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February 27th, 2015

Matt’s segment on The Paul Finebaum Show

Matt was on The Paul Finebaum Show earlier to talk about Kentucky’s game against Arkansas tomorrow and the Kevin Stallings incident last night. Thanks to our friends at UKBasketballLive.com, we have this video clip to share. Enjoy.


What they’re saying about Kentucky today

Ulis Booker

With three games left to history, Kentucky basketball is EVERYWHERE, dominating every major network to the point that John Calipari says the media scrutiny is “impossible” for his players to ignore. Tomorrow’s game against Arkansas is Kentucky’s first against a ranked opponent since Louisville and everyone is talking about it.

Here’s a roundup of what the national media’s saying about Kentucky today:

Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated

When I am appointed czar of college basketball (which will happen any day now), I am going to reserve the option of moving the site of a game where conference opponents play just once. Because this game should be played in Bud Walton Arena, where Arkansas is nearly impossible to beat. The Razorbacks have been clearly the second-best team in the SEC this season, which means there is zero chance Kentucky will overlook them.

Kentucky 84, Arkansas 75

Myron Medcalf, ESPN

Per ESPN Stats & Information, as of mid-January Arkansas had the country’s largest margin between home and road winning percentages since the 2011-12 season. Arkansas followed the script and finished 1-2 in its next three SEC road games, but secured a 4-2 mark over the following six. Still, the Razorbacks have been a different team outside Fayetteville in recent seasons. Somehow, however, they swept Kentucky last season with a pair of overtime wins. So will it happen again? No. Kentucky’s interior defense is allowing opponents a 37.6 percent clip inside the arc, No. 1 in America. Arkansas collects 53 percent of its points (per Ken Pomeroy) inside the 3-point line. Sure, Mike Anderson’s squad is shooting a respectable 36 percent from the 3-point line. But they have to get to the rim to win. And that’s not easy to do against one of the best defenses in recent history.

Prediction: Kentucky 76, Arkansas 66

Eamonn Brennan, ESPN

Now, about that No. 1-ranked, 27-0 team: You don’t actually think Kentucky is going to lose, do you? Yes, OK, this is one of two remaining games in which it as at least conceivable that the Wildcats could lose, the other being Tuesday’s trip to Georgia. Arkansas is the better of the two teams, and the more obvious matchup issue: The Razorbacks’ press defense and high-speed offense could, at least in theory, make it tougher for Kentucky to get the ball up the floor and into its pulverizing combination of interior offense and downright terrifying half-court defense. Even knowing that, it is impossible to look at this Wildcats team — which has spent the two weeks since its LSU scare completely destroying everything in its path — and predict anything but a comfortable win.

(Actually, it’s 28-0, Eamonn.)

Andrew Lange, ESPN Insider

Projected Line: Kentucky -17 (O/U: 144.5)

This matchup would be a lot more intriguing if played in Fayetteville. Instead, Kentucky is on its home court and once again prohibitive favorites. After losing five straight ATS, the Wildcats have ripped off four straight covers.

You look through UK’s results and see a lot of offensive outputs in the 60’s and 70’s but that needs to be put into context. For starters, opposing teams almost always look to shorten the game. And with big leads late, there’s simply no need for the Cats to keep their foot on the gas. If the opponent is willing to play an up-tempo game, you can get a result like Kentucky had against Auburn, a 110-75 win in a 161-possession track meet.

John Calipari has urged his team to play faster and it will get its chance against Arkansas. The Razorbacks have had their fair share of low-scoring affairs but pace-wise, nearly every conference game has been high-possession. The issue with playing the over is whether Arkansas scores enough and if the last five minutes of the game bog down due to a large margin? Those are concerns but with both teams not shy about pushing the pace, it’s the only way I would look, especially with a reasonable total.

Pick: Over

CBS Sports

Rob Dauster, NBC Sports

No. 18 Arkansas at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: This will be the first time that Kentucky has faced a ranked team this year. Literally. The last time was in December, when they won at Louisville. This is not a great matchup for the Razorbacks, but their pressure might rattle Kentucky’s back court.

Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo Sports

The only matchup of the year between the SEC’s two best teams will take place Saturday at Rupp Arena. The 18th-ranked Razorbacks have won seven straight this season and three straight against Kentucky, which means you can bet they’ll have the undefeated Wildcats’ full attention. For Arkansas to stay competitive in Lexington, where Kentucky has lost only four times during John Calipari’s tenure, the Razorbacks will have to force turnovers with their pressure defense and turn them into transition chances before the Wildcats’ defense is set. Arkansas forces 16.6 turnovers per game, the most in the SEC. It would also help the Razorbacks to shoot well from the perimeter and to hit the offensive glass hard because points in the paint are almost always hard to come by against Kentucky.

