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David Stern’s Saturday News & Views

David Stern’s Saturday News & Views

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Today, for the first time in 30-years, David Stern will no longer be Commissioner of the National Basketball Association. Stern, 71, officially retires today and will be handing over his day-to-day responsibilities to long-time Deputy Commissioner of the NBA and man featured in “American Gothic,” Adam Silver. Put simply, there’s no doubting that Stern is one of the greatest commissioners in the history of sports. Under his command, the NBA not only grew into profitable business worth a cool $5.5 billion annually, but individual franchise’s grew in value, average player salaries skyrocketed to more than $4 million annually, and numerous charities were created to boot. When you experience growth like this, people take notice.  “David Stern is the #1 force and the #1 reason why this league is where it is today,” said Kentucky’s own Pat Riley. “That’s not disrespectful to any one great player in any one era or any owner. This has to do with the leadership of one man.”

Of course, his tenure wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. There were some major hurdles to clear along the way; including two labor stoppages, players bringing firearms into arenas, players possessing drugs, gambling, and the now infamous Malice-in-the-Palace where players brawled in the stands with fans. While the negatives will always shift attention, the positive things that David Stern accomplished along the way for the NBA cannot be stressed enough. So here’s to you Mr. Stern, in honor of your retirement, we dedicate Saturday’s News & Views to you with a video of some of your finest moments at the NBA Draft.

The News & Views:

-After some deliberation, The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees finally approved the new football training facility. The privately-funded project will give the Football Cats a brand new, two-story facility with two new practice fields and a drill area behind the east endzone of Commonwealth Stadium. It is anticipated to be ready for the 2016 season. The University had the following to say in their press release.

The University Athletics Committee approved the initial proposal at a 9 a.m. meeting Friday, sending the proposal to the Finance Committee, which also approved. The UK Board of Trustees put its final stamp of approval on the project at a 1 p.m. meeting. The proposal will now be submitted to the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee for authorization at their February 2014 meetings.

 

-Today during a media opportunity, Dakari Johnson told reporters that Alex Poythress called a players-only meeting following the loss to LSU. Dakari told the media that the meeting wasn’t heated, but each player spoke and some even apologized for their effort during Tuesday evening’s bout in Baton Rouge. It remains to be seen if this meeting can help guide the Cats along the path of improvement, but it can’t be a bad sign that they’re starting to take the losses personally.

 

-Mark Stoops and his staff have been on a tear as of late. Not only did they recently secure commitments from 3-Star OL “Bunkie” Stallings and 5-Star DT Matt Elam, but they also added a preferred walk-on yesterday out of Harlan County. Carson Whitehead, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to announce his commitment to the world.

 

-Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but another basketball opponent announced a color-out for the up-coming game against Kentucky. Fans attending Saturday afternoon’s game between Missouri and Kentucky have been encouraged to wear gold by the Missouri University administration because of course they would. For those keeping score at home, this is officially the 492nd color-out of John Calipari’s Kentucky tenure. If you’re attending tomorrow’s game, be sure to wear your finest blue attire.

 

-Newly promoted Recruiting Coordinator of Kentucky Football, Vince Marrow, heard that some coaches around the nation were talkin’ gas about Kentucky’s recent recruiting victories. Put simply, Marrow didn’t enjoy this, so he took to Twitter to spread the message.

Our coaches will remain professional as we move this program forward. We are not concerned about the opinions of other programs.  We will let our recruiting speak for itself. #BBN“

 

-Finally, on a charitable note, John Calipari will be participating in the first annual NCAA Autism Awareness Day on Saturday. The event was started by Marshall University head basketball coach, Tom Herrion, and Towson University head basketball coach, Pat Skerry. To show his support, Cal will be sporting a puzzle piece pin on his jacket to promote Autism awareness.  Fans are also encouraged to use #AutismHoops on Twitter to show their support.

Go Cats, Beat Mizzou.


Flashback Friday: Re-visiting the Post-Game Headlines

Kentucky is 20 games into the 2013-2014 season, sporting a 15-5 record that still has people wondering exactly what this team will look like come March. As I was reflecting back upon some of Kentucky’s wins and losses from the season, some trends seem to take place over the course of the season that often lead to one result or the other. I took a look back at the post-game recaps from 3 of Kentucky’s bad losses at 3 different point in the season, as well as 3 post game recaps from 3 of Kentucky’s good wins at various points during the season. Below in italics are the headlines from the game. Listed below the headlines are some of the details from the game.

 

What we said after 3 bad losses:

Baylor (12/6/13)

“Free throws, free throws, free throws, free throws”

– The Cats shot a disgusting 12-of-23 from the stripe for a 52.2 percentage overall. The misses came at crucial times, too.

