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March 2nd, 2015

3 things that make this team uniquely qualified to handle the pressure

happycats

With history on the horizon and the nation turning its attention to college basketball, Kentucky is the story in sports right now. The coverage and scrutiny around this team is staggering, to the point that John Calipari is meeting with his team once a week to combat the clutter. “I bring it up all the time,” Cal said, telling reporters he showed the group Jay Bilas’ speech from the Bahamas three weeks ago. “These kids are strong, they’re mature for their age. They’ve dealt with it.”

Cal said this team has proven uniquely qualified to handle the pressure heaped upon them. “They’re keeping the clutter away. It is there. It’s beating on them. Eating at them. It’s there. They’re pushing it aside and they’re looking after each other. Which I’m really proud of. It’s hard. And here, it’s like a coat you wear 24 hours a day. (Oh God, here comes the 100-lbs. coat lecture again…)

Based off Cal’s remarks, here are the three things that make this team capable of handling the media storm:

1. Veterans

“They’re feeding off of each other. People say ‘you’re freshmen,’ yeah, because they know it’s not on them. It’s on those veterans. The veterans know, you know what, if I’m not at my best, I know that young kid is going to be nuts. I’ll be fine. I’ll get my legs under me and I’ll be fine.”

2. Competitive edge

Unlike years past, Calipari is giving his team two days off a week to rest. Part of that is because their practices are so competitive. “This team is not a good drill team. They want to play. Throw it up, Let us go at each other,” Cal said. Last week’s scrimmage got so intense that Willie got elbowed in the mouth. “I thought he was going to have to get stitches, walked off the court. That’s why you don’t scrimmage! But the other side of it is, what our advantage is is our edge: that we’re able to do that, and no other team in the country has that.”

3. Brother keeping

Calipari said that this team may go to war against each other during practice, but after, they go to war for each other. “When they walk off the court after battling each other they’re still with each other. That’s the other thing that makes these guys unique,” Cal said. “Normally, I mean, they’re yelling on every call. They’re screaming, ‘That’s a foul! Call the foul!’ I mean, literally yelling at Coach — ‘Call the foul, Coach Robes!’ You know, ‘You didn’t get fouled! Just play!’ And I’m loving it because it’s bringing that out.”

Cluttermuffs on and forward march.


Tom Izzo’s complete remarks about Kentucky

20120919_Tom_Izzo_and_John_Calipari_cropped

Earlier today, Tom Izzo got the week off to a very interesting start when IU reporter Jeff Rabjohns tweeted out a few of his comments regarding Kentucky’s undefeated run from the Big 10 teleconference. “I’m not sure I’m crazy about the way everything has worked out, what it’s going to do for college basketball,” Izzo said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment whether he’s got 12 pros or 10.”

The comments started a firestorm on Twitter, because, let’s be honest, it looked like Izzo was being super salty. He’s always been a vocal opponent of the one-and-done rule, but to bring up his issues with it when asked about Kentucky’s historic season seemed disingenuous. This afternoon, we finally got all of Izzo’s comments from the call, and in retrospect, they’re not quite so bad:

“It’s different in some ways … I think John has done a hell of a job. I’m not sure I’m crazy about the way everything has worked out; I don’t know what it will do for college basketball and everything like that. But he has withstood the pressure, he has dealt with the young guys. I think that has been great. Bobby Knight’s team, from what I know of it, was built on a lot more veterans and I don’t know what you’d consider.

I know the SEC isn’t as strong and I don’t know where the Big Ten was then. I don’t know who they played in the non-conference … there are so many things I don’t know. But I know this: If you can go undefeated in ’76, 2015 or 3012, that’s an incredible accomplishment. No matter who you play, that pressure is very difficult. I give him a lot of credit for how he has handled this team, what they’ve done and I don’t know how you compare the two, to be honest.”

Where did the pros quip come in? Izzo was asked what it must be like to manage an “NBA roster” of talent like Kentucky’s:

“I think John has a niche. It’s easier because it’s harder to control the, as you say, NBA roster, but the niche is that if you don’t (perform), you don’t play. He has another guy there who could also be on an NBA roster. Most of us don’t have that. So you have to put up with a little more (trouble), maybe, and most of us don’t have that issue. But he has issues, like: How do they defend? How do they run an offense?

