Part two in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats. Cats hope →
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It is that time of year again folks! No, not just the time that the temperature falls to sub-Arctic levels and we all go raiding our local grocery store for milk and bread (neither of which I buy otherwise). It is also time for the start of KSR’s fifth favorite sport (behind basketball, football, tennis and Kentucky media fighting), “The Bachelor!” If you have read KSR over the years, you know we love the Bachelor because it combines some of our favorite things…beautiful women, silly competition, unnecessary drama and intense crying. What pops out of that tremendous mixture is a level of enjoyment that can’t truly be put into words. Over the years, our love of the Bachelor has been controversial on KSR. This culminated last year when Aaron Flener’s “Bachelor” recaps became stuff of comment section fight legend (and yes, they will be back again…be ready), and helped that intellectual wasteland move from UK/UL namecalling, diatribes over how much our writing sucks and comments about how gay I am to sassy girl namecalling, rants about how this isn’t about UK sports and comments about how gay Aaron Flener is. It was a tremendous improvement. For those of you that are inclined to dismiss The Bachelor, don’t. The girls reading already know why it is amazing, but guys should like it do. Imagine all the crazy women you knew in college that were really hot, but also slightly psycho, and now put them in one house and have them compete over a guy who can barely speak English…it is amazing. If you don’t believe me, give the first episode a shot (Lucy looks particularly crazy). It is on Monday night during the BCS Title game, so DVR it, watch on Tuesday and then thank me later. No television show gives me more mindless enjoyment and there is nothing that isn’t unbelievably depressing that will cause more tears on television. Plus, you can score brownie points with your girl for watching and be entertained. Thank me later and get ready for Flener’s recap coming soon.
To the three big stories of the weekend:
BASKETBALL TEAM PRACTICES AND IMPROVES
I took the drive to Lexington on Saturday and used the rare weekend day off to watch the Kentucky basketball team practice for the first time since late November. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, the team went full speed and produced one of the best practices of the season (Calipari said as much afterwards). While I can’t talk about specific things that went on (beyond Dominique Hawkins dunking on Marcus Lee), I can say that my two biggest concerns about the team seem to be showing great improvement. First, the effort of the team is so much better than what it was just a month ago. Early season practices saw much of the time used by Calipari to focus exclusively on competing. He would yell, “PLAYYYY” loudly throughout the gym and the loafing up and down the court was a constant issue. That mindset showcased itself on the court as well, most famously during the Baylor game. The practice Saturday was the exact opposite. While mistakes were still plenty and the guys are still trying to learn all the intricacies of how Calipari wants them to play, the effort was 100% nearly throughout. With most of the practice focusing on 5 on 5 action, players went full bore and never stopped. They subbed themselves out when tired, but I never saw gaps of effort like plagued the team early. More than anything else, this gives me optimism.
Second, I really like steps of improvement on the defensive side of the ball that showcased themselves during the practice. I am not sure this team will ever be great defensively, but they are learning how better to cover up some of the problems and force teams to play to UK’s strengths. Much has to do with positioning and guys look much more comfortable on that end. Early in the year, many people (myself included) watched practice and were amazed at how good these guys looked in a scrimmage setting on offense. In hindsight, a big part of that was how bad these guys were defensively. Now the practices look more like big time basketball and UK’s defensive effort is much better. The Cats’ two best defensive games of the year (in my opinion) were against Belmont (at least in the last 30 minutes) and Louisville. That also showcased in practice and was a very encouraging sign.
Finally, one can see in practice that this is a team that likes to be coached. When a team struggles, often a look at practice shows guys that arent necessarily loving the coaching being given. That isn’t happening here and all the players are attentive, asking questions and trying to get better. That is a huge positive. There is still much improvement that needs to be made and to be fair, this team is not at the level of the January practices in 2012. But, the improvement is vast and my optimism was rekindled. I think when Kentucky gets on the court in SEC play versus Miss State and Vandy to start the league, we will see continued growth from a group that is hungry and eager to learn.
