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March 31st, 2015

Go Big Moo’s Tuesday Night News and Views


(Images via @MadelynStampley and @lvm_4)

Of all of the random things to happen in Lexington this week, I did not expect a steer getting loose on UK’s campus to be one of them. This morning around 10 a.m., a large steer escaped the Agriculture school off Nicholasville Road and Cooper Drive, sending policemen, students, and bystanders on a wild cow chase for nearly two hours. The steer hunt took over Twitter and even closed parts of Cooper Drive until Adam Menker, star of the UK rodeo team, lassoed the steer. With the help of Bluegrass Stockyards, the steer was sedated and returned to the Ag College unharmed.

Twitter gonna be Twitter, so at least two parody accounts for the steer were made, along with endless puns and hashtags. My favorite? #GoBigMoo

UK steer, these news and views are for you.

John Calipari was named NABC Coach of the Year today

…Which (slightly) makes up for the US Basketball Writers Association snubbing him last week. This is the third time Cal has received the award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the first being in 1996 at Memphis and second also at Memphis in 2009.

On Friday, Cal will find out of he wins AP Coach of the Year and his chances look pretty good considering the AP decided to hand out the awards during the Final Four team press conferences on Friday instead of holding a separate press conference on Thursday as originally scheduled. Cal is also one of four finalists for the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year award, which will be announced on Sunday, and one of twelve finalists eligible to go in to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September. The Class of 2015 will be announced on Monday at a press conference in Indianapolis, prior to the national championship game.

If Cal runs the table AND the Cats go 40-0, I fully expect him to walk into his postgame press conference like this on Monday:

vince-calipari

Aaron says the team is going into the Final Four with a different mindset than last year

Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, and Karl Towns all met with the media this afternoon before leaving for Indianapolis. This is Aaron and Dakari’s second straight Final Four, and both said they’re going into it with a different mindset than they had in Dallas last year.

“I think last year we were just excited to be there,” Aaron said.” This year we’re not going to be satisfied with just the feeling. We’re just going up there to win.”

Dakari agreed. “Last year it wasn’t expected. 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.”

Unfinished business.

Shannon Spake walked the team to class this morning

Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Karl Towns, and Derek Willis were nice enough to let Shannon Spake accompany them to their 8 a.m. class this morning for a segment on SportsCenter, becoming even more the envy of Drew Franklin. I haven’t seen the segment, but when it comes online, I’ll share it with you and then send it to Bobby Knight to prove that, even the Tuesday before the Final Four, these kids (including the potential #1 pick in the draft) do go to class.

Wisconsin is preparing for Willie Cauley-Stein with a 6’6″ freshman

According to Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton, Frank Kaminsky says the Badgers are preparing Willie Cauley-Stein’s length with 6’6″ freshman Matt Ferris. “I think Matt Ferris will give us a great look at Willie Cauley-Stein,” Kaminsky said.

Sure, if someone else is sitting on Ferris’ shoulders.

Apparently Wisconsin also plays Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64

And talk about a weird coincidence. At today’s presser, our ole buddy Jeff Goodman asked the Badgers about FIFA, and Nigel Hayes decided to talk about Super Smash Bros. instead:

“We care more about suckoffs than Smash battles. We’re a Super Smash Bros. team, so FIFA has really taken a backseat to that. All we care about is our suckoffs.”

Before you get all inappropriate on the Google machine, “suckoffs” is Super Smash Bros. lingo for sucking the opponent in with Kirby and falling off the edge with them. At first, I thought this was a shot at UK’s famous habit for playing the game, but it turns out Wisconsin actually enjoys it too.

I mean, this calls for a Super Smash Brothers battle on Friday, right?

Dave Baker, Rex Chapman and Michael Eaves were chosen for UK’s Team Stream

I’ll be honest, I was pretty shocked when I saw that Rex will return to UK’s homer coverage of Saturday night’s game. He’ll be joined by Buzz Baker and Michael Eaves, the main sports anchor for Al Jazeera America who went to college at UK and worked for WKYT in the mid to late 90’s.

To hear the trio call the game, tune into TNT at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

Will a certain part of a certain Lexington statue need painting this weekend?

Shoutout to Bucky Small Hooves for this bizarre video, which honors a certain pair of big cojones.

