Good morning and Happy Friday. It’s been a long week around here and a lot of us are still dealing with the roller coaster of emotions brought on by BTI moving to 9am and Bomani Jones stopping by with a surprise visit. So while it is surely tempting to get a very productive discussion going below by mentioning both John Travolta and Scientology turn 57 today, we’ll instead travel the path of least nerd fighting and salute Andre Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz. AK-47 celebrates birthday number 30 Friday and does so much in the same way that I expect to celebrate mine when it arrives – wondering why my skills peaked at 23 yet they still paid me to show up every day and go through the motions. Of course, Kirilenko’s career was overshadowed by the revelation of his wife, Russian singer Masha, that she allows him one hall pass a year to be used on a groupie of his choice. Again, it was a notion that seemed really cool back then, but now has lost some luster when you realize he doesn’t troll around Applebee’s or ask anyone if “these napkins smell like chloroform”. Nonetheless, he’s cashing in a max contract in the NBA and, as far as a I can tell, knows no one named Xenu. Thus, he gets honored this morning. Happy birthday, Andrei Kirilenko. There was power in your frosty tips. And now it’s all gone.
Now onto a few UK notes…
– If you’re wanting to get into Rupp Saturday, there is good news. Tickets still remain. The bad news, of course, is that the Cats square off with a free-falling South Carolina squad that has lost six out of seven games since entering their last meeting with the Cats atop the SEC East. Darrin Horn’s team has not won on the road since beating the Gators in Gainesville over a month ago, but has been competitive in most of their games (blowout at Auburn?). For the Cats, the contest will again be about finding a way to start strong and finish out both halfs in a game that is essentially a tune-up, along with traveling to Arkansas, for a Florida-Vandy-at Tennessee dash to the finish. As has been the case all season, Kentucky is still on the verge of taking the next step as a team and South Carolina looks like it could be a prime opportunity for them to put together a complete performance and build momentum. Translation: perimeter defense must improve.
– One of the more interesting developments over the last few weeks is how some have expressed frustrations with Coach Cal regarding late game strategy and his downplaying of the “player’s only” meeting. Right or wrong – we could debate both all day and never come to an agreement – it has certainly shown a side of Kentucky’s coach that was hidden a bit by last year’s dream season. The first year under Calipari exceeded expectations in every way and the team never truly faced any adversity. Thus, we never saw an irritated or frustrated Calipari. With the hiccups this year’s squad has endured, it’s been a bit of a return to reality for everyone involved. This team still has a chance to do some very good things down the stretch, but it’s obvious that everyone from the players to Cal to the fans are a little antsy right now. And speaking of “Ants”, that’s my favorite Woody Allen movie.
– Thursday night marked the conclusion of the media’s mock tournament selection and Kentucky was selected as the final four-seed, along with Florida, Villanova and Vanderbilt. Given the way Kentucky performed so strongly in the non-conference and their potential to piece together a few more resume-building wins down the stretch, it seems a fair, though somewhat optimistic placement. However, I’ve never been a fan of the four seed, which leaves you with a potential Sweet 16 matchup with a one-seed. Though this year’s tournament doesn’t seem to have any teams that appear to be unbeatable, it almost seems like being seeded at six (a possibility at this point), where you would get a two in the Sweet 16 would be a better spot. Especially when you consider the 3-7 seeds will all be extremely similar in terms of talent and accomplishment. But, as we’ve seen with this team all year, it’s really about game-by-game matchups and the teams in their bracket are likely more important than the actual number. But that’s no fun on a mock selection.
– As of writing this, there’s still no word on whether Trevor Lacey will visit this weekend. That doesn’t mean that won’t change by morning, but we haven’t heard either way at this point. Whether or not he visits Saturday is pretty inconsequential in the long run, as he will certainly make a stop in Lexington eventually, but I know Drew Franklin has been working on hitting dat Trevor Lacey all week and I’d hate for his practice to be in vain.
– The Cats did get a visitor last weekend that went unnoticed, though it was of the football variety. Former Clemson linebacker Brandon Maye, who led the team in tackles as a sophomore in 2009 and set the school’s single-season record for forced fumbles, was on campus last weekend as he checked out Kentucky as a potential transfer destination. Maye registered 32 tackles last year as a junior and, according to Aaron Cordero of Bleed Blue Kentucky, would have to enroll in a graduate program at UK that is not offered at Clemson. Basically, he’s like Jeremiah Masoli without the arrests.
– Once again, your voting worked. John Wall was voted into the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend and will compete against Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. I’m not saying Wall is the favorite. I’m just saying anyone who has seen his Sports Science segment won’t be picking against him.
– If you thought you got a lot accomplished this week, then don’t follow Jamal Mashburn on Twitter. Mashburn was at the White House Wednesday and chatted with Barack Obama about UK basketball and…wait for it…”the National Forest Foundation and America’s Great Outdoors”. I’ve always said that when I grow up, I want to be Bret Bearup. I’m now putting Masburn in at a close second.
That’s it for now. Stick around throughout the day as we get you all set for the exciting matchup with the Gamecocks Saturday. As usual, Matt and Zach will get the fun going at 10am on Talk Radio 1080. In the meantime, just be glad that you weren’t Kenny “Sky” Walker, who had to learn an unfortunate lesson from Evan Daniels. Paper always beats rock. Always.
See you in a few…