Joe Lunardi, ESPN


Matt will be live from the Joe Craft Center on Finebaum at 4:30 p.m.

I think it’s safe to say that Matt is becoming Paul Finebaum’s Kentucky basketball correspondent, and this afternoon, he’s LIVE from the Joe Craft Center to preview tomorrow’s huge, huge game against Arkansas.

Matt will be on around 4:30 p.m. Watch on the SEC Network, WatchESPN.com, or listen via this link:

LISTEN TO MATT JONES ON THE PAUL FINEBAUM SHOW


Dusty Mills on why Kevin Stallings’ tirade against Wade Baldwin was not okay

Dusty Mills was a freshmen walk-on at Kentucky for the 2007-2008 season, Billy Gillispie’s first year as head coach. Mills has agreed to share his diary entries from that time with KSR, but first, he wanted to respond to Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stalling’s tirade against Wade Baldwin last night. In case you missed it, Stallings berated Baldwin after the game, yelling “I will f****** kill you” at him in the handshake line. The incident was caught on camera, and when Stallings found that out, he apologized to Baldwin in his postgame remarks. 

Mills has coached at the high school and AAU levels and wanted to share his thoughts…

————————

I’m a coach. Whether or not I ever get to prove it at the collegiate level, I am a coach. I know the game, I mastered the game. I mastered it as a 5’6” white kid with blonde hair who happened to walk-on to the winningest college basketball program of all time. (28-0 and counting)

Point is, I know the game. Worst part is: I can’t get a coaching job. But you know who did? Kevin Stallings.

I had one run-in with Kevin Stallings in my life. I was 16, sophomore in high school, and at the SEC Tournament in 2005 in Atlanta. Vandy has just gotten upset by Auburn (last in the SEC West that year) and my Dad and I happened to be on the elevator at the Hilton with Kevin. On the elevator, Kevin was messing up his hair and cussing out every player in sight (to himself, I may add, as he should have tonight). At the time, I just laughed with my dad about it, not knowing what that stress as a college basketball coach would include.

Well, join me. Let’s fast forward three years later. Suddenly, I am playing under the wings of Billy Clyde Gillispie. No need for details, we all know (some of) the stories. Dude was crazy… CRAZY!! But I will tell you something about Billy Clyde (and keep in mind that him and I have NO relationship, even with my multiple attempts to reach out to him): Billy DID care about his players. I never doubted that. I never will doubt that. He tried challenging us every day. Yes, his methods were crazy, yes sometimes he seemed insane. Yes, sometimes you gave him the look that Kobe gave on “Jimmy Kimmel” the other day. But the guy cared.

Want to know why know I’m fired up about this? Three years ago, I started my own AAU program. In that time, I coached some crazy ass kids, I mean hell, imagine kids from the inner city who are playing for a blonde short white boy whom they don’t truly believe played at Kentucky. I got pissed, I yelled things, I COACHED kids when they needed it; but guess what? I loved each and every one of those kids. And when I say love, I mean I cared. I wanted to give them a better life, I wanted to make sure when they left my hand, they had a future. Yes, I was hard at times. But there are 2 things I would have never done:

  1. Physically grabbed them (Hi chair thrower)
  2. Let anybody ever think my players weren’t the best citizens.

So, now we move back to Kevin.

Look, I get it, you have a kid you’ve been frustrated with. That’s fine. I had multiple. And they were three years younger than Wade Baldwin. I had cocky shit happen in the hand shake line ALL THE TIME. You know what I did? I kept shaking hands, then took him to the side and talked to him about it. But at no point, EVER, would I put him on blast in public for his actions. Why? Because I cared about him and his future. I wasn’t worried about my contract (like I had one) or what people would think (like Kevin), but I cared about him and his future. My plan was to make him a better man. And as recently as two weeks ago, I got a call from a mother of one of my players that said “thank you.”

I’m SURE Wade’s Mom will call Kevin and say the same.


Kentucky opens as a 17-point favorite against Arkansas

Vegas has spoken and they are confident about Kentucky’s chances against Arkansas. The Cats opened as a 17-point favorite in tomorrow’s game, which seems really high given that this is being billed as Kentucky’s biggest challenge left in the regular season. The line has already been bet down to 15.