Doron Lamb suffered a season-ending wrist injury

Lamb was averaging 17.7 points per game with the Westchester Knicks, and recently set a franchise record for the most points scored in a single game with 40. Westchester will retain Doron’s D-League rights for the next two seasons.

Let’s hope this doesn’t also affect his Twitter game.

There will be quite a few potential first-round draft picks on the floor Saturday night

According to Chad Ford, at least seven, four from Kentucky and three from Wisconsin. We’re used to Kentucky have a substantial advantage in talent over other teams, and while the margin is still great, Wisconsin has some legit players. Sam Dekker wanted to make that clear in Wisconsin’s press conference today.

“We know Kentucky’s got a lot of guys who will be first rounders who will be good,” Dekker said. “So do we.”

Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day and I’m not biting

I think April Fools’ Day is the dumbest holiday in existence, so you have my promise that I won’t pull any dumb pranks on you on the website tomorrow; however, I’m sure the rest of the world will, so be on the lookout for fake articles about the Cats or John Calipari.


UK Fans of the Day Want Some Tuesday Thoughts

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Some thoughts as we move towards Indy….

— I am more confident than others seem to be about this game on Saturday night. Of course Kentucky can lose, as Wisconsin is a great team and probably the best matchup against the Cats of any in the Tournament. But I like where UK is, think they got the worst game of the tournament out of the way and feel better about the matchups than I have before. The Notre Dame game exploited what is Kentucky’s real weakness on defense…guards who can beat you off the bounce and penetrate to the rim. Jerian Grant was a defensive problem for the Cats and their success on the offensive end stemmed from his play. I am not as worried about the Wisconsin guards…they can shoot but I don’t see the game-changing playmaking abilities that Grant was able to give the Irish. The key for me is Karl Towns playing Kaminsky well without getting into foul trouble and controlling Dekker as much as possible. Wisconsin isn’t really deep and if UK plays well offensively, they can’t guard the Cats. I expect a very good game but still think UK is a solid favorite if they do what they are capable of on both ends of the floor.

— I was really surprised by the TeamCast broadcast lineup. I like Dave Baker, Rex Chapman and Michael Eaves all quite a bit. They are all friends of mine and I think they are all very talented. Baker makes total sense for play-by-play and Eaves, while not known by everyone in the state, will do a good job on the sidelines after doing it for the Clippers for a number of years. But using Rex after his problems and the issue with the fans following the Tweet last year surprised me. As readers here know, I like Rex a lot and think this is a good chance for him. But it wasn’t met well by fans and showcases how little television executives really know about what a fanbase wants. My hope is that Rex can use this to rebuild some bridges, and I know the product will be good with these three guys. But what is also likely is that some fans who would have otherwise watched, are now less likely to.

I have no idea what is wrong with Chris Webber. His argument about Willie today was silly and the one thing it will do is motivate WCS to play well this weekend. To act like Willie is not a NBA starter because he only averages 9 a game is ludicrous. Deandre Jordan (who Webber said Willie isn’t nearly as good as) averaged 7 a game in college and Nerlens Noel (who is the same age as Willie) only average 10 while playing eight more minutes a game. Success in the NBA isn’t guaranteed for Willie and I am not sure how great he can become…but he can play NBA level defense on a high plane immediately…that means he will see the Court from Day One and I don’t know how anyone can project that he won’t be able to eventually be a starter.

Willie today became the 25th Consensus All-American in UK history. That is an amazing accomplishment for the young man and also showcases his place in history. To only have 25 since this program began, and have a player who was an afterthought in his recruiting class become one of them, is truly impressive for the kid and John Calipari. He is the first consensus All American ever to average less than 10 points a game, a distinction that should be a badge of honor. What makes it even more amazing is that I think Willie now will have a real case to have his jersey retired at Kentucky…think about it…one of only 25 consensus First Team All Americans in school history and potentially the MVP of the first team in school history to go 40-0. If that happens, Willie has a case, something I don’t think any of us thought was possible even one year ago…a great kid who has become a great player.

