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The Final Four’s late night notes


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After what was barely enough time to absorb the gigantic Ohio State win, we find ourselves just hours away from tip-off in the Cats’ second straight Elite Eight appearance. The game will be billed as a matchup of college basketball royalty, and rightfully so. Two of the three winningest programs in NCAA history will battle in Newark for the right to visit to the promised land of the Final Four. For North Carolina, it’s a chance to finish a turnaround after an NIT season a year ago and a sub-standard start to this season. However, while the Heels did do a lot of underperforming before getting on a roll in the last two months, they also won it all in 2009, and that means that this game means infinitely more to Kentucky fans. This team has the opportunity to lift a huge monkey off the back of the program, one that has weighed heavier with the passing of each of the last 13 years. It’s almost fitting that a team very few of us expected to be in this position has the chance to erase the disappointment left over from teams that should have gone further but didn’t. Cat fans will certainly consider this season a success no matter the outcome of the game against Carolina, but now that the team has gotten here, coming so close and falling short again would be a cruel and all too familiar end to what has been a great season. If they can win one more to get to Houston, though, the eruption from the Commonwealth would probably register with NASA.

Now, onto some notes…

–If there’s anything to know about North Carolina, it’s that they like to play fast. They push the ball and try to lure the other team into a full-court game for which they are usually ill-prepared. Kentucky can play fast, but will need to control the pace against the Heels to give themselves the best chance to win. They outplayed Ohio State in a game that was almost entirely played in the half-court, with the Cats’ halfcourt defense looking every bit the caliber of a Final Four team. Carolina’s half-court offense isn’t nearly as crisp as the Buckeyes’, and forcing them to run it as often as possible is the best way to keep the score where Kentucky wants it and keep Carolina from doing what they do best. Limiting Kendall Marshall in transition and the points Tyler Zeller and John Henson get by running the floor could be the biggest key to Kentucky marching on.

–One thing that could be useful for slowing the game down, and limiting foul trouble and fatigue, might be to implement a little of the zone that the Cats have had success with at times during the year. It could be particularly effective against North Carolina, which isn’t an overwhelmingly good three-point shooting team but is bigger up front than the Cats. The zone would hopefully make it tough to enter the ball to the post and force their guards to hit some outside shots, both things that would work in UK’s favor. Kentucky will have to be committed to rebounding out of the zone, because the big front line of the Heels could cause serious problems on the offensive glass if they’re not. But being able to steal some rest on a few possessions and confuse UNC with a different look might be enough to push what should be a tight game toward the Cats.

–Speaking of the Heels’ front line, the anchor of its success is undoubtedly Tyler Zeller. He absolutely torched the Cats in Chapel Hill, scoring 27 points and getting every one of Kentucky’s frontcourt players in foul trouble. He also scored several baskets by simply beating the UK bigs down the floor, and if Kentucky wants to win they have to eliminate those easy points. Foul trouble is always something the Cats have to worry about, but it was basically the difference in the game the first time these teams met, with UNC getting 16 more attempts than the Cats and Zeller shooting a dozen by himself. Of course, the Josh Harrellson that played that day isn’t the same Josh Harrellson that’s playing now, and when he talked to the media he noted the importance of ‘playing big’ and not fouling, which is just what he’s been able to do lately. I expect the battle between the two big men to be a lot less one-sided this time around, and that’s good for the Cats.

–One other thing to watch is how the team handles Harrison Barnes. Barnes is Carolina’s best perimeter scorer, meaning that it would make sense for him to be the unfortunate soul that gets to deal with DeAndre Liggins the most. However, Liggins has been extremely successful disrupting offenses by harassing the opposing point guard, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him lock down on Kendall Marshall if the Heels’ distributor starts to get loose, with a rotation of Lamb-Knight-Miller going after Barnes. The most important thing for whoever is guarding Barnes is to make him work for his baskets and take contested shots. He can fill it up, but making him earn every point is crucial. Forcing him to work on defense can also help slow him down, so it will be interesting to see if the Cats take the ball right at him in an attempt to wear him out a little. However they do it, keeping Barnes in check is as important as anything else Kentucky does in the game.

—This is just a thought, but wouldn’t the fact that the Cats usually spend only a little bit of time watching film and scouting their opponents be an advantage when there’s only one day to prepare for a game? Not being bombarded with a  ton of scouting information in a single day between games seems like it would be a positive, and it not only means more focus on improving the team’s own deficiencies, but also that the Cats’ preparation won’t be much different than any other game. Maybe I’m crazy, but I like that.

