(Photo © Kim Klement) For about five minutes, it looked possible. Kentucky came to life →
I know I’m not alone when I say I’m feeling a little deja vu from last March. While this group will make the NCAA Tournament, you could argue that given the high expectations and talent, it’s been an even more disappointing season than last.
Right now, last year’s team and this year’s team suffer from some of the same problems–poor guard play, no offensive flow, no leader, and one excuse to lean on (last year, Nerlens’ injury; this year, youth). At a similar crossroads, will this team change their fate?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©5:00 pm
It’s been over a year since Nerlens Noel played in a game, but yesterday, the rookie sent out this cryptic tweet hinting at his NBA debut:
— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) March 9, 2014
Sources confirmed to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey that April 4th is indeed Nerlens’ target date for his first game back from injury. The 76ers play Boston that night. Nerlens has been increasing his contact in practice, but has yet to participate in five-on-five scrimmages. So far, the 76ers had planned on him missing the entire season.
At this point, is it worth it for Nerlens to make a comeback even if it’s just for a few games?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©4:00 pm
Stat guru Ken Pomeroy combined his ratings with Bill James’ log5 formulas to estimate each team’s chance to win their conference tournament. (What’s a log5 formula? Click here.) According to KenPom, at 18.3%, Kentucky has the third best chance to win the tournament behind Florida and Tennessee:
In fact, KenPom is downright fascinated by the Vols, who he believes should be the most analyzed team in the history of the game (sorry, Cal). After it looked like Cuonzo Martin would certainly get the boot, Tennessee has rallied, and as long as they don’t fall on their face in Atlanta, should make the NCAA Tournament. However, as KenPom points out, many Tennessee fans would welcome a face plant if it meant the administration would fire Martin and bring back Bruce Pearl. Go read more of KenPom’s thought on the Vols here.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©3:30 pm
The Cats may not be inspiring much confidence right now, but the SEC Tournament is only a few days away. So close I can smell the buffalo wings at STATS. If you’re coming to Catlanta to party with the BBN and KSR, here’s a rough schedule of events:
10 a.m. – noon: KSR live from STATS (300 Marietta Street NW)
10 a.m. – noon: KSR live from STATS
2 p.m.: Greater Atlanta UK Alumni Club Pep Rally at the Hawk Walk near Philips Arena (Cost $15/person, $10/UK Students, children 10 and under free; first 500 fans will receive a free t-shirt)
4:30 p.m.: KSR pregame show (potentially live from STATS)
7 p.m.: Kentucky vs. LSU/Alabama
Approximately 10:30 p.m.: KSR postgame show live from STATS. Win or lose, we will party.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY: If UK wins, pregame and postgame shows will be at STATS (pregame two and a half hours before tip, postgame approximately 75 minutes after the game ends)
Right now, the weather forecast looks pretty awesome:
The regular season has officially wrapped up, but the #BBN still doesn’t know what to do with their hands. To say this season wasn’t what we expected would be an understatement. With close games against Michigan State, North Carolina and a win against Louisville, everything was normal for the first half of the season (aside from the Baylor loss). Then the Arkansas game ended like a game of ’21′ with a tip-dunk, then the team was man-handled by Johnny O’Bryant and LSU, and before we knew it the Cats lost four of their final seven.
Objectively, that looks pretty bad. However I’m a college student that is taught to debunk stats and think ‘outside of the box.’ The problem with human nature is that we tend to focus on our problems without acknowledging the problems of others. If you look at the Cats compared to the best of the best in the country, Big Blue could be in much worse shape.
UK: 68.4% (t-223)
Florida: 67.3% (t-260)
Arizona: 65.9% (t-297) w/WKU and Virginia
UL: 65.4% (t-319)
Injuries (knock on wood)
UK: Julius Randle’s cramps during the Louisville game and WCS’ hand in the preseason.
Michigan State: Izzo’s three best players, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, all missed multiple games.