You’re talking about a lot of young kids and he has done it as well as anybody as far as getting those kids ready to play. They’ve been progressing and have had a chance to grow. It has worked. He has done it. If they go undefeated it’s an incredible accomplishment no matter if he has 12 McDonald’s All-Americans, instead of 10. Or 12 pros. It’s still difficult to do that, especially with young guys.”

Not so bad after all, which makes me feel better because I actually really like Tom Izzo.

[Chicago Tribune]


Kentucky opens as a 10.5 point favorite against Georgia

(David Manning/david.manning@onlineathens.com)

Vegas has spoken: Kentucky opened as a 10.5 point favorite in tomorrow night’s game in Athens. The line has already moved to 9.5.

Vegas has been spot on this season. Do you think tomorrow night’s game will be that “close”? I don’t.


LIVE: John Calipari previews Georgia


“Unless 12 guys get a crippling flu,” Sam Malone doesn’t expect to start Saturday

malone-dance

Saturday is Sam Malone, Brian Long, and Tod Lanter’s Senior Day, which, traditionally, means they will start. Will that be the case against Florida with an undefeated regular season on the line? “Unless 12 guys get a crippling flu, I don’t think we’ll start,” Malone told reporters today. Long and Lanter agreed.

All three seniors met with the media this afternoon, and each reflected fondly on their time as Cats. My favorite anecdote came from Tod Lanter when he was asked if he knew there was a Tod Lanter’s biceps parody Twitter account (@TodsBiceps).

“I actually found out about that during my first year when Matt Jones was doing an interview with me,” Tod said. “He brought that up on camera, so that was kind of shocking, but it’s all fun and games.” Tod says he doesn’t follow the account, but said that a walk-on at Auburn came up and asked him about it before a game, which he said was odd. Yes, it is.


Kentucky unanimous #1 in both polls for the 2nd straight week

For the second straight week, Kentucky is the unanimous #1 team in college basketball in BOTH the AP and USA Today/Coaches Poll:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.47.42 PM

Gonzaga took quite the dip, didn’t they?


Devin Booker and Karl Towns among 10 finalists for Wayman Tisdale Award

© Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

Congrats to Karl Towns and Devin Booker, who are among the ten finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the nation’s top freshman. Here’s the complete list, via CBS Sports:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.31.56 PM

The winner will be announced on March 16. I love Devin and Karl, but I’m pretty sure Jahlil Okafor has this one locked up.


Calipari says Willie should be “right there” in the Player of the Year race

Chet White | UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Willie Cauley-Stein is one of 14 finalists of the Oscar Robertson Trophy and over the weekend, CBS Sports’ Doug Gottlieb said he believes Willie should win it. Not surprisingly, John Calipari agrees.

“He should be right there,” Cal said of Willie when asked where he should rank in the Player of the Year race. “He should be one of those guys. I don’t know if it’s all about numbers. If it’s all about numbers, you should just give it to the leading scorer every year. Or do you have the most outstanding player is a player that’s driving the best team?”

Cal also brought up Bill Walton’s comments in which he said Kentucky should win Player of the Year. No, that is not a typo. “I think what was really funny was what Bill Walton said. The Player of the Year, he says, should be the University of Kentucky because of how they share, how they sacrifice, how they sacrifice numbers for each other, that should be the Player of the Year.”

Works for me.


Tom Izzo says he’s not crazy about what UK’s undefeated run will do for college basketball

When did Tom Izzo get so salty? On today’s Big 10 teleconference, Izzo was asked what he thought about Kentucky potentially matching Indiana’s unbeaten 1976 record, and well, he was kind of a jerk about it:

I’m not sure I’m crazy about how everything’s worked out, what it’s going to do for college basketball,” Izzo said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment whether he’s got 12 pros or 10.”

Kyle Tucker asked Cal about Izzo’s comments during today’s SEC coaches teleconference, and Cal said he hadn’t heard them yet. “First of all, I didn’t hear them but Tom and I are friends,” Cal said. “I haven’t talked to Tom. He and I will talk.

While Izzo credits Kentucky’s success to its plethora of talent, Cal prefers Jay Bilas’ version from College GameDay on Saturday. “I like the comments Jay Bilas made, which is, this is, when you look at this team and how they’ve come together, and how they share, and what they do, I think that’s the narrative,” Cal said. “I think that should be what this is all about, not how many guys have the chance to be pros. Other teams have really good players, too.”

