Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.
March 4th, 2015

Another Snowstorm’s Wednesday Night News and Views

© Dale Zanine

© Dale Zanine

Good evening, friends, and greetings from a sleety Nashvegas. Nashville escaped the brunt of the snow that’s buried the Bluegrass in the past month, but Winter Storm Thor may have its way with Music City tonight. It might even break the Snowdome, which has protected the city from measurable snow (over 1″) for over four years. But that’s just tiddlywinks for you guys. Seriously, I’ll stop complaining. Put down the snow shovel and back away, please.

The latest snow storm prompted Eli Capilouto to cancel classes again, but at this point, the joy isn’t as real as it was a few weeks ago. Now, the snow isn’t beautiful and fun anymore, it’s a nuisance, but I’m sure that won’t stop students from having a Snow Day party tonight.

Meanwhile, I’m about to fall asleep after one glass of wine, so let’s roll through the highlights of a very, very busy day…

Cal and Willie are Naismith finalists

Congrats to John Calipari and Willie Cauley-Stein, who were named Naismith Coach of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year finalists, respectively. Cal is one of 15 finalists for the award, along with Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan. If Kentucky goes undefeated, even just in the regular season, he has to win it right? Of course that means he won’t.

Cal will also have his jersey retired at UMass

It was a double big day for Cal, who found out he will have his jersey retired at UMass next season. The ceremony will be part of the 20-year anniversary of his 1995-96 Final Four squad. How did Calipari celebrate the news? By flying to Massachusetts…to watch his son Brad play and do some recruiting. After getting back to Lexington late last night from a crazy road win. The man never sleeps. Neither do his players, because…

…The team made it to their 8 a.m. classes today

Tweet of the Day goes to Evan Crane, who works in the UK Media Relations office and spotted Karl Towns going to his class around 7:45 this morning. After getting back to Lexington late last night from a crazy road win. Even better, John Robic said on the coach’s show that the team “really busted their tails today and had a great workout” to boot. These kids…as Jay Bilas said, they’re ruining the national media’s narrative.

UK will be in Nike gear through 2025

Bad news, adidas and Under Armour fans, good news everyone actually reading this: the Cats will be wearing Nike for at least the next ten years. Today, UK and Nike agreed to a $30 million extension through 2025, making UK’s deal the 7th most lucrative for any Nike school. Huzzah!

The ratings for UK/Georgia were massive

As the kids and Neal Brown say, Kentucky is the show, and there is no better proof than last night’s ratings. 2.8 million people watched last night’s game, making it the fifth most watched this season behind UNC/Duke, UK/UofL, Duke/UVA, and UK/Florida. In fact, five of Kentucky’s games rank in the top ten most-watched college basketball games this season:

We the show.

This quote from Cal about Tyler and Andrew makes me happy

When asked if his team turned to Andrew Harrison last night, Calipari had this reponse:

“Tyler really has a lot of confidence in Andrew. Tyler probably has more confidence in Andrew than anybody on the team. When I say to him, ‘Who do you want with you in the second half?’ he’ll say Andrew. Never blinks. ‘I want Andrew out there with me.’ So it’s him, Andrew and Devin. That’s why I like those two together because they both can score, they both can play the one.”

There they go again, ruining that narrative.

Let’s pause for a few seconds to watch Calipari’s hair jiggle

Because that’s how stressful things got last night.

There was also a YAHTZEE today: 3-star OT Luke Fortner

The 6’5″ 278 lbs. Ohio native is Kentucky’s 14th commitment in the 2016, class, which ranks fourth nationally. Fortner is Marrow’s ninth commitment in the class, further proof he’s been on a tear since turning down Michigan. Fortner visited Kentucky most recently for Junior Day and hinted that Kentucky is building a pretty fantastic class for 2016. #InMarrowWeTrust In bad football news…

Reese Phillips ruptured his Achilles today

I knew I felt a sympathy pain as I passed through Chattanooga. The backup QB will miss spring football, leaving Patrick Towles and Drew Barker as the only scholarship quarterbacks left. Remember, spring practice starts Saturday.