I am telling you, they squint…I am not saying they need contacts, but I am just saying…
MATT ELAM AND FOOTBALL SIGNING DAY BECKONS
I won’t go into great detail on this as I already wrote extensively on the subject on a post earlier Sunday night (scroll down and you can read). But suffice to say that Saturday was a bit of a disappointment when Matt Elam did not pull the trigger for Kentucky. I still as of now think that Elam will end up at Kentucky. UK fans that have totally abandoned hope and make ludicrous statements such as “move on” have no idea how big time football recruiting works. This is how it goes sometimes and Kentucky has never been in these spots in the past. This isn’t like basketball where only a few guys are recruited and few ever waver. This happens all the time in football and we have to get used to it as Kentucky recruits the higher level players. Elam has a lot of interest in Kentucky and he is much closer to the staff and recruits at UK than Alabama. As Signing Day gets closer, those relationships are what I think push him to Lexington. But it could change, one never knows. I was genuinely surprised by Elam’s postponement and am no sure what the future holds. I do know that Kentucky is still going to finish with a few more commitments and Louisville’s losing of a coach (more on that later) provides at least one or two new outlets for potential pickups. (For more on UK’s recruiting status post-Elam, check out this discussion thread on CatsPause). Mark Stoops has had few disappointing days as a recruiter since coming to Lexington. Saturday will hopefully be the last for a while.
The UK Cheerleaders and Dance Team are close to the National Championship Finals. The Cheerleaders nearly always win and the Dance Team is a consistent top finisher…here is the dance team posing in their holiday socks
CHARLIE OUT AT LOUISVILLE
The drama in Louisville this weekend all ended late Saturday night as Charlie Strong said he was leaving Tom Jurich and friends and heading to Austin. It is a great move for Strong, but I question how well he will do there (but that is a discussion for another day). What matters now is who Louisville will hire and what direction they go. I think their #1 target is Rich Rodriguez, the former West Virginia coach who is now at Arizona. Whether he makes the move is anyone’s guess, but I think that is who Jurich favors. Many Louisville fans want Bobby Petrino back (although many others dont) and it will be interesting to see if Jurich would pull the trigger on that move. If he does, then I would argue that UL will have the sleaziest combo of coaches in the United States (seriously find me a school with two sleazier) and will give us some good talking points over the next few years. If Bobby does come however, the pressure will be on in Lexington as Mark Stoops was hired over Petrino, and the strong number of fans who wanted him at UK. If he takes the UL job, that battle will be on. Still, from a UK perspective, Strong leaving is good news…he had done well there and had made them a viable power. Now uncertainty gives a chance to take away some recruits and the possibility of a poor hire (a la Kragthorpe). In that respect, Strong leaving isnt the worst news for a UK fan.
The Courier Journal ran this picture of a UL fan proposing to his woman at Phoenix Hill Tavern on New Years Eve…I love it
With that, stay warm tonight and tomorrow and get ready for a fun week. Cats get back to action in basketball and we will have a big show in the morning from 10-noon. See you good folks then…
If you’ve ever looked at the Ken Pomeroy website, you’ve probably seen the stat category “luck.” To me, it’s one of the most intriguing stats that the website offers and it’s definitely something that I track during the season. You can read about what the stat means over on KenPom.com but in case you don’t want to, here is the quick summation: If a team loses a lot of close games over the course of the season, it is generally deemed unlucky.
Why do I care about the luck stat even more this season? Well, my man KP has Kentucky placed as the 308th luckiest team in the nation (out of 355 possible teams). In fact, three of KenPom’s top 10 teams have sub-300 luck (the others being Kansas and Louisville).
So, on this slow Kentucky-basketball saturday afternoon, I thought it would be fun to look at how all the “unlucky” teams in the past have done in the NCAA tournament. Since people like to rank teams in terms of a top 25, I’ll use the top 25 teams with sub-250 luck since 2003 (the beginning of KenPom).
After some rigorous research that I did while flipping between the US Army All-American game and the Indiana-Michigan State game, here are my findings:
First, I’ll start with the raw results. No “unlucky” teams have won the national championship, or have even made the national championship (ruh-roh). Only two teams have made the final four (one of them being ’11 Kentucky). Six teams have made the Elite Eight. Five teams have made the Sweet 16. 37 teams lost in either the first or second round. And finally, six teams didn’t even make the tournament.
So what to make of these results? Well, at first glance it appears to be terrible news for the Cats. Given their current luck rating, UK would have to be the first unlucky team to cross the threshold and win the national title. This, however, would be a bit simple-minded, because it is my belief that it is more important to base a team’s finish in the NCAA tournament on seed expectation. For example, a six-seed is only expected to win one game in the NCAA tournament, so why would it be considered bad luck if they lost in the second round of the tournament when in fact it would just be considered normal luck. So, I looked through my results again and figured out how many teams met, exceeded or didn’t meet NCAA tournament expectations.
