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March 30th, 2015

Calipari says Wisconsin may be a better offensive team than Notre Dame

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

John Calipari had a lot of praise for Wisconsin n today’s Final Four teleconference, telling reporters that they may be an even better team offensively that Notre Dame.

“They’re outstanding. We just played a great offensive team in Notre Dame, and this team rivals and maybe surpasses (them) because they can isolate you in the post, they shoot the three the same as Notre Dame does, they have that one guy that’s a big guy, not a guard–their guards are good, too–in Frank that can just go get his own. But Dekker has proved he can do the game. They’re really good there.”

One trait Cal admires in Wisconsin is their ability to defend without fouling. Cal said he likes to think his team does the same. “They don’t foul. Bo and I talked about it, you can play tough, hard-nosed, even physical defense without fouling on every play, every player. That’s what he teaches. That’s what we teach. We want you to be aggressive, we want you to be physical, just don’t foul.”

See, you’re not the only one that’s been annoyed by all the fouls lately.

“They do what they’re supposed to do, they give you a tough look and they rebound the ball. They’re outstanding,” Cal said of the Badgers. “This will be a really hard game for our team, and we know that. Bo’s doing what he’s done with every team. He’s made them a cohesive offense and defensive unit.”

 


Karl Towns named Second Team All-American by the AP

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Congratulations to Karl Towns, who named Second Team All-American by the Associated Press this afternoon.

As mentioned earlier, Willie Cauley-Stein received First Team honors. Former Cat and current Gonzaga Bulldog Kyle Wiltjer also got Third Team honors.

Cats.


Calipari raves about the BBN on the Final Four teleconference

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari said A LOT on today’s Final Four teleconference, and I’ll have a complete wrap-up here in a bit, but this comment stuck out to me the most. Cal was asked what he’s learned about the Big Blue Nation in his six years at Kentucky and what he believes sparked the intense fanaticism in the state. Something tells me you’ll like his answer.

“Coach Rupp,” Cal said, mentioning his conversations with Rupp’s son Herky, grandson, and great-grandson Frederick, who is friends with Brad Calipari. “There were things that he did back then that brought so much pride to this state. He wasn’t afraid to play anybody, they got on trains and played in New York and Chicago. He played anyone, anywhere, anytime back then. He was a student of the game, and it started right there. And then Coach Hall. And then Coach Pitino. And then Tubby. They take so much pride.”

Cal says the one thing he’s learned about the BBN is that they don’t need a national championship ever year, they just need to feel significant. “I’ve been here now six years. They haven’t like, ‘you’ve gotta win it now!’ No. They’d like you to win it now and they’ll be depressed if you don’t, but they want to be in the conversation,” Cal said. “They want in the conversation in recruiting, they want in the conversation when you’re talking one of the best teams, but if they thought you should win it every year, we’d have 125 national titles. It doesn’t happen and they know that.”

When asked, Cal pinpointed two moments that he was floored by the BBN. “You walk in to our arena at home and the upper deck in the corners is filled 40 minutes before the game. ‘Are you crazy? Why are you here right now?’ The radio show has 8 or 9,000 people that stay after. Our radio show would rank in the top-30 in attendance of games.

The other thing is you go on road, they’re chanting and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’ve taken over the arena.’ Like, they do that,” Cal said. “I don’t know how they get tickets. They know not to wear blue when they’re trying to wear red or orange, they wear another color. They figure out ways of getting in and they don’t tell because it’s a secret. No one knows.”

And you guys better not tell if you want the BBN to take over Indy.


Willie named First-Team All-American by the AP

Chet White | UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Well, that didn’t take long. Congratulations to Willie Cauley-Stein on being named First-Team All-American by the Associated Press. The honor makes Willie a consensus First-Team All-American, a huge, huge accomplishment.

Here’s the complete AP First Team:

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

Earlier this morning, Willie and Karl Towns picked up First- and Second-Team All-American honors from the NABC. Well-deserved.


Don’t forget: The McDonald’s All-American game is Wednesday

IG: zaaay_

It may be easy to overlook with all the excitement leading up to the Final Four this week, but the McDonald’s All-American Game is Wednesday in Chicago. UK signee Isaiah Briscoe is participating in the event along with several of the Cats’ top targets, including Jaylen Brown, Thomas Bryant, Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Malik Newman, Caleb Swanigan and Stephen Zimmerman. At this point, it doesn’t look like any of UK’s recruits will make their decisions this week.

Tonight is the skills competition, the three-point shootout and the slam dunk contest. All three events will be televised on ESPN2 starting at 7 p.m. We’ll have the highlights for you once they’re up.