–Brandon Knight in the first round: Have an off night for 39 minutes, then hit the game-winner.

Brandon Knight in the second round: 30 points in an all-world performance.

Brandon Knight in the Sweet Sixteen: Have an off night for 39 minutes, then hit the game-winner.

Brandon Knight in the Elite Eight: You see what I’m getting at here, right?

–In one bit of recruiting news from the day, Nation of Blue reported earlier that Trevor Lacey is down to Alabama and Auburn, eliminating Kentucky from his list and apparently assuring that he’ll stay in his home state of Alabama. Of course, nothing is official until it’s official, but if the report is true it would seemingly bring an end to the recruitment of a player many thought would be the next commitment. The Lacey recruitment was hot for a while, but the recent focus on big men would seem to indicate that if there’s another spot to be had in Kentucky’s monster 2011 class, it will go to one of them. [**Update: Apparently Lacey spoke with Nation of Blue to correct their report, and he is actually down to Alabama and Kentucky. So there you go.]

–Not only do we want to take UNC down in the game, we want to make sure and own all related internet polls. Therefore, you must follow this link to ESPN, find the UK-UNC polls, and vote for Kentucky. Failure is not an option.

–Finally, the first two tickets to the Final Four were punched, as Butler and UConn both won classics to advance to Houston. Kemba Walker outplayed Derrick Williams to get the Huskies back to the Final Four after missing the tournament last year. It sets up a potential rematch from the Maui Classic if Kentucky can follow suit and get to Houston, and I’m sure the team would love another shot at UConn and Walker after getting handled in Hawaii. In the day’s other game, Brad Stevens proved yet again that he’s not just one of the best young coaches in the game, but one of the best coaches, period. In his tournament run over the last two years, Stevens has beaten the likes of Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Jamie Dixon, Bo Ryan, Billy Donovan (who really blew it against Butler), and the mustache from ODU, in addition to coming within a bucket of beating Coach K for the title. Butler is on one of the great runs for a mid-major in tournament history, and Stevens is pretty much as good as it gets now. With his back-to-back Final Four runs, you can expect that he’s finally accomplished enough to get a call from Tennessee, provided things don’t work out with Red Auerbach first.

That’s it for now folks. The time is almost here to take another run at the Final Four. One more day of waiting is a small price to pay if that day spells the end of a much more agonizing wait — the thirteen-year wait to return to college basketball’s biggest stage. A month ago we might have never believed that this team would be one with a chance to do it, but here they are on the cusp of making history and carving out a place for themselves in UK lore. The great and storied history of this program has been deprived of another banner for too long. It’s time. The Heels just happen to be in the way.

#beatUNC

Article written by Hunter Campbell

82 responses to “The Final Four’s late night notes”

  1. PatMan

    look slke no one is giving us a chance again. guess we gotta show them again. GO BIG BLUE !!!

  2. PatMan

    I do think this is a more difficult matchup for the CATS, than OSU was.

  3. rob

    The only way the two all-time winningest programs will battle is in the championship game, unless the NCAA switched Kansas with UNC since the last time I looked at the bracket. UNC is #3 after their awful last year–here are the numbers:

    UK-2051
    KU-2038
    UNC-2033

  4. blitzedanddazed

    North Carolina can have their “will” broken. If Kentucky can take the game to UNC and hit them in the mouth early the chance for a win will be much good. Turnovers and offensive rebounds will also key. +5 turnovers +6 offensive rebounds = Win

  5. trey

    JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORTTTTTTTTTTTTTS

  6. EW

    Some of you KSR guys, I won’t name names, were poo pooing this team bigtime 6 weeks ago. It’s time to be a man and fess up. Admit you were VERY wrong about this team.

  7. The Road to Eight is Paved with Pearl

    I am just going to say it. You wrote a great article. But I have ALWAYS believed this team could win it all. That’s what true fans do. GO BIG BLUE!

  8. BlueJesus

    7). Just about everyone was poo pooing this team six weeks ago!

  9. jim calhoun's new teeth

    i’m with Dickie V, Cats win by 3 baby!

  10. hoop33

    Trevor Lacey called somebody from nation of blue tonight and said it is kentucky and alabama, not auburn, and that coach antigua called him monday night to ask how things were…….
    http://www.nationofblue.com/trevor-lacey-sets-things-straight-6223/

  11. uncle fester

    Trevor Lacey is still in the mix, but I think we should look at Kevin Ware (recent UT decommit) as a possible backup if he does end up at Alabama or Auburn.