John Short called in to The Paul Finebaum Show today

I didn’t hear John’s call, but I turned the show on in time to hear Finebaum call him “a Kentucky legend”:

Next time, Pawwwwl will know to call him a great American.

Blue got in to Louisville/Notre Dame tonight

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Okay, it was black, but someone has to tell the dirty birds about decent basketball, right?


Isaiah Briscoe’s latest mixtape is impressive

briscoe

The future Cat just wrapped up his season in impressive fashion. Let’s take a break to appreciate his latest mixtape:


“We Ask You Wednesday” Vol. 35

(EHarmony.Uk.com)

 

The season is on the home stretch now, and the folks here at KSR love getting your input on things… relevant and bizarre. We have to get a little creative around here sometimes.Earlier this summer I started a weekly series called “We Ask You Wednesdays,” that brought in some great responses from many readers via Twitter.

Each week, the question will change and we will hit on a variety of topics, mostly UK-related… but you never know. Each week the best responses will make it on to the website.  This week’s twenty ninth volume of the “We Ask You Wednesday” allowed Kentucky fans to answer the following question via Twitter in 140 characters or less:  WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE (JOHN CALIPARI, PLAYERS, MEDIA, ETC.) IN THE CALIPARI ERA?

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One of my personal favorites….Liggins to West Virginia the year after they beat Kentucky and did the John Wall dance. 

DORON, LMFAO!!!

BEST ANSWER OF THE WEEK:

BEST USE OF A MIDDLE NAME OF THE WEEK:


Young UK fan made an “All About Them Cats” music video

all-about-them-cats

Just when I thought to myself, “You know, it’s been almost three whole days since someone made a song about UK basketball and uploaded it to YouTube,” this young UK fan comes through with “All About Them Cats.”

Look out, Taylor Swift.


UK Fans of the Day Want a Couple Quick Notes

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Let me start this post by thanking all of you for the tremendous feedback we have gotten on the new KSR app.. Folks seem to really like it and you guys have been great with all your comments. We spent a lot of time trying to make it right and I think we have done a pretty good job with it so I am glad people seem to like it. We hope to continue to make it better in the weeks/months to come and by next season, it will be an even bigger part of your UK Gameday experience.

A couple of notes:

UK extended its deal with Nike for eight more years at a total cost of $30 million. With the two years that were remaining on the current deal, that means UK will be a Nike school until at least 2025, thus meaning no awful Adidas gimmicks in these parts. Some have asked what those numbers mean and it basically means that UK will get a cash payment of a little over half of that $30 million over the course of the eight years and the rest goes for free equipment for all the sports. It is a very common deal that you see at virtually every school and it is the 7th largest of any Nike school (football schools tend to get more for obvious reasons). Adidas and Under Armour pay more than Nike to their schools (like Louisville for instance), but then you are stuck wearing Adidas gear…and who wants that.

— It has gone underreported due to the basketball madness, but Kentucky now has 14 commitments in the 2016 class, an absurdly high number. When one considers that a class can only have 25 players, if all these commits were to stick, then UK would be over halfway done with the class and we are just a little under a year from Signing Day. Of course, that isn’t how this usually works, as we learned this year. Decommitments can happen and my guess is this early rush is a response to last season. Kentucky is trying to find its talent and get commitments early, but also allow themselves the time and resources to have backup options. Of the 14 current commitments, nine are from Ohio, further showcasing how this program is basically becoming Southern Ohio in the football recruiting world.