What say you? Cover?


Booker on big games: “We lock in when we hear that”

Photo by Darrell Bird, 247Sports

Photo by Darrell Bird, 247Sports

Arkansas has beaten Kentucky in four of the last five meetings, and swept the Cats last season. Don’t think that’s lost on the veterans on Kentucky’s squad. Aaron Harrison told Mike Pratt after the Mississippi State game that the team wants revenge, and Devin Booker and Trey Lyles both told reporters today that the veterans on this group are talking about payback. “Definitely, no one wants to lose to them again,” Trey said. “We’ve been talking about it the past couple of days.”

“I think our guys will have fire,” Kenny Payne said today. “They have a competitive edge about them. They know this team has beaten us twice.” Payne had a great quote when asked how the staff is preparing them. “Every game we play, we tell them they’re playing a good team. When we win, they say, ‘I thought you said they were good.'” Ha.

So far this season, we’ve seen this team “play to” their competition, giving their best performances on the biggest stages. ESPN is billing this as Kentucky’s biggest challenge on the way to a perfect regular season, and the players are listening. “We lock in when we hear that,” Devin Booker said. “We hear a team could challenge us, maybe beat us, we take that personally, ” Trey Lyles added.

Bring it on.


Phil Jackson is at the Joe Craft Center RIGHT NOW

The former Bulls and Lakers head coach and current Knicks president is in town for the game tomorrow and is currently making the rounds at the Joe Craft Center. Something tells me he’s taking an especially close look at Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns…


Live Long and Prosper

trek_043_by_dave_daring-d6hrrqu

Writer, Director, and television icon Leonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  I’m pretty bummed out about it, as I have been, and always shall be, an enormous Star Trek fan, and a big fan of Nimoy’s other work (especially in Fringe).  Best known for his work as Spock, Nimoy was one of the first in a long line of science fiction actors who deftly explored the nature of humanity through his role as an alien being.  A trailblazer as a character turned into a long career with highlights (directing Star Trek III and IV, and Three Men and a Baby) and some not-so-highlights (the beloved music career!).

It’s pretty safe to say that pop-culture won’t see anyone like Leonard Nimoy again.  Below are some of my absolute favorite Nimoy clips.  Live Long and Prosper, my friends.

Star Trek: Amok Time

Star Trek VI: An Undiscovered Country

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

If I Had a Hammer

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

RIP Leonard Nimoy


LIVE: Kenny Payne previews Arkansas


Scouting Arkansas: Facts, Stats and Other Useless Information

Ready for Kentucky’s toughest home test of the SEC? It’s a little over 24 hours away, so you better get ready.

Kenny Payne will soon take the microphone for his preview of the game, but first, here is our quick look at the Razorbacks, the SEC’s second-best team:

 

They’ve won seven straight games.

It’s not quite 28 in a row, but Arkansas is on a pretty impressive win streak of its own. The Razorbacks have had only one loss since mid-January, a one-point defeat at Florida back when Florida still had the makings of an SEC basketball team. Florida’s Michael Frazier nailed two free throws with one second on the clock for a dramatic finish. It’s been seven straight victories since dropping that one.

The seven-game SEC win streak is Arkansas’ first since 1994.

They’ve won eight of their last 12 SEC road games.

Among those eight wins, last year’s victory over Kentucky in Rupp Arena, the last time the Wildcats lost in Lexington.

They’ve won the last three against UK.

And four of the last five.

The Razorbacks needed overtime in three of those fours.

Michael Qualls can fly.

Check out his best dunks from this season:

And let’s not forget what he did to Kentucky in Fayetteville last year:

“My guy watched and the guy ran by him and dunked it,” Coach Cal said after that game. “He’s a freshman. That’s what freshmen do.”

The program has only one win against the nation’s No. 1 team.

The 1984 Razorbacks defeated No. 1 North Carolina for the lone upset over the top-ranked team in program history.

They lead the SEC in scoring.

Arkansas scores a league-best 79.5 points per game this season and a league-best 75.3 points per game in conference play. Kentucky ranks second in the SEC this season, around five points behind the Razorbacks at 74.7 per contest.

Arkansas is also a better three-point and foul shooting team than the Cats, although UK has the higher FG%.

Bobby Portis is really good at basketball.

The big man averages 18 points and nine rebounds while leading the conference in double-doubles during SEC play. Portis is a candidate for the Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson Player of the Year awards, and he is projected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

Mike Anderson told CBS, “This kid isn’t just one of the best players in our league — he’s one of the best players in the country.”