Arizona: The team’s Achilles’ heel – the inability to score in the half court – became even more exposed when their most dynamic scorer, Brandon Ashley, broke his foot. The injury will keep him out for the season, one that was undefeated until Ashley’s injury against Cal.
Louisville: Even though the Cards have turned things around and it wasn’t an injury, losing Chane Behanan was a BIG deal.
‘Rush the Court’ Incidents
This could have happened…
Instead, this happened…
UK: Arkansas twice, at South Carolina, at LSU(?)
Syracuse: Georgia Tech, Boston College (4 of their final 6)
Duke: at Wake Forest, at Clemson, at Notre Dame
North Carolina: Belmont, UAB, at Wake Forest
Struggling in conference play isn’t unique to Kentucky: the Big 10 Champ (Michigan) has seven losses, the Big 12 Champ (Kansas) has eight losses, and the ACC Champ (Virginia) has six losses. If you want to blame the lack of success on Kentucky’s freshmen, they haven’t really been that bad either. While none of them have been Anthony Davis/MKG-like, outside of Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, Kentucky’s ‘Big 4′ freshmen have statistically performed better than any other freshmen in the country.
It’s difficult to paint a pretty picture of 2013-14 regular season, but it isn’t the finger-painting we witnessed last season.
By Matt Jones on ©2:14 pm
Big Blue Nation has been a sad place to reside in the past couple of weeks. Now don’t get me wrong, the entirety of the season has been a bit of a bummer, with fans hoping for a magic traveling circus of ass-kickings and instead receiving a never-ending helping of tedious corporate training sessions. Each game has been hard to watch and at no point has it felt like the team has ever really “hit its stride.” The possible “turn the corner” performances have been many, (Louisville, Arkansas comeback attempt, at Missouri, at Ole Miss, the Randle game winner vs LSU) but at no point has the team come anywhere close to finding its groove. However we continued to have hope that the moment was quickly approaching when all the hype would become reality and UK would be a monster. It was only a matter of time.
Well somewhere between the last minute of the Arkansas loss at Rupp and Calipari getting tossed in Columbia, a large part of the fan base finally gave up. While some members of the BBN continue to hope for a final postseason miracle turnaround (and I do respect those folks and their dedication), it is clear that for many/most fans the belief in the magic of the 2014 team has completely disappeared. For a while, this disappointment manifested itself in anger. Message boards, comment sections, KSR Radio and more showcased a fan base baffled by the team’s complete inability to win against even the bottom feeders of the SEC. While some (maybe a lot) of the anger was over the top (with a few lost souls even wanting to get rid of Calipari), it still showcased a group of fans who cared and wanted to let off steam from a year that had been so greatly anticipated. The anger bothered me, especially when directed at the players, but the sentiment behind it is something that makes this fan base so special. We really care about this team and the program, and this time of year, which sometimes has the feel like a month-long state holiday in Kentucky, has been ruined for two years in a row. This can’t help but hurt and expressing that pain makes perfect sense to me.
But now as we get ready for SEC Tournament week, a time that is usually the UK fan base’s time to be at its absolute best, a feeling is creeping in that is even worse than anger. I get the sense that a significant portion of the Big Blue Nation has now turned off the season completely and has become apathetic. What is usually Cats’ fans best quality, a dedication to the program and its successes/failures through thick and thin, now seems to be waning this March in ways that while not without precedent, are extremely rare. This apathy is manifesting itself through all types of fan behavior. For the first time that I can ever remember, UK announced last week that it still had SEC Tournament ticket books for sale thanks to cancellations in the last two weeks. Think about that for a minute…the SEC Tournament tickets, once so hot a commodity that fans would buy SEASON TICKETS from other schools to be able to buy them at the end of the season, now aren’t even sold out in Lexington. Even just two years ago, that would have been unfathomable. It showcases itself in everything from web traffic, to twitter Retweets to radio show calls, all of which have seen a small downturn from normal numbers in the last 10 days. I am told by a retail source that sales of UK gear are “as low as I can remember” for this time of year. I can’t get over how many people have said to me, just in the last few days, that they have given up on the season and are either not going to the Tournament or making other plans during these March weekends. Even last year, with all the team’s struggles, UK beat Florida in the final game of the regular season and Nashville was rocking before the Cats threw up a stinker versus Vandy in the SEC Tournament. This year just feels different. What was once a time to be the Bluest of Blue is this year, just another option on the entertainment schedule.