– This team is going to go to the line a lot this season, as we’ve already seen thus far, and more losses like this one can be expected if they can’t find a way to make the freebies.

 

“Outworked on the glass”

– “They out-hustled us,” he said in the postgame press conference. “They out-worked us.”

– Baylor out-rebounded Kentucky 41-25, including 18 on the offensive end, more than UK’s 15 defensive rebounds.

 

“Andrew Harrison has a long way to go”

 

Arkansas (1/14/14)

“Coach Cal blamed the loss on one bad box out and missed free throws”

– Cal blamed the loss entirely on two simple, avoidable things: missed free throws – UK was 26-for-40 from the stripe in the game – and one bad box out on the game’s final possession.

 

“Foul trouble took Willie Cauley-Stein out of the game, which hurt UK defensively”

– The absence of Willie Cauley-Stein was clear on the defensive end and it had a major impact on the game. Foul trouble limited the Kentucky big man to 18 minutes, 10 below his season average, and he was never really a factor.

 

LSU (1/28/14)

“Did Julius Randle make the trip?”

– Randle was 3-of-11 from the field for six points and five rebounds with three turnovers. He got abused by the LSU bigs in this one, much like he did in Chapel Hill against North Carolina in early December.

 

“Harrisons will want to forget about this one”

– . They reverted back to sulking instead of fighting through adversity and Andrew showed that he still isn’t ready to step up to the level of point guard play that John Calipari demands.

– Before Aaron’s three-point barrage at the end, the twins were 0-for-12 from the field.

 

“Willie Cauley-Stein: Nothing”

– That’s four out of five games now. He hasn’t proven he can compete against the big boys down low.

 

“LSU shot 50% from the field”

 

 

What we said after 3 good wins:

Providence (12/1/13)

“Willie Cauley-Stein is more than just potential”

– Willie flirted with the elusive triple-double tonight, putting up 15 points, 8 rebounds and a ridiculous 9 blocks.

– Willie’s offense is catching up to his defense

– From Cal: “Willie is just getting so much better. What is Willie doing different? He’s playing harder, longer. He’s pushing himself, pushing through.”

 

“This team can survive an off night from Julius Randle”

– Julius helped his team in other ways, dishing the ball out 4 times for his teammates for easy baskets.

– At times this year, it’s looked like Kentucky lived and died by Julius Randle, but tonight proved that even if he’s triple-teamed or just having an off-night, others are ready to step up in his place.

 

“Aaron Harrison can be a lockdown defender”

– While Kentucky lapsed into some poor perimeter defense in the first half, they locked things down in the second, with some of their best defense of the year. Cal singled out Aaron Harrison for his strong performance, calling him “unbelievable defensively.”

–  After Bryce Cotton torched the Cats in the first half, Cal shifted Aaron over to guard him instead of Andrew, and the result may have been the difference in the game: “I don’t know if you understand, Aaron Harrison is the one that changed the game.” Dominique Hawkins was excellent as well, and also got some major kudos from Cal.

 

“When the shots are falling, the Cats can crack the zone”

– The Cats shot a season-high 64% (27-of-42) from the field. That’s the third best shooting percentage in the Calipari era, and includes a smoking 75% (6-8) from behind the arc

– Calipari said that his guards are finally listening to him and not taking as many threes, which is the secret to their success tonight.

 

Louisville (12/28/13)

“Rupp Arena heard Alex roar”

– Alex Poythress turned in another impressive performance, putting up seven points and pulling down five rebounds. Even more, Alex played with aggression, throwing down a particularly nasty dunk with a roar through Rupp Arena.

– “Playing without Julius, I thought Alex was unbelievable,” Cal raved. “But he’s been doing it in practice. He’s never been like this.”

 

“The guards were brilliant”

– James Young, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison played beyond their years, especially in the second half. After Russ Smith and Chris Jones lit it up in the first half, Andrew Harrison buckled down and took control in the second, looking as poised as he ever has as a Cat.

 

“Look like a team. Play like a team. Fight like a team.”

 

Georgia (1/25/14)

“Andrew Harrison is becoming the Andrew Harrison we thought he’d be”

-On paper, Andrew’s stat’s weren’t stunning—7 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 block and 1 steal—but anyone watching the game could see how much he’s progressed, and how well the team runs with him at the point.

 

“It’s all in the headband”

-Willie put his headband back on and snapped out of his funk, finishing with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 6 steals, and 6 blocks.

 

“The defense is back”

-The Cats held Georgia to 32.7% shooting and forced a season-high 20 turnovers. They also blocked 11 shots, tying a season high.