Pat Forde is the worst. I know we all know this but he reminds me of it often. I ignore him when I can, but sometimes his awfulness needs the occasional acknowledgement. I did that on Twitter today with five tweets that illustrate my biggest gripes with him. Check them out if you so choose…and while doing it, follow me on Snapchat (kysportsradio) for behind-the-scenes video from the Final Four…plus our radio presence in Indy should be huge, including a potential special live show during the UK open practice. Should be much fun.

I can’t wait for Indianapolis. Not only do we have the excitement of the 40-0 chase, but we also have one of the best Final Four fields ever and the close site means there will be UK fans EVERYWHERE. Saturday will be a circus, and the basketball is now being joined by the political issue in Indiana to mean that we may have one of the wilder scenes in a NCAA Tournament ever. The key for Kentucky is to do what they have done all season…avoid distractions. If they do that, they will be fine. This group has not gotten off track all year and I see no reason why it would happen now. What I do know is that I will be a nervous wreck, and like many of you, will feel like I have played 10 games by the time the Semifinal ends late Saturday night.

— I am giving away FINAL FOUR TICKETS from Guyonthecornertickets.comover the next three days on the morning radio show. Listen to win and get a trip to see all the shenanigans on Saturday.  

With that, my picture of March (I hate April Fool’s Day):

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Kentucky Jumps to a 53% Favorite

Via FiveThirtyEight.com

Via FiveThirtyEight.com

It’s that time of the week once again. Time to check in with the statistical models from around the web and see if they like the Cats in their upcoming games. First up is Five Thirty Eight which has vaulted Kentucky from 41% to 53% as fewer teams are left in the field. Nate Silver’s model really likes Kentucky and Duke to meet in the Championship as both teams are over 65% favorites to win their Final Four match-ups.

The Power Rank has updated their model as well but they still place UK a bit lower. They have the Cats advancing to the National Championship game 64.7% of the time and a chance at winning the title of 42.3%. That’s a jump of almost 5 percentage points since we took a peak at the numbers last week.

The numbers all place Kentucky as a pretty heavy favorite to win the championship. But as Notre Dame proved, numbers don’t mean much when the ball is up in the air. Still, it gives me some stress relief to see models pick the Cats to go all the way.


If this video doesn’t pump you up for Saturday, I’m not sure what will

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 6.30.42 PM

Kudos to zproductionz for the ultimate Final Four hype video that’s making the rounds today. Got two minutes and nineteen seconds? Enjoy:


What’s changed and what hasn’t since UK and Wisconsin last met

Almost one year ago, Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 on a last-second three from Aaron Harrison to advance to the National Championship. On Saturday, the two teams will meet again with the same goal. What’s changed and what hasn’t since April 6, 2014? I’m glad you asked…

UK won’t have Alex Poythress

Alex roared the Cats back into the game with eight points and seven rebounds, including four crucial points and two huge rebounds in the final five minutes. He also had a key offensive rebound and putback that was part of 15-0 run by the Cats early in the second half. Of course, Alex went down with an ACL injury earlier this season, and will now take over Willie Cauley-Stein’s place on the bench from the last Final Four. Hopefully someone will give him a GoPro. Better yet, he can use ours.

UK will have Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie went down with an ankle injury during the Louisville game, and missed UK’s final three games of the NCAA Tournament. Although Willie only averages three more points per game this season, he’s a totally different player, a well-rounded dunk and block machine who alters games defensively. For some reason, most analysts think Willie will guard Frank Kaminsky, but I think he would be much more effective against Sam Dekker, a 6’9″ 220 lbs. forward who hit five threes vs. Arizona. Willie’s versatility and athleticism on defense are the perfect recipe to keep Dekker quiet, as long as he doesn’t chase butterflies.

Wisconsin won’t have Ben Brust

Brust scored fifteen points against UK last year, including three threes to keep the Badgers rolling. Thankfully, he’s gone, but…

Wisconsin will have Nigel Hayes

Hayes was a non-factor in last year’s game, but this year, he averages 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. As Andrew Cassady told you earlier today, he can put up a bunch of points in a hurry, and Trey Lyles will need to be at his best to contain him.

Frank Kaminsky is better…

In his senior year, Kaminsky is a favorite for Player of the Year, averaging five more points and six more minutes per game than he did last season. UK used a three-man attack of Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee to contain Kaminsky this year, but I have a feeling Karl Towns will get the mission this go around, with Dakari and Lee running relief.

