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November 26th, 2014

The Only Stat that Matters in the Governor’s Cup

With the Governor’s Cup moved to the season finale, there’s approximately eleventy-thousand ways to analyze the Cats and Cards’ previous 11 games.  No matter how much people talk about the importance Louisville’s win at Notre Dame or UK’s 5-game losing streak, there’s only one thing that matters: the rushing game.

For 18 consecutive years, whoever has tallied the most rush yards has won the game.

A game that has featured Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Chris Redman, Brian Brohm, Andre Woodson and Teddy Bridgewater is not defined by the play of quarterbacks.  It’s all on the ground.  It doesn’t matter where they play or the conditions, if you can play smashmouth football and control the ball in the run game, you will win.

During the losing streak, the BBN does what every fan base does when the offense sucks: blame the play-caller (the defense has been worse, but people don’t question Stoops/Eliot’s decisions).  Patrick Towles has been good, not great, but good enough for people to dream of “Tim Couch 2.”  There are times when I agree – the trap play up the middle for a yard can gray the hairs on the head – but to completely abandon the run game would be to completely abandon any hopes at beating Louisville.

Before looking at the numbers, it’s safe to assume the Louisville’s rush offense and defense is MUCH better than Kentucky’s.  The Cards have had four rushers with 100+ yard games and their defense is third in the nation at stopping the run.  Michael Dyer is as large as most Mack trucks, and he’s just one of three power-backs.

If you recall, Kentucky hasn’t done very well against power backs: Florida’s Matt Jones, South Carolina’s Mike Davis, LSU’s Terrance Magee, MSU’s Josh Robinson and Georgia’s Nick Chubb combined for 9 touchdowns and 834 yards (averaging 166.8 yards per game and almost 2 TDs).  A Bye Week can help you get healthy and improve on fundamentals, but completely flipping the switch to stop Dyer, Brown and Co. seems out of the question.

But I’m still saying there’s a chance.  The facade of Louisville’s rushing attack appears fierce, but they only average two more yards per game than the Cats.  That’s right BBN, Neal Brown’s stubbornness has paid off, averaging 153.4 yards a game compared to the Cards’ 155.5.

The greatest concern for the Cats’ run game is in Patrick Towles’ ankle.  Boom Williams is ‘banged up’ but you can still expect a big BOOM or two from the playmaker in the traditional run game.  However, Louisville’s defense works best against that style of play.  Needing versatility in the run game, Towles’ feet are the best option – IF his ankle is good to go.

Even though many expect the Cards to run away with it, Kentucky can too if they get it done on the ground.


Thanksgiving Eve’s Practice Notes

(James Crisp/AP)

Jason Hatcher knows a thing or two about the rivalry. (James Crisp/AP)

–  The Kentucky-Louisville rivalry brings out the best and worst of both schools and their fan bases.  The heart of the rivalry lies in Louisville, where Jason Hatcher grew up on the other side.  A former fan of “the other school,” Hatcher originally planned on donning the disgusting red and white for the rest of his life, but was smart enough to be persuaded to UK by Stoops and Co.

The decision to switch allegiances wasn’t easy: he had to convince his mother, a Louisville fan, that UK was the place to be.  Not only did he sell her that UK was the place to be, she’s completely abandoned ship on the Cards, “[I] Can’t get her out of a UK jersey now.  She wears it to church and everything.” 

–  To contain the Cards’ offense, the Cats must make Reggie Bonnafon beat them.  It’s easy to lose in this series without a run game.  They can’t afford to give up any more yards to the Quarterback.  DJ Eliot said today that the key against Bonnafon is to keep him in the pocket, forcing him to make decisions to throw the ball down the field.

–  Stoops showed the team some more footage of the rivalry today.  I doubt getting the team hyped will be a problem this week, “It’s pretty self-explanatory: if we win, we’re going to play another game.  I’ve told them they deserve it, they’ve worked hard.”

–  Plumbers might make some more money off the Stoops’.  The team will be spending the holiday morning together, with practice followed by a Thanksgiving feast.  The players will have the evening off to spend the time as they please, but he’s leaving his door open for players to celebrate at their house.  The last time they had the team over, the toilets took a beating.  Maybe their open-door policy shouldn’t apply to the bathrooms.


On this day in 1988…

John Calipari made his head coaching debut at the University of Massachusetts. A babyfaced Coach Cal led the Minutemen to a 84-61 win over Southern Connecticut in his college basketball debut. Four year later he would win 1992 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors, then again in 1993 and 1996, the year he also won National Coach of the Year and took UMass to its first Final Four.