– James Young attributed that strong defensive performance to communication

 

4 Quick (yet not earth-shattering) Judgements from Re-Visiting the Headlines:

1. As Willie goes, this team goes. Willie Cauley-Stein might not be this team’s most talented player, but he might be the most important. When Kentucky has played well, Willie has played well. When Kentucky has been miserable, Willie has played miserably.

2. This team is at its best when Andrew Harrison is playing well. In Kentucky’s biggest wins, Harrison has played well. In Kentucky’s worst losses, Harrison has been shaky.

3. Kentucky’s wins and losses tend NOT to hinge on Julius Randle playing well for 40 minutes. Surprisingly, as arguably Kentucky’s most talented player, Kentucky has both won and lost games and the result hasn’t necessarily been dependent on Randle’s play. He has played well in losses and he has played poorly in wins.

4. Positive things have been said about either individual or team defense in each win. It really comes as no surprise, but Kentucky’s defense has been noteworthy in each of the wins.

 


SEC 3-Point Shot For The Weekend

SEC 3-Point Shot For The Weekend

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With about six weeks left until the SEC Tournament, we are headed in to a big weekend in conference play.  Here are three (and one) story lines that Kentucky fans should be keeping an eye on throughout Saturday’s games.

The Florida Gators:

If you haven’t been following closely, the Gators are on a tear.  They have won twelve in a row now and only have two losses on the season.  At 7-0 in the SEC, they are firmly in the drivers seat of the SEC – and are probably the only team in the conference that isn’t playing with some sense of desperation.  Don’t look for much to change this weekend as Florida plays a bad Texas A&M squad at home.  The game to watch will be Tuesday against Missouri.  Florida will be the heavy favorite, but Missouri has looked good at times.  More importantly, it will be the previously suspended Chris Walker’s first game with the Gators.  Florida looks dangerous, but then again they often do.  And a team like that might be Kentucky’s best motivating factor coming down the stretch.

The Cat Killers:

Most games between middle-of-the-pack teams don’t serve much interest to the average Kentucky fan, but there’s one to keep an eye on tomorrow.  Arkansas travels to LSU – a match up between the two teams with a win over Kentucky in conference play this season.  Odds are this won’t be a close game – Arkansas has the misfortune of playing outside their home arena, where they are a completely different team – but if LSU wins (and let’s face it, we’ll all be pretty upset if they don’t), they have a stretch of very winnable games leading up to the rematch in Rupp.  It wouldn’t be incredibly surprising to see them come in to the rematch flirting with a top 25 ranking.

Mizzou Is A Must Win:

By now you’ve heard this debated almost endlessly, but honestly there’s not much room for discussion.  Could Kentucky lose against Missouri and still go on to have a great season?  Sure.  Anything is possible in sports.  But with a young team, every embarrassing and disheartening loss has to be responded to in a strong fashion.  If not, you risk losing the team just when they should be turning it on and building toward a championship run.  One loss to LSU is fine, but you can’t let that same team beat you a few games in a row.  Missouri isn’t a must win because of who we are playing, but because of when we are playing them.  Win this game and the LSU game can be regarded as a fluke.  Lose it, and it has to start seeping in to the team’s psyche.

Honorable Mention:

South Carolina travels to Ole Miss to match up Frank Martin against Marshall Henderson.  The Gamecocks have been awful this season, but they did just beat the Aggies by 28, so that’s something.  Ole miss is currently tied for second with Kentucky in the SEC rankings, so a loss here would help the Cats.  But don’t bet the house on it.


Kentucky’s Transitional Issue

Kentucky’s Transitional Issue

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Chet White | UKAthletics.com

John Calipari’s team has encountered some major issues. The Wildcats, formerly the nation’s top-ranked team in the preseason, are coming off a defeat to an LSU squad with previous losses to the collegiate basketball titans known as Rhode Island and Alabama. While the final margin was only five points, the score as the clock hit zero wasn’t at all an indication of how the contest played out. From beginning-to-end, the Bayou Bengals were in control and never relinquished the power to the scrambling Cats. In a contest like this, one would expect numerous issues, and issues were plentiful on Tuesday. Not only did Julius Randle have his worst game as a collegiate player, but Willie Cauley-Stein and the Harrison’s also performed far below expectation. While there’s plenty of blame to go around, one of the biggest detriments on Tuesday was the non-existent transition defense – a problem which has been present all season long.

Many seem to be focusing on the lack of leadership and “identity” on the offensive end of the floor, but this team’s real issue comes on the defensive end. Sure, more leadership at the point guard position and the assists that traditionally accompany it would be nice, but this offense has still managed a 9th place ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s Offensive Efficiency metric despite the apparent lack of leaders. While many think more offensive leadership is this team’s saving grace, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Even if it’s figured out, the offensive improvement will only be marginal as our distributors would still be lacking great shooters to assist. No, this team’s saving grace will come on the defensive end of the floor, particularly in transition.