Willie Cauley-Stein pulls in another First-Team All-American honor

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Congratulations to Willie Cauley-Stein, who pulled in another First-Team All-American honor this morning, this time from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Karl Towns also received Second-Team honors.

So far, Willie has First-Team All-American honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association, USA Today, The Sporting News, and NBC Sports.

The AP awards come out later this week. I expect Willie, Cal, and Karl will all be recognized.


Alabama’s going after Gregg Marshall

Kudos to Alabama for swinging for the fences. According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Alabama athletic director Bill Battle is on his way to Kansas to meet with Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Parrish cites sources that say Alabama is prepared to offer Marshall “piles of money, an athletic department with a culture of winning and every resource he needs to compete with anybody on a national level.”

Marshall will have his pick of openings. Right now, there are also vacancies at Tennessee and Texas. If Alabama can reel him in, color me impressed.

[CBS Sports]


Grantland: “It has been John Calipari’s March Madness”

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I may or may not have spent part of my morning defending Kentucky and John Calipari to my dentist (a Tennessee fan) on Facebook. With Kentucky in its fourth Final Four in five years, the bitter and lazy criticism of Cal still gets to me, although the Cats’ success this season has quieted it some, forcing it back under the bridge where it feeds on Jeff Goodman tweets and prays for some sign of weakness.

I should be above this stuff by now, especially this week. As Cal would say, I need to stop letting the haters steal my joy. But it’s a Monday morning, and thankfully, Grantland’s Charles P. Pierce gave me some good ammunition to fire back with:

“It has been John Calipari’s March Madness, for good or ill. In the years since he coached UMass to a Final Four appearance that no longer counts in the record books — and since he coached Memphis to a Final Four appearance that no longer counts, either — a lot has changed in college athletics. The NCAA model, under which Calipari’s first two Final Fours had been rendered nonevents, has come under siege from so many angles, and in so many places, that it now functions as little more than an object of ridicule. As that occurred, Calipari has been rehabilitated as the first coach to succeed under what may be the new paradigm of college athletics — a pure business model, an honest transaction between the athletes and the institutions that their efforts enrich. The one-and-done philosophy that has been the source of Calipari’s success at Kentucky now looks less like a completely cynical exercise in brand-building and more like a realistic appraisal of how to operate within an enterprise that is being reformed from the outside in.”

More good stuff where that came from, so good check it out. And don’t fight with your dentist on Facebook.

[Grantland]


Gearing up for a huge week (Monday Show Thread)

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Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, the guys return to the studio after a crazy weekend in Cleveland to recap UK’s wild wins over West Virginia and Notre Dame. Have you caught up on all the sleep you missed? Me neither. Grab another cup of coffee and settle in, because this is the week we’ve all been waiting for.

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

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Final Four Tees

FOKsr-FF-blog

Make room in your closet and add another Final Four shirt to your collection. I’d probably get 2. One to leave at home and one to rip off Hulk Hogan style after the win Saturday night.

The KSR Shop

Only 2 games left!!!


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Any UK Records in Danger this Weekend?

goose-golden

Before the Final Four last year, I posted this list of some of the best performances in UK Final Four history, and to my disappointment, not a single UK player cracked onto any of these lists in 2 games.  I would guess odds are that might be the case again this year because minutes are so spread out, but I wanted to get your thoughts.  Looking at these lists of individual achievements, do you think any current UK players have the potential to land on them?  And if so, who and where.

POINTS
41: Jack Givens (vs Duke, 1978 NCAA Championship)
34: Kevin Grevey (vs UCLA, 1975 NCAA Championship)
30: Vernon Hatton (vs Seattle, 1958 NCAA Championship)
28: Bill Spivey (vs Illinois, 1951 Final Four)
27: Alex Groza (vs Illinois, 1949 Final Four)
27: Jeff Sheppard (vs Stanford, 1998 Final Four)
26: Jamal Mashburn (vs Michigan, 1993 Final Four)
25: Alex Groza (vs Oklahoma A&M, 1949 NCAA Championship)

REBOUNDS
21: Bill Spivey (vs Kansas St, 1951 NCAA Championship)
16: Johnny Cox (vs Seattle, 1958 NCAA Championship)
16: Bill Spivey (vs Illinois, 1951 Final Four)
16: Anthony Davis (vs Kansas, 2012 NCAA Championship)
15: Ed Beck (vs Temple, 1958 Final Four)
15: Terrence Jones (vs UCONN, 2011 Final Four)