  12. the colonel's gout toe

    been 13yrs since i bought some final 4 gear. saved some money up over the past decade and am ready to buy some more. Leggo Cats!

  13. AKA cold buckets

    This time Lamb will hit the shot at the buzzer. Cats win. Houston here we come.

  14. Larry Vaughts Droid

    Tip for Kentucky-Ohio State scheduled for 9:54 PM.

  15. momo jonesin'

    just think of the mess we’d be in if billy clyde was still steering this ship. probably be playing a few more games at Memorial

  16. SagaciousMind

    Lacey says on nation of blue that is not true, he called them himselves. He said it’s down to Bama and UK and is excited about UKs tourney run…and I guess about Bama NIT run. We have to rebound and be physical. Henson and Zeller are long, but we have more bulk. We have to run it at them, get them in foul trouble, block out and maybe this time over the back calls will actually be called. I’m feelin confident!!! Go Cats!!!

  17. catcrawler

    Nobody could be in B.Knights crouch more than Aaron Craft. That guy played stupendous defense, but still lost…tip of the hat Mr. Knight. you earned it.

  18. Will Hill

    I’m not sure Brad Stevens is good enough for Tennessee’s list yet. He’s only been the national runner up. Maybe if he actually wins something this year, Hamilton will give him a call.

    Sour.

  19. allblueallthetime

    great read hunter, i needed to hear another beleiver lol

  20. Dustin Cordell

    If UK beats UNC & UCONN we will have avenged every lose except the Arkansas one, if we win it all they will need a good nickname! Im thinking The Payback Cats!!!!!!!

  21. gamewinner
  22. gamewinner

    and another on cbssports!! matt’s home turf!!!

    http://www.cbssports.com/

  23. AlanFromTheHangover

    Again..Brad Stevens will not leave the state of Indiana. Him and his wife both grew up in central Indiana. He gave up a six figure income at Eli Lilly to take a volunteer position at Butler….Money is nothing to him….

  24. Voice of Reason

    Jay Bilas says that what Roy Williams has done with this UNC teams is “amazing” and he needs to be given a lot of credit…? Are you freakin’ KIDDING ME JAY BILAS??? Um, what Calipari has done with OUR team is what’s amazing!!!! Let ole Roy have Zeller YANKED out of his lineup at the beginning of the season and see where his sissy-blue ass is THEN!!! Jay Bilas…Hubert Davis (homer)…can it. Pathetic.

  25. DeandreDNA

    Another FANTASTIC video of a Cats fan at work watching the end of the game.

    http://www.kfbb.com/sports/local

    and, favorite stat of the year. At the beginning of the season, Kyle Singler had logged more career D-1 minutes than the entire UK roster COMBINED. And who is still playing? That’s coaching baby.

  26. DeandreDNA
  27. Band Of BlueCats

    19= I can’t believe how crazy some UT fans are. They were talking about Shaka Smart. No way he would go there. He’s Missouri bound. Even Chris Mack of Xavier turned down their huge offer. Donnie Jones is the frontrunner and he’s the Derek Dooley of basketball.

  28. IL Cats Fan

    It is almost 3 am and I cannot sleep. I want the Final Four so bad I can taste it!

  29. justice

    ESPN, davis, digger and bilas stop the bias, please, stop worshiping UNC; this game is played at a neutral site and kentucky is good when it comes to payback game.

  30. justice

    ESPN, davis, digger and bilas stop the bias, please, stop worshiping UNC.

  31. TheGuyPitinoForgotToPayToGetFreshFishAtPorchinis

    I’ve got a good friend who’s dad is a Tennessee Booster in the know and they don’t think Stevens from Butler would even give them a glance.

    Kind of tells the story of where Tennessee basketball is (and really has always been).

  32. kypeachcat

    a win ties us with them for most tournament wins all time at 105. the last time we were in such a battle for one of our many records, we won and they lost in the elite 8 of 96..I’m just sayin…

  33. kypeachcat

    btw…we do not play on neutral sites. all neutral sites are home games, res ipsua loquitor welocome to NEWport, baiatchess.

  34. Geoff

    That last paragraph gave me chills.

  35. tdogg4033011

    its GAME DAY BABY !!! GO CATS !!

