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January 20th, 2019

Kentucky cheerleading wins 24th National Championship

For the 24th time… the national championship trophy is coming home to Kentucky… for the UK cheerleading team!

The cheerleading team, led by Coach Jomo Thompson, has a history of excellence on the national stage. Here’s part of their award-winning routine:

Congrats, Wildcats!


Lakers Hope Rajon Rondo Can Return to Practice on Sunday

(Photo via Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Former Kentucky Wildcat and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo is nearing his return after undergoing surgery on his right hand back in late December.

Rondo is dealing with his second hand surgery of the season. After missing 17 games early in the year due to a broken right hand that also required surgery, Rondo played in only three games before spraining his ring finger on the same hand during the Lakers Christmas Day matchup against the Golden State Warriors that also required surgery.

Rondo has only played in 14 of the Lakers 47 games this season and hasn’t played since undergoing surgery again on Dec. 28th. He was expected to miss 4-5 weeks, but according to head coach Luke Walton, he hopes Rondo is available to practice on Sunday but says he does not expect him to suit up for their matchup with the Warriors on Monday.

Joining Rondo in this practice will hopefully be LeBron James, who has also missed the Lakers previous 11 games due to a groin injury. Without James and Rondo, the Lakers are 5-8 and have fallen to the ninth spot in the unforgiving Western Conference.

The Lakers have games against the Warriors, Timberwolves, and Suns in the upcoming week. Since neither James or Rondo are expected to play against Golden State, the matchup with the Suns on Friday might be a realistic return date for both of them. Rondo is about a week or two ahead of the initial timeline, so his return is likely more up in the air than James. However, the Lakers have been extremely cautious about dealing with these two, knowing they’ll need them at full health once the playoffs begin. So even though reports are indicating they may come back sooner rather than later, I would still take it all with a grain of salt.

In 14 games this season, Rondo has averaged 8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in 24.4 minutes per outing.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


Relive “Excite Night” with UK Gymnastics

@UKAthletics

The Kentucky gymnastics team had a pretty busy weekend, starting with their annual “Excite Night” and ending with an SEC upset over Arkansas. The No. 16 Wildcats defeated the No. 14 Razorbacks. Attendance for the night set a school record: 12,472 fans made their way to Rupp Arena.

“That environment was unreal,” said head coach Tim Garrison. “We are truly blessed to be here. … There is an appetite for gymnastics in this town and it’s obvious after tonight.”

Check out the highlights from Excite Night:

The Cats will take on No. 3 Florida on the road this Friday, then they’ll be back in Lexington February 1 to face off against Auburn.


Five-star center Isaiah Stewart verbally commits to WASHINGTON

Isaiah Stewart, a consensus five-star, top-six prospect in the class of 2019, has verbally committed to play basketball at Washington. He announced his decision on ESPN during halftime of a Hoophall Classic game. The news comes after weeks of speculation, including a crystal ball report that heavily favored the Huskies. Here’s a video of the announcement:

In his interview with 247 sports, Stewart said Washington coach Mike Hopkins was a big factor in his decision.

“At first, I wasn’t leaning towards them, but the more Coach Hopkins and I continued to talk, he’s a guy like me and different and works hard. He wants to start his own legacy and that’s what I want to do,” Stewart said. “He’s a coach I trust to push me harder and help me accomplish my goals.”

But his commitment doesn’t stop there. Like most recruits, Stewart plans on helping his new school continue to bring in elite talent.

I’m going after Jaden McDaniels now,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to build something out there… If we get him, man, game-changer.”

Jaden McDaniels, if you’ll remember, is the No. 5 overall player in the Rivals rankings, and another top target for the Wildcats. He’s already been offered a scholarship and taken an official visit, but the Washington native hasn’t yet committed. National analyst Corey Evans believes UK and Washington are the two most likely landing spots for McDanielsThat’d be a huge miss for Kentucky at this point.

Throughout the recruitment process, Stewart took official visits to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State and Syracuse before ultimately picking the Huskies. Over the last week or so, KSR sources have thought Washington would most likely be Stewart’s final destination, and today’s news finally confirms that. KSR’s Jack Pilgrim will have plenty of additional information in his “Monday Insider Notes” post tomorrow afternoon.

After missing out on Vernon Carey (who is committed to Duke) and now Isaiah Stewart, John Calipari and the Cats are back in the market for a big man.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Isaiah Briscoe Finding His Role in Orlando

(Photo via NBA.com/Magic)

Former Kentucky Wildcat and current Orlando Magic guard Isaiah Briscoe didn’t take the traditional path to the NBA that most Calipari-era guards have ventured down.