ASSISTS
8: Kyle Macy (vs Duke, 1978 NCAA Championship)
7: Anthony Epps (vs Syracuse, 1996 NCAA Championship)
7: Anthony Epps (vs Minnesota, 1997 Final Four)
7: Mike Flynn (vs Syracuse, 1975 Final Four)

BLOCKS
6: Anthony Davis (vs Kansas, 2012 NCAA Championship)
5: Anthony Davis (vs Louisville, 2012 Final Four)
3: Nazr Mohammed (vs Arizona, 1997 NCAA Championship)
3: Jamaal Magloire (vs Utah, 1998 NCAA Championship)

3-POINTERS
7: Tony Delk (vs Syracuse, 1996 NCAA Championship)
4: Jeff Sheppard (vs Stanford, 1998 Final Four)
4: Dale Brown (vs Michigan, 1993 Final Four)


Wendy’s KSR Top 15 Tweets of the Weekend

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Every now and then, there are so many good tweets to narrow it down to just ten. So we bring you this speciall edition of our Top 15 Tweets. You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtopten. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:

#15 Ryan Lemond

FRIEDERRRRRR

 

 

 

 

#14 Amelia B. McCormick

I need some of her calm.

 

 

 

 

#13 Alex Flynn

Classic.

 

 

 

 

#12 Vincent Elliott

Don’t give them that much credit.

 

 

 

 

#11 Jackie Watson

That’s all?

 

 

 

 

#10 Trey Lyles

Aw.

 

 

 

 

#9 Aaron Yates

I think that’s the first time Matt has had a grown man scream at him to get in the shower.

 

 

 

 

#8 Lee Weatherly

OH MY GOD. HE’S RIGHT.

 

 

 

 

#7 Phillip Stickler

I’m sure we will hear a thing or two from him this week.

 

 

 

 

#6 Andrew Ramspacher

Accurate.

 

 

 

 

#5 John Newton

This would explain a lot.

 

 

 

 

#4 Jonathan Meacham

Bull. That’s what.

 

 

 

 

#3 Corey Rogers

I love that this picture is still around.

 

 

 

 

#2 Brandon Schwarte

Poor Rick.

 

 

 

 

#1 Ethan

That’s one lucky girl.

@Sealey_KSR


March 29th, 2015

Sunday Night News and Views

(H/T @UKPhotogs) They say a picture says a thousand words....

(H/T @UKPhotogs) They say a picture says a thousand words….

The Cats are Final Four bound.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you probably know that Kentucky defeated Notre Dame in a tight game Saturday night, 68-66. This post would be a lot different if Aaron Harrison hadn’t hit that clutch three towards the end, or if Karl-Anthony Towns hadn’t played absolutely out of his mind, or if Willie wasn’t the beast that he is, or if Andrew hadn’t knocked down those game-winning free throws, etc. Instead of celebrating all night long, the BBN would have collectively went to bed with tears in their eyes, proud of what their Cats accomplished but sad that they wouldn’t make it just a couple of more games. Thank God it didn’t go down that way. Now, Kentucky seeks it’s 39th win- two more away from a historic 40-0 and the ninth national title. Honestly, I still haven’t recovered, and I assume most of the Big Blue Nation hasn’t either. But, before you go to bed with visions of Harrisons dancing in your heads, here are tonight’s news and views:

The Final Four Is Set

Duke was the final puzzle piece in what is going to be an absolutely solid Final Four this weekend. After defeating Gonzaga, 66-52, the Blue Devils are on their way to their 16th Final Four and the 4th most of all time. In what was, I’m sure, a highlight of many of the BBN’s day, Louisville was downed in overtime by Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team earlier this afternoon, 76-70. So here is where we will stand come Saturday evening: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin at 8:49 on TBS, and Michigan State vs. Duke at 6:09. Better start preparing yourselves now.

Cats open as a six-point favorite over Wisconsin.

Saturday night is going to be fun and our friends out in Vegas know it. The Cats opened as the six-point favorite over Frank Kaminsky and his gang earlier this afternoon. The Cats are 1-3 against the spread in the tourney. I think I can speak for the whole BBN when I say ‘please, please, please cover Kentucky. I can’t handle another game like last night.’ According to VegasInsider.com Kentucky’s odds to win the whole thing are 2/3 right now.

Karl Towns has moved to #1 in the Draft Express rankings.

