him. Here are two of my favorite paragraphs:

Jacqueline said her son forever gravitated toward kids who were considered outsiders, kids who might not have felt wanted or comfortable in social or classroom settings, “because Karl was also the outsider when he was younger. He was too tall, his feet were too big, he didn’t fit into his desk, and sometimes kids can be cruel.”

Jacqueline laughed when recalling the time she asked Karl-Anthony if she could quit her job at the behavior health hospital at Rutgers after he made his NBA millions, only for her son to express concern for the patients who might need her continued help. But truth is, Karl-Anthony is always looking out for his mother. When Jacqueline’s father died, Karl-Anthony brought her a gift in a box — new sunglasses for the funeral. “I know you’ve been crying a lot,” he told his mother. “I thought you would need these.”

Actually, Karl, I need those right now. Go read the rest and bring some sunglasses and tissues with you.

[ESPN]


Two things the national media won’t tell you about Wisconsin this week

Halfway through Final Final week, it’s clear that the Wisconsin Badgers are the media darlings. Each team has a storyline–Kentucky: undefeated; Duke: Coach K is a legend; Michigan State: Izzo has never been more Izzo–but Frank Kaminsky and his ragtag group of happy go lucky kids have become the latest team to, as the national media says, “play basketball the way it’s meant to be played.” They have an efficient offense! A goofy white guy in the middle who’s actually amazing! WHOA they play video games! (Does the national media care that UK plays the same video game? Of course not.) Bo Ryan called himself the Pinball Wizard! Swoon!

So, in what will likely be an ill-fated attempt to balance the coverage, here are two things the national media WON’T tell you about Wisconsin:

They have one of the lowest graduation rates in the country

From Derrick Z. Jackson’s article for the Boston Globe:

If the 68 teams were seeded by graduation rates, the Badgers would be a bottom seed. They have the lowest Graduation Success Rate for black men of zero and the third-lowest overall at 40 percent. They were one of 16 teams that should be disqualified for historically graduating less than 50 percent of either black or white players or having an overall rate under 50 percent.

Before the haters that are lurking call me a hypocrite for bringing up graduation rates, Jackson also notes that 89% of UK’s student athletes graduate. But we’re the ones ruining college basketball?

Bo Ryan tried to block one of his players from transferring

This story’s a little old, but worth revisiting. Remember when Jarrod Uthoff tried to transfer from Wisconsin a few years back? Probably not, but it became news when Bo Ryan blocked Uthoff from transferring to at least 25 schools in what he says was an attempt to get him to fully explain why he wanted to leave Wisconsin. Uthoff ultimately appealed the restrictions by meeting with Wisconsin’s AD Barry Alvarez and the school lifted the restrictions for all the schools outside the Big 10, but it was a bizarre move by Ryan. Uthoff now plays at Iowa anyways.

Just a few things to keep in mind as the national media polishes Wisconsin’s halo this week.


Willie Cauley-Stein had a lunch date with a special fan yesterday

Last week, a 4-year-old fan named Olivia made a video for her favorite Kentucky player, Willie Cauley-Stein. In the video, Olivia, who suffers from cerebral palsy, asked Willie to marry her:

Some of you may know our wonderful friend Olivia but for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Olivia, here’s a little bit about her. Olivia is one of the most vivacious, happy, loving, and upbeat 4 year olds I’ve ever met. I’ve been blessed to be able to work along side her for about a year and a half. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t seen her light up a room and put smiles on everyones face whom she crosses paths with. Olivia also has CP (cerebral palsy). I’ve been able to witness first hand just how much progress she has made and how hard she works on a daily basis on everyday tasks most of us take for granted. The other day when I was talking with Olivia and her wonderful Grammy, she told me a secret. Since then, it has become a goal to make sure it happens. For all that Olivia has taught me and brought into my life, as well as everyone’s life she brightens. Olivia’s secret: she wants to marry Willie Cauley-Stein :) Now, my goal is to grab the attention of famous Wildcat and set up a meeting for her. Please help us by sharing this and the video to make it happen! She has brought so much joy into every life she’s touched, help us return the favor! #ForTheLoveOfOlivia #BBN #strivefornine #wildforthecats #williecauleystein

Posted by Caitlin Nugent on Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Through the wonders of social media, Willie saw the video, and visited Olivia at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass on Monday to invite her to lunch at the Wildcat Lodge. Here are the heartwarming pictures and an update from the CDCB:

Our hearts are full today! We are so proud and excited to let you all know why the UK Wildcat visited CDCB on Monday! He came to deliver an invitation to our Olivia…. Willie Cauley-Stein requested her presence for a lunch date!

Yesterday Olivia got to have spaghetti with Willie at the Wildcat Lodge. She was SO charming and he made her feel SO special. Very happy for our little girl, and very proud to be a part of ‪#‎BBN‬ …. that a player of Willie’s caliber would take time out of his day on perhaps the most pressured-filled and anticipatory week of his college career speaks volumes about the outstanding character of Kentucky’s Basketball team.