I will co-sign that.

I love this picture of Portis:

That face screams…

portis-uk

 

 


DraftKings and KSR together again for Saturday’s games

We’re back again with lots of money to give away on DraftKings.com and I’d love for you to win and spent it on drinks at the SEC tourney. This contest is for tomorrow’s games and has a $1,000 prize pool. Spots are limited in this one, so your chances of winning are much higher.

The top 100 finishers will earn some form of payment, while the winner will walk away with $200.

First time players will receive free entry into the contest, as well as a 100 percent bonus up to $600 on the first deposit.

Action begins tomorrow at noon.

Click this link: https://www.draftkings.com/gateway?s=323056105


A Look Down The Road To 40-0

road-to-40

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you’re a Louisville fan who refuses to turn on ESPN this season, you know Kentucky is 28-0 and chasing history. The Cats are off to the program’s best start ever, they have the longest single-season win streak ever, and they’re 12 wins away from the first perfect season since Indiana went 32-0 in 1976. Twelve games, BBN. Only twelve more games.

So as excitement peaks and the regular season winds down, let’s take a look at how the road to 40-0 stands as of today. Hop in the car with me, buckle up, turn up the new Big Sean, and join me in a hypothetical drive down this last stretch of pavement on Perfection Highway.

Twelve. More. Games.

 

Regular Season

These are the three games standing between Kentucky and an undefeated regular season, the first in a major conference since Indiana in 1976.

Arkansas

Ranked No. 16 in the country and riding a seven-game win streak, Arkansas is undoubtedly Kentucky’s toughest competition in the SEC. The Razorbacks are one of the few teams in the conference that can match up with UK athletically, led by 6-foot-11 Bobby Portis, a projected NBA lottery pick and one of 14 finalists for the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy.

Luckily this game is in Rupp Arena, although Kentucky wasn’t so lucky on its own floor last year. Arkansas won both meetings between the two teams in 2014, needing overtime each time.

Georgia

In what will likely be the last time the Cats wear blue uniforms for the remainder of the year, Kentucky will travel to Georgia for its final Tuesday night SEC contest of 2014-15. A month or two ago this was one of the few games some predicted to be the one UK could lose, but Georgia is 0-2 in its last two games in Athens with losses to Auburn and South Carolina.

Is a loss possible? Yes, it is possible. Is it going to happen? Nah.

Florida

Kentucky will host Florida in the regular season finale, assuming Florida still has a basketball team on March 7. Billy Donovan has had problems with his team all season long and Tuesday night’s loss to Missouri might’ve been the last straw. The Gators have now lost six of eight and sit in 10th place in the conference standings.

The most difficult part of this game is picking who will cry first during their Senior Day ceremony: Tod, Brian or Sam?

SEC Tournament

With three more regular season games before we pack up and head to Nashville for a five-day weekend, and several teams tied in the standings, it’s pretty impossible to project who Kentucky will meet in the SEC tourney. But this is who will stand in the way if the conference tournament were to begin today, assuming the higher seed wins each game — although that’s never the case. (Work with me here, people.)

Vanderbilt

A Wednesday afternoon victory over Tennessee will move Vanderbilt into the SEC quarterfinals, where Kentucky awaits, licking its chops on five days rest. Vandy, though playing in its home city, where it upset Kentucky in this same tournament in 2013, will have to shoot the lights out in Bridgestone Arena to have any chance at all. Not to mention, this year’s SEC Tournament may be more of a home game for Kentucky than its games in Rupp Arena. Nashville and the SEC always bring out the rowdiest and most passionate members of Big Blue Nation and they are over-the-top excited for this postseason run.

The Cats may do to Vanderbilt what Kevin Stallings threatened to do to Wade Baldwin last night.

Texas A&M

Sticking with our hypothetical theme of the higher seeds advancing, Kentucky will meet Texas A&M in Saturday’s semifinal. A&M played UK as close as anyone in the regular season, without its best player, but postseason UK isn’t the same UK that showed up in College Station in the second game of January. As I mentioned above, Big Blue Nation will flood Bridgestone Arena to create a home atmosphere for Cal and the boys, writing a completely different story than that double-OT game at A&M, nine weeks earlier.

Arkansas

And for your 2015 SEC Tournament Championship, Arkansas will get its rematch with Kentucky in a meeting of the league’s top two teams. It’s been four years since UK brought home the SEC hardware, so it’s time to get one back in Lexington, where it belongs. (Fun Fact: Calipari has more Final Fours than SEC Championships at UK.)