As one of my old coaches would phrase it, LSU straight-up farted in our mouths in transition. Of LSU’s 63 shot attempts on Tuesday, 33% came in transition, well above our season defensive average of 20%. Of those 21 shot attempts, 24% came at the rim, 43% came as two-point jumpers, and 33% came as three-point jumpers. When it was all said and done, LSU scored 6 points at the rim, 8 points on two-point jumpers, and 9 points on three-point jumpers – a combined total of 23 transition points. While the Cats allowed the lowest percentage of points at the rim, this was an anomaly as LSU was hitting a high percentage of jumpers. As the below chart indicates, for the year, Kentucky’s real problem in defensive transition comes at the rim.

Data via Hoop-Math.com (Transition is defined as within 10 seconds of a possession.)

Data via Hoop-Math.com (Transition is defined as within 10 seconds of a possession.)

First and foremost, there’s a lot of data in this table and it’s all important when considering how good a team is at the rim in transition. The first column expresses the percentage of opponent field goal attempts that come at the rim in transition. The second column explains how efficiently opponents shoot at the rim in transition. The third column is a bit more self-explanatory, it tells how many attempts an opponent has taken at the rim over the course of the season. The fourth column indicates how many points were surrendered as a result of those transition attempts. Finally, the last column expresses how many points were surrendered per shot attempt. Express caution when analyzing this table as there are some special circumstances to observe. For one, Arizona allows more than 1.5 points per shot attempt, which is good for last among the AP Top-25. However, they’ve only allowed 90 points at the rim in transition all year, which is good for second place. Given a quandary similar to this, combine volume and efficiency to get a true indication of how good a team is in transition.

So far this season, Kentucky has allowed 158 points at the rim in transition, which is good for a 21st place tie among the teams currently in the AP-Top 25. This is massively concerning when you consider that it only took our opponents 117 attempts to accumulate this total. For reference, Michigan State has allowed ten fewer points this season while having to defend 35 more attempts. When points are divided by attempts, Kentucky ranks 20th among the AP Top-25, allowing 1.35 points per attempt. This ranking is primarily due to the fact that the Cats are allowing opponents to shoot nearly 68% at the rim in transition, which is good for 20th among the AP Top-25.

This issue is severely concerning to me for a number of reasons. First, allowing a high volume of points in transition at the rim is easily preventable. If there’s proper hustle and communication, this total can be drastically reduced in future contests, increasing our defensive efficiency greatly as a result. While the sheer volume of points allowed is concerning, the fact that it hasn’t improved throughout the year is even more concerning. We’re 20 games into the season at this point, and the same easily preventable mistakes are being made, causing many to wonder if they’ll be corrected at all. This transitional issue, among Kentucky’s other defensive woes, is this team’s true issue, not offense. While many are clamoring for leadership on the offensive side of the ball, it’s defense where it’s actually needed the most.


Seven Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Win The Super Bowl on Sunday

Seven Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Win The Super Bowl on Sunday

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Since making my Funkhouser debut a few months ago, I haven’t made any secret about the fact that, while I’m a big fan of the Cats, my heart truly belongs to the Denver Broncos. Growing up in Colorado during the Elway era, I fell in love with the Broncos at an early age and, like any good fan, have suffered through the franchise’s ups and downs. Since John Elway rode off into the sunset after winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999, the Broncos have struggled to find a quarterback who could lead the team back to the big game, attempting to replace Elway with the likes of Brian Griese, Jake “The Snake” Plummer, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, and even Tim Tebow. Last year, everything changed when Denver won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Despite a (heart-breaking) bump in the road in the form of last year’s playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, Manning and the Broncos have made sweet music together, culminating in a trip to this year’s ‘Ship, the team’s first appearance in the big game in 15 years.

Super Bowl XLVIII airs this Sunday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. on FOX, and there is no doubt in my mind that, once the confetti clears, the Broncos will carry the Lombardi Trophy on to the team plane and bring it back to the Mile High City. Here are seven reasons why the Seahawks don’t stand a chance.

Cat Power.

UKBroncos1

By now, UK fans know the Broncos are basically the Denver Wildcats, with a roster boasting more Cats — Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan, and Jacob Tamme — than any other NFL team (not to mention former Cat Anthony “Champ” Kelly who is the team’s Assistant Director of Pro Personnel). By comparison, Seattle doesn’t have a single UK player on their roster. But they do have two players who went to Louisville: offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and defensive end Greg Scruggs (who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list). Once a dirty bird, always a dirty bird, I guess. Anyway, I fully expect the majority of the BBN to be throwing their support behind the Broncos come Sunday, and that extra jolt of energy emitting from Kentucky should be more than enough to drown out Seattle’s (super annoying) 12th Man.