Willie and Olivia’s story will be a feature on CBS’ “March Madness Confidential” show after the tournament. We’ll bring you more details as we know them.

These kids, guys…I can’t.


This baby picture of Karl Towns is the best thing you’ll see today

Photo by Bill Kostroun via the NY Post

Photo by Bill Kostroun via the NY Post

The national media profiles of Kentucky’s players continue to pour in, and while most of them aren’t news to us (Willie played football! Karl Towns is a great kid!), I had to share this one from The New York Post’s Zach Braziller just for that picture of a baby Karl and his sister, Lachelle. Can you believe Karl was ever that small?!

Braziller spoke with Karl’s dad Karl Sr., who had some great quotes to share about Karl’s famous work ethic. This one stood out to me:

“Our motto has always been [bad] things happen after midnight,” Karl Sr. said. “He didn’t party, he didn’t drink. He was always focused on his basketball, he was focused on his education, and he was focused on all the things in life he wants to do. He wants to build a hospital in the Dominican Republic. He wants to be a kinesiologist.”

I was fortunate enough to stand next to Karl Sr. on the court after UK beat Notre Dame, and as Karl climbed the ladder to cut the net, Karl Sr. yelled at his son to turn around so he could take a picture. Karl put his piece of the net in his mouth, turned and gave his dad a smile that spoke volumes.

[New York Post]


Going to the Final Four? Don’t bring your big purse

2015-Final-Four-Clear-Bag-Graphic

Remember that pesky bag policy from last year’s Final Four? It’s back again. If you plan on attending any of the Final Four festivities in Indianapolis this weekend, don’t plan on bringing a big bag with you. Here’s the clear bag policy from the NCAA:

NCAA-provided clear bags, other clear bags not exceeding the size of the NCAA-provided clear bags, and one gallon clear plastic storage bags will be permitted at the aforementioned events, in addition to purses smaller than 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches (please see the attached diagram). 

Clear bags will be provided by the NCAA for free and can be found at downtown Indianapolis hotels, the Indiana Convention Center and most entrances and exits at events where clear bags are required.

For a full list of security policies and procedures, please visit www.ncaa.com/finalfour/champgame.

For serious, y’all, don’t bring the fanny pack.


The dancing kid from the Boys Sweet 16 was on “The Late Late Show” last night

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 9.57.37 AM

Peyton “Peanut” Henderson stole the show at the Boys Sweet 16 in Rupp a few weeks ago when the video of him dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy” went viral. In case you’re not one of the 81 million people who have seen it, let’s stop right there and get it out of the way:

A star is born.

Posted by What The Flicka? on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pretty awesome, right? The Bowling Green native was invited on “The Late Late Show,” where he did the Dougie and danced with host James Cordon:

If that’s not enough to get you out of your seat on the Wednesday before the Final four, I don’t want to know you.


Karl Towns is on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated this week

karlsi

You’re looking at the regional cover of Sports Illustrated, which features an amazing picture of Karl Towns going against Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste. Karl was 8-8 from the floor in the second half and looked every bit the #1 NBA Draft pick as he carried the Cats to victory.

Again this is just the regional cover. Sports Illustrated’s national cover features Russell Westbrook.


Another great article about Willie

IMG_5360

I’ve been a huge fan of Chuck Culpepper since his time with the Herald-Leader in the 90’s, and it’s not a stretch to say that reading his stuff growing up made me dream of doing this for a living. In fact, one of his college football preview features is still tacked up on the wall in my bedroom, yellowed and fraying, but still intact.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I read Culpepper’s latest piece on Willie Cauley-Stein for The Washington Post. There have been A LOT of articles written about Willie lately, but Culpepper focuses on Willie off the court; in the locker room, specifically. Throughout the postseason, the locker rooms have been open to reporters after the game, a rare treat, and not surprisingly, Willie always has a big crowd around him. I’ve done my best to capture Willie’s comments, attitude, and essence for you guys, but it’s such an impossible task that Culpepper wrote an entire article about it:

He begins almost every answer with, “Ommm,” and flows from there.

As a third-year wise man in a sport of starry freshmen, he manages to be blunt without being abrasive, helpful without being fawning, candid without being derisive. Mostly, he’s respectful of seemingly every type of question, often with long answers. He’ll describe the sport seriously, describe Kentucky’s noted fans semi-seriously, or go off the script unseriously.

Culpepper mentions the famous “raccoon” quote and other treasures, so go check it out. And then try not to count the days we have left with Willie.

[The Washington Post]


Checking in on UK’s recruits at the McDonald’s All-American Game

Jaylen Brown and Malik Newman (@Ballislife)

While the rest of us are preparing for the weekend of our lives, the McDonald’s All-American Game festivities keep rolling on in Chicago. The main event is tonight, so to get us ready, let’s check in on UK’s primary targets.

