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March 30th, 2015

Coach K really doesn’t want to compare Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor

I can already tell that a popular storyline this week will be Karl Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor. The two freshmen are projected to go first and second in all the major mock drafts, with Towns recently gaining momentum for his performances in Kentucky’s postseason run. If Kentucky and Duke advance to the final, the Towns vs. Okafor debate will dominate the conversation, and this morning, Mike Krzywerkwj;kdjc implied he’s already tired of it.

Coach K and a reporter had an awkward interaction in which the reporter first said he wasn’t going to ask Coach K to compare Towns and Okafor, and then ended up asking him anyways. It was weird. Here’s the transcript:

Q. Mike, Karl-Anthony Towns seems to be captivating a lot of imaginations. Some suggest he’s the best freshman big man in your sport. I’m not asking you to compare him and Okafor.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you.

Q. You’ve seen enough to be pretty sure it’s your guy.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you are asking me that then (laughter)? What you just said you asked, though.

Q. You’re right.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: What I would tell you is, I don’t watch Kentucky very much because we haven’t played them. You all watch these other teams more than we do, or more than I do. I try to watch the teams that we’re going to play against. I know our league. I really try to know the teams we just played, Utah and Gonzaga. But I’m not watching Kentucky like I would if we were going to play them. I know Towns. We recruited him. He played for the Dominican team. He’s a great player, great young man, beautiful family. He’s going to be a terrific pro. Where he stands in comparison to anybody, who knows. The people who do that are the people who are called professionals who are going to draft. But he’s going to be a terrific player. Based on what I’ve seen of him as a youngster, what I know of his character, then the little bit that I’ve watched Kentucky play, he’s terrific.

He really is. And he should be the number one pick over Okafor. Karl’s struggled from time to time, but I don’t think he’s ever done this:


Kentucky now has 2/3 odds to win the title

Our friends at Bovada have released their updated odds on the National Championship, and the Cats are 2/3 favorite, followed by Duke at 3/1, Wisconsin at 4/1 and Michigan State at 8/1.

Karl Towns is also the favorite to win NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player with 3/1 odds, followed closely by Willie Cauley-Stein at 4/1. Aaron Harrison follows a pair of Dukies at 7/1.


Apparently the Knicks don’t think Karl Towns’ butt is big enough for them

Photo by Matt Hernandez

Photo by Matt Hernandez

Karl Towns has taken over the #1 spot in several major mock drafts, but according to this article by The New York Post, if the Knicks get the first pick, they may not take Towns because his butt isn’t big enough. No, this isn’t a Ryan Lemond joke, it’s a legit quote from Charley Rosen, one of Phil Jackson’s friends.

They need a center with a big butt to hold space,’’ Rosen told The Post. “They didn’t have anybody like that. It takes away a major portion of what you can do with the triangle because then it really becomes just a perimeter offense.’’

After watching Towns in the NCAA Tournament, Rosen says, “Towns is not a big enough body. He’d never get that position in the NBA. He doesn’t have enough power or core strength. He wouldn’t be able to set up one dribble away from the basket. He’s not a kind of center you need in the triangle. He’s not physically that type of center, but he’s athletic and does other things. Look how far out (Lou) Amundson, (Jason) Smith and (Andrea) Bargnani get pushed out when they post up, well out of the box.’’

After watching Karl put the Cats on his back on Saturday night, I’m not sure how anyone wouldn’t want him on their team. Karl had a career-high 25 points and was a perfect 8-8 from the floor in the second half. At 6’11”, 250 lbs., he seems plenty capable of holding his own in the post.

As for the butt comment, don’t the Knicks know that Karl’s teammates used to call him “Karl Kardashian”? Albeit for completely different reasons (Andrew says Karl earned the nickname for his tendency to overreact to things), but Phil Jackson doesn’t need to know that.

[NY Post]


Report: Rick Barnes in at Tennessee

That didn’t take long. After being fired from Texas this past weekend, Rick Barnes is reportedly in at Tennessee. Sources tell 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyers that the Vols and Barnes should have “an agreement in principle by the end of tonight.”

Good move for Tennessee and for Barnes, who won’t even have to change his wardrobe.