I found that 18 teams finished better than their standard, 17 teams finished the same, and 15 teams finished below. This explanation helps give Kentucky a little more hope because 35 out of the 50 teams met or exceeded their expectation. So say Kentucky finds themselves as a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament, it appears probable that Kentucky would at least make the Elite Eight. Again, though, this train of thought is a bit simple-minded because not all seeds are created equal and it’s easier for some seeds to exceed their expectation than it is for others. For instance, a 9-seed beating an 8-seed would qualify as performing well, but it is also much more common for a 9 to beat an 8 than it is for a 13 to beat a 4. In order to account for this, let’s look at the results from teams that have similar seeds to where Kentucky figures to finish (I chose anywhere from a 1-seed to a 5-seed, depending on how conference play goes).
With the even further filter, I found that five teams seeded 1-5 finished better than their seed expectation, three teams finished the same, and 8 teams finished worse. This, to me, was the biggest concern of my findings. Since only 5 out of the 16 teams had strong performances in the NCAA tournament, it shows me that the bad luck generally carries into the postseason. It is, however, still early in the season and some close wins for the Cats could go a long way for them both as a team and for their apparent chances in the NCAA tournament (as we all know, though, past performance doesn’t guarantee future outcomes, it just helps paint a picture).
Hope you find this as interesting as I did. Take care now, and go Colts!
Saturday was supposed to be a banner day for Kentucky football. With the college football world (and many recruits) watching on, Elam was to be one of 9 All Americans to announce their college choice at the High School All American game. The buzz was everywhere that Elam was going to pick Kentucky and the stage was set for a huge publicity boost for the job that Mark Stoops has done at Kentucky as Elam put on the shiny Big Blue hat. There was some talk that Elam’s decision could push at least one other UK player to potentially switch to the Big Blue as well (Marcelys Jones) and at least two more might come to visit after the game as the Big Blue momentum wave pushed top names to Lexington before Signing Day. It was going to be exciting.
Then it didn’t happen. That isn’t to say that there weren’t things for Kentucky fans to be excited about during the game…Drew Barker looked like a star, leading his team to two touchdowns on two consecutive drives, Matt Elam was a hoss on the line and showcased why he is a 5 star talent and at least one player that did decide (Erick Smith) had a Kentucky hat on stage, something that has been rare in such games. But when Elam postponed his decision, the great day became just a so-so day in Big Blue land. What happened is open to interpretation. Elam told KSR (in his only comments on the subject so far) that he wasn’t “100% certain” and until he was, he didn’t want to commit and then potentially switch at the last minute. One can respect that. It is the biggest decision of the young man’s life and he has a really difficult choice to make…play for his home state school and make everyone around him in his town thrilled or go play for the best program in America that churns out draft picks left and right. Throw in that the 2014 class of UK Football recruits is a tight knit bunch and Elam is close with them as well, and a difficult decision becomes even trickier by the day. In that environment, Elam just wants to be sure and for any 18 year old kid, that is actually showing maturity.
But the reality is that something changed. All signs were pointing to Elam to Kentucky and the postponement can’t really be spun as good news. At best, Elam waits a few weeks, makes an announcement in Kentucky and the Cats still get their man. At worst, the lose the kid to Alabama. But with the postponement, hopes of a Big Blue wave getting some other All Americans went away. Sources told KSR that early in the week, Barker, Elam and three other All Americans (Marcelys Jones, Erick Smith and Travonte Valentine) spent hours talking about the possibility of going to the same school and changing the culture. Smith and Valentine were longer shots, but Jones was on the verge of being flipped from Ohio State to Kentucky. A couple of folks close to the process told me that if Elam had pulled the trigger on Saturday, “Jones was right there with him and may have done the same.” But when Elam postponed, Jones reconfirmed with the Buckeyes, Smith chose Ohio State in a ceremony and Valentine proclaimed LSU his new leader. It may have been unlikely that all, or even one, would have become a Cat, but it was a possibility…and one that could have finished the class with a bang and a final top 12 ranking.
As it is, all is not lost. Matt Elam may still pick Kentucky and if he does, it will be the best class in UK history (probably is regardless). But the momentum of the week was real and seemed on the verge of a program-changing day. It didn’t happen, in large part because Elam decided to wait. You can totally understand where the kid is coming from and I have no problems with the decision. But it does leave you wondering, what might have been.
In a shocker that displayed the true strength of the SEC, the unraked Florida Gators (12-3, 2-0 SEC) came to Lexington and shocked the 6th ranked Wildcats (13-2, 1-1 SEC) 83-73. Kentucky fell in Memorial Coliseum for just the second time since Hayley and I started at KSR, and this broke the six game winning streak the Cats had over the Gators. From the get-go, we knew this would be a hard match up as Florida ran out of the gates on fire, energized, and focused.