Now, 602 wins later, he is the head coach at the University of Kentucky with what could end up being one of the best teams in history.

Happy Coaching Birthday, Cal.


Two Providence guards are doubtful for the Kentucky game

Two of Providence’s contributors in the backcourt, one being the starting point guard, suffered ankle injuries Sunday that will likely keep them out of action against Kentucky. Kris Dunn and Jalen Lindsey underwent X-rays and MRIs yesterday to determine the extent of the injuries and head coach Ed Cooley expects them to be out of the next two games.

“They both have really bad sprains, tender to the touch,” Cooley said of his guards, who are both on crutches. “They’re very, very doubtful.”

Dunn is averaging nine points and over seven assists in 27 minutes per game as the team’s floor general. Lindsey, a freshman from Huntington Prep, has provided shooting relief off the bench, averaging over five points while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Add these injuries to the loss of Texas’ starting point guard and UK is getting some unwanted help in two of its most difficult home games this season.


First North Carolina, now UCLA goes down…

UCLA took the Battle 4 Atlantis court immediately after North Carolina’s loss to Butler, and the Bruins didn’t do any better. Kentucky’s December 20th opponent in Chicago lost to Oklahoma, 75-65.

That Kevon Looney guy is pretty tough, though.

Bring it.


UK Fans of the Day Want Two Quick Afternoon Thoughts

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It’s Thanksgiving so I am going to make this quick, but two big pieces of news came out this afternoon that have been lingering around KSR-ville for a while:

— First, FootballScoop.com reports that UK Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown is a finalist for the Troy head coaching job. This rumor has been making its way around Lexington for a few weeks and has been a story we have been chasing for the past few days. I couldn’t get confirmation that he is taking the job (apparently the new coach will be named next week) but I know there is interest there. Football Scoop is talking to folks on the Troy side and says a decision has nearly been made with an announcement next week. We shall see what happens but Brown has coached there before and they love him. If he is offered it, I would be shocked if he doesn’t take it. Brown is a head coach in waiting and Troy is a good starter job. If he gets its, I expect him to go. It would be a bump in the road, but not necessarily a crushing blow if UK can continue its progress. The key would be to find someone who can still do the Air Raid (or the version we run) so that one doesn’t have to completely re-tool with Towles, etc starting over. Watch for East Carolina Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley to be at least one of the candidates.

— Second, Andy Katz reports what we hinted at on radio last week, that UK and UCLA are likely to begin a 2 year home and home series next season. UK would first go to LA and then UCLA would come to Lexington in 2016. I am told that this series will replace the UNC series for two years (although UK will play UNC in 2016 as part of whatever that UNC/Ohio St/UCLA round robin thing is called) and give the Cats a marquee home and home for fans. It will also allow me (selfishly) to travel to the one great college basketball home court I have never been in, Pauley Pavilion.

With that announcement, UK’s non-conference schedule next year would look like this:

Duke (in Chicago)

Ohio State (in Brooklyn)

at UCLA

Louisville in Rupp

South Florida (in Miami)

Big 12 True Road Game

The final of those games is likely to be Kansas, which could put UK in Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in a number of years. If that happens, the return game would be in 2016 in Rupp (UK would not agree to playing a true road game there without the same team playing in Rupp Arena). That would mean UCLA/Kansas in Rupp in the same year…get those tickets now.

For traveling UK fans, that means trips next year to New York, LA, Chicago and Miami…plus possibly Kansas. That is a heck of a road trip (Drew, I hope you are ready for lots of Conway Twitty).

With that, enjoy your holiday…we will be back on radio on Friday. I leave you with young Calipari and his daughters on an early Throwback Thursday:

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The KSR Secret Home-And-Home Series Revealed: UCLA!

UCLA head coach Steve Alford spilled the beans to ESPN.com on the top secret home-and-home series KSR teased you about on the radio last week. It’s a deal with UCLA that would send Big Blue Nation to California next season. UCLA would then come to Rupp Arena in 2016, making it three straight years we’ll see the Bruins.

Josh Hopkins, you live in Los Angeles, your thoughts?


And we thought Kentucky was blowing teams out…

@jamiestogs13

Virginia is up 1,817 points on Tennessee State with 13 minutes to go in the first half. That has to be a record.


UofL fan changes mind on Calipari after hearing entire “SEC Wired” audio

cal-wired

Last night on the KSR postgame show, a Louisville fan called in to say he recently had a change of heart regarding John Calipari.