My Broncos-related Superstitions are on Point.
Anyone who considers themselves a dedicated fan of any sports team probably has a set of borderline-OCD superstitions that they believe helps their ball club win games. I’m no different. I’ve convinced myself that the actions I take on game day have a profound and direct impact on the outcome of Broncos games. Case in point: I bought a bag of ice back in late November, and I’ve mixed a drink with ice from that bag every week since, with the exception of December 12 when the Broncos lost to San Diego. That means since buying the magic bag of ice, the Broncos are 6-1. The bag is nearly empty and every tiny chunk of ice is ravaged by freezer burn. At this point, my drinks taste like they are being chilled by chunks of dirt-covered snow that fell off the mud-flap of an 18-wheeler. But the Broncos keep winning, so bottoms up! In addition, I haven’t trimmed my playoff beard in eight weeks, and I won’t touch a hair on my face until Denver stomps off the field on Sunday with the trophy held high. That means every time I take a bite of a sandwich or a swig of beer, I have to contend with a mouthful of stray beard hairs. It’s annoying. And more than a little gross. But so be it. The team needs my playoff beard to remain intact. Real fans don’t trim their playoff beards in the midst of an epic championship run. You know who trims their playoff beards? Losers, that’s who. Chargers fans trimmed their playoff beards. And Patriots fans definitely trimmed their playoff beards. Now those teams are on vacation and my Broncos are about to make history. Beard on.

The Broncos Historic Offense, Powered by Peyton Manning and the 5×10 Club.
Everyone knows that the Broncos offense is the most prolific scoring offense in league history, lighting up scoreboards with a record 606 points during the regular season. Much of that success is owed to Peyton Manning and his Star Wars” numbers (which I’ll bet Jim Irsay would kill to have back in Indy right about now): 55 touchdowns, 5,477 yards, and a completion percentage of 68.3 percent.

But Peyton didn’t do it all on his own. He had help from the best “pick your poison” lineup of skill position players ever assembled. The Broncos are the only team in NFL history to finish the regular season with five players scoring at least 10 touchdowns each — Demaryius Thomas (14), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11), Wes Welker (10), and Knowshon Moreno (13). Prior to this season, no team ever had more than three players with 10 or more TDs.

There’s no denying the fact that the Seattle defense is impressive, but they haven’t faced an offense like this all season. Two weeks ago, Richard Sherman made sure everyone in the world knows that he thinks he’s the best cornerback in the game right now. Good for him. But he can’t cover everyone. At some point in the game, the Seahawks will have to push all their chips into the pot and try to take away one, two or even three of the Broncos key weapons. And when they do, the stats tell us Manning and the rest of the 5x10ers will find a way to make them pay. Over and over again.

Madden Says So.

For the last decade or so, EA Sports has used their flagship title, Madden NFL Football, to simulate the big game, and the company has correctly predicted the outcome of eight of the last 10 Super Bowls. This year, the Madden simulation has the Broncos squeaking by the Seahawks in overtime, 31-28, on a 48-yard field goal by Matt Prater. I don’t expect the game to be that close, but if it is, I like the Broncos chances because…

Matt Prater is a Weapon.

MattPrater1

More often than not, it seems like kickers play an important role in the Super Bowl, and if that’s the case this year, the Broncos are more than comfortable putting the game in the hands (on the foot?) of Matt Prater. Prater isn’t your average string-bean kicking specialist who’s only around to pooch through extra points. He is a legit weapon. This year, Prater led the league in field goal percentage, connecting on 25 of 26 attempts, including an NFL-record 64-yarder against Tennessee in Week 14. Prater also set a new record for extra points with 75, and he led the league in total touchbacks on kickoffs with 81 (he was second in the league with a touchback percentage of 71.1 percent). Prater missed a couple of practices last week due to illness, but he’s attended all team events this week and is expected to be 100 percent for Sunday’s game. If the game is close, there is nobody I’d rather have lining up for a game-winning kick than Matt Prater, a man who isn’t a just a kicker, but a stone-cold killer who rocks tribal tats on his biceps and ice-water in his veins.