I expect we will see the lowest Kentucky attendance at the SEC Tournament since Gillispie’s swan song in Tampa (a truly depressing affair). Many regulars of SEC Tournament trips for years are bowing out, thinking there is no chance for a positive outcome. While the KSR crew is still making the journey (with 14 people, our largest group ever), I expect less Blue, at least on Friday, than at any point in my memory. It will still be a majority Kentucky contingent and if you go, the most fun you can have with fellow Kentucky fans…but it will be slightly different. If you ever wanted to go to a SEC Tournament and were worried about tickets or expenses, this is the year to go.
The effect is also showcasing itself on conversation about next year’s team. Hype, which is something the BBN has mastered for decades (no program in all of basketball, maybe all of sports, talks more about the future than we do), is at an all-time low for next year’s team. Even though the Cats will once again have the #1 or #2 recruiting class, fans are not nearly as energized about the future players. For understandable reasons, UK backers are taking a “wait and see” attitude that could make this a very boring Spring and Summer around Lexington. After two straight years of awful football and disappointing basketball, Kentucky fans want to see happiness and success before they get their hopes up again. The fun of anticipation has been sucked out of Lexington, at least for the foreseeable future.
All of this can of course change on a dime. Win the SEC Tournament and most of Big Blue Nation will be “all in” when the brackets come out. If the Cats make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, I know that the Regional will be filled with Blue as fans think the light has turned on and we all get set up for what Aaron Harrison called “a great comeback story.” But until that happens, the feeling around here is not a good one. Kentucky fandom is, as of today, really depressing. While there is no place better when it is going well, and no place angrier when it is going badly, the feeling that exists now may be the worst of all. BBN with apathy is no good whatsoever and all I can hope is that whatever happens in Atlanta this week, it will be enough to get rid of this foreign, painful feeling.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:45 pm
Congrats to Karl Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis, who were all selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic next month. Lyles and Towns will play on the East team, while Booker and Ulis will play for the West team. Here are the complete rosters:
Grayson Allen, SG, 6-4, Providence Christian School (Riverview, Fla.), Signed with Duke
Joel Berry, PG, 6-1, Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.), Signed with North Carolina
James Blackmon, Jr., SG, 6-3, Marion H.S. (Marion, Ind.), Signed with Indiana
Justin Jackson, WG, 6-7, Homeschool Christian Youth (Spring, Texas), Signed with North Carolina
Tyus Jones, PG, 6-1, Apple Valley Senior H.S.. (Apple Valley, Minn.), Signed with Duke
Trey Lyles, PF, 6-9, Arsenal Technical H.S. (Indianapolis, Ind.), Signed with Kentucky
Jahlil Okafor, C, 6-11, Whitney Young Magnet H.S. (Chicago), Signed with Duke
Kelly Oubre, WF, 6-7, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), Signed with Kansas
LJ Peak, SG, 6-4, Gaffney Senior H.S. (Gaffney, S.C.), Signed with Georgetown
Karl Towns, C, 6-11, St. Joseph H.S. (Metuchen, N.J.), Signed with Kentucky
Reid Travis, PF, 6-7, De La Salle H.S. (Minneapolis, Minn.), Signed with Stanford
Rashad Vaughn, SG, 6-5, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), Signed with UNLV
Isaiah Whitehead, SG, 6-4, Abraham Lincoln H.S. (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Signed with Seton Hall
Shaqquan Aaron, WG, 6-7, Rainier Beach H.S. (Seattle), Signed with Louisville
Cliff Alexander, C, 6-9, Currie Metropolitan H.S. (Chicago), Signed with Kansas
Devin Booker, SG, 6-5, Moss Point H.S. (Moss Point, Miss.), Signed with Kentucky
Kameron Chatman, WG, 6-7, Columbia Christian School (Portland, Ore.), Signed with Michigan
Daniel Hamilton, WG, 6-7, St. John Bosco H.S. (Bellflower, Calif.), Signed with Connecticut
Stanley Johnson, WG, 6-6, Mater Dei H.S. (Santa Ana, Calif.), Signed with Arizona
Chris McCullough, PF, 6-9, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) , Signed with Syracuse
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, 6-4, Prime Prep (Dallas), Signed with SMU
Theo Pinson, WG, 6-6, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.), Signed with North Carolina
D’Angelo Russell, SG, 6-4, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), Signed with Ohio State
Myles Turner, C, 7-0, Trinity H.S. (Euless, Texas), Undecided
Tyler Ulis, PG, 5-9, Marian Catholic H.S. (Chicago Heights), Signed with Kentucky
Justise Winslow, WF, 6-6, St.John’s School (Houston), Signed with Duke
All four were also named McDonald’s All-Americans last month.