Mitchell walked into the press conference noticeably glum. “Really tough game, hats off to Florida, they played so hard today and never let up. They were really outstanding, played together as a team, played with toughness and played through adversity. They just came in here and beat us today….it was really evident who played with more passion.”
Florida’s Jaterra Bonds led the way with 23 points and freshman Ronni Williams followed with 19. Coach Amanda Butler was thrilled following numerous close losses to Kentucky, and credits the win to her team’s chemistry and composure. “This team has an extra “oomf” to them. We had to be mentally ready, and I’m really proud of the way that we didn’t hang our heads.”
Junior Jennifer O’Neill led the way for Kentucky with 15 points followed by Walker’s double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. None of Kentucky’s starters shot over 50% from the field. Team unity is an obvious issue with UK right now. “We’re either going to come together as a team, or go apart separate as individuals,” said senior Kastine Evans.
Where was the passion from Kentucky? “We have an inconsistency on our team with the passion and the energy, and it’s really disheartening. I don’t really know why you would be in a situation right now where you would not be super focused, but I’ve got to figure that out. We have to forge ahead and bounce back.” Mitchell was noticeably upset about the effort from his team saying that it was obvious it meant a lot more to Florida than it meant to Kentucky.
Kentucky returns to action this Thursday night on the road against 13th ranked South Carolina…not an easy task.
— Trey Lyles (@TreyMambaLyles) January 5, 2014
2014 UK commit Trey Lyles is enjoying the wintry weather in his native Indiana so much, that he had to carve himself a giant Big Blue Nation-themed totem to celebrate.
Hopefully his fridge is already stocked with the winter essentials: bread, milk, eggs, and
bourbon (Oh wait, he’s under 21. Just bread, milk, and eggs then.)
-After last game’s near quadruple-double for Karl Towns, he inched even closer today with a 20 point, 14 rebound, 9 block, 8 assist effort in an easy win for St. Josephs. Towns is simply too physically imposing for just about any average high school team he will face this season so these stat lines will become a regularity as the season moves along. He will have to add some bulk for college as he gets bodied around by many players who can somewhat match him in length. He faced off with Cliff Alexander this summer and the difference in strength was really evident as Alexander controlled the post.
- As mentioned on this site, 2016 target Jayson Tatum played against Lexington Catholic last night in front of Calipari, Robic, and Antigua. Prior to his game, he took an unofficial visit to campus per Evan Daniels. Tatum is considered the #4 player in the 2016 class by 247 and the 247 Composite ranking.
- If you want your chance to watch future point guard Tyler Ulis. He will be playing in Paducah, KY at the McCracken County Hoop Fest next Saturday to play against Carlisle, VA. He will be playing against fellow UK target Thon Maker and Carlisle School. Maker is a seven foot tall phenom in the 2016 class. Ulis will get a taste of driving the lane against college forwards when he squares off against Maker.
-Finally, there are plenty of rumblings about where the 2014 class will end. The case remains the same for UK with Rashad Vaughn, Torian Graham, Montaque Gil-Caesar, and the darkhorse Myles Turner being the leaders. From what I have read and the feeling I have gotten, here is where I believe UK stands with each.
Rashad Vaughn: Out of the 3 wings in play for UK, Vaughn is probably the most talented one. UNLV and Iowa State are the current leaders, but UNC and UK are making a late push after being the leaders early in the recruitment. The biggest issue with Vaughn is that he is a Findlay Prep player. Findlay Prep is funded by a former UNLV player and current booster Cliff Findlay. Its no coincidence that UNLV is very successful at recruiting players from Findlay (Anthony Bennett). UK has really struggled at breaking into the Findlay Prep circle for whatever reason. List Vaughn as doubtful for UK.
Torian Graham: If Torian Graham would have had his academics together in high school, he would have likely been at UK and been a huge help to last year’s team. Graham has a ton of athleticism and has played extremely well in the JUCO ranks this season. It comes down to this: if UK offers Graham, he becomes a lock for UK. Graham has always loved UK and attended the same high school as John Wall for some time. Cal might wait to see how many players appear to be leaving for the draft before he extends an offer.
Montaque Gill-Caesar: Gill-Caesar is another example of Calipari holding his offer until he sees what players will return. The other factor is of course Gil-Caesar deciding to reclassify to 2014. Reclassifying to 2014 probably means Gil-Caesar would have to stay in college 2 years to become a sought after draft pick, which should not be a problem unless he is a player who simply has no desire for the college life. Kentucky fans will really have to hold their breath on Gill-Caesar until he makes the reclassification decision.