Briscoe came into Kentucky as the prototypical John Calipari guard. Big, strong, athletic, and could attack the hell out of the rim. He was the number one overall point guard in the class of 2015 according to ESPN, a consensus top-15 recruit, and a McDonald’s All-American. Coming out of high school, Briscoe was ranked well ahead of future NBA prospects such as Aaron Holiday (Pacers), Dejounte Murray (Spurs), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), and Jalen Brunson (Mavericks). But after a freshman season at Kentucky that saw Briscoe shoot under 14 percent from three, he was inclined to return for a sophomore season that didn’t do as much for his potential draft stock as he might have liked. It also didn’t help him that he played more of a combo guard position at Kentucky as De’Aaron FoxJamal Murray, and Tyler Ulis controlled the ball more often than not.

There was no first-round selection for Briscoe. In fact, he went undrafted in 2017. He played in Summer League games for the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers before ultimately not making a training camp roster. He had to create a name for himself on the other side of the world in Estonia – where he was named the league’s top overall player under the age of 23 after averaging 18/3/4 and helping lead his squad to a league championship.

After signing a three-year minimum deal with the Magic – in which only the first season includes guaranteed money – Briscoe was brought on without any promise of playing time. He was the backup’s backup. Through the Magic’s first 35 games, Briscoe played more than 10 minutes in only two games and didn’t play at all in 22 of them. Now, over halfway through his official rookie season, Briscoe has finally established himself within the Orlando rotation.

Briscoe can thank the putrid play of Orlando’s initial backup point guard, Jerian Grant, for allowing him to step into his newfound role. Grant had some success last season in Chicago as their backup – which was more the result of him being force-fed minutes on a team with an atrocious roster – but has been horrific this year. Grant is known as a scoring guard but despite averaging over 17 minutes through Orlando’s first 40 games, he topped double-digits in scoring only once while shooting under 40 percent from the field.

With Grant providing little production, the Magic turned to Briscoe and may have found a tiny diamond in the rough.

By no means is Briscoe a starting-caliber lead guard at this point. His jump shot is incredibly shaky, he struggles to avoid ticky-tack fouls, and he could improve on his court awareness, but Briscoe has shown enough since taking over Grant’s spot that proves he deserves a shot to take the job for good.

I’m going to focus particularly on Briscoe’s previous seven games, which is when he effectively replaced Grant as the Magic’s backup for veteran D.J. Augustin. In that span, Briscoe has averaged 5.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 19.1 minutes per game while turning the ball over fewer than once a game.

Starting with his offense, Briscoe has displayed a pass-first mentality with the ball in his hands. He might actually prefer to pass a bit too often, perhaps a result of not wanting to do too much. Several times have I seen Briscoe spy an opening to the rim only to pass to the corner once the defense collapses on him. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering he has 24 assists compared to only six turnovers. But with his size – one of the few advantages he has on most of the players guarding him – and underrated quickness he needs to be more aggressive. I expect that confidence to build as he progresses throughout the season.

Briscoe is only 4-11 from three over his last seven games and is often ignored as a perimeter threat. Where he’s had success is in transition and attacking out of the pick-and-roll. Something you quickly notice when watching Briscoe is how he wants to push the ball whenever he grabs a defensive rebound or leaks out off of a miss. He won’t force the issue if something isn’t there and has shown the awareness to pull it back and run the offense if something doesn’t immediately present itself. I think Briscoe is actively trying to play a passive game, which I understand, as he’s really just trying to establish his role and show he can control the game.

Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing roughly 215 pounds, Briscoe’s strength is comparable to players such as Eric Bledsoe and he abuses it whenever he knows he has a significant size advantage.

If Briscoe is to be remembered for one thing during his two seasons at Kentucky, it should be that he was an elite finisher. Now I haven’t been alive long enough to watch decades worth of former Kentucky guards, but I can confidently say that Briscoe was the best pure finisher I have ever seen at Kentucky. I literally don’t think he ever missed a shot when he was within two feet of the basket. He did and still does possess an innate ability to finish at the rim. Throughout the first half of the regular season, Briscoe has converted on 18 of his 26 shots at the rim (69 percent), nearly 12 percentage points higher than the league average.

Briscoe can almost always get solid penetration into the paint, especially out of the pick-and-roll, which is where he prefers to operate and make plays.