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do…


Trey Lyles named SEC Freshman of the Week

Congratulations to Trey Lyles, who was just named SEC Freshman of the Week. Lyles scored 18 points in each of Kentucky’s wins last week. Lyles has become this team’s x-factor, giving the Cats another dimension on offense and a crucial presence on the glass.

This is Trey’s second SEC Freshman of the Week honor and the 11th time a Kentucky freshman has brought home the award.

I think this calls for some T. Lyles:


Mark Fox calls UK “without question, the best basketball team in America”

Georgia coach Mark Fox knows what’s coming to Athens tomorrow. Kentucky beat Georgia 69-58 in Rupp in early February, then considered one of the “big tests” for the Cats this season. Per usual, they aced it. “We got it close, but the game wasn’t close,” Fox said on today’s teleconference. “They have, without question, the best basketball team in America.”

What makes UK great? Unselfishness. “The thing John should get credit for — they’re so unselfish. That’s why they’re so dominant,” Fox said. “They can beat you in so many different ways that there’s not just one thing that jumps out at you…That’s why people have not been able to find a way to beat them, because Kentucky always has something else they can turn to.”

Kentucky was without Trey Lyles when the Cats beat Georgia on February 3. Lyles is back and scored 18 points in each of Kentucky’s last two wins, performances that earned him SEC Freshman of the Week. “They’re a different team with Lyles in the game,” Fox said. Georgia guard JJ Frazier said he thinks Kentucky can play with anyone. Fox’s response? “Well, playing and beating are two different things.”

Welp.


Another day, another awesome ESPN promo about the Cats

These never get old.


Former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon at the center of sexual assault scandal

On January 29, Duke junior Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed from the team, and today, we may know why. According to The Duke Chronicle, Sulaimon was twice alleged to have committed sexual assault during the 2013-2014 school year:

Separate allegations of sexual assault by Sulaimon came from two female students in the 2013-14 academic year. Both students voiced allegations publicly, but neither filed a complaint through the Office of Student Conduct or took legal action through the Durham Police Department. The students declined to discuss their allegations with The Chronicle.

Neither student filed a complaint through Duke’s Office of Student Conduct or with police out of “fear of backlash” from the Duke fan base; however, members of the athletic department were made aware of them as early as March 2014, including Mike Krzyzewski. Yet, Sulaimon was not dismissed until January 29, 2015. Yikes.
To read more, head on over to The Chronicle. And keep this quote about Kentucky from former Dukie Jay Bilas in mind:
How many guys at Kentucky have been suspended? None. How many have been arrested? None. They are doing it the right way. You don’t like it, that’s your business. But I’ll tell you what, those are really good kids that have done a great job.”

Two more until history (Monday Show Thread)

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, Matt and Ryan will recap Kentucky’s big win over Arkansas and look ahead to tomorrow’s road test at Georgia, the penultimate game of the season. The Cats are two away from history, and if Saturday’s game was any indication, you better stock up on confetti.

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

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Jerry Tarkanian’s son says no one was more loyal to his father than John Calipari

A few weeks ago, legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away at the age of 84. “Tark the Shark” was a character and, it turns out, a true friend to John Calipari, a man with whom he had very much in common. In the early 90’s, Tarkanian coached arguably the most talented team ever, the UNLV squad that included Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon,and Elmore Spencer. The Runnin’ Rebels came up just short of an undefeated season, losing to Duke by two points in the Final Four.

Tarkanian’s son Danny recently spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about Cal and Tark’s friendship, which he says ran very deep. “Loyalty was very important to my dad and no one has been more loyal (than Calipari),” said Danny.

Danny said Cal invited Tark to one of UK’s practices at the Final Four last year and at the Maui Classic in 2010, asked him to sit on the bench next to him:

“When practice was over, he had the players come over and shake my dad’s hand,” Danny said. “He said nice things about him and kissed him on the forehead.

“Then he gave us a ride back to our condo on the team bus,” Tarkanian said.

Danny Tarkanian said Cal was in constant contact with his family during Jerry’s health problems, a gesture he won’t soon forget. “He’s a wonderful guy. We are big Big Blue fans,” he said.

[Las Vegas Review Journal]