Myles Turner: I really cannot see this one happening, but you never know. The front court seems pretty much loaded for next season with the likely returns of Lee and Johnson as well as the incoming frontcourt of Lyles and Towns. Aside from that, Turner seems to be insistent on attending a college that is somewhat near his hometown of Euless, TX. This makes Oklahoma State, Texas, SMU, and Kansas the leading destinations for Turner.
From Tom Leach, the Voice of the Wildcats…
Seeding is not the be-all-end-all for success in the NCAA Tournament but it does matter. More 1-seeds have made the Final Four than 2′s, more 2′s than 3′s, etc. and a ’1′ has never lost its first game in the tourney.
As of today, we’re 10 weeks out from Selection Sunday and conventional wisdom says Kentucky needed to beat Louisville to keep hope alive for getting a number one seed from the selection committee. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, who put the phrase “Bracketology” into the sports lexicon, says that thinking is correct but the Wildcats will probably need some help to be one of the four teams on the top line of the bracketing.
I caught up to Lunardi on Friday afternoon and we’ll play the full interview on the radio show this week. But as Kentucky prepares to being SEC play Wednesday night against Mississippi State, I asked Lunardi to offer a guess on “how many league losses can UK afford to take and still have a shot to get a ’1′ seed?”
“I would say two. I think it’s unlikely for Kentucky (to get a ’1′ seed). I don’t think it diminishes their Final Four capability but I think too many other teams ahead of them that have done more out of conference. I think that horse has probably left the barn but your question is a fair one and 16-2, 17-1 in certainly going to put them back in the conversation,” Lunardi told “The Leach Report.”
I don’t foresee this Kentucky team losing in Rupp Arena so here is my ranking of the Cats’ eight SEC road games, in order of degree of difficulty:
1. at Missouri, February 1–most would rank Florida here but I’m going with the trip to Mizzou because it comes five weeks earlier than the trip to Gainesville. Also, MU has won 26 straight on its home floor and is 41-1 under coach Frank Haith. And given that it’ll be UK’s first trip there in its history, the crowd will be even more jacked up than even the normal Super Bowl-level for a visit from the Cats.
2. at Florida, March 8–the Gators are a Final Four contender so it’s not hard to understand why they rank high on this list.
3. at Arkansas, January 14–the Hogs are once again unbeaten at home and given this will be only the third true road game of the season for UK, that makes this challenge tougher than some others. I also wonder about how the game will be called, since playing in Bud Walton Arena is usually equivalent to going through an overly-aggressive TSA pat down. The new points of emphasis for officials this season should change that.
4. at LSU, January 28–I might have ranked this one a notch higher until Rhode Island went into Baton Rouge and won. Nevertheless, Johnny Jones has a big and talented team.
5. at Ole Miss, February 18–Marshall Henderson is always capable of taking over a game but if last year’s UK team could win there, this one should be able to do the same. Also, the position on the schedule, on the heels of the Florida/Gameday game in Rupp, might leave the Cats prone to a bit of a letdown.
6. at Vandy, January 11–crazy things have happened in Memorial Gym for the Commodores but I just don’t think this Vandy team is good enough to upset UK.
7. at Mississippi State, February 8–the Bulldogs’ record is good but they have played an incredibly soft schedule and they should have taken several SEC losses by the time this game rolls around.
8. at South Carolina, March 1—the Gamecocks have played a far tougher schedule than State but Frank Martin’s club has struggled even in easier spots. Also, the crowd for UK’s last visit to Columbia featured more blue than maroon and by the first of week of March, this Kentucky should been nearing a peak level.
–listen to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on “The Leach Report” radio network
You don’t think that Coach Calipari would take a week-long vacation and actually relax, do you? Of course not. He’s spent this weekend visiting recruits in West Virginia, and right here in Lexington, as he prepares to build his next classes at Kentucky.
First up on Friday, Cal traveled all the way to Wheeling, WV, right between Ohio and Pennsylvania, to see Stephen Zimmerman (C) and Carlton Bragg (PF), both 2015 recruits. The game was on television, but that isn’t what caused Bragg’s nerves to be a little on edge, according to SNy.tv:
“I tried to block [Cal and Orlando Antigua] out, but I was very nervous coming in. I had to really pick it up in the second half.”
Bragg didn’t have a dominating game, finishing only 3-14 from the field. However, that shouldn’t impact his overall relationship with Kentucky.
“They said they have to get done with 2014 before they worry about 2015.”
Zimmerman, meanwhile, had 21 and 9. Both are 5-star recruits.