The Experts Say So.
As of Thursday afternoon, ten of the 13 ESPN “experts” picked the Broncos to emerge victorious from Sunday’s game. Granted, the World Wide Leader’s definition of “expert” might leave a little to be desired since guys like Mike Ditka, Chris Carter and Adam Schefter are only batting .500 with their playoff picks (a blindfolded chicken could probably peck out the names of the winning playoff teams in the dirt 50 percent of the time). But outside of Seth Wickersham who has gone 9-1 in this year’s playoff picks and is picking Seattle to win, all of the experts with a winning pick percentage of at least 70 percent are on the Broncos, including Eric Allen, Chris Mortenson, Ron Jaworski, the SportsNation (which is determined by polling readers of ESPN.com), and former Broncos greats Mark Schlereth and Tommy Jackson. Plus, Buffett the Manatee picked the Broncos to win, and he’s correctly picked the winner of the last six Super Bowls, so you can pretty much take it to the bank.

The Mad Fanatic Has Spoken.
Andrew Young, aka The Mad Fanatic, is a Denver super fan who credits Broncos football with helping him get his life back on track after he was “hospitalized for marijuana-induced psychosis.” The Mad Fanatic has provided the unofficial soundtrack for Denver’s 2013 season, releasing a track before each game. Some of them are great and some of them, well, aren’t, but there’s no denying his passion for the team. Earlier this week, he released a Seattle diss track called “Duck Huntin’” that is pretty much the greatest thing ever (at least the part from about the 48 second mark through 1:21):

You can’t argue with that! Broncos 34 — Fish Eagles 20.

Go Broncos!

 

@TheSEShepherd


Coach Cal to participate in NCAA Autism Awareness Day

Coach Cal to participate in NCAA Autism Awareness Day

 Cal
(Darrell Bird | CatsPause)

Coach Cal will participate Saturday in the first NCAA basketball Autism Awareness Day.

It’s not surprising to see Cal join in on the effort. Coach Cal has used his status to raise money for several different groups throughout his coaching career. Calipari even created his own foundation to invest into communities to “improve the quality of life both in and through communities”.

Saturday’s event was started by Marshall University basketball head coach Tom Herrion and Towson University basketball head coach Pat Skerry. Herrion and Skerry’s relationship started early as young coaches in New England, and they became closer after the births of their sons. Both coaches have sons who have been diagnosed with autism.

For those who do not know, Autism Spectrum Disorder is the result of a neurological disorder and it impacts brain development in the areas in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. It can be characterized in varying degrees based on social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Statistics show currently autism affects one in 88 children. It can cost upwards of $60,000 out-of-pocket yearly to support a child with autism.

The two coaches wanted to find a way to promote autism awareness, so they both purchase 200 puzzle-piece pins from Autism Speaks for $5 each and planned to wear them this Saturday. After purchasing the pins, other coaches and media from around the country caught wind about the cause and wanted to join in.

“Every single coach we asked, every one of them is on board. We have no financial backing. We paid $5 for each pin, 200 of them, but the money out of our pockets isn’t a big deal,” Herrion said. “Really, we’d like to get to the point where we could provide a pin to every coach in the country, but right now, we felt our best vehicle to get it off the ground was to target it to the national exposure. We wanted to start somewhere.”

Over 80 coaches and media have agreed to join in.

Of course Coach Cal heard about the promotional event and he had to join in. Cal bought and will wear a puzzle piece pin in the match Saturday. This will mark the second straight week Cal has promoted fighting disease. At last weekend’s game, Cal sported tennis shoes with his suit to promote Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society. Those same sneakers are currently up for auction and Cal has even promised to match the winning bid up to $5,000.

Saturday, fans are encouraged to use #AutismHoops on twitter to promote Saturday’s event for Autism Awareness.

@Sealey_KSR


You should read this Q&A with Oscar Combs

Ever wonder how Oscar Combs got his start in the media? What about why he sold the Cats Pause or who pressured him to join Twitter? (That’s a good one.) Who is the only former UK basketball player Oscar is certain he would put in his all-time starting five? What’s his favorite reporter story?

It’s all there in Adam Himmelsbach’s “Adam Asks” Q&A feature with Oscar, one of our favorite people on the planet. Give it a read here.


UK’s new football training facility gets the thumbs up

While you were sitting in your office, doing everything but working because it’s Friday, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees met to vote for the new football training facility. The board gave the project a thumbs up after a long process on Friday, according to the official release from UK:

The University Athletics Committee approved the initial proposal at a 9 a.m. meeting Friday, sending the proposal to the Finance Committee, which also approved. The UK Board of Trustees put its final stamp of approval on the project at a 1 p.m. meeting. The proposal will now be submitted to the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee for authorization at their February 2014 meetings.

The privately-funded project will include a brand new two-story facility with two practice fields and a drill area behind the east endzone of Commonwealth Stadium. The facility will house the coaches offices, meeting rooms, weight room, film room, locker room, equipment room, study room, more rooms and then more rooms, whatever the program needs. The goal is to have it ready to go prior to the 2016 season.