— We are really good at basketball. I thought last night’s win was the most impressive yet in conference play, because of the unique circumstances of the environment. Georgia is a good team, was up 9 on their home court and had the crowd in a frenzy. Yet, Kentucky fought back at two important moments (down 9 and Andrew scores 7 points in 23 seconds to get UK to 2 and then down 6 with 5:30 left) to get the victory. That is the most hostile environment that Kentucky will face for the rest of the season and they handled the challenge without losing their poise. As Dan Lebatard said on ESPN today, it is fun to watch a great team turn it on when they have to and find another gear. UK did that last night and the result was a great win and having the stage set for one more game to history.

— The UK/Georgia game did a Huge rating for a random SEC game and won the night on cable for sports. Here are the list of the ten highest rated college BB games on cable this year:

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Notice a theme? Five of the ten highest rated games are UK games. Duke has four, which showcases once again that when it comes to ratings, UK and Duke are at the top of college basketball and no one else is close. Throw in the fact that the three highest rated CBS games are all UK games (UNC, Arkansas and UCLA) and…as Neal Brown would say, we are the show.

Just so you know, Saturday is going to be a circus at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile at Indiana, they have this:

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Sucks to be a Hoosier


Eight leftovers from a thrilling trip to Georgia

TeamGa

After 30 hours, 600 miles, one win, and probably three gallons of caffeine, I am back in Nashville from Athens. I’ll admit I didn’t expect this trip to be quite as thrilling as it was, and even though I may have aged twenty years in the process, I think Kentucky’s dramatic win has me more excited about this team than any 30-point blowout could.

The scene at the arena after the game last night was frantic, so I have a lot of leftovers to dish out before I crash. Let’s get started…

Kentucky survived the perfect storm

Since the beginning of conference play, the Georgia game in Athens has been circled as a trap game on most of our schedules. The rout of Arkansas dulled the hype quite a bit, but Josh Hopkins the worrywart was right: UK had its hands full last night. It started to look like the perfect storm. Georgia fans were surprisingly confident about their chances, showing up early and being LOUD throughout the night. Senior Nemanja Djurisic played out of his mind, scoring 18 points and pulling gritty little Georgia along like an old Serbian bear. Somehow, Georgia was able to crack Kentucky’s impenetrable defense and score in the post while also confounding the Cats on offense. During their big run in the second half, Georgia couldn’t miss and I’ll be honest, JJ Frazier’s NBA three felt like a dagger; however, as they have all year, Kentucky found a way to win. That’s why they don’t need to lose a game. That’s why it may be time to start throwing around the d-word and the f-word. (Destiny and fate, you potty mouths.)

Andrew accepting the Bill Keightley MVP Award from the Greater Atlanta UK Alumni Club last night (Photo @UKAlumni)

Stone Cold Swaggy Andrew

If Djurisic was Georgia’s old Serbian bear, Andrew Harrison was Kentucky’s bulldog. With Georgia up by two with 2:38 left in the first half, Andrew scored 7 points in 26 seconds. Andrew’s been on a tear in the past month, but he kicked it into another gear during that stretch. The normally stoic point guard gritted his teeth, motioned to the UK crowd, and clapped his hands in the Georgia players’ faces, essentially daring them to come at him. After the game, Karl Towns told me that when Andrew’s playing like that–in Stone Cold Killer mode–the rest of the team never loses its confidence. Cal said that Tyler Ulis has been especially inspired by Andrew’s progress. It’s been a long, hard two years for Andrew, but he’s emerged an even better leader than we dreamed he could be.

There was a whole lot of random in that gym last night

From Nemanja Djurisic’s bizarre parents to Bill Belichick, Charles Barkley, Ashley Judd and the random older Georgia fan doing jumping jacks the entire game, there was a lot of random stuff in Stegeman last night. There was a buzz around the arena an hour before tip, with fans lining up to get a selfie with Jay Bilas and ESPN cameras scuttling around the court like beetles to capture every second. Call it Kentucky’s traveling circus.