If Kentucky were to lose this game, you can go ahead and give them the national championship. The 1996 and 2012 title teams, two of the best ever, lost in the SEC tourney finals.

NCAA Tournament

For our hypothetical NCAA Tournament run, I turned to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, released yesterday. And once again, the higher seed advanced because I can’t see the future.

Play-In Winner

Doesn’t matter who advances; this is waiting…

Ohio State

Of Joey Bracket’s four 8-seeds, Ohio State is the last I want to see. (The others are Georgia, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.) D’Angelo Russell is one of the best players in all of college basketball and March Madness loves a hero that can put his team on his back, as Russell can. The Louisville native would love to give it to Kentucky, too.

But as I’ve said all season: I fear no one, only Kentucky coming out flat, so there’s no sweating a first weekend game with Thad Matta’s Buckeyes. Put The Energy Bus audio book in Willie Cauley-Stein’s headphones during warmups and let him chase Russell around if Russell gets hot. Then we’ll pack for Cleveland and the Sweet Sixteen after the game.

Notre Dame

If Notre Dame can escape Murray State and Wichita State/Texas in Columbus (not an easy task by any means), Kentucky will get the Fighting Irish in its first game in Cleveland. And considering Notre Dame plays zero defense and relies on its shooting, this is a game that could get out of hand, real quick.

Then again, it could also be one of the aforementioned “hero games” if Jerian Grant goes off. But I like our chances of that not happening against Kentucky’s defense.

Wisconsin

YOU AGAIN????

Seems a little unfair to put Wisconsin up against Kentucky and vise versa, but that’s how it stands as of this week’s tournament projections. Good thing is Wisconsin is essentially the exact same team we saw last year in the Final Four, while Kentucky has added Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis for Julius Randle and James Young, plus Willie Cauley-Stein.

If I’m Bo Ryan, I’m writing a strongly-worded letter to the selection committee if this happens.

Cats by 9.

Gonzaga

I don’t expect to see Gonzaga in the Final Four (give me Arizona out of this region) BUT PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN!!!

Love Kyle Wiltjer, couldn’t be happier for him, but no chance in hell Calipari’s Dream Team gets sent home by Wiltjer. No shot. Write that down. Kyle’s not big enough for that moment. No way. Set. This. Up.

Another Saturday night with the Goon Squad…

… dancing in Indianapolis this time, not McDonald’s parking lot.

Virginia/Duke

Who would you rather see here? You want defense vs. defense in a title game with Virginia? Or do you want Duke, because Duke?

I want Duke all day. The perfect ending to a perfect (literally) season. Karl Towns outshines Jahlil Okafor and takes over the No. 1 pick. Tyler Ulis goes old school Peach Jam and dominates Tyus Jones. Coach Cal over Coach K as Kentucky completes 40-0 with a win over the Blue Devils.

I’m grinning from ear to ear thinking about it right now.

 

But first, Arkansas…


At least 20 scouts will be at the game tomorrow, including Phil Jackson

How big is tomorrow’s game? According to the seating chart UK sent out, at least 20 scouts will be at tomorrow’s game, including Phil Jackson from the New York Knicks.

Even though the game is on CBS, ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards will be in attendance to cover the game as part of the Worldwide Leader’s “Pursuit of Perfection” UK media tour.

What other celebs will be in the house? Could this be the game we finally see Ashley?


Last night’s Suns/Thunder game was a La familia fest

Barry Gossage, Suns.com

While the internet was preoccupied with the dress debate last night, there was a hell of a game going down in Phoenix. The Suns, the BBN’s new favorite pro team, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder by four in overtime, and three Cats put in impressive performances.

For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe had a banner night, coming one assist shy of a triple double with 28 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 blocks, while Brandon Knight had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. In one of his first games with the Thunder, Enes Kanter chipped in 18 points and 6 rebounds. Since leaving Utah, Enes is averaging 15.8 points per game, compared to his 13.8 points per game for the Jazz.

Bledsoe’s battle with the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook stole the show:


Come out to Total Quality Logistics for the chance to win UK/Arkansas tickets (Friday Show Thread)

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Friday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, Matt and Ryan are at Total Quality Logistics in Lexington (2473 Fortune Drive, Suite 145) to talk CATS and give away tickets to tomorrow’s UK/Arkansas game, a HUGE prize. There’s also free food from Drake’s and Malone’s, so head on over for what is sure to be a really fun Friday morning.

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

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