John Calipari has now had 23 players selected for the Jordan Brand Classic game since coming to UK. The Jordan Brand Classic will be played April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
By Matt Jones on ©1:28 pm
Even with all of the difficulties of the season, one event that I always look forward to is the SEC Tournament. This year the Tourney is in Atlanta once again and I for one can’t wait to get down there. If you don’t have tickets yet, you can win free lower arena tickets from GuyontheCornerTickets.com right now by making a simple prediction. Tonight Drew and I will be in Asheville, North Carolina for the Southern Conference Championship, where Wofford plays Western Carolina. It is a game that none of you probably know anything about, but that is even better. To win the tickets all you have to do is make a prediction in the comment section HERE. This is all we need:
1. SCORE PREDICTION FOR EACH TEAM
2. EMAIL ADDRESS WHERE WE CAN REACH YOU
If you are the closest, you will join the other finalists with a chance to win the tickets on the radio show tomorrow morning. So make your prediction now and you have a chance to win tickets to the Tournament and root on the Cats as they try, as hard as they can, to make us forget the regular season and make a move in March. Predict here
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©1:02 pm
Well, we knew it was probably going to happen, but it’s still not a happy sight. After starting the season ranked #1, Kentucky will end the season unranked in the AP Top 25 poll. Here’s the complete poll:
1. Florida (50)
2. Wichita State (15)
T8. San Diego State
15. North Carolina
16. Iowa State
18. Saint Louis
20. New Mexico
22. Michigan State
24. Ohio State
Others receiving votes: Gonzaga 82, Stephen F. Austin 56, Oregon 39, Texas 31, Harvard 27, Kentucky 19, Baylor 18, UCLA 14, Nebraska 8, Iowa 4, Tennessee 2, George Washington 1, NC Central 1
Cal says he won’t convince a player who’s projected to go in the second round to come back if they want to go
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:30 pm
Per usual, John Calipari was asked about the one-and-done rule during the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference, and said that even though he thinks the rule should be changed to two years, he won’t hold a kid back who’s projected to go in the second round if they want to go:
Well, it is hard, but again, if you’re about these kids you’ve got to do what’s right for them. So at the end of the year I’m not going to convince a kid who’s in the draft or even DeAndre Liggins, who wanted to go in the second round or a Jodie Meeks, who, ‘I’m good if I’m in the second round.’ I’m not holding kids back. So, at the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s right for them, and I would tell you that one year, I don’t think these kids are ready. Now, I’m not going to hold anybody back, but I think it would be better two years, that they’d be better pros, they’d be more mature, they’d be more ready to walk in and have success.