  36. Steady

    In my best Tom Hanks voice: We’re gonna win…We’re gonna win!!!

  37. Greg 21 for UK

    In the ESPN poll ther is also a poll on Which school has the most tradition? We are way behind Vote Cats!

  38. KYStout

    Has it really been 13 years? Really?

    That ish should never happen at the University of Kentucky.

  39. BurnerTurner5

    As with politics the same holds true with that espn poll. SCREW the blue states.

  40. NBA league pass

    I always looked at this Lacey recruitment as a fallback if Lamb went pro. Since it looks like he’s staying, we’re fine (for next year at least) without Lacey. I’d REALLY like to have another big body for next year though.

  41. SupportTheJorts

    hey fellas, can we get an updated the poll? and, can vargas put in some good minutes against Zeller?

  42. SexnNursinHomes

    hope it’s not 8 vs 5 like it was last time in crappel hill.
    I’m puttin back on my unwashed boxers for today’s game. not washing till we win it. just kinda hard to put my de-mucked, freshly cleaned ballsack back into dirty boxers. gonna spritz the ol’ cologne spray down method so my ol’ lady don’t complain.

  43. NBA league pass

    42) if nothing else, we need Vargus’ fouls against Zeller, but I’m holding out some hope that he can give us good minutes today.

  44. NotTheSlickistRick

    43) SexN how could your ol’lady ever have anything to complain about?

  45. SexnNursinHomes

    45- haha, good question.

  46. comments

    ?

  47. Blueburg

    Why are so many afraid of this matchup? After what we’ve seen this team become and accomplish, why can’t we quit over- analyzing and just relish where we are and who we gotta beat here? Zeller is not scary. He is skilled, but just don’t foul him. Put DL on Marshall and put Miller on Barnes. Barnes has been used to playing against undersized matchups and shooting the three over top of them. Miller isn’t lock down but he is pesky. Darius can stay with him good enough to get a hand in his face or on the ball occassionally. The key (just as it was against OSU) is Josh Harrelson. Guard their bigs,just don’t foul them. Slow everyone else down, make it a halfcourt shootout type game and we got em. No need for panic. Just sit back and enjoy the fact that we might just be a few hours away from another barn-burner. And our boys know how to get it done.

  48. newtintheville

    Jorts once bunji jumped & sky-dived at the same time.

  49. Church

    Who visits me on Sunday’s for worship? Just wondering.

  50. JeffCat

    I like Cal’s approach to scouting. You don’t need to bombard them with info about the other team, especially UNC, because the players know them so well they could write the scouting report themselves. I hope Cal tells Jones to spend more time working in the post. If he has a game like he had against Notre Dame, we win by 10 or more.

  51. QUICKIE RICKEY

    Does anyone know where I can get some nerve pills? I’m going nuts about this game tonight. We MUST win.

  52. Cousinsfan

    Very Disappointed they have not brought attention to the fact COUSINS TWEETED PROPS TO THE CATS!!!!….. That is one player who will always bleed blue. GO cats!

  53. BCO

    Jones has got to post up Henson and dominate him the entire game…

  54. alex

    i wasn’t poo-pooing this team. efficiency ratings strike again, etc. just like the packers’ point differential showed they were way better than 10-6, kentucky’s showed it was pretty much a top 10 team all year. similarly, unc’s efficiency ratings always had them as a good team. kenpom ftw or whatever.

  55. PatMan

    #50, I DO !!!

  56. JeffCat

    Anybody hear Sir Charles prediction? He’s been money until last night when he picked Arizona over UConn.

  57. goofysite

    ….

  58. Hi Everybody

    57. He has been spot on but he also said Florida St. would beat VCU and give Kansas a grind it out battle..

  59. Please god

    reading the last paragraph sent chills down my spine. COME ON FELLAS ONE MORE TIME!!!

  60. DrippingwithSarcasm

    How far BBN expectations have fallen. Beating a team that was a 6 point favorite has become a “monumental upset”. Possibly losing in the elite 8 is now “exceeding expectations”, and a player with career stats worse than Rob Lock is now celebrated. This is all progress isn’t it?

  61. StevieD

    Does anyone know what happened to ksrbetterhalf. I loved reading her tweets. What a hottie.

  62. Everybodyandtheirbrother

    #61, Hard to believe there is someone out in the world as ignorant as you. GO CATS!!!