[247 Sports]


UK Fans of the Day Want to Look at Our Opponent

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I am all for respecting your opponent. Wisconsin is experienced, solid on defense and can run as efficient an offense as any team in the country. Yes, they are a bit of throwback in terms of style, but not as much as you may think. They play slowly in terms of pace, but a lot of that is because of how they guard on defense. In short, they are a team your grandfather would like, but without being the kind of team that you would hate…and they are really good.

But their best player, Frank the Tank, does do this. I can’t tell if its awesome or awful…but I do love it:

A guy that dances like that simply cannot beat Willie Cauley-Stein…I refuse to believe it


KentuckyOne Health Anywhere Care wants the rest of Calipari’s comments from the FF Teleconference

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John Calipari spoke for twenty minutes on today’s Final Four coaches teleconference, and for once, he actually doled out some new material. Here are a few of Cal’s most important quotes…

On Aaron and Andrew Harrison turning it up in the month of March…

“The biggest thing is you cannot be afraid to miss the game-winning shot. It’s not that you want to make it, it’s that you’re not afraid to miss it. You’re not afraid to make a play and it go wrong. You have to have amnesia, you’ve gotta be willing to risk and those two have it. They both have it.”

Cal compared the Harrison’s heroics to Brandon Knight in 2011 and John Wall in 2010. “They’ve gotta be put in those positions and be told it’s okay to miss.”

On Karl Towns’ tendency to foul

“Most cases you’re fouling when you’re out of position. Instead of playing the guy before he catches it, you’re trying to play him after he catches it or after he cuts. Karl has a tendency, as all freshmen do, to stop playing during the game and get screened,” Cal said. “That’s freshmen. Hopefully, the excitement, the focus, is going to be to where we’re playing people before they catch the ball.”

On watching game tape

Last week, the national media picked up on the fact that the Cats don’t watch a lot of game tape. John Robic prepares an 8-minute reel for everyone to see, but other than that, they won’t be staying up late pouring over the Badgers’ old games. In fact, Cal says he told the team not to watch Wisconsin throughout the tournament.

“Now, they may have watched Wisconsin play, they may have watched an NCAA Tournament game. I don’t know. I tell them don’t watch the games, but they don’t listen to me ever, so I imagine they’ve seen them. Our team played them a year ago, so they have an idea how good they were and are now.”

In fact, Cal says he’s not watching any tape either. “I’m starting to get overloaded with it to be honest with you, and then I stop. I don’t need to watch ten game tapes. We all start losing our minds. ‘I gotta prepare! I gotta work harder than the other guy!’ Stop it, just stop it.”

On how Frank Kaminsky has improved from last year

“He looks stronger, he’s working angles better, he’s a really confident perimeter shooter, he’s passing–because he gets doubled teamed so much–he’s passing better.”

This lead to a lengthy diatribe on how Cal likes to see players improve over time. “I imagine Bo has had a ball watching him go from three minutes a game to last season to where he is now,” Cal said. “That’s how we coaches are. It’s not just a guy–even for me. Having a player come in with all this reputation, whether it’s an Anthony Davis or a John or a Demarcus. It’s where are they at the end of the year. What kind of improvement have they made? What have we taught them?”

On Trey Lyles

“Two things happened: he didn’t play in the summer because he had an injury and then he got sick in teh middle of the season, was out three weeks. But his progress as a player has been phenomenal. I’ve said all along he’s been the x-factor for us. At the next level, he’s going to be a four, and he’s going to be a four that spreads the court. We’re training him as a three, which means he’s guarding guards at 6’10”, that he’s being guarded by smaller players, which means he’s being thrown in the post some.”

“He is a finisher, he likes to think he’s a playmaker, which drives me absolutely crazy because his playmaking is turnover making, but when you talk about finishing around the basket, when you talk one-dribble pull ups on the run, you talk about being able to avoid and finish near the rim, making free throws, making pressure free throws, he’s our x-factor, he’s the one guy that can separate our team.”

I love Trey, but I have to agree with Cal on this one. He tried too hard to be a playmaker on Saturday and it just about killed us.


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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