Briscoe’s defense is still a work in progress. One of the most difficult transitions that players face once they make the jump to the NBA is preventing themselves from fouling. Briscoe is still learning in that area. He’s committed 22 fouls over the previous seven games, two of those games saw him commit five fouls in under 20 minutes of playing time. Most of his fouls are minuscule and mostly insignificant, but still something he’s going to have to learn and adapt to. I should note that in the last three games, he’s fouled only five times in roughly 60 minutes, so the progression is already visible, it’s just a matter of maintaining it.

His rotations are typically a tad late and it’s not a surprise to look around and see Briscoe scanning the court looking for someone to guard. But even when he appears lost, he still has impressive instincts.

It’s only been seven games with Briscoe as a full-time rotational player, but he’s quickly proving that he has potential as an impactful NBA player. Briscoe came to Kentucky with expectations that he would turn into yet another Calipari guard taken in the lottery. It hasn’t quite been the ride he was anticipating when he declared over five years ago, but he’s here now and eager to develop.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


BBNBA: Thoughts and Notes Halfway Through the Season

(Photo via J Pat Carter/Getty Images North America)

Well, we’re officially over halfway through the 2018-19 NBA season and my goodness has there been a lot to talk about. The BBNBA has dominated headlines – both good and bad – across the league, so without delay, I’m going to release my thoughts on the first 45ish games of the year. Get ready.

Actually, before I dive in, there are going to be an infinite amount of topics that I won’t be covering as I feel they have been talked about endlessly already, which is partially my fault. Topics such as the Karl-Anthony Towns/Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota, the rookie seasons from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox, Enes Kanter’s situation with Turkey, and DeMarcus Cousins’ return will not be discussed. There is no real criteria of how I’m choosing what to talk about, I’m just going to write about what I feel hasn’t been noted enough. Now let’s go.

Anthony Davis – BBNBA MVP

Yes, I know, I already talk a lot about Anthony Davis but this needs to be reiterated. Not only is AD the obvious candidate to win MVP among his fellow BBNBA members, but he’s also in the top three or four for league MVP. Davis is having a monster season despite his New Orleans Pelicans squad ranking near the bottom of the Western Conference. Several minor injuries to Davis along with other more serious injuries to key role players have hindered the Pellies ability to establish a consistent rhythm and flow, but their problems go much deeper than just sprained ankles and sore muscles.

Davis is having the best season of his still young and already impressive career. He’s currently averaging 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists (all career highs), and 2.6 blocks per game. He’s unleashed a scoring profile that includes every area of the court while also protecting the rim at an elite level. Unfortunately, the Pelicans are 21-25, currently 12th in the West and 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot. Rumors of Davis potentially being traded (or eventually demanding one) to a team such as the Los Angeles Lakers – which feature LeBron James, who is signed to the same agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, that Davis recently signed with – have infiltrated the media atmosphere and been impossible to ignore. The Pelicans have had over five years to prepare for this season, one where Davis’ future with the team could be decided in the summer, and have done a magnificently horrific job of creating a title contender around an obvious future MVP.

The DeMarcus Cousins experiment last season was bold and worked initially, but ultimately failed due to a torn Achilles. Recouping that loss with players such as Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton were solid moves, but hardly anything that moved the needle towards improving off of their huge season in 2017-18.

The Pelicans average 9.0 more points per 100 possessions with Davis on the floor compared to when he sits, according to Cleaning the Glass. When Davis is on the floor, opponents are five percent less likely to attempt a shot at the rim, one of the best marks in the entire league. He’s almost always the most effective player on the court, regardless of whether or not he’s directly affecting the game. The Pelicans are terrible without Davis. They’re even worse if you take away both Davis and Jrue Holiday.

Since this season began, I’ve expected Davis to eventually leave New Orleans for a situation that can give him the opportunity to win right now. His media quotes throughout the season have only justified my view on that, but I don’t believe that anything is concrete at this moment. There is still a ton of basketball to be played and money always talks in some form or fashion. Now I can’t predict if that trade/trade demand will be to the Lakers or even possibly the Boston Celtics, but with every passing game where Davis scores 30-plus points in a loss, you know the thought of leaving is creeping more and more to the front of his brain. He knows how good he is and how small his window to win is in actuality.