Malik Newman

Considering: Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss. Kansas, Connecticut, NC State

Newman is famously coy about his recruitment and has looked excellent in practices this week. Newman says he’s waiting for the draft deadline to decide, but admitted that “it feels like it’s time to decide now.” LSU and UK remain the perceived frontrunners. Newman told The Courier-Journal’s Steve Jones that if Devin Booker stays at Kentucky, that’s fine by him. “I think playing with a player like Book would really help my game because he can open up the floor for you.”

Caleb Swanigan

Considering: Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, California, Arizona, Purdue and Chicago State

Swanigan turned some heads this week with strong performances in practice and says he’s ready to wrap up his recruitment soon. Right now, Michigan State still seems to be the favorite, but Cal has recently made a strong push in an attempt to woo a package deal of Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown.

Jaylen Brown

Considering: Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Michigan and California

Brown, a 6’6″ wing, has lived up to his hype this week and has told various reporters that he could decide in the next three weeks. For some reason, a comment he made several months ago about wanting to attend an adidas school surfaced this week, but Brown has since backtracked on that. Apparently, Brown has been talking plenty of trash this week, even yelling at Malik Newman during one of the scrimmages “He ain’t a point guard.” (H/t Evan Daniels)

Check out the ESPN crew break down Brown’s game:

Stephen Zimmerman

Considering: Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, UCLA and Arizona

Zimmerman made waves with some ridiculous dunks in Monday night’s dunk contest. Zimmerman will wait until after the NBA Draft deadline (April 26) to make any more decisions about his recruitment; however, if the way his mother tweets is any indication, I think Kentucky is the favorite.

Here’s another insane dunk:

Cheick Diallo

Considering: Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and St. John’s

Kansas and St. John’s are considered the favorites for Diallo, who has reportedly been a little inconsistent in practice this week.

Isaiah Briscoe

Briscoe already signed with Kentucky and therefore doesn’t have the weight of a recruitment on his shoulders, and it shows. Briscoe has had a ball at the event, clowning around and cutting up with other recruits. Jerry Meyer told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts that Briscoe has lived up to the billing of the #1 point guard in his class. “He played really well,” Meyer said. “He looks good, physically. I thought he looked explosive. He’s strong, he’s got quickness, he’s got savvy, he’s crafty. He’s great through contact.”

Want to judge these guys for yourself? Tune in to the game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.


One last show before Indy (Wednesday Show Thread)

Good morning and welcome to the Wednesday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio, which is coming to you live from the Louisville studios before Matt takes off for Indianapolis. Tune in to hear Matt and Ryan talk everything Final Four because right now, would you really want to hear anything else?

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

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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Breaking Down the Final 4 Refs:

John Calipari, John Cahill

We love to overanalyze officials and we do know what the possibilities are for Saturday’s game.  The 6 officials who will officiate the 2 games have been announced, but as of yet, I don’t think the 3 for each game have been released.  Either way, there are a bunch of common names on that list.  But just successful or unsuccessful have the Cats been in the Calipari era with each of the referees for this weekend (and potentially Monday).  Below are the records, notable wins, and losses for each of those refs since Calipari took over in 2009.

FINAL 4

Pat Adams (20-3)
Notable Wins: LSU (2012 SEC Tourney), Wisconsin (2014 Final Four), North Carolina (2014), Florida (2015 SEC Tourney), Arkansas (2015 SEC Championship)
Losses: Vanderbilt (2011), Baylor (2012), Arkansas (2014)

Doug Sirmons (15-4)
Notable Wins: Tennessee (2010 SEC Tourney), Louisville (2013), Kansas (2014 Champions Classic), Texas (2014)
Losses: Tennessee (2010), Vanderbilt (2011), Baylor (2012), Florida (2014)

Mike Eades (5-3)
Notable Wins: North Carolina (2009)
Losses: North Carolina (2010), Duke (2011 Champions Classic), North Carolina (2012)

Verne Harris (3-1)
Notable Wins: North Carolina (2011 Elite 8), Kansas (2012 National Championship), UCLA (2014)
Losses: UCONN (2014 National Championship)

Brian Kersey (2-0)
Notable Wins: Baylor (2012 Elite 8), West Virginia (2015 Sweet 16)
Losses: None

John Higgins (1-1)
Notable wins: Cornell (2010 Sweet 16)
Losses: UCONN (2011 Final Four)

CHAMPIONSHIP

Joe DeRosa (9-2)
Notable Wins: Louisville (2012 Final Four), Louisville (2014 Sweet 16), Kansas (2014 Champions Classic), Notre Dame (2015 Elite 8)
Losses: Baylor (2013), UCONN (2014 National Championship)

Michael Stephens (7-2)
Notable Wins: UCONN (2009), Louisville (2010), Louisville (2011)
Losses: Georgia (2013), Florida (2014)

Pat Driscoll (3-1)
Notable Wins: Princeton (2011 First Round), North Carolina (2011 Elite 8)
Losses: Michigan State (2013 Champions Classic)