Currently, most mock drafts have Julius Randle, James Young, and Willie Cauley-Stein all going in the first round. The Harrison Twins are not listed on any of the major 2014 mock drafts.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:00 pm
On this morning’s SEC Coaches Teleconference, John Calipari said that he wants his team to recapture their “mojo,” and said they will spend this week trying to get back to where they were two weeks ago. How do you do that? Cal said he has a few tricks up his sleeve to try out in practice (time to put on your dodgeball outfit again, John Robic), including the team playing more physical. “Teams that have played that way have had a big advantage.” You don’t say.
SEC Tournament 2014: #OperationMojo? Yeah, baby.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©11:15 am
The loss to Florida doesn’t seem to have affected Kentucky’s projected seed too much. Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm updated their projections, and have Kentucky as a 7-seed and a 6-seed, respectively, both in the Midwest Region.
Playing Kyle Wiltjer’s new squad then possibly Ryan Harrow? Talk about the ghosts of Kentucky past.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©10:30 am
Hey, let’s talk about football because that’s not totally depressing. Spring practice starts in eighteen days, and free tickets are now available for the Spring Game, which is set for Saturday, April 26 at 3:30 p.m.
The season ticket holder presale began this morning at 9 a.m. on Ticketmaster. I don’t know the presale code, but I’m not going to stop you all from sharing it in the comments section. UK students can also start picking their free tickets this morning at the Joe Craft Center ticket office (two tickets per ID).
Remaining tickets will be available to the general public through the same Ticketmaster channels beginning Wednesday, March 19 at 9 a.m. Tickets still available on game day (April 26) may be picked up free of charge at the stadium, based on availability.
Remember, because of construction at Commonwealth Stadium, seating in the south lower and south upper level sidelines will not be available. Capacity for the Spring Game will be approximately 42,500, which means we won’t be able to break last year’s record of 50,831.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©9:55 am
Good morning, friends. Happy Monday. Today, Matt and Drew return to the studio after nine days on the road before heading to Asheville on the last leg of the Fox Sports road trip. There’s a lot to go over, including Kentucky’s loss to Florida, the women’s team’s crushing loss in the SEC Championship, and whether or not the Cats can make any noise in the postseason.
They’ll also be giving away TWO SEC TOURNAMENT TICKET BOOKS from GuyontheCornerTickets.com, a $600 value. Tune in to hear how you can win and come party with the BBN in Catlanta.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.
KSR Affiliate List
WAIN (93.9 fm) Columbia
WHIR (1230 am) Danville
WCLU (1490 am) Glasgow
WHOP (1230am/95.3 fm) Hopkinsville
WJKY (1060 am) Jamestown
WLAP (630 am) Lexington
WFTG (1400 am) London
WKJK (1080 am) Louisville
WFMW (730 am/94.9 fm) Madisonville
WFTM (1240 am) Maysville
WKYM (101.7 fm) Monticello
WMSK (1550 am) Morganfield
WLME (102.7 fm) Owensboro
WKYH (600 am) Paintsville
WLSI (900 am) Pikeville
WPRT (960 am) Prestonsburg
WSFC (1240 am) Somerset
WTCW (920 am) Whitesburg
WBTH (1400 am) Williamson, WV
On Delay (ALL TIMES LISTED EASTERN)…
WBGN (1340 am) Bowling Green 11am-1pm
WMTL (870 am) Leitchfield 11am-1pm
WLBQ (1570 am) Morgantown 3-5 pm
WRIL (106.3 fm) Middlesboro Thur 8-10 pm
WPAD (99.5 fm/1560 am) Paducah 5-7 pm
WHAY (98.3 fm) Whitley City 2-4 pm
By Bryan the Intern on ©9:00 am
#14. (LW: 14) Mississippi State (13-18, 3-15, RPI: 246)
This Week: Lost at Georgia by 21, Lost to South Carolina by 12
-Somebody shoot this season in the head already and put the Bulldogs out of their misery. 14 straight losses.
#13. (LW: 13) South Carolina (12-19, 5-13, RPI: 154)
This Week: Lost to Florida by 26, Won at Mississippi State by 12
-Win in Starkville keeps them out of the cellar for the year. Frank Martin debacle the only highlight.