From recruiting to marketing to facilities and eventually performance, hopefully, UK football is taking it to the next level.

Love it.


Kentucky football adds another preferred walk-on

Kentucky football adds another preferred walk-on

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Lost in all the Matt Elam excitement yesterday was the addition of a new preferred walk-on to the Kentucky football team. Carson Whitehead, a linebacker from Harlan County, announced his commitment to UK on Twitter late Thursday afternoon. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was offered a spot on the team early last week, and committed to Neal Brown yesterday over the phone.

Welcome aboard, Carson.


Elam symbolic of change at UK

Elam symbolic of change at UK

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Although there have been inklings of it here and there over the past calendar year, it was never more evident than Thursday, when Elizabethtown (Ky.) John Hardin 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam spurned the premier football program in the country and donned a blue Kentucky football helmet, that change is afoot in Lexington.

The thing about change is that it requires the one thing that fans tend to lack and are generally unwilling to exercise: patience.

It’s something that former head coach Rich Brooks realized when he was assigned with undertaking the rebuilding process at Kentucky in 2003. Change is a process and it doesn’t happen over night. You have to stay the course.

But it’s not just a culture change taking place at Kentucky. It’s culture shock.

[CatsPause.com: Culture Shock]


Photo by Stacy Revere/ Getty Images

Is Tomorrow’s Game Really A Must-Win?

Photo by Stacy Revere/ Getty Images

Photo by Stacy Revere/ Getty Images

After a lousy performance Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, a good portion of the fan base is labeling tomorrow’s game against Missouri a must-win. Why wouldn’t it be? If the Wildcats were to lose, it would be the sixth loss of the season for the former #1 team in the country – a squad that was hyped as having the potential to go undefeated. Two straight losses in one of the weakest BCS conferences would certainly be a striking blow to the morale of the Big Blue Nation and could potentially tear a hole in the space-time continuum.

Alas, in moments of despair it’s sometimes better to look outside of the present situation and at the big picture. Will a loss tomorrow totally suck? Yes. However, it is not something that should come as a complete surprise to us. In fact, immediately before conference play, Jeff Sagarin’s college basketball computer ratings predicted that Kentucky would lose four games in the SEC. Those games: at Arkansas, at LSU, at Missouri, and at Florida.  So, while the season will be a labelled complete disaster if a loss were to occur tomorrow, it’s actually a scenario that was deemed likely by a completely objective source. And guess what? That source still ranks UK as the 21st best team in the country.

Further, the Wildcats will have plenty of time to regain momentum if they slip at Mizzou. Kentucky’s next three games (vs. Ole Miss, at Mississippi State, and at Auburn) should be relatively easy wins. They will then host #3 Florida at home, where John Calipari’s teams have been really really good. I believe this game is much more important than tomorrow’s match. For the selection committee, one more quality win for UK will be valued far greater than one additional loss.

After that, Kentucky has two more games of considerable difficulty: at Ole Miss and at Florida. If they can go 1-1 in this period, they will finish with a 14-4 conference record and 8 regular season losses. If they win the SEC tournament, this year’s group will have a better resume than the 2010-11 team – who received a #4 seed but should have gotten a #2 or #3.

Of course, a win tomorrow will put Kentucky in an even better position and will make this conversation irrelevant. So let’s hope for that. But if the worst happens, I assure you that the sky won’t fall. Kentucky will still be very likely to make the tournament and will even have a decent shot of receiving a four seed or higher.


UK Fans of the Day Want a Few Afternoon Notes

UK Fans of the Day Want a Few Afternoon Notes

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I can’t get over the fact that 3,500 Morehead State students turned out to watch Blossom talk about science. As a matter of fact, there are at least four parts of that sentence that are funny to me. But alas it is just part of the news of the day, and here is the rest:

Saturday is the turning point of the UK season for me. While one can never exactly predict how a team’s season will be defined (remember last year after Kentucky won at Ole Miss, we were ready for a run and then Nerlens got hurt), for a fan, there are moments that you decide whether or not to still believe. For me, that moment comes on Saturday. Missouri is a beatable team. Their strength is on the perimeter and they have virtually nothing down low, a recipe this season for some of Kentucky’s best performances. The Cats have their backs against the wall and need to respond after arguably the worst game of the season at LSU. So now is the time to determine what Kentucky is made of. Beat Missouri and you are set up for a potential good run…Ole Miss at home, followed by Auburn and Miss State on the road would seem to be exactly the mix for a little winning streak. You could then go into College Gameday at Rupp versus Florida 9-2 in the SEC and ready to make a move. Lose and the opposite path becomes possible…Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson doesn’t look like a total sure thing, Florida becomes daunting and then two late road losses (Ole Miss/Florida) and you go into the SEC Tournament potentially needing a win or two to even make the Big Dance. Long story short, Saturday is crucial. For me as a fan, I can’t imagine this team not making the Tournament or not being dangerous. But I am also not sure how much “waiting for this team to turn the corner” I have left in me. If the Cats lose in Columbia, I may have very little left for the rest of this season.