On yesterday’s Final Four teleconference, John Calipari ticked off the ways Frank Kaminsky has improved since last year. “He looks stronger. He’s working angles better. He’s a really confident perimeter shooter,” Cal said. “He’s passing because he gets double-teamed so much. He’s passing better.”

…But he still does this

And I have a feeling he’ll do that a LOT vs. Karl Towns on Saturday. Welcome to the Flop Hall of Fame, Frank. Please line up there right next to Chris Jones.

UK won’t have Julius Randle or James Young

Randle and Young were UK’s leading scorers against Wisconsin, with 16 and 17 points a piece; however, Randle was hampered by an ankle injury throughout the game, pulling down only five rebounds instead of his usual ten. Young was huge against the Badgers, scoring seven of UK’s first nine points.

But they will have Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis

UK’s four freshmen average a combined 34.5 points per game, 35.9 in the postseason. Karl will be especially important in Saturday’s game against Frank Kaminsky. In the postesason, Karl is UK’s leading scorer with 12 points per game, and he’ll most likely have the task of guarding Frank the Tank. Karl is foul prone and Frank is flop prone, so this matchup will be crucial on Saturday night. Look for Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee to double team Frank while Karl’s on the bench.

As mentioned earlier, Trey Lyles may help Willie guard Sam Dekker or focus on containing Nigel Hayes. UK didn’t have a weapon like Trey offensively last year, and he could once again be the x-factor for the Cats. Ulis and Booker need to help keep Kentucky balanced on offense, and wouldn’t this be the perfect game for Booker to get hot from the outside? He had two threes vs. Notre Dame and he’s due for a breakout performance.

UK still has Aaron Harrison, who still does stuff like this

And that’s just one more reason I’m not overly concerned about the Badgers.


Sam Dekker changed his Twitter header for the week

Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker remembers all too well what it was like meeting Kentucky in the Final Four last season. He and his Badger teammates are using that heartbreaking loss as motivation in preparation for Saturday’s rematch, no doubt, and Sam went so far as to use it as his Twitter header for the week:

dekker-header

I wonder how many times he will look at that photo before 8:49 pm on Saturday. I also wonder if we can get him to recreate that pose when it happens again.


Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes: “We’re a Super Smash Bros. team”

@lizconsin

I don’t know if this was a jab at Kentucky or an inside joke, but the Wisconsin players shared a good laugh at their press conference today when Nigel Hayes said, “We’re a Super Smash Bros. team.”

Also, maybe I’m hearing him wrong, but did Hayes say, “All we care about is our suck-offs”????

I have no clue what’s happening here…


NRG Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for the NCAA Tournament

(h/t Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports)

Am I the only one that found the games in NRG Stadium this weekend a little unappealing to watch? In fact, it’s rare I find watching a basketball game on a football field distracting at some points with the ugly black curtains they think are going to distract us from the fact a basketball game is being played at a football stadium.

I’ve always been against basketball in stadiums (although those seem like the only facilities big enough to hold BBN), but the setup NRG Stadium had this weekend just pushed the limit.

Teams always play sluggish at these venues, as teams have issues altering their depth perception because of those gaudy black curtains behind the basket rather than stands.  This was especially apparent at the South’s Sweet Sixteen game of Utah-Duke.

Duke, a 50.2-perfect FG average coming into the game took 4 minutes to make the game’s first field goal. The first jump-shot was made by Justise Winslow with a 3-pointer, three and a half minutes later.

I can only imagine what the view is for fans. With the slowly rising stadium seating, It looks like just being 10 rows back would put you far away from the action. Don’t even get me started on the ‘raised court’. Being so distant from the actual action on the court has to affect the crowd reaction to the game.

Yeah. I get it. The NCAA holds games in football stadiums to sell tickets for more money. However, Houston only sold about 1,500 more tickets than the Staples Center and Quicken Loans Arena.

I think the only thing worse would have to be when the Cats played in a ballroom in Puerto Rico in 2009.

@Sealey_KSR


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:

Image Via USATODAY

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:

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


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

players

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 Fanatics.com, 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

CBS081SUUAERyUs

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.