(draftexpress.com)

(draftexpress.com)

This certainly shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Towns was in beast-mode last night, ending the game with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. I saw many people on Twitter call last night’s game his “#1 in the draft game” and I can’t say I disagree. Draft Express has KAT going first to the Knicks (God bless him) right now in their mock draft, with WCS following at #6 to the Kings. Booker and Lyles go later in the first round at #17 and #19 respectively. Dakari is projected early second round with Andrew to Cleveland late after.

Last night’s game was the highest rated for a college basketball game in cable television history.

According to the NCAA’s website, last night’s match-up generated a 9.0/16 overnight rating/share, peaking with a 11.9/21 from 10:45-11pm. That’s the highest overnight rating for a college basketball game in cable television ever. Who run the world? Cats.

Kentucky’s open practice will take place from 3-3:50 on Friday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

I expect the BBN to show out in big numbers.

Stoops got a Yahtzee today.

He also got one yesterday, in case you missed it. Today’s Yahtzee was from 6’9″ OL/DL Calvin Taylor out of Augusta Christian. The 2015 commit also had offers from Temple and Charlotte. Yesterday’s commitment came from Kordell Looney, a three star 6’4″, 285 lb DT out of Ohio. This 2016 commit had offers from Bowling Green, Illinois, and Toledo before he decided to roll the dice for Stoops.

Kentucky knocked off the top ranked LSU Tigers today in baseball.

Kentucky defeated LSU 12-10 in 11 innings to win the series, 2-1, this afternoon, after beating them on Friday 5-4. Trey Huntsman has a good recap of all the excitement here.

 

That should do it for right now. We’ll be back around in the morning for more news leading up to Saturday’s forthcoming insanity. Two more games til perfection, y’all. Go Cats!

 


Sunday Evening Celebration Links

(H/T @UKPhotogs)

(H/T @UKPhotogs)

While most of us are still trying to get over that win (I was way too hyped to sleep last night), the national media was all over the game and has cranked out some really great articles today. Here are just a few:

-For The Win/ USA Today’s Chris Chase has an awesome article about how last night’s game was every sports fan’s dream. In the piece, Chase highlights six different reasons why this game was a prime example of why we all love sports.

-Kentucky basketball survives. That’s the statement Dan Wetzel makes in this piece about Kentucky’s game last night along with a little preview of what’s to come in Saturday’s Final Four. Best quote from the article? “Sure, they have great players, impossible size, and breathtaking skill. They also have an otherworldly will to win.”

-Sporting News said that the night belonged to all the Wildcats, but definitely Willie Cauley-Stein.

-“Kentucky is still perfect, and they have Karl-Anthony Towns to thank for it.”- Adam Zagoria

-Gregg Doyel says Notre Dame wasn’t scared of Kentucky; that thinking almost won it for them, but not quite.


How the Cats Transformed from Resented Goliaths into America’s Team

Photo by Chet White - UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White – UK Athletics

 

In recent years when March rolled around, I’d turn off ESPN, shut down Twitter and ignore sports-related emails from my out-of-state friends.  I got it — Kentucky basketball’s quick turnaround from Gillespie-era mediocrity back to the pantheon of college hoopdom stoked angry, jealous embers outside of Big Blue Nation into raging hate-fueled fire.  Of course, continued oxygen was provided by an outspoken coach with a controversial history and an improbably immediate success story in mastering a new college sports paradigm that everyone seems to hate.

However, as KSR’s mole embedded within the pseudo-elite and the jump-shot-challenged intelligentsia, it was my duty for the past few weeks to monitor and critique the Establishment resentment toward our boys in blue.

But a funny thing happened on the way toward the anticipated fear and loathing.  While certainly the haters remain (including a TBS broadcasting team that appears to root for every UK challenger), Kentucky’s fan base has seemed to grow nationally, significantly, as their wins pile up.  Although Notre Dame’s Coach Mike Brey declared audaciously that the Fighting Irish were “America’s Team” in their Elite Eight showdown with the Cats, that crown better fits the head of the team that pulled off the über-thrilling victory last night in Cleveland.

Yes, sports fans, like the Dallas Cowboys in the late 20th Century, the Kentucky Wildcats — at least during this unprecedented run — are now America’s Team.

How did this transformation happen?  I credit four variables behind the Cats’ surge in national popularity:

Making History

One unifying feature of sport is the specter of history being made, with the spectator feeling part of the shared experience.  That’s why in an era of DVRs and spoiler alerts, we still like to watch our major sporting events live — especially with basketball, where those in attendance really become part of the action.  For those of us creeping into middle age, consider how many office watercooler conversations, or dinner table talks with the kids, center around the epochal contests that we watched in our youth: from Goose’s greatest game, to the first Bird/Magic matchup, to Nova’s coke-fueled upset of Georgetown, to Jim Valvano furiously circling the hardwood for a hug…and on and on.