Impressive start for Hamidou Diallo

Hamidou Diallo has regressed a bit since his initially impressive run to begin his rookie season in Oklahoma City, but he busted out of the gate to the surprise of many. Diallo has played in 39 games this season – including two starts – while averaging 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game. His jump shot is still a disaster, but his energy, effort, and superior athleticism have allowed him to carve out playing time. He takes almost all of his shots at the rim, 71 percent of them to be accurate (he actually ranks in the 100th percentile among wing players in shot attempts taken at the rim, although he connects on only 58 percent of those attempts, which ranks in the 36th percentile).

With Diallo, though, who is barely 20 years old, the Thunder are just trying to get him to develop a niche. They don’t want him taking endless threes or running the offense. Right now, they want him playing hard and running in transition, and he has excelled in those two areas. He’s one of the best shot blockers for his position, crashes the glass, and gets fouled on his shot attempts at a rate higher than nearly anyone in the league. Diallo is far from a perfect player and I was genuinely concerned about how OKC would use/develop him, but they’ve done a great job so far. I guess when an organization has a track record of developing players such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and probably several others I can’t think of at this moment, it’s hard to argue that Diallo wouldn’t have a chance to play well. There is NBA starter potential in Diallo and if any franchise can pull it out of him, it’s the Thunder. Eventually, though, he’ll have to be able to rely more on his jumper.

Baby steps.

The Charlotte Hornets finding their roles

The Hornets possess two former Kentucky players, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk. MKG has been relegated to the bench this season after being a full-time starter for nearly six full seasons, but is thriving in his new role. His minutes are at a career-low, but he’s doing more in shorter bursts than he ever did as a starter. It makes sense though, in hindsight. MKG is a perennial ball-stopper and hustler. He’s never been a threat from deep and isn’t someone to consistently attack a defense. Coming off the bench allows him to utilize his most important individual asset, which is his energy. He’ll dive for loose balls, willingly defend the opposing teams best player, and doesn’t try to exert himself too much on offense. Basically, he knows his limitations and role within the offense. When he ran with the starters, his lack of shooting made it harder for the team to stretch the floor around Kemba Walker. Now, Walker is feasting upon an open court while MKG shores up the defense for the second-unit. His newfound role doesn’t make the fact that the Hornets got screwed out of the No. 1 pick that eventually turned into Anthony Davis by a couple of ping pong balls any less brutal, but at least they know what he is now and can use him knowing exactly what he’s going to give every night. There is definite value in that.

The story of Malik Monk’s second NBA season is a bit more depressing. Monk doesn’t even turn 21 until next month, so I can’t stress enough that I’m not giving up on him yet. But I’m going to roast him for a minute here, because he hasn’t taken any considerable leap from his first to second season and that is notable. The Hornets new head coach, James Borrego, made it a point in the offseason to mention how Monk would be a featured piece of his new uptempo offense. That idea has proved to be wildly inconsistent to no one else’s fault but Monk (although to be fair, the Hornets have shown to be rather incompetent when it comes to building a team around Walker).

The Hornets are still mediocre this season, but have made strides on offense and have picked up their pace and shooting to adapt to the current model of the NBA. Monk has too, but not efficiently. He has a massive usage rate for someone who shoots as poorly from the field as himself. Monk has one of the lowest effective field goal percentages among all wing players on a relatively high rate of volume. He’s severely improved his ability to draw fouls, but that hardly matters when he’s taking 23 percent of his shots from the midrange area and hitting them at only a 30 percent mark. But you still see bursts of potential from Monk. He hasn’t met a shot he hasn’t fallen in love with, and once those open looks begin to fall, that will be a viable weapon. But right now, defenses almost don’t seem to care if Monk wants to pull up for an open look from 25-feet with 18 seconds on the shot clock because they know that shot isn’t going in. He has a brilliant connection with Hornets rookie Miles Bridges on fastbreak alley-oops, but that’s about as far as Monk’s highlights go. The Hornets are feeding him more minutes than last season (18.5 per game this year compared to 13.6 as a rookie), although the improvements haven’t been anything to rave about. But again, he’s not even 21. Monk has plenty of time to develop.

De’Aaron Fox and the argument for Most Improved

If you follow the daily BBNBA recaps, you’d know of my affinity for this Kings team. It was love at first swish and their collection of young talent that plays beyond their years continues to mystify and mesmerize me to no end. De’Aaron Fox took a leap from his rookie season to year two that not even the most optimistic Fox believer could have predicted. I don’t know if even he thought he would play this well. And before I go any further, let’s establish something real quick. Fox should not – and will not – win the Most Improved Player award and let me quickly explain why.