#12. (LW:12) Auburn (14-15, 6-12, RPI: 159)
This Week: Lost at Tennesse by 28, Beat Texas A&M by 5
-Tempted to move them up but just can’t. Maybe an upset-minded team in Atlanta though.
#11. (LW: 9) Vanderbilt (15-15, 7-11, RPI: 110)
This Week: Lost to LSU by 6, Lost at Ole Miss by 3
-After an impressive stretch in the middle of the year, a complete collapse at the end. Stallings has work to do.
#10. (LW: 9) Texas A&M (17-14, 8-10, RPI: 151)
This Week: Lost at Missouri by 1, Lost to Auburn by 5
-At this point, all the teams suck pretty evenly. But they went 0-2 this week, so they drop.
#9. (LW: 11) Alabama (13-18, 7-11, RPI: 116)
This Week: Lost at Kentucky by 7, Beat Arkansas by 25
-Only move up because the teams ahead of them sucked so hard this week. Still a down year.
#8. (LW: 7) Ole Miss (18-13, 9-9, RPI: 90)
This Week: Lost at Arkansas by 30, Beat Vanderbilt by 3
-Have fun in the NIT Marshall Henderson. We won’t miss you.
#7. (LW: 8) LSU (18-12, 9-9, RPI: 73)
This Week: Won at Vanderbilt by 6, Lost to Georgia by 8
-Much like Arkansas, a complete waste of good enough talent to make the big dance.
#6. (LW: 6) Missouri (19-10, 9-9, RPI: 56)
This Week: Beat Texas A&M by 1, Lost at Tennessee by 27
-Played in Knoxville like their NCAA Tournament lives were not on the line. What we call Haith-ing.
#5. (LW: 4) Arkansas (20-10, 10-8, RPI: 53)
This Week: Beat Ole Miss by 30, Lost at Alabama by 25
-Mike Anderson should have been able to get this team to the NCAA Tournament, not gonna happen
#4. (LW: 3) Georgia (18-12, 12-6, RPI: 70)
This Week: Beat Mississippi State by 21, Won at LSU by 8
-I know Donovan will get COY but Mark Fox did more with less and deserves part of that award
#3. (LW: 2) Kentucky (22-9, 12-6, RPI: 19)
This Week: Beat Alabama by 7, Lost at Florida by 19
-Were #2 every week this season but have to face facts, this team is no longer playing like the 2nd best team in the league
#2. (LW: 5) Tennessee (20-11, 11-7, RPI: 46)
This Week: Won at Auburn by 28, Beat Missouri by 27
-If Florida doesn’t win SEC Tournament, the Vols will. Playing fantastic defense last 2 weeks.
#1. (LW: 1) Florida (29-2, 18-0, RPI: 2)
This Week: Won at South Carolina by 26, Beat Kentucky by 19
-Looking to become winningiest single SEC team with 2 wins in Atlanta
It’s time again for KSR’s Top Tweets of the day. You can participate by using hashtags such as #BBN #KSR #KSRTop10 or just by simply tweeting @KYsportsradio. We will focus most of our attention on Kentucky sports-centric tweets but, as usual, there are no limits to our madness.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 9, 2014
To quote Matt Jones: “Tony Romo wearing Duke gear confirms my hypothesis that he is the worst”.
Tom Crean just pulled a Shooter McGavin, has grabbed Michigan's ladder and taken off through the parking lot…
— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) March 9, 2014
I wonder if he follows Shooter’s breakfast routine too.
#8 Not Jerry Tipton
Congrats to Florida for being the first team to go through the SEC undefeated in 58 years! Not including Kentucky, who's done it 3 times.
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) March 8, 2014
Chomp on that one, gators.
#7 Oscar Combs
Cats don't care. I'm done! Players overrated. I'm done! This team sucks. I'm done! Coaches can't coach. I'm done! And now, I'm done lying.
— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) March 9, 2014
Oscar is more done than an average white girl.