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Meeting Charles Barkley was really cool

Sorry Jay, Ashley, and Belichick, but the coolest celebrity appearance of the night had to be Charles Barkley. Twitter being Twitter, I didn’t even realize Barkley was in the arena until I saw someone tweet a picture of him, so I immediately stood up and looked for him, finally spotting him in a crowd of fans and security guards. If this job has taught me anything, it’s to seize moments like this, so I maneuvered my way across the arena to his section. He was surrounded by three security guards who were turning people and their camera phones away, but I kept my head up and snuck up to the row above him. Shoutout to the super nice Georgia fan who tapped Charles on the shoulder and moved aside for me, and all the shoutouts to Charles for agreeing to take a picture with a starstruck blogger. He couldn’t have been nicer, and I’ll always look at that picture with a smile.

Blue didn’t just get in, it took over

The Big Blue Nation always puts in impressive showings on the road, but this season has been a different animal. Kentucky fans are traveling to each road venue in droves, desperate for the chance to see this team in action. Grantland’s Mark Titus likened it to a religious experience, and he’s right; each Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the Big Blue Nation has made pilgrimages across the South to witness history. Come rain, come snow, come sleet, the BBN is there, praising, prodding, and picking up the Cats when they need it the most. 

Last night’s UK crowd was especially loud, starting “Go Big Blue” chants as soon as the game began. I took plenty of videos (seriously, six GBB videos on my phone) and I know some came across on TV, but the chants were deafening in person. My favorite came in the game’s final seconds, when Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis motioned to the crowd to get even louder: 

A video posted by Tyler Thompson (@mrstylerksr) on

We’re just getting started, bro. If the regular season was church, next week’s SEC Tournament will be our revival.

The “March shakes” are back

I feel like I spent the entire month of March and first week of April last year shaking. UK’s improbable tournament run and Aaron Harrison’s flair for the dramatic gave me something I’ve coined the “March shakes,” or the nervous, uncontrollable trembling one gets towards the end of a late game. A few hiccups aside, this season has been a breeze, but the shakes returned with a vengeance last night during Georgia’s second half run. My entire body succumbed to the shakes and I only had control over my fingers, and even then, I could only cap up and sway along to the live blog. That’s one thing I learned about the March shakes: you can’t stop them, you can only ride them out. Kind of like Kentucky this season.

The media swarm around the team right now is staggering

If you’ve heard it once over the last few weeks, you’ve heard it a million times: the media coverage around Kentucky is insane right now. The Cats are all over ESPN, and the Worldwide Leader took over Stegeman Coliseum last night. Jay Bilas, Brad Nessler, Shannon Spake AND Jeannine Edwards were there, along with countless cameramen, cables, and carts. I’m used to this zoo at places like Rupp, but at tiny Stegeman Coliseum, it became a circus.

Just so you guys know, normally at road venues, visiting teams do their press conferences in a press room with a table, microphone, and plenty of seats for reporters to set up their computers/cameras/etc. Georgia has that setup, but for some reason, John Calipari, Karl Towns, Andrew and Aaron Harrison all did their postgame media stuff in a small hallway outside the visitor’s locker room. The players each went to separate corners in the room and the media mobbed them to the point that the group around Karl blocked the door the players needed to use to exit the gym, which Marcus Lee loudly and hilariously blamed Karl for:

 

The protocol is kind of the same for player interviews at Rupp, so I’m used to it, but it got even crazier when Calipari came out. A pack of 20-30 reporters and cameramen swarmed around Cal so badly that he had to yell at everyone to back up five steps. And then five steps more. This shorty doesn’t enjoy being squished into armpits, so I stayed off to the side and slid my recorder in against the wall.

Buckle up

It’s only going to get crazier as we keep going. Everything: the media, the coverage, the nerves, the stakes, the shakes. When my mom asked me about my trip this afternoon, I told her last night was when it got real. For the most part, this season has been like a blissful sail on a pretty day–calm seas and sun everywhere. Now, the wind’s picking up and the water’s getting choppy, making everything exciting and terrifying. On Saturday, Kentucky can close the book on a historic regular season at home, one last warm fuzzy comfort before the madness begins.