There is a progression path that all rookies, especially ones drafted in the top 5-7, are expected to follow. Fox is no outlier. His improvement in the offseason may have exceeded expectations, but he was still expected to improve and play at a starting point guard level by this point. It would be more newsworthy had Fox not hit a leap in production. The Most Improved Player award is intended for players who have been in the league for at least two seasons and then saw a significant jump in their numbers. The No. 5 overall pick in an NBA draft – which Fox was – is selected by that organization with every intention that they can turn into a future All-Star. Fox is doing that, but just because he had a rough rookie season – as almost all rookie NBA point guards do – doesn’t mean he deserves to win an award for doing something he was supposed to do anyway. His teammate, Buddy Hield, is a true Most Improved Player candidate. Go check out his numbers – along with Toronto’s forward Pascal Siakim. Those are two players who have legitimately made unexpected improvements. Honestly, Willie Cauley-Stein has a better argument for the award than Fox.

How good is Trey Lyles, exactly?

This question could keep Denver Nuggets fans busy until 2020. At age 23 and in his fourth NBA season, I don’t believe anyone can give an exact answer on Lyles. He has made minimal improvement since having somewhat of a “breakout” season last year, where he filled in for the injured Paul Millsap and quickly established himself as an important – and necessary – role player. Since then, the Nuggets have beefed up their bench and their role players have stepped up in massive ways. Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and Torrey Craig were all on the outside of the Nuggets rotation looking in. 45 games into their season, all four of them have leapfrogged Lyles in playing time. Those four are a big reason the Nuggets have played as well as they have, but it’s come at a cost for Lyles.

Lyles’ numbers are the same across the board compared to last season, except his three-point shooting has plummeted straight to the fiery depths of hell. On a slightly higher volume, Lyles is shooting just a hair under 13 percentage points worse from three compared to last season. A 6-foot-10 stretch forward who struggles to rebound and doesn’t hit his threes is a formula for disaster in the modern NBA. His on/off numbers burn my eyeballs. Through his first 20 games, Lyles scored at least 10 points in 12 different games. In the next 23 games, he did so only six times. Consistency has always been a problem for Lyles, but it’s killing him at the most important moments of his career. He’ll be a free agent in the summer. I’ve watched Lyles play a ton of minutes this season, it’s not like he can’t play, he earned all of those early season minutes. But once those shots started to miss, his confidence waned.

Now let’s get ready for the second-half of the season.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


Matt’s Sunday Thoughts

As I sit here and watch the latter stages of the NFC Championship game, it seemed like as good a time as any to get back to the writing world. Its been a big weekend for UK Basketball and there is a lot to get to, but lets start with this. We are launching Wednesday night trivia at KSBAR beginning this week. Every Wednesday night, we will have team trivia at the restaurant and everyone is welcome to come try it out. I will be reading the questions for the first couple of nights, then Drew and Ryan will take their shots, and later in the year we will have some pros and guests as well. At the beginning it will be general trivia, but we also plan on doing some specialized nights as well. So get your team together and come join us. Should be a lot of fun.

With that, some thoughts:

— I think Saturday’s win over Auburn represents confirmation to me that this Kentucky Basketball team has a chance to be as good as anyone by the end of the season. If you look at the three best wins Kentucky has this year (UNC, at Louisville, at Auburn), you can make a strong case that they are the team with 3 best Neutral/Road wins of any group in the Top 25. Auburn is the most hostile environment currently in the SEC and Kentucky went to the Plains, got a massive lead on the Tigers and then were able to hang on with big plays down the stretch after their opponents got absurdly hot. I absolutely love how this team plays when all 5 starters are clicking. The Hagans-Herro-Johnson-Washington-Travis group have a weakness as a five some, mainly the ability to protect the rim inside, but all 5 can score, all have high basketball IQs and when playing together, they are a matchup nightmare. That group I saw on Saturday can win the whole thing in March and if that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.

— I was really impressed with how Kentucky made great, clutch plays down the stretch of the game with multiple players. Herro hit huge shots, from the top of the key three, to the mid-range jumper to his decision to push the ball and draw the late foul. Each play was crucial to the game and it became clear that he loves having the ball late on the road in such situations. But there were also big post ups by Travis that led to free throws, a strong take by PJ Washington to shut down the crowd and even a big jumper by Quickley in traffic. The difference between this team and the last few for Calipari is that all five guys can make plays in key situations and no one is a weakness on offense. That will make them very hard to defend in March.