#6 Brad Calipari
Anyone tryin to come over
— Brad Calipari (@The_bcal25) March 8, 2014
When father is away the children will play.
#5 Chris Bailey
— Chris Bailey (@Kentuckyweather) March 8, 2014
See? Every cloud has a silver lining.
#4 Mark Krebs Jr.
Throw me a freakin bone here. pic.twitter.com/NwhZgRvXfF
— Mark Krebs Jr. (@MarkKrebsJr) March 9, 2014
Mark would make an excellent Seth Green replacement. The resemblance is uncanny.
#3 Bryan Juarez
— Bryan Juarez (@B__Juarez) March 8, 2014
Punch up, not down. Right?
#2 Trey Lyles
Team success is more important than individual success!!!
— Trey Lyles (@TreyMambaLyles) March 9, 2014
I already like where the kid’s head is at. Seems kind of weird to see a one-and-done talk like this though, right Rick?
— YELLINGWILDCAT (@YellingWildcat) March 9, 2014
Seems legit. I like Kentucky’s odds in this bracket, but I am worried about the Championship round.
By Ally Tucker on ©10:30 pm
Another classic Julius Randle face (Photo © Kim Klement)
Well, out of all the weekends in Kentucky basketball history– this was certainly one of them (*Drew Franklin voice). Kentucky’s 22-9 regular season puttered across the finish line yesterday with a blow out loss to the #1 ranked Florida Gators on the road. Kentucky suffered its second largest margin of defeat in the John Calipari era, falling to Florida by 19 points. The lofty expectations for this team at the start of the season have quietly disappeared over the past month. When it’s all said and done though, judgment time has finally come. Kentucky will start its post-season bid in the SEC tournament on Friday night against the winner of Alabama and LSU. Talk is cheap at this point, and Kentucky will be in control of how they put the ink on the page to end this story. Let’s take a look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from the weekend.
1) UK Hoops make it to the SEC tournament championship, falling just short by 1-point to Tennessee
The UK Hoops team came up just short this weekend on a bit of a redemption tour in the women’s SEC tournament. The 12th ranked Cats reached the championship game against Tennessee by virtue of a win over the top seed, and top-5 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Kentucky fell just short, dropping a heartbreaker to Tennessee by 1-point. The weekend was successful for Kentucky though, and likely provided just the right kind of momentum Matthew Mitchell’s squad needed heading into the NCAA tournament. Kentucky started the season on a high, beating a number of top ranked teams including Louisville and Baylor. Mitchell’s squad hit a major downward spiral mid-season, but climbed its way back into contention over the past few weeks. This weekend’s deep run in the SEC tournament capped off a major turnaround for a team hoping to capitalize on home court advantage to start the NCAA tournament. Good luck to the Cats as they await their NCAA tournament seeding.
2) Former Cats in the NBA balled out today
A host of former Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA made headlines today/tonight with dazzling performances. Anthony Davis led the way with 32 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 6 blocks. Davis becomes the first player 20 or younger with 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a single game since Shaq in 1992-1993.
Jodie Meeks had a career night for the lowly Lakers, pouring in 42 points on 6-11 shooting from behind the arc.
DeMarcus Cousins had an impressive double-double for the Kings, finishing with 28 points and 20 rebounds.
Rajon Rondo may have had the crazy stat line of all, dishing out a stunning 18 assists with ZERO turnovers. Can he come give our Kentucky team a few passing lessons?