The caller, Tim, worked Sunday’s UK-Montana State game for the SEC Network and was assigned to Cal’s in-game audio for the new ‘Wired’ feature, giving him a unique and uncensored perspective into Cal’s coaching.

“I got to listen to everything Cal said for about two and a half hours,” Tim told KSR. “I got a perspective to Cal as a coach, as a man, as a guy who loves his team, that I never thought I would get. The guy who is in the huddle with that team is a different guy than is on the podium at a press conference.”

It was shocking to me. He loves the players. He loves them as brothers; he loves them as a man; he’s trying to get them to reach their individual potential. He is trying to get them as a team to reach a potential that he sees and maybe they don’t even see it for themselves.”

Tim said the perception of Calipari in press conferences is it’s all about Cal and nationally he is seen as a guy who brings in the 10 best players in the country and gets credit for coaching them up when he rolls the ball out there. “That’s not at all what’s going on. He has got a mind of a coach way beyond Xs and Os.

Definitely give the call a listen in the podcast from last night, below. Tim’s call begins at the 14:50 mark and it includes a story of Cal asking Andrew what he wanted to do with Dominique Hawkins and why:


North Carolina lost to Butler

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No. 5 North Carolina just lost to unranked Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinals this afternoon. Player of the Year candidate Marcus Paige scored 18 points for the Heels, but he looked erratic at times and went 5-for-17 from the field, including 3-for-10 from deep. Paige’s second bucket in the game didn’t come until there were two minutes left; if that happens again on December 13, UNC won’t pose much of a threat to the Wildcats in Rupp Arena.

UCLA, another upcoming opponent on UK’s non-conference slate, is up next in Atlantis on ESPN2. Today’s a good day for scouting. (And missing the Bahamas.)


Neal Brown is a finalist for the Troy job

According to the always-informed FootballScoop.com, Neal Brown is a finalist for the head coaching job at Troy University. Brown was an assistant at Troy from 2006 to 2009 and his name has been tossed around as a potential candidate there over the past few weeks.

Football Scoop expects the new coach to be named by Monday. The site mentions Brown as one of two “significant real candidates,” along with LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson.

[FootballScoop.com]


The Joe B. and Denny Bluegrass Showcase begins Friday

Let’s be honest here: You’re going to get tired of your in-laws by sundown tomorrow, so here’s an excuse to escape for the weekend. It’s called the Bluegrass Showcase and it features 14 of the nation’s best high school teams in a two-day event in Lexington.

Beginning Friday, the 12-game showcase at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School will see teams from Arlington County Day (FL), Carlisle School (VA), Homestead High School (IN), Huntington Prep (WV), La Lumiere (IN), Life Center Academy (NJ), Orangeville Prep (Ontario, Can.), Prime Prep (TX), Prolific Prep (CA), Quality Ed (NC), Sunrise Christian Academy (KS), Chicago Currie (IL), Faith Baptist Christian Academy North (GA) and White Station (TN).

UK targets Thon Maker (Orangeville), Caleb Swanigan (Homestead), Thomas Bryant (Huntington Prep), Miles Bridges (Huntington Prep), and Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep) headline the event.

For a complete schedule and ticket information, check out the Bluegrass Showcase website here.


Boogie and A.D. did it again last night

DeMarcus Cousins got the best of Anthony Davis last night in their second head-to-head meeting in one week. Cousins got the win and recorded the better line with 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Davis still played well, though, scoring 14 points with nine rebounds and two blocks. It’s the third time A.D. has been held to under 20 points this season; New Orleans is winless in those three games.

Not be overlooked, Darius Miller made his first career NBA start in the game.

Watch everything Boogie and Davis did in this highlight reel:

Davis won the first meeting, last week in Sacramento. He scored 28 points in the 106-100 win with nine rebounds and three blocks. Cousins had a cool 24 and 17 in that one.

They won’t see each other again until March 27. That’s way too long to wait for a rematch, in my opinion.

 


Jack Givens announces the “Wildcat Legends” fine art series

Pratt final

Up first: Mike Pratt

Since his playing days at UK in the mid-70’s, Kentucky All-American Jack “Goose” Givens is appreciative of all the support and love he has continually received from Wildcat fans. In fact, the same could be said for many other former UK men’s basketball stars – all remain very popular, and are grateful to talk with fans if not sign memorabilia for them.

The problem is, no comprehensive artistic memorabilia tribute to UK’s legendary stars has been properly formulated and done in the right way, and with the player’s permission – until now.

Announcing the “Wildcat Legends” Fine Art Series, which Givens hopes the BBN will feel IS that proper tribute to honor their living stars of the past.

