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Wednesday was a slow day on the newswire, being New Years Day and all, but like the postal service and Doron Lamb on Twitter, KentuckySportsRadio.com takes no days off. That’s why we’re here tonight with what little bit of stuff there is going on around Big Blue Nation, including a Vine video from San Antonio and Jimbo Fisher’s wife talking about Mark Stoops. (You’ll see.)
So join me this evening, the first full night of 2014, with the first News and Views of 2014, brought to you by three Cats fans living the dream with a nice collection of Hooters waitresses. I hope you got one of their numbers, Woody.
Things are quiet at Camp Cal.
With no game this weekend, things are pretty quiet on the basketball front as the team continues its three-a-day practicing over winter break. The only thing we really know from Camp Cal is that the helmet award is back, and we learned Wednesday that Aaron Harrison is the latest recipient. Coach O tweeted that Marcus Lee, who wore the helmet after an Alex Poythress dunk on Monday, threw one down on Harrison in practice. The video is up over at CoachCal.com and it shows Lee catching a lob from Hood off the glass and cramming it in with two hands.
I love how Robic immediately yells for the helmet after the dunk.
The Tampa Bay Times put Mark Stoops, not Jimbo Fisher, on the cover of its sports page.
Mark Stoops is on the cover of The Tampa Bay Times sports page today because someone on the newspaper’s staff thought he was Jimbo Fisher. Fisher’s wife responded on Twitter, saying, “Kinda funny, I’ve been married to him for 20 years, and I’ve never mistaken him for Mark Stoops.”
How does that happen?
Drew Barker is playing well in San Antonio.
Barker had a nice little Tuesday at Army All-American Bowl practice, according to the practice report on 247Sports.com. Here is what J.C. Shurburtt had to say about the soon-to-be UK student-athlete:
10- Drew Barker, QB, Hebron (Ky.) Conner
We knew coming in because of the level of competition he faces in the state of Kentucky that Barker may have a learning curve in terms of the speed of the game. We also knew that knowing Barker, he would pick things up quickly and he has. During one play in particular, under a rush from Frazier and McDowell, Barker avoided the pressure and fired a strike down the field to an open Brown. It was an impressive play- the type you would expect from a highly-regarded quarterback prospect. Barker will enroll at the University of Kentucky soon and depending on how quickly he develops, it could be 2015 at the latest before he’s a starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. [Source]
Barker will have to avoid the Matt Elam pass rush on Saturday as the two are on opposite teams in the game. He’s prepared to take a sack if it’ll help Kentucky’s chances with Elam.
Matt Elam plays Tug of War.
Barker sent out this Vine of his good buddy playing Tug of War on Wednesday. There are 2,467 people on the other end of the rope.
Marcelys Jones isn’t sure if he’ll enroll early at Ohio State.
Jones, a four-star offensive lineman with interest in the Cats, told Scout.com he is still committed to the Buckeyes but hasn’t made up his mind whether or not he will enroll early. Jones said, “I’m supposed to report to Ohio State next week, but I’m not sure if I am or not. I have to see what happens, and I’m not sure about going there next week just yet.” [Scout]
Keep in mind Jones is rooming with Elam at the Army All-American Bowl this week. If Elam commits to the Cats on Saturday, you can bet he’ll put the pressure on Jones to flip and join him in Lexington.
Trey Lyles is averaging 37 points and 12 rebounds in 2014.
Kentucky basketball signee Trey Lyles had a big night Wednesday against La Lumiere of northern Indiana. Lyles scored 37 points and grabbed 12 boards in the 71-60 win.
Lyles was in Lexington for the Louisville game on Saturday, in case you missed him.
Chane Behanan to Florida State?
KSR’s own Matt Jones tweeted that he is hearing Chane Behanan is leaning toward a transfer to Florida State. Someone will write a comment about this site being obsessed with Louisville in 3… 2… 1…
Ryan Lemond will be joined by Darrin Horn on Thursday’s radio show.
With Matt Jones on a mini-vacation this week, Ryan Lemond will host the radio show Thursday and Friday and his first guest will be Darrin Horn. The former South Carolina head coach, a Lexington native, was great on the pregame show earlier this season and we’re looking forward to having him back on the KSR airwaves. He’ll be talking basketball and whatever else comes up with Ryan for two hours in the Lexington studio.
BTI will be by in 10 hours with a post I know you’re going to love. Stay tuned…
Happy New Year! It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and a new day for the world to recommit and refocus on reaching goals in 2014. Back in November Coach Cal talked about the team trying to change their bad habits from high school and a perfect time to keep working on those habits is with a new years resolution. NBC Sports has been making some selections for teams around basketball and here’s what they selected for Kentucky:
Why it will happen: With the exception of last season’s disaster, John Calipari’s staple as a basketball coach has been his ability to get his teams to defend. During the seven season stretch from 2005-2006 through 2011-2012 – when Cal’s Memphis and Kentucky teams were in the top ten of KenPom’s rankings every season – the Wildcats only once had a defense that was worse than 9th in defensive efficiency: the 2011 team that finished 15th. This season Kentucky is currently sitting at 46th.