— It was also nice to see the development of player leadership from this group. The clip of Ashton Hagans telling Keldon Johnson to “wake the f*** up” has now been seen by virtually everyone but it is an important step to this team reaching its maximum potential. John Calipari is a great coach and someone the players love but I would also imagine at some point that playing for him can be kind of exhausting. He yells constantly and one can only hear about “servant leadership” so often before you start to check out. But Calipari knows this and that is why he really tries to develop teams where the players end up coaching each other. Hagans taking the initiative on Johnson (which Keldon said afterwards was warranted) is a good step in that direction and a way for this team to continue to maximize its ability going forward.

— If you have been online at any point in the last 36 hours, you have certainly seen and read more about the Covington Catholic controversy in Washington DC than anyone could ever imagine possible. After watching all of the videos out there on the situation (at least of which I am aware), I wrote on Twitter some of my thoughts. But I will add to them here just with this. The entire situation is an example of why the mix of social media and a toxic political environment in this country are dangerous. When I saw the initial video yesterday, I was disappointed in the boys’ behavior and the school (and am still disappointed in the lack of supervision of the Covington Catholic chaperones). However I was careful not to vilify the young men, because I think often groups of kids act without thought in large groups and people can make dumb mistakes…especially at that age. Thus even though many national folks were berating me on Twitter that my comment (“it is an unfortunate situation and a great school needs to make a statement”) didnt go far enough in condemning them, I believed then that one has to be careful to make large-scale judgments about people based on small behaviors.

That belief was showcased even more today as other videos of the situation came out. It seems as if the elderly Native American man came to the Covington Catholic group while playing his drum and thus the initial take by many (that the boys surrounded him to intimidate him) was incorrect. The first video (which was the only one out at the time of our KSR post and thus I have taken our post down) didn’t show the beginning of the situation and thus wasn’t complete. Nevertheless it did show the boys clearly did mock his playing (and him), while doing chants and the tomahawk chop. There have been some reports that individual boys said derogatory things to the man, but although it may have happened, I couldn’t hear that in the videos. Some individuals made decisions I think were mistakes and acted immaturely, including the young man who decided to “stare him down” while smirking. Had they (or adults with them) acted with more respect towards the man, the situation would have been diffused. But they didn’t and what came next was a very unfortunate situation where people looking to cause trouble (and hurl offensive, derogatory terms towards the Covington Catholic students) took over and overwhelmed the situation. The new videos showed that those who initially condemned the boys as awful human beings were wrong…as are those now who said they did “nothing wrong.” They acted like immature kids and unfortunately a bad situation gained national spotlight.

I firmly believe that the reason this entire issue blew up was simple. Because the young man at the center had a MAGA hat on, it became a political issue. Our entire culture is now centered around politics to a degree that I think is unhealthy. Too many people base too much of their lives on politics in a way that I don’t think happened even 10 years ago. And people on both sides of the political aisle (yes, both sides) want to “win” every advantage over the other by making the other side look bad. We are all out, not to embrace our commonalities as Americans, but to embrace our separation. I blame this on our current leaders and our partisan media…but citizens are taking the mantle and running as well. It is sad to me. Rather than looking at this situation for what it is my view…a group of kids acting insensitively to a situation that could have been far better handled by everyone involved…it became a symbol of Trump, liberals, MAGA, snowflakes and everything in between. It could have been a teaching moment about respect to different cultures, the elderly, veterans and what to do when confronted with awkward situations…instead it became one side wanting to vilify the young men as a symbol for all they dislike about Trump and the other side wanting to have their latest example of “fake news” and how nasty all Liberals are. What got lost in the rush to judgment was what always gets lost when we vilify each other by group association, the humanity of the Native American man and the individual kids. That was a mistake on everyone’s part.

I know that for certain segments of society, nothing will change whatever visceral reaction this story has placed in them. They are on a political war path and annihilating those on the other side is the most important goal. But hopefully for the vast majority of the rest of us, it can be a learning experience for everyone involved. People aren’t as good or as bad as you think they are. They are just human beings, all of us faulty. It would be good if we all could remember that sometimes, especially in the most tense of situations.

Have a good week and make sure and tune in tomorrow…it is time to talk “You”


Randall Cobb has high praise for the 2018 UK Football Team

Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The former Kentucky star was hosting a little Q&A on his Instagram last night, and a follower asked for Cobb’s thoughts on the 2018 UK football season. Needless to say, The Packers veteran had a blast watching his alma mater this season.

