Sunday has become the usual day of rest for me around the KSR Compound, and today was no different. The combination of bad college basketball, my first viewing of “Cedar Rapids” and all things Tebow made for a Lazy Sunday that was good to get the juices revived. However my laziness was tempered just a bit in the mid-afternoon when I was introduced to my new favorite person in media, Van Chancellor. I had heard about Chancellor before today. He is a legendary women’s basketball coach, having gone to Final Fours with Ole Miss and LSU, won 4 WNBA titles with the Houston Comets and a gold medal in 2004 with the women’s Team USA. But while I knew of his coaching accomplishments, I knew nothing of my favorite of his qualities, his amazing deep Southern twang. He was the color commentator for the UK-Miss State game in Memorial (which the UK Hoops team won by a ton) and I sat mesmerized to his vocal stylings for a solid hour. His tenor was a bit Gomer Pyle meets Boomhauer, as he talked with the Gomer twang, but did it speedily, forcing the listener to strain keep up. He sounded like an exaggerated version of me, pronouncing “steal” with two syllables, making “night” a niiiiite and turning “Mississippi” into “Miss-Uh-Sip-ay.” It was the type of voice you rarely hear on television any more and that is what made it so glorious. In a world of homogenized, boring, cookie-cutter faces/voices, Van Chancellor is the George Jones of color commentary, with a sound that cannot be copied. I don’t know when he will call a game again, but if it is even remotely interesting (and possibly even if it is not), I am there.
Ten notes to finish up the weekend:
1. Cats Start SEC Strong: Fans keep wanting that breakout game that says to the world that the Lamborghini is moving towards overdrive and we didn’t get that on Saturday. But we did get a solid 15 point win over a conference foe in a game that was never in jeopardy. Kentucky played well offensively for the last 25 minutes of the game and saw some big strides from Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer. All improved on the very errors that had plagued them for weeks and the Cats avoided the injury bug that hit Florida and Louisville. Some fans were still upset, but I take the view of the wise sage Oscar Combs…occasionally we should just enjoy a win as a win and Saturday was a win.
2. Terrence Jones Takes Another Step: I thought the best sign in the game on Saturday was the continued improvement of Jones back to his old offensive self. Over the past three games, he has played defense well and has been more aggressive going after loose balls. But until Saturday, we had not seen him be able to score with assertiveness like the TJ that Kentucky needs to be dominant. But Saturday saw Jones make moves that suggest the change could be around the corner. Dunks around the basket, finishing two AND ONE plays and even hitting a three (he leads the team in three point percentage) means that the idea that this team could still get a potential All-American level scorer back is not farfetched.
3. Marquis Teague: Teague is criticized way too much by UK fans, even though we should know better. Going into the season, every person realized that following Wall and Knight puts tremendous pressure on players and can cause even great Point Guards to not quite live up to precedent. Teague has not played badly this year and at times has been tremendous. On Saturday, he improved a great deal in the floor game and distributed as well as he has since the second half of the Indiana game. Baby steps continue to be taken and even though it is sometimes lost, the Teague of today is significantly improved of the Teague of early December.
4. Anthony Davis Goes for a Record: The Anthony Davis block story continues to fascinate me. He had 7 blocks on Saturday, bringing his total to 74 for the season. 10 more and he sets the All-Time UK season record, passing Andre Riddick and Melvin Turpin’s 83. If he keeps up the pace he is currently on throughout the year, he will finish the season as one of the ALL-TIME TOP 5 SHOT BLOCKERS IN UK HISTORY…in just one season. That is simply unprecedented. He will put the shot block single season record in an area where it will never be touched and is quietly putting on one of the best defensive seasons in UK history. Appreciate what you are watching, because we will never see it again.