Ignore Randle In The Post
Why it won’t happen: Randle needs to have the ball given to him on the block. He’s not Kobe or LeBron. He’s not simply going to dribble into a post-up. He needs to seal his man and have one of Kentucky’s perimeter players throw him an entry pass. But those perimeter players aren’t always willing to make that pass. Both Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and James Young as well, are score-first players. If they get into a rhythm and Kentucky is struggling, they’ve already shown a tendency to try to take over instead of continuing to pound the ball where their breads gets buttered.
I don’t think the Cats ignore Randle in the post but focusing in on your best player some more could never hurt. Here are some more resolutions I think the Cats should focus on in this new year:
- Concentrate on free throws late in the game
- Make smart, crisp passes
- Matching blonde hairstyles for everyone.
What are your picks for the Cat’s 2014 resolutions?
[NBC Sports: New Year’s Resolutions: Kentucky Wildcats]
After last Saturday’s victory over Louisville, Big Blue Nation has much to be happy about. Not only did the Cats register a near flawless statistical performance against the Cards, but they played with a fire and intensity that hadn’t yet been seen in the 2013-14 campaign. While many around the Commonwealth are still basking in the glory of beating Louisville for the fifth time in sixth attempts, there were some red flags to arise out of the annual Battle for the Bluegrass – mainly 3-point and free throw shooting. While most can accept the occasional 21% shooting night from three point land, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who will tolerate a 53% shooting performance from the charity stripe, especially given the free throw shooting woes to date. Unfortunately, it seems as though the 2013-14 Wildcats are what some would call a typical Calipari team, i.e., a poor free throw shooting team. Luckily for these youthful Cats, however, there’s ample time to improve this weakness and prove that they can break the Calipari free throw quandary. Given that many are looking for evidence of improvement, I researched past players and teams to see how, or if, they improved throughout the course of the season.
Given that Kentucky’s rosters have been completely dominated by first year phenoms as of late, I thought the best way to conduct this research would be to track the freshmen at the charity stripe throughout the season. I simply monitored their individual running average beginning at the fifth game and plotted them below. The data is divided up into three categories; players who improved, players who remained relatively constant, and players who regressed throughout the season. The only players listed are the ones who logged at least 50 free throws as a freshman, therefore Kyle Wiltjer didn’t qualify. Also Nerlens Noel was ommitted due to the mid-season injury. All of the data came via bigbluehistory.net.
Players Who Improved:
As previously stated, the six players listed above are the ones who improved throughout their freshmen seasons. Two of the above players, Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight, some of Calipari’s best free throw shooters, struggled with their free throws out of the gate. Given that they were elite shooters it’s difficult to place the blame on anything in particular. It could have been early season jitters or a lack of collegiate conditioning that caused the low percentages, but those two had their woes corrected before the tenth game of the season. The other four who improved; Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, DeMarcus Cousins, and Terrence Jones, came into Kentucky as poor free throw shooters. Not one of the four was averaging over 60% from the line after five games in Kentucky blue. Even after twelve games, only one of the four was connecting on 60% of charity attempts. However, once “Camp Cal” began the percentages started to increase. Not only did their averages climb during this time, but they also remained steady throughout the remainder of the season.
Players Who Remained Constant:
The four players listed above came into Kentucky as average to above average free throw shooters and remained as such during their time as freshmen. The data does reveal that every single one of the four who remained somewhat constant during the season dropped from their early season average. I believe this can be explained with the growing sample size. As the data grows, it’s more likely that a percentage will drop, and free throws are not immune to this principle.
Players Who Regressed:
The three players charted above regressed from the charity stripe as their freshman season progressed. Both Daniel Orton and Willie Cauley-Stein were awful free throw shooters as freshmen, so this regression shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, the significant decrease from Bledsoe did come as a surprise. He started the season connecting on nearly 90% of attempts, but as the sample grew larger his percentage steadily decreased. In the season’s final game against West Virginia, Bledsoe hit only one free throw out of his six attempts to finish the season hitting 66% – a stark contrast to how he began his freshman season.
It’s no secret that free throws have been quite an issue for Calipari throughout his coaching career. Just ask his 2008 Memphis Tigers if free throws cost them any important contests along the way. Since 2003, only two Calipari coached teams have been able to crack the national top-150 in free throw percentage, 2011 and 2012 Kentucky. Not only did those teams exceed 71% at the line, but they were able to improve as the season moved along. If the “Players Who Improved” category is any indication, a majority of players will begin to improve during “Camp Cal.” The most likely candidate for improvement is James Young as he averaged 55% after the first five games and has steadily improved to 67% since. Currently, the Harrison Twins and Julius Randle are exceeding 70% from the line, and with a steady improvement from Young, this squad can become a good free throw shooting team with time.