As Kentucky approaches an unprecedented 40-0 season (no I am STILL not jinxing it), the Big Blue Nation cheers and hopes and even prays for each consecutive victory.  But so are a lot of other Americans, particularly the more casual fans with no dog in the hunt, who are climbing aboard the bandwagon in time to be part of history.

Artistic Excellence

As I’ve mused in these virtual pages many times before, basketball wallops the other Big Three sports when it comes to the visual experience for its spectators. Basketball games are filled with relentless exhibitions of artistry in action — colorful feats of intensely-rehearsed talent and gravity-defying acrobatics, while the participants remain in near constant motion. Because the vertical plane is regularly pierced, only basketball can provide those rare, sublime moments of transcendental grace.

Critics have been carping all year about how the recent primacy of defense has resulted in lower-scoring, less exciting games.  And while Kentucky is certainly guilty of the former charge, and has endured several brutally ugly slug-fests on their way to the Final Four, the team inevitably has produced thrilling, breathtaking moments — Monster Dunks! Improbable Blocks! Clutch Threes! — even in their most lop-sided victories.  Their refusal to lose close games like last night make for suspenseful, goose-bump-inducing theater.  In the end, this team simply is fun to watch, and there are plenty of basketball aficionados outside of the Bluegrass State who don’t want to see this show leave town too soon.

Integrity

As the Wildcats have been pigeonholed to be the exemplar of the much derided “one and done” paradigm, many occasional hoops followers would naturally assume that our ball club would be filled with selfish, egomaniacal, entitled semi-pros who are focused on NBA glory, at the expense of the team, the campus and the greater community.  But as anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to this year’s squad could attest, these Cats have obliterated the stereotype.  Indeed, the adjectives most associated with this group of ballers — unselfish, likeable, team-focused, joyfully charismatic, and most of all, humble — belie the reputation applied ignorantly by the controversy-seeking screaming heads on talk radio and the Twitter-verse.

From the moment The Twins deferred the pros, to their gritty, unselfish contributions in the last seconds of the Notre Dame game, the spirit of integrity has permeated this year’s squad.  And the more the country has seen the true character of these Cats, the more they’ve cheered for a perfect season.

Backlash

As sports criticism has proliferated — from thousands of new online avenues to the comments section of every web site — commentary has become more and more vociferous and hyperbolic, the language used more and more hostile and toxic.  Feeling the anxiety of competition, some more traditional news sites have tried to outdo their pajama-clad blogging brethren with breathless snark:  Check out this over-the-top, innuendo-filled attack on John Calipari in this week’s New York Times.  The social media has piled on, in one high-profile case forcing super-fan Ashley Judd to expose the vicious, misogynistic tactics of often-anonymous wannabes who desperately desire to expose their resentment-fueled bile to the rest of us.

I’ve never pretended that Coach Cal is perfect, nor that his recruiting tactics at the University of Massachusetts don’t deserve scrutiny and questioning.  But that was 20 years ago, and in a nation whose culture revels in the redemptive power of second chances, it’s about time to forgive him.  And when the critics continue to pile on about ambiguous transgressions from the past century — some taking it out on a talented actress who merely shows up to games to root for her alma mater — most Americans witness the current track record of a Cal-coached team that hasn’t even emitted a whiff of scandal, and view Kentucky as the embattled David against the monstrous media Goliath.

Don’t get me wrong: The “America’s Team” appellation will by no means stick for long term.  Our country loves an underdog story, and should the Cats post a perfect season, expect America to find new favorites in the coming years.  But while the United States is far, far from unanimous, do understand that due to all the reasons that make this team so special, our Nation — for the next week at least — is becoming a lot Big Bluer.

===

Postscript:  As a recovering politician, I’m especially aware when I have lost the people’s support.  And my valiant attempt to name this year’s squad “The Purr-fects” appears to have been a Dukakis-in-the-tank-like flopKSR commentor EdC may have put it best last week: “Purr-fects is TERRIBLE. It’s Kentucky Wildcats, not lap cats. Please just stop already. I am embarrassed for you and I don’t even know you.”  And Twitter’s @Pete_white00 did me the honor of making me the target of my first meme:

purrfects

So — back to the drawing board.  I find anything with “Un” to be clichéd and derivative of the unique, special branding of the nineties Unforgettables squad.  I will take your suggestions below — and if anyone comes up with anything original that sticks (and I will heavily promote any good ideas), I will take you to a UK home game next year.