The SEC Tournament starts in one week (one week!), and Nashville will be a Kentucky fan’s fantasyland. Someone needs to invent a TiVo/DVR for life, because I’m seriously going to need it. One day when I’m old and bored or maybe when the Cats aren’t as good, I’m going to want to relive these moments. Whether it’s Ryan Lemond crowdsurfing during the pregame show at Tin Roof Broadway (oh, this will happen), Aaron making another big shot, EJ Floreal performing the ritual pregame dance, or simply seeing Marcus Lee and Karl Towns playfully bicker, this season has been unlike any other, and we’re getting near the last chapter. Like with any great story, it’s bittersweet because the last thing I want is for this to end.


Five Spring Practice Storylines

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While the rest of the Big Blue Nation is distracted with basketball, the football team will be putting in work on the practice field, starting Saturday.  Without a Spring game, progress can only be dictated in practice.  Here’s a quick glimpse into what lies ahead.

1.  Are the redshirts ready?

Mark Stoops’ 2014 recruiting class was the best in school history, ranked #23 by 247Sports.  Some guys have already made themselves household names in the #BBN – Boom Williams, Blake Bone and Dorian Baker – but few of them even had the chance to see the field as true freshmen.  59% of the class redshirted – 16 of 27 – and their services will be needed immediately at important positions.  Not only will we get to write stories about how much Josh Krok has grown in the High Performance training system, but we’ll also talk about how difficult it will be for Denzil Ware to fill Bud Dupree’s shoes.

2.  Plugging holes in the defense

This is where many of the redshirts come into play.  The linebacker position last year was almost as soft as cookie dough, despite Josh Forrest’s incredibly high number of tackles (110).  Nico Firios and Dorian Hendrix will be called in for big hits frequently.  It’ll also be interesting to see how the dynamics of the defense work with Andy Buh back to working alongside D.J. Eliot and Mark Stoops.

The biggest question is at cornerback.  The Cats didn’t lose much at the position, but they lost to tall SEC receivers on the reg throughout 2014.  Can Cody Quinn and J.D. Harmon grow into into the position, or will it need to be a new guy like Jared Tucker or will the staff need to move Kendall Randolph wide?  We won’t know for awhile which way the position battle will turn, but improvement is certain with Stoops dedicated to putting in more personal time with the corners.

3.  Tighten Up

With ZERO production returning, it’s another important position relying on young talent.  Hopefully the words heard from afar about Daryl Long, C.J. Conrad and Greg Hart match their performance on the field this Spring.

4.  Is Patrick Towles the Quarterback for Shannon Dawson?

I certainly think so, but don’t be quick to forget how close the competition was last year.   Besides, nothing gets beat writers going quite like a hearty QB competition.

5.  Are the upperclassmen acting like upperclassmen?

Last year’s unsung heroes were the upperclassmen.  When young receivers faltered, Demarco Robinson and Javess Blue were prepared to make the plays needed to have a chance to win.  They don’t necessarily need to be the most difficult (like Javess’ one-handed snag against ULM), sometimes they’re the fundamental play (Demarco’s comeback that turned into a 60-yard TD against #1 Miss. State).

This season, Stoops’ original troops no longer get the benefit of the doubt for being the ‘new guys.’  Ryan Timmons can’t drop wide open passes (especially deep flags against Florida), Jordan Swindle can’t commit a dozen false starts and Jojo Kemp has to consistently and correctly hit open holes.  Having experienced shoulders to lean on can be the difference between five and eight wins.


John Short called in to the Paul Finebaum Show today

lemond-short

I tuned in moments after John Short’s call earlier this afternoon, just in time to hear Finebaum say, “Apparently we had a Kentucky legend call in a few minutes ago.”