After his interstate visit, Cal stayed home to see 2016 SF Jayson Tatum, #5 overall in his class according to ESPN. Tatum (no relation to Channing, unfortunately) also took an unofficial visit to Kentucky earlier in the day, since he was already in town for the game. While Tatum finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, his averages are actually better (26/10/4.5). he was glad to see Cal made it out to Lexington Catholic to watch the game:
“It was a great experience to play in front of Coach Cal. I was really happy to see that he took some time to come and watch us play. I have heard from Kentucky a lot ever since they offered me. I’ve heard a lot from Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina as well.”
While there haven’t been any basketball games to watch, don’t let that fool you into thinking the coaching staff is taking all that time off. I’m sure there’s been plenty of relaxation, but there’s also been a lot of work on the recruiting trail, as well.
Hey Wildcat fans. Hayley Minogue and Wilder Treadway are back in action from press row at Memorial Coliseum for a big SEC showdown between the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats. The Cats enter today’s game ranked 6th in the nation with a 13-1 record and are 1-0 in conference play after a road win against Alabama. Moving into today’s game, one can’t help but ponder a few crucial questions… Will the cheerleaders stop yelling in my ears ever? Will Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler stomp her way into a Florida victory, or will Coach Mitchell’s Wildcats claim their first SEC home victory of the season? Will Azia Bishop’s extra time in the gym shooting free throws help? Was DeNesha Stallworth warming up or was she just messing around? Will the Frisbee dogs be the halftime entertainment for the second year in a row? Will my wildest dream of getting snowed in Memorial Coliseum finally be fulfilled? Only time will tell….
#6 Kentucky Wildcats v. Florida Gators
FINAL: Didn’t see that one coming… the six game winning streak has ended for the Wildcats with a loss to Florida, 83-73. In all honesty, Florida deserved that victory. They out hustled Kentucky on the floor and off the board, and the score shows it. It’s going to be tough for the Hoops to get a road win over Florida. This is mine and Wilder’s second loss in Memorial since we started interning for KSR… let that sink in. Stay tuned for his full post game…until next time, stay golden.
2nd Half 0:59.9 Hayley-…we might lose this game. The refs are calling every move Kentucky makes a foul… Florida at the line shooting 2. FL77-KY72
2nd Half 3:30 – Hayley- This game guys.. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m not freaking out under the table. Kentucky is trailing Florida by just ONE point. I’m not sure how attentive I’ll be able to be in these final minutes, but know this; it’s going to come down to free throws. With both teams in the bonus and the gameplay getting so physical, free throws are going to have to be made… UK 70, UF 75
2nd Half :4:25: Hayley- This game is getting increasingly physical. There’s been more hard fouls and flailing bodies since the last post than in the whole game thus far. Both of these teams place such an importance on beating one another, and neither one of them wants to have the lower hand when the teams meet again in one short month. If there’s one thing to take away from this game, it’s that this is going to be a very tough SEC season. In the non conference play, I didn’t think there were two teams that could beat Kentucky, and now… The entire SEC is going to be stacked. The physical play continues, and I’m liking seeing not only the players, but also the coaches get so worked up over this game. Kentucky 68 Florida 69
2nd Half 7:36: Wilder- Well, like we anticipated, today’s game has been a back and forth affair. Florida ran out to an 11 point lead in the first half, UK has built a nine point lead here in the second half, and here we are with just under eight minutes left and it’s just a three point Kentucky lead. In terms of offense, the Cats have really had no star performances, but you can see it in the eyes of Jennifer O’Neill that she wants to be the one with the ball in her hands to finish this game. Jaterra Bonds from Florida has been amazing, scoring 20 for the Gators. This game will come down to free throw shooting and fast action decision making, so we shall see…Wildcats lead 66-63.