3) The 16-0 run
Kentucky found a way to mount a scoring surge– ignited by the best 5 minutes of defense Kentucky has played in a while– that led to a 16-0 run against the #1 team in the country. A 16-0 run against any team is impressive, but especially against a team with as stingy of a defense as Florida’s. Kentucky wasn’t able to sustain the momentum, but the 5 minute stretch gave Kentucky a chance to pull within striking distance. For an offense that has looked awfully shaky lately, it was a brief beacon of light and hopefully something Kentucky can study on tape and take something from…
4) Dakari Johnson’s offense and energy
There weren’t a ton of bright spots in Saturday’s game, but Dakari Johnson provided a few encouraging moments. Johnson’s energy off the bench was inspiring, and no player on the team seems to bring more fire to the court than Johnson these days. Calipari was so impressed by his performance that he admitted after the game that Dakari needs to (and will from now on) be starting. Calipari said he is the only guy out there “having fun.” Dakari has shown a knack for finishing with his back to the basket lately, and gives Kentucky a decent go-to option in the post when the offense has stalled.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Kentucky wasn’t great on Saturday by any stretch of the imagination, but that Florida team is good. The Gators are firing on all cylinders right now, and have the necessary pieces to make a Final 4 run or more. Florida’s defense is unrelenting. Florida has 3-point shooting threats, and post players who can score in the paint. Florida also has a veteran guard in Scottie Wilbekin who knows how to pull the strings to get his team going. Wilbekin always seems to make the right play when the Gators need it the most. For two games now this season against Kentucky, Wilbekin has been the guy who quieted Kentucky’s run and essentially ended any hopes of an upset bid.
1) The First Half
I don’t think we need to break this down too much. The defense was bad. The offense was nearly non-existent aside from James Young. The effort was hit or miss. The energy was lacking. Overall, it was frustrating.
2) Kentucky’s SEC tournament draw
Well, this could go many ways actually. Some might say Kentucky got a good draw. Some might disagree. Kentucky managed to avoid Tennessee and Florida (two of the hottest teams in the SEC right now), but found itself with a potential first game of the tourney against an LSU team that seems to have Kentucky’s number. There’s no sugar-coating it… LSU is a bad match up for Kentucky. If the theory holds though that it’s really difficult to beat a team 3 times in a row, maybe Kentucky will figure it out this time around.
3) Kentucky’s offense and Kentucky’s free throws
Kentucky’s offense, other than a 5-minute stretch, struggled mightily on Saturday. Granted, some of that was due to Florida’s impressive defense. But Kentucky didn’t look in sync for much of the game. Kentucky had 14 turnovers, but it felt like even more than that. Kentucky was 15-25 from the line for another head-scratching free throw performance.
4) Patrick Patterson’s injury
A big round of well wishes from the Big Blue Nation for Patrick Patterson, who will miss 7-10 days with a sprained right elbow.
1) Kentucky’s shot selection in crucial moments
This wasn’t the first game that Kentucky failed to seize an opportunity by putting together multiple possessions in a row that ended with bad shot selection. The Florida game was no different. When Kentucky pulled within 6, the next few possessions were bad. Really bad. Calipari called the shots “throws,” hardly able to contain his disgust in the post-game interviews. Kentucky forced two early shots in the shot clock that allowed Florida a couple of easy baskets. And by then, a game seemingly within reach, completely got away from the Cats.
2) The psyche… of everyone
I’m not sure where the team’s psyche stands right now. I’m not sure where Big Blue Nation’s psyche stands right now. I’m not sure where my psyche stands right now. There was something very telling in Julius Randle’s post-game quote, “We’ve got to get this thing going. We don’t know what we’ve got to do, but we’ve got to get it going.”
His words had a sense of desperation to them… Like a team that sees the finish line coming way too fast. Time has all but run out for this Kentucky team to “figure it out.” The SEC tournament COULD provide a chance for Kentucky to put together a little run, or to find something within themselves to push for a positive ending to this up and down season. This season has been disappointing for everyone involved. And I mean everyone. I think Cal thought this team was going to be the team to get #9… or at least have a really legitimate shot at doing so. The fans were practically foaming at the mouth when Big Blue Madness rolled around. The players talked about championship dreams. The national media pumped some air into the balloon of expectation as well. Everyone saw this going differently. Whether or not Kentucky was ever going to win a national championship with this group or not, I don’t think anyone saw things going THIS way.
As Aaron Harrison said… this team still has a chance to write a different ending, a good ending, for this story. But can it happen?