Tyler caught that on Vine:

Greg Batt captured John’s call:


#ThatAwkwardMoment when the seat you stole belongs to Bill Belichick

Rookie move here by one UK fan who committed to a seat upgrade too early in the game. Any veteran seat stealer will tell you to take your time and scour the scene before pouncing on a vacant chair. Move down too early and you could get busted by a four-time Super Bowl champion, as this guy learned the hard way last night in Athens.

It also appears the gentleman had no idea he messed with the Patriots head coach. He casually walks right past Belichick and the usher, pretending it was an honest mistake.

At least he made SportsCenter.


Coach Cal and Willie named Naismith finalists

Today is a big day for the two Energy Bus buddies as Willie Cauley-Stein was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award, while John Calipari was named one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Coach of the Year.

Check out the competition in the complete lists of finalists:

Player of the Year

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Cameron Payne, Murray State
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Delon Wright, Utah

Coach of the Year

Tony Bennett, Virginia
Mike Brey, Notre Dame
John Calipari, Kentucky
Scott Drew, Baylor
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Chris Holtmann, Butler
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Archie Miller, Dayton
Steve Prohm, Murray State
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Bill Self, Kansas
Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State
Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Jay Wright, Villanova


UMass sending Calipari to the rafters next season

UMass will retire John Calipari’s jersey next season to honor his run as head coach of the Minutemen. The ceremony will be part of the 20-year anniversary of his 1995-96 Final Four team.

Cal had this to say on the Twitter machine:


Add another Ohio commitment to the 2016 class

Yahtzee!

Kentucky added yet another football commitment from Ohio today, this time in the form of 6-foot-5, 278 pound offensive lineman Luke Fortner. Fortner, a three-star offensive tackle, tweeted: “Committed to play football at the University of Kentucky! #BBN”

He also had offers from Cincinnati, Maryland and Marshall, among others.

Kentucky’s 2016 class now has 14 commitments, eight from Ohio and three on the offensive line.


Spots are filling up for the 2015 John Calipari Fantasy Camp

harrison fantasy camp coachcal chris reynolds

Sign-ups are open for the fourth annual John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience and spots are filling up FAST. If you have any interest in being a camper this year, don’t wait around to signed up or you may miss out.

Details for the 2015 camp can be found in the flyer below.

As someone who has been a fly on the wall for the first three camps, let me tell you, it’s a pretty amazing weekend.

 

fantasy-camp


CBS and NCAA announce new March Madness broadcast teams

CBS and the NCAA announced the announcer pairings for the 2015 NCAA Tournament today, revealing eight brand new teams for the tournament broadcasts.

The most notable of the bunch is the first-time Final Four crew of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill, with Nantz being the only Final Four veteran of the bunch. Hill and Raftery take over for Greg Anthony, who was removed after a recent run-in with a hooker, and Steve Kerr, now with the Golden State Warriors.

The rest of the pairings look like this:

cbs-pairings


There is someone in the world who believes Kansas is having a better season than Kentucky… Seriously.

This morning I watched a guy eat pencils on YouTube and that’s not the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the internet today, believe or not. No, this article by Chris Chase for USA Today’s For The Win blog takes the cake. It’s called “Kentucky’s perfect season still isn’t as impressive as Kansas'”. I’m completely serious right now. That’s an actual statement that a real life human being wrote on the internet today. I kid you not. Someone, potentially under the influence of something very potent, sat down at a computer and typed that with their fingertips into a computer. Suddenly eating pencils seems normal.

To be fair, Chase’s argument is that Kansas’ 11 straight conference titles are more impressive than Kentucky’s 30 straight regular season wins. Okay. Debatable. But that extends beyond this season. To say Kansas is having the more impressive season is a statement worthy of a yellow slip, possibly a straitjacket.

Chase didn’t help his case when he said, “Texas is a yearly power under Rick Barnes,” either. That’s like saying, “Indiana is a title contender under Tom Crean” or “Bruce Jenner sure is looking manly these days.”

And to cap it all off, the article ends with: “But for now: KU > UK.”

If only there were a basketball game that could prove otherwise….