2nd Half 8:40- So so sorry folks, internet problems have us feeling some type of way. Score is 63-59 in Kentucky’s favor. We’ll get more in depth in the next post…
Beginning of Halftime: Hayley- The lead in this game is not going to ever stretch out. This Florida team is just so exponentially better than the Florida team I remember from past seasons. Jaterra Bonds has always been good, but she has grown into the star of this team. She has 12 points and 2 rebounds so far in the game, and I have a feeling it’s going to double in the next half. Bonds doesn’t even look tired out there! She’s superhuman fast and just really freakin’ good. Meanwhile, Bernisha Pinkett is leading this Wildcat team with 9 points, all of which were three’s, and she’s shooting 75% from behind the arc. Bria Goss and Jennifer O’Neill each have eight points, and Azia Bishop is leading boards with seven. So far, some of our questions have been answered… The halftime show was not frisbee dogs (bummer). The varsity dance team preformed their nationals routine, which was pretty good. Cheerleaders will not stop yelling in my ears. Butler hasn’t been very stompy (again, bummer). Everyone get your snacks and use the potty, cause you’re not gonna wanna miss a minute of the second half of this game. Kentucky 44, Florida 45
1st Half 3:33 : Hayley- The Wildcats and the Gators are battling for a lead that keeps switching possession. No one is on #MinogueDubDubWatch, which is actually really sad, but Coach Butler is in fact on #MinogueStompStompWatch. First person to tweet that at me gets a free hotdog. The Hoops are slumping a bit in their game play, but surely Coach Mitchell will tell these ladies to get it together in the timeout they’re currently taking. Stallworth looks rusty to say the very least, and can’t seem to even hit little layups that were such a lock for her earlier in the season. Let’s hope that she can shake it off and get her head in the game. UK36-UF37
1st Half 7:28: Wilder- Mitchell has urged his team to match the conviction and energy of the Florida Gators early on, and two straight 3-pointers from senior Bernisha Pinkett certainly helps, but the Gators are on an offensive tear, scoring on nearly every possession. The speed of their guards and quick passing has really confused the Cats on defense. Big news! Senior DeNesha Stallworth has entered the game for her first action since December 6th. The crowd just geeked. This is gonna be a crazy game and a crazy finish, I just know it. Cats have cut the Gators lead and now only trail 31-29.
1st Half 12:28: Wilder- Coach Mitchell commented earlier how Florida always tends to do well against the UK press because they have strong guards who aren’t afraid to attack the ball into the front court. That’s holding true early on as the Gators are playing at lightning speeds, which is impressive against a Kentucky team known as one of the fastest in the country. The energy for both teams early on is sky high and you can feel the sense of urgency for everyone on the court. You know Florida’s Amanda Butler is hungry for a victory against the Wildcats as her team has fallen short by the slimmest of margins the past few years. All the loose balls, hustle points and “effort” plays have gone Florida’s way so far and you can tell the Gators simply want it more. Mitchell isn’t happy and calls a time out down 21-10.
Gametime: Hayley- Stallworth not starting, but still warmed up with the team. Walker, Bishop, Goss, Evans, Thompson starting. Kentucky won the tip, then turned it over. Big wakeup call to the Cats, Florida is looking good on offense today. The Hoops are gonna have to clean it up if they’re planning on beating this team by more than four. Wilder just told me he looked up pictures of Coach Amanda Butler when she was a player… guess what? She looks the same. Thanks for your knowledge Wilder. He also wants everyone to know he and Coach Butler are matching. The Gators aren’t spending much time in the mid court, which is going to make it harder for the Cats to execute their signature press defense. Cats are gonna have to find a way to shut down Jaterra Bonds, who averages 17 for the Gators, and already has eight. Florida leads 13-8.
10 Til Tipoff: Hayley- Florida opened up their SEC play with a victory over Mississippi State and is on a seven game winning streak. I contacted Wilder Treadway and asked his permission, and he said it was ok if I used some stats he looked up (lolz). He told me that the past five times we have played Florida, we’ve won. In those past five victories, the margin of victory has been, on average, four littleuns. In the past five games without Stallworth, UK has had FIVE different leading scorers. For those of you who are faithful followers, you know Coach Butler is a favorite of Wilder and mine because of her extremely vocal and stomping coaching habits. Let’s hope that all our questions get answered today as we prepare for the tip!
Karl Towns wasn’t the only one with a spectacular performance yesterday, not by any stretch of the imagination. Trey Lyles must have heard the news of Towns’ near quadruple-double and decided to try and one-up it with a 45 point, 16 rebound performance. Even more impressive was the fact he did it on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 27-of-33 shooting from the free throw line. His performance, in addition to the stand-out efforts of all of Kentucky’s incoming recruits gained the attention of John Calipari.
How about what our incoming signees are doing, #BBN?
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 5, 2014
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 5, 2014
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 5, 2014
Really proud of all those guys and can’t wait to start working with them.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 5, 2014
Every time Coach Mitchell’s squad takes the court against Coach Amanda Butler’s Florida Gators, you know it’s gonna be a good one. It has turned into one of the best games year in and year out in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats have left victorious against the Gators the past six times the teams have met, but have won the past five meetings by an average margin of just four points. Coach Mitchell doesn’t expect Sunday’s game to be any different, as one of the SEC’s best scorers Jaterra Bonds leads the Gators into Lexington with an 11-3 record (1-0 SEC) riding a seven game winning streak.