Set to begin next week, featured “Legends” include Mike Pratt, Cotton Nash, Dan Issel, Kevin Grevey, Kyle Macy and Tony Delk. (More will be announced at a later date.) The “Legends” schedule calls for 3 to 4 art releases of these stars each basketball season for the next few years, each approximately 1 month apart during the season.

“We hope this Series properly reflects the rich history and tradition of Kentucky Basketball,” said Givens, who was instrumental in bringing the project together, “and we further hope it properly honors those elite players like Nash, Issel and Pratt who helped make UK the greatest program in college basketball.”

“Wildcat Legends” will be a series of fine art prints from individual player paintings, highlighting living stars from the 60’s through the 90’s, and features a compilation of action poses of the star during his time on the court (see attached photo of the Pratt art).

The series will be created by native Kentuckian and national sports artist, David Bryan Blondell. Over the past 2 years Blondell has completed beautiful, commissioned artwork for Coach Calipari and his 2012 championship team, and for Coach Hall and the 1978 title squad; fans may have seen both on display at games in Rupp last season.

Reasonably-priced commemorative prints and posters will be produced for each player’s art. Each reproduction will be from an original painting by Blondell, and will be colorful, photo-realistic compositions that seek to capture the player’s likeness and spirit. 50 large, high-quality Limited Edition fine art prints will be numbered and signed by the featured player at his art’s unveiling ceremony, held before a game in Rupp Arena. (Smaller posters of the art will also be available for signing at the event.)

Excited and pleased with the number of great players who have agreed to be featured, the artist also insisted that Givens be included as well. “Jack’s far too modest to presume he should be part of this,” Blondell said, “and I told him that I’m honored to create the Series, but only if he were also featured. No such tribute would be complete without the Goose.”

The first Wildcat honored will be former All-American and current UK radio personality, Mike Pratt. His ‘Art Release Ceremony’ is scheduled in the Rupp mall foodcourt from 4:30 – 6:30 before the Texas game next Friday, December 5th, and Mike will be on hand to autograph his art prints for all fans until 30 minutes before the 7:00 pm tip-off. “I’m thrilled to have been asked to be a part of this,” Pratt said, “and it’s even a greater honor to be the one to lead it off.”

First team All-American Kevin Grevey agreed. “I am excited and honored to be a member of the ‘Wildcat Legends’ Fine Art Series,” Grevey said. “Having seen and enjoyed much of David’s previous artwork, I’m sure these prints will be coveted by our incredible fan base that makes Kentucky basketball so special.”

Co-produced by “Your Frame of Mind Galleries” in Lexington, get additional details and upcoming release dates on their website, www.YourFrameOfMind.biz, or on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/yourframeofmind.

(You can also follow the day-to-day progress of each player’s painting from start-to-finish as Blondell creates it. To do so, follow him on Twitter: @BlondellArt or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/blondellart)

“I hope this elite tribute Series will be something all UK fans can be proud of,” Givens concluded.

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A Few Football Practice Notes from Yesterday

No red allowed! (@JohnWDRB)

No red allowed! (@JohnWDRB)

–  Every time UK plays UL in anything now a days, we talk about how the rivalry has lost its luster with this generation of kids, for a variety of reasons.  I can assure you that will not be the case for this football team.  Neal Brown said they’ve been taking some extra time out of team meetings to educate the young guys about the significance off the rivalry, one that Brown played in, as well as John Schlarman and Chad Scott.

–  Patrick Towles doesn’t need to be told about the significance of the rivalry.  Opting out of the red practice jersey for QBs is just the tip of the hate Towles has for the dirty birds.  Jordan Swindle told Kyle Tucker, “I don’t know if there’s a guy on this team that dislikes Louisville more than Pat Towles.  I love that guy.”  That’s the spirit!

–  Win or go home.  In college football, you rarely get ‘win or go home’ opportunities, but that’s exactly what’s at stake this weekend.  Brown hopes that’s more than enough to fuel the fire of his offense, “Listen, I want a hungry outfit. I want a hungry group that’s practicing today,” is what Brown told his group before starting the week of practice.  After getting a Bye to let the batteries recharge, he’s accepting no excuses from his squad.

–  A season-defining game.  It really all comes down to this.  There’s been good and bad, but how they end the year will determine how they’re remembered by the BBN.  Towles is not shying away from the challenge.

“We win on Saturday, it’s a successful season, we go play in a bowl game and everybody forgets about the last five or six.  So we’re looking forward to this one.  We’re excited about a good opportunity.”