@rcobb18

Arguably the most versatile player in UK history just called Lynn Bowden Jr. the most versatile player in the nation. If that ain’t a passing of the torch, I don’t know what is.

Also, I think we’ve known that Benny is a mood for three years now.

@JayWinkKSR


SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Kentucky and LSU Rise to the Top

Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from the previous week of conference play. (AP Rankings accurate up until January 20, 2019.)

1. The Wildcats Prove Their Toughness

Out of the 14 teams in the conference, I believe it’s easy to surmise that Kentucky won the week. Not only did the Wildcats take care of business in a thrashing of Georgia on the road, but they also went to Auburn and defeated a top-ranked SEC opponent on the road which is a rarity.

I know that Tennessee and LSU also won both of their games this week and that LSU also won on the road against a ranked team, but Auburn was the second-highest ranked team in the SEC so to me Kentucky wins the week.

It’s still early, but I saw something from the Wildcats that will prove to be paramount come Tournament time. Kentucky proved that it’s one of the most mentally and physically toughest teams in the SEC in both of their victories.

In the Georgia game Ashton Hagans was booed and mocked consistently by the crowd due to his decommitment from the Bulldogs in high school. Instead of letting it affect him negatively, Hagans dominated the entire contest as he notched a career high in points.

Against Auburn the Wildcats nearly blew a 15-point lead in the final nine minutes, yet they still managed to emerge victorious. They even got off to a rocky start, but Hagans again did his part in waking up the team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not sure just how good this year’s team is just yet. However, that toughness is something many teams do not have yet. The fact that they are already showing it proves to me that this team is more than likely going to make a run once March comes around.

2. LSU Figures Things Out

In last week’s article I said that the Tigers were severely underrated, they deserve more attention, and that they should beat Ole Miss on the road. LSU proved me right as they demolished both the Rebels and the Gamecocks in convincing victories this week.

Folks, the Tigers are officially a problem. This is an incredibly athletic team that can also knock down the long ball. Those are the types of teams that cause huge complications in March for opposing squads.

After their victories this week, LSU now sits at second in the SEC (behind UT) with a 4-0 record and 14-3 overall on the season. Personally, I expect AP voters to put the Tigers in the next Top 25 poll as they now have the record to match their impressive talent.

Expect even more hype behind this team as their next four games come against four of the worst teams in the conference: Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. It is very conceivable that the Tigers will be 18-3, 8-0 in the SEC, and on a 11-game win streak when they travel to Starkville on Feb. 6 to play Miss. State in what will probably be a ranked matchup.

It’s admittedly very startling, but this LSU team is for real.

3. Just How Good Is Auburn?

Let me be clear: I’m not downplaying Kentucky’s win on Saturday at all. I believe that Auburn is a good basketball team and that they will be at the very least a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

However, I think a real conversation needs to be on just how good the Tigers are right now. They currently have no wins over any team currently ranked in the Top 25. Instead, the most impressive aspect of their schedule is that they played Duke and Kentucky close. Let’s also not forget that they still have losses to N.C. State and Ole Miss.

So, what is with all the hype around this team? All that Auburn has showed so far is that they have the talent to play with some of the best teams in the country, but they cannot beat any of these teams.

I am not rushing to say that Auburn is overrated or even bad. However, they now have a lot to prove in my book after their disappointing 2-2 start in conference play.

What is certain, however, is that guard Bryce Brown may just be the best player in this conference after his nuclear explosion against Kentucky.

4. The Curious Case of the Gamecocks

I’ll be frank here, I have absolutely no feel on how good South Carolina is. The Gamecocks sit at a tie for fourth place in the SEC despite their very poor 9-8 record on the season.

This is the type of team that has losses to Stony Brook, Wofford, and Wyoming but yet has wins over Mississippi State, Florida, and Missouri. I think we can all agree that previous sentence makes zero sense.

The only conclusion that I can draw from this team is that Head Coach Frank Martin is getting the most out of a team that has below average talent at best. The fact they are out to a 4-1 start in conference play despite losing three games to teams from non-power 5 conferences speaks for itself.

I think the next three games will truly show the country what this team is really made of. They play Auburn at home on Tuesday, at Oklahoma State on Saturday, and Tennessee (gulp) at home next Tuesday. They should beat the Cowboys, but if they can manage to squeeze out a victory in one of those other games then I think the Gamecocks might have a good squad this year.