You could call it a successful non-conference finish for a Kentucky women’s basketball team desperate to break into the elite of the women’s college basketball world. Boasting a 12-1 record with five wins already against teams in the top 50 of the RPI, including road wins at Marist, Middle Tennessee State and Baylor, the Cats should be proud. Their one loss came at home to the second ranked team in the country by eight points, but Kentucky was without their star player and leading scorer. That’s great. That’s awesome. But that’s just the beginning. The season of these Kentucky Wildcats live and die in the SEC. Unlike the men’s side of the game, the SEC in women’s basketball is deep, talented, competitive, and TOUGH. It is a gauntlet. Week in and week out, any team can win. Currently, there are five SEC teams ranked in the top 25, and Arkansas is ranked 26th. Everyone in the SEC has a winning record, and all teams have hopes to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats look to get off on the right foot in conference play tomorrow afternoon against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama has been a cellar dweller in the SEC the past few seasons, and were picked to finish last this year, but there have been definite signs of improvement under first year coach Kristy Curry. The Tide have a 7-6 record, and the Cats definitely win the match up on paper, but winning on the road in the SEC is never easy. Kentucky will once again be playing without DeNesha Stallworth, and will need other players to step up offensively to produce points and score. Luckily, there is an abundance of scoring threats for UK, including but not limited to Bria Goss, Janee Thompson, Kastine Evans, Jennifer O’Neill, Samarie Walker...you get the picture.
Coach Mitchell spoke to the media this morning to preview the match up. “We have a lot of veterans on our team and they understand the challenge that is ahead of them. We had a very good practice yesterday and we’ll have to practice well today to get ready for a tough Alabama team. There are some good athletes on that team. They push the tempo, so we definitely need to do a good job in transition defense against them. They have really explosive guards. Shafontaye Myers has the second-best 3-point field goal percentage in our league and Daisha Simmons is really pushing the pace as their point guard.”
All in all, this should be a good way for UK to get acclimated to conference play. It should be a win. But nothing is guaranteed. The SEC is going to be a dog fight this season as all teams are good and everyone will beat up on each other. Coming out on top in the SEC will require the utmost mental toughness. We shall see.
Whoever wins the SEC will most likely garner a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which Kentucky desperately needs. The journey begins tomorrow. Lets get it.
Drew Barker posted the picture above on Twitter with the caption “BBN.” The picture comes from the US Army All-American event. Hopefully Barker helps close the deal, if it hasn’t been closed already, on Elam to Kentucky.
The “Year of the Cardinal” continues its disastrous end with the latest reports from ESPN that UofL QB Teddy Bridgewater will officially forgo his senior season.
This decision is really an inevitable one, since Bridgewater’s stock as the #1 QB prospect really couldn’t get any higher. However, if recent struggles by RG3 are any indication, mobile quarterbacks have a steep learning curve to ensure long professional careers.
The news comes right on the heels of reports that coach Charlie Strong could be leaving the concrete jungle of Louisville’s campus as well, to… erm, “orange-er” pastures in Texas as the new head coach of the Longhorns. While that’s still much more speculative than the Teddy news, it would be quite a devastating blow to a fanbase priding themselves on their recent football success to lose both their quarterback and their head coach. It would certainly swing the momentum in Kentucky’s favor, especially if 5* recruit Matt Elam picks the Cats on Saturday, as some are predicting.
But let’s be real: this is only good news for us because he’s a terrific football player. It’s easy to root against the Cardinals, but hard to wish ill on Teddy. Hopefully he can succeed in the league, and get out of the commonwealth so Drew Barker can take over as Kentucky’s best quarterback.
Brandon Knight continues to fly under the radar in the NBA, although he’s putting up great numbers. Knight is averaging 15.0 pts, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists on the season. Knight has been playing his best basketball as of late though, putting up 18.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 4.6 apg in the month of December. Last night, Brandon Knight had his best NBA game to date though against the Lakers. Knight finished with a career-high 37 points in the game.
And just because we can, here are a few of my favorite Brandon Knight throwback pictures:
Richard Lee Willis was sentenced to four years in prison after being charged with aggravated murder in the shooting death of former Kentucky basketball player, Desmond Allison.
Allison was killed July 25 of 2011 in Columbus and friend, 36-year old Malcom Goff, was also injured in the shooting.
Willis was sentenced to four years, and given credit for over a year of time served.
Desmond Allison played for UK from 1998-2000, averaging 8.9 points per game and 4.4 rebounds.