5. #OccupyKroger Shows BBN Power: My favorite part of the weekend was the hour-long movement that swept through BBN, known as #OccupyKroger. By now you know the story of fans using the hashtag to express their dissatisfaction with an individual associated with the halfcourt shot promotion telling “Referee Guy” that he might not be paid for making the heave. Fans tweeted in a fury, with literally hundreds of messages and within an hour, Kroger called me to let me know they would pay. It was fascinating to watch and showcased just how (a) passionate BBN is and (b) how involved we are on the internet/social media. It also was a great unifying cause, even for a matter that is ultimately relatively trivial. It also reminded me once again that the comment section of this blog can be misleading…while I love our commenters, a very small minority (probably 40-50 people total) bring negativity to virtually everything. On Twitter, in Lexington and on radio, EVERYONE was universally happy for the kid and excited. In this comment section and on message boards, MANY fans were taking the “rules are rules” attitude. Negative nancies breed like rabbits on the internet and sometimes it takes an #OccupyKroger type movement to remind us that they are the less than 1% of the 1%. Here was a picture of my favorite part of the movement, the two young men who went to a Kroger in Ashland within 30 minutes of the tweet and made their feelings known:
6. National Anthem: I felt bad for the young woman on Saturday who forgot the national anthem lyrics before the game. She got through the most difficult parts of the song and then got lost on “land of the free and home of the brave” ending. It has to be a tough moment to deal with and she seemed embarrassed afterwards. We here at KSR are with the young woman and think she did a very good job before the final mishap. I hope the folks at UK will give her another opportunity and consider putting the lyrics on the scoreboard to prevent such awkward moments in the future. Or just let Alan Cutler sing one day…either way.
7. Louisville Good and Bad: I won’t dwell on the Cards…but there two programs are going in very different directions. Their basketball team was embarrassed at home versus Notre Dame in a game that should have UL fans asking what I have asked for two years…why doesn’t Rick Pitino get more criticism? Meanwhile their football program got commitments from two 4 star All American caliber LB recruits from out of state. That makes four high 4 star players in the class with potentially a couple more to come. Strong is recruiting at a level that is higher than even Bobby Petrino did during his years. If he coaches as well as he recruits, we are in for a rough patch ahead.
8. Archie Goodwin Comes To Lexington: On Saturday night, the KSR crew went to Lexington Catholic and taped an old school podcast while Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress played basketball. Goodwin played well, scoring 37 points and, more importantly to me, showcasing an ability to get to the basket in a number of different manners. He has a good shooting touch, is a quick leaper and is able to find seams in the defense. He is the type of player who will give Calipari a number of perimeter scoring options and has the potential to put up BIG numbers on any given night. Plus, he is a great talker. HE did an interview with our podcast, which will be out on Monday and you can get a sense of why I think he is going to be a UK fan favorite. I think folks are going to really like him.
9. Alex Poythress is a Beast: You are going to love Alex Poythress. I saw on Twitter that someone described him as “coming straight out of the early 90s” and there is some truth to that as his look is akin to a Jamal Mashburn. He can shoot, penetrate, score and do just about everything well. His ability to EXPLODE at the rim is shocking in person and he is going to posterize people on a regular basis in Lexington. I think he is severely underrated and may be a Top 3 player when all is said and done after college. Just wait…Poythress is a man.
10. Team Unity: Finally, I hear a lot of people speculating that there might be some team chemistry issue or wondering if there is some riff between players on the squad. I have sensed none of that this year and firmly do not believe it is taking place. Since I have covered UK, I have been around two teams with chemistry issues, the Rondo vs everyone team in 2006 and the “we all hate Billy Clyde” team in 2009. In both cases, you could tell that there were issues and even if they didn’t happen in front of the media, they manifested in public all the time. This team has none of that…with the exception of MKG, we don’t see a lot of joy on the court, but as the play improves, I think you will see that improve as well and those worries will fade away.
We have a big day on Monday as we review all the happenings on the radio, release the free old school podcast and I will give you an update on who I think is most likely to be the final members of the 2012 UK recruiting class. Until then, Jarrod Polson would like to smile for you….