5. It’s Not Even February Yet, But…..

I know that it’s not even February yet, however, we already have a pretty good idea of how the SEC will most likely shape out through the rest of conference play.

It appears as if Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Georgia are going to be the three bottom teams this year. They might all end up with losing records and will not place in any significant postseason tournament.

On the other hand, we can deduce that Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, and Auburn should end up being the top five teams in the SEC as they should all make the NCAA Tournament. I think one could possibly add Mississippi State into this group as well.

That leaves us with five teams that will be fighting for to make the NCAA Tournament: South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas. I know that the Razorbacks are 1-4 in SEC Play, but I’m not counting out any team that has Daniel Gafford on it.

Of course, a team may drop out of that group of six and not make the Tournament (Miss. State possibly), and someone from the middle of the pack could make a huge late run (I’m looking at you, Alabama). Nevertheless, separation has already occurred in the SEC, and it’s very reasonable to predict that this may be a seven-bid league.


UK bests UofL in Saturday TV ratings

Cue the sad Louisville fans.

On Saturday afternoon, both the UK and UofL basketball teams hit the court. Both games were on the road – No. 12 Kentucky at No. 14 Auburn; Louisville at Georgia Tech. The Cats’ game was shown on ESPN; the Cards were on WHAS, an ABC-affiliated station in Louisville. Here are the results in Louisville:

For all of you non-TV people out there, here’s what that means:

For the Kentucky game, 12 percent of the people in the market who own TVs were watching the game (that’s a 12 rating); 21 percent of the people watching TV at that time in that market were watching that particular game (a 21 share).

For the Louisville game, nine percent of the people in the market who own TVs were watching the game (a 9 rating); 16 percent of the people watching TV at that time in that market were watching that particular game (for a 16 share).

In other words… Cats by 90.


Two top-25 UK targets will play on TV tomorrow

Assuming you aren’t completely burned out by all of the sports happening this weekend, you can look ahead to a couple potential future Cats tomorrow.

At 11AM, 6’11” power forward Jaden McDaniels will suit up on ESPNU. McDaniels is the 5th ranked prospect by 247 Sports, and based on his highlights, he earned that spot more with finesse than power.

Sure looks like a fine alternative to James Wiseman to me.

Later in the day at 5PM, 5-star small forward Keion Brooks will squad up with his La Lumiere team, also on ESPNU. Indiana is considered the heavy favorite to land Brooks, but he has taken an official visit to UK and has yet to remove them from his list, so anything is possible. And I definitely wouldn’t mind having him.

@JayWinkKSR


ICYMI: Yesterday was a wild day all around college hoops

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday saw our beloved Cats snuff out an impressive rally from the Auburn Tigers, notching their first top-15 win on the road in the SEC in the Calipari era. But if that was the only game you watched on Saturday, you missed out on one of the wildest regular season days of college basketball that I can recall.

#2 Michigan fell on the road to Wisconsin, 64-54

Coming into Saturday, there were only 2 remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball. Neither would survive the day.

Michigan went first. The Wolverines couldn’t guard Ethan Happ, who scored 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the Badgers to victory. At this stage of the season, with 6 losses already, Wisconsin was playing with the desperation of a team that was already on the March Madness bubble.

Michigan is objectively one of the more well-rounded teams in the country, but yesterday, the team that wanted the win more earned it. Kudos to the Badgers.

#3 Tennessee barely dodges Alabama, 71-68

Alabama continues to pester the top teams in the SEC. This time, they were perhaps just a pump fake away from taking down the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. But alas, Grant Williams showed why he was the preseason conference POY with a clutch block with just over a minute left:

Can’t say I’m looking forward to playing them twice. With Duke’s loss against Syracuse early in the week, Tennessee should take the #1 spot in the polls.

#7 Kansas drops the ball against West Virginia, 65-64

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Kansas is not the same team without Udoka Azubuike. Still, you would think they had enough firepower to take down a middling 9-loss Mountaineer squad. Apparently not.

Try not to get too overconfident for our matchup with the Jayhawks in 6 days.

Lastly, Duke overcame Virginia, 72-70

There will be no 40-0 team this year. Duke sped the Cavaliers up, but UVA kept pace with the young studs for the most part. But in the end, the Barrett/Williamson combination was too much for the final unbeaten team.

Also Zion did this:

I will never forgive him.

@JayWinkKSR