I’ve covered the Kentucky women’s basketball team now for two years, and there are no games I enjoy more than when Florida comes to town. You know you’ll be in for a nail biting, grind it out, last second affair, and that’s just how it goes. Not to mention, Florida’s Coach Amanda Butler is one of the most entertaining personalities I’ve had the chance to be around on the sideline. She stomps, yells, claps…and stomps some more….and I love it.
At the end of the past few seasons, Kentucky and Florida have not been very near each other in the final standings of the SEC, with Kentucky nearing the top and Florida lingering around the middle and bottom, yet the games continue to be close. When asked why, Mitchell thinks it’s because the tough, pressure defense from Kentucky is actually a benefit to Florida. “The kind of defense we play, [matched with] the kind of players they have always makes for a tough, tough game.” Mitchell lauded the guard play of the Gators, who are not afraid to push and attack the Cats and have the ability to both shoot the outside ball and feed the post inside.
The status of UK’s leading scorer DeNesha Stallworth is still up in the air following her arthroscopic surgery nearly four weeks ago. “Our goal is to try to work her back in the first chance she can play. And so if that’s Sunday, that’d be great. But I would think her first game back is going to be a process of trying to get in there and we’ll kind of see what we have. Even if she were back Sunday, I still think the team’s mindset has to prepare for her role to possibly not be that big, which means we have to do what we’ve been working on and we have to be successful without her,” commented Mitchell.
In Kentucky’s five games played sans Stallworth there have been five different leading scorers. Scoring for this Kentucky team can literally come from any position on the floor, and it remains a toss up night in and night out as to who will have an on night on offense. Six Wildcats currently average double-figures including the absent Stallworth, Kastine Evans, Bria Goss, Janee Thompson, Samarie Walker and Jennifer O’Neill. With the hunger for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament on the minds of all those related to the UK Hoops program, winning the SEC is imperative. After Tennessee’s conference opening loss, Kentucky already has a one game lead over the predicted champions, and needs to hold serve at home. Each game in the SEC is an absolute battle, as all teams are talented and vying for spots in the big dance.
Kentucky’s replacement in the starting lineup for Stallworth has been junior Azia Bishop. Bishop is averaging nearly seven points a game, and while Mitchell says he doesn’t put any emphasis on who starts or who comes of the bench, Bishop admitted that the new starting job has come with a different mindset. “I know I have to go out there and play hard, getting in the stance, and finishing strong,” said Bishop. One of the biggest flaws in her game this season have been her poor free throw shooting numbers, and she says Mitchell has placed heavy emphasis on those in practice, making everyone shoot 100 each day, with Bishop staying after to shoot even more.
Sunday afternoon could be a milestone victory for Kentucky, as the Wildcats are looking for their 700th win all-time in program history. With an all-time record of 699-478, the Cats look to make yet another record in it’s 40th season of varsity play. The team has undergone rapid growth as you know under Mitchell, who in just seven seasons is already responsible for 157 of those wins.
Live diary coming your way at 3 right here on KSR. Televised live on CSS. Be there.
Now that the out-of-conference slate has officially come to a close, we now find ourselves just days away from the start conference play. Because of this, many in the media and other outlets are predicting the winners of every conference in the land. Number guru Ken Pomeroy is no stranger to making predictions, and he recently released his selections for the SEC.
As most know, Pomeroy is a numbers guy, meaning his selections are based upon his ratings. He used a Monte Carlo method, meaning 10,000 simulations were run to determine a favorite. Whichever team won the most simulations is considered the favorite. According to his system, Kentucky won 3,765 of those simulations which equates roughly to a 38% chance to win the SEC.
Florida (33%), Tennessee (12%), LSU (7%), and Missouri (4%) rounded out the top five. The remainder of the simulations can be found here.
Yesterday afternoon during an intense 2.5 hour practice, the Commonwealth’s own Dominique Hawkins felt like taking a break from it all and decided to go on a flight. Unfortunately for Marcus Lee, it just so happened to be right in his face. The “Helmet Dunk” from yesterday was widely publicized by those in attendance, but it unfortunately couldn’t be seen by the general public. That was until now.
CoachCal.com has the video of Dominique Hawkins’ posterization of Marcus Lee, and as the screenshot below indicates, it’s well worth your time.
It’s official. According to ESPN, Charlie Strong will accept the University of Texas head coaching job. This after 24 hours of non-stop rumor leaked to Twitter by “high ranking Texas officials.” The deal is expected to be finalized today with an official press conference tomorrow. Strong was 37-15 at Louisville.
According to Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com, LSU is the new leader for 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine. The former Miami commit dropped the Canes when he heard the reported news about Al Golden