  63. Bluecalizone

    Zellar will not beat us in the post. Jorts will push his knible little body where ever he wants him to go. I think our biggest concern will be Barnes. Not sure who Cal will put on him, doubt that it will be Jones. Expect to see,,dare I say,,,Zone for a portion of the game today. Which I think is a smart move.

  64. Bluecalizone

    #61-You know what would really be exciting? Watching you masterbate my Pit Bull. Suck one looser.

  65. Good fan reaction

    Good fan reaction to OSU game. Hopefully there will be more of that this afternoon.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVXWbZg-jt0

  66. DrippingwithSarcasm

    Us tard fans are still butthurt over our ghetto commuter school flaming out in the first round two years in a row. Throw in that UK owns our ghetto school and our coach bags bimbos on restaurant tables and it’s too much to bare. L yes

  67. Getit

    61) thought same thing about how our expectations have fallen. (65 you have problems with that crude, nasty crap. hope you feel better.

  68. uk101

    Wow, Im feeling confident today, but im a little nervous just like I am every game.. Control the paint and Jorts just keep playing like you have been and contain zeller and don’t let barnes get hot. And we will win.

    Prediction
    Ky-78
    UNC-72
    Im going to cry if we lose tho.

  69. uk101

    Wow, Im feeling confident today, but im a little nervous just like I am every game.. Control the paint and Jorts just keep playing like you have been and contain zeller and don’t let barnes get hot. And we will win.

    Prediction
    Ky-78
    UNC-72
    Im going to cry if we lose tho.

  70. uk101

    sorry for double post

  71. DrippingwithSarcasm

    Tard alert

  72. Getit

    Us ghetto tards are a national joke.

  73. Mike

    Biggest question for the last month or so…will Jones show up to play???. He certainly does get the “underachiever” award on this team. He literally stole it

  74. Yeti

    I got one for you all. Superman and Tim Tebow both wear JORTS pajamas! GO CATS!!!! Take down the Tard Heels!!!

  75. CatFanInTexas

    Just read the following from an article on Jorts.

    “He always wants to please people, and I think he just deferred because he didn’t want to hurt anyone on the team by taking playing time,” Gillispie, now the coach of Texas Tech, said Saturday.

    Indeed, Harrellson still says he’d give up his season if it meant Kanter had been eligible.

    “Watching him now,” Gillispie said, “it’s been one of the best stories I’ve ever seen.”

    After all of this success, Jorts says he would give up his season if it meant Kanter could play. Wow, what a teammate. My respect for Jorts just went off the chart.

  76. JJ

    There have been plenty of times that UK should have zoned up this year but did not (UCONN, NC, Alabama). I would love to see UK play zone today and make NC beat us from outside, however I will be surprised if they do.

  77. Al's IndiCats

    DAMN 43, A light bulb just went on over my head reading your comment, I haven’t changed the clothes (and sleeping in them) I wore since the princeton game or bathed for that matter! I was wondering why everyone else (all 25 people) was watching the UK, BUGeye game in the bar watching a 12 inch black and white tv, while I was sitting in the living room alone watching it on the 65″ plasma. Oh well if it works why tinker with success…..RIGHT?……..GO CATS!!!!!!!! CATS by “8″

  78. SexnNursinHomes

    78- haha, I’d say that you probably stink, BUT it ain’t broke don’t fix it! CATS!!!

  79. JeffCat

    61) Yes this season is something to celebrate, even if we don’t win today. Since you want to compare eras, let’s start with the ’84-’85 team when Rob Lock was a freshmen. That team lost four valuable seniors from the previous year, struggled to make the tournament but eventually reached the final 16. Would you say that was a bad year too? This team lost five key players from last year and eight players total. It’s best player was ruled ineligible. Yet it stayed in the top 25 all year long, won the SEC tournament, beat the #1 team in the land and will play for a Final Four berth today. Since you also want to dis Jorts, let’s compare him and Lock. Rob Lock came here as a top 50 player out of high school. Jorts came here from juco and no other big power other than Kentucky was really pursuing him. Lock never developed as a serious big man and would have been better off playing for a mid major. Jorts has maximized every bit of talent he has especially in the last month. He is twice the player now that Rob Lock ever was. I couldn’t care less about his career stats; what he is doing right at this moment is what is important.

  80. StevieD

    (82) thanks, she is definetly a sweetheart. If Matt let her go, he is a fool.

  81. StevieD

    Matt Jones has a huge head.