— The news about the Harrison Twins potentially returning according to Calipari gives me both a little skepticism and some encouragement. The skepticism comes from the fact that I think it is highly unlikely any decision has been made and I would be surprised if Calipari is really saying much of anything definite about their future. The encouragement however comes from the fact that this conversation even taking place says that the return is a possibility and one that would be good not only for the Harrison Twins, but the program as well. Many UK fans have been recently saying, “why can’t we get guys to stay longer” and here they may get their wish. The Harrison Twins are quality players and in their second year, could potentially take a huge step up. This should make UK fans happy. We can’t both wish players would come back and then be upset if players who come back, have struggled a bit in their first year here (if they hadn’t struggled, they wouldn’t be back). A 2014-2015 UK team with the Harrisons, Dakari, Poythress, Lee, Willis, Hawkins and the new recruiting class would be a great mix of players (arguably a better one from a team perspective) and would also be quite deep. I hope the Twins step up their game and make the potential of an entry into the Draft possible by being so good down the stretch. But if not, the news this week is an encouraging sign.

— Who are the teams that have the strongest connections to their local fan bases? This shouldn’t surprise you:

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— Finally, the commitment of Matt Elam is a huge moment for UK Football, regardless of what type of player Elam becomes. As far as five star talent, while it gives you a much better chance of being successful than does 2 star talent, one never knows who will make it and who won’t. But the symbolism of beating out Alabama for an in-state recruit that Saban coveted, is quite large. The Alabama radio voice Paul Finebaum spent the first 30 minutes of his show talking about the development and for a day, UK football was the talk of college football recruiting circles. Mark Stoops’ class is one for the books and he will get much praise come Signing Day. But it needed a cherry on top, and the large one that Mr. Elam provides is one that will pay dividends for some time. In fact, one day we may get this statue in front of the redesigned Commonwealth Stadium (courtesy of @BuckyHooves):

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Five notes from Cal’s very short press conference

John Calipari kept his remarks short and surly during today’s presser, concentrating mainly on his players’ struggle to play for the team instead of themselves.  Here are a few tidbits:

— Cal said that he “might” change up the starting lineup, but he doesn’t think it really matters: “I might, but you know, again, I can sub a guy four seconds in…who starts doesn’t matter unless I’m leaving them in the game five minutes.”

— After the loss to LSU, the coaching staff watched tape of the game and noticed all the 50-50 balls the Cats lost.  Cal said that he showed that tape to his team and it “went on and on and on and on,” and that even though there were times in which the Cats were really trying hard, LSU “tried harder.”

—  As far as leadership is concerned, Cal maintains that he’s never had a player on his team who was a leader from day one: “I’ve never coached one guy that walked in and was an unbelievable leader.  We’ve had to teach them. Every one of them.” He added that all the leaders he’s had have had the same problem his current team is battling: sacrificing themselves to the team.

—  How about that exchange between Willie Cauley-Stein and Kenny Payne on the bench?  Cal says he didn’t see it, but if a player talks back to him, “he better be right.”

—  Unlike some coaches, Cal has no problem taking the blame for losses.  He ended his remarks with this comment about Tuesday: “Bottom line is we got out-played, and I got out-coached.”

After that, Cal was outta there.


Citizens of Kentucky…Watch out for this Woman

Citizens of Kentucky…Watch out for this Woman

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The woman above is Tammy Wadley, and while she looks to be a lovely young lady, she may also be slightly dangerous. Apparently yesterday, Wadley went into a Heine Brothers on Bardstown Road (my hood) and began threatening people and promising to blow up the building. A policeman was called and she continued her threats. She was then asked to leave the building and as she left, she blamed President Obama and threatened to kill him too. She was then arrested and charged with terroristic threatening and disorderly conduct.

With such a lovely tattoo, I really didn’t see this coming at all.


Alex Poythress called a players-only meeting after the LSU loss

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During today’s media opportunity today, Dakari Johnson told reporters that Alex Poythress called a players-only meeting after the LSU loss at the hotel in Baton Rouge.  Dakari said that the meeting wasn’t heated, each player spoke, and several people apologized.

Cal was asked about the meeting during his presser and said the he didn’t know about, nor does he care.  He just wants his team to be ready to play.  More from him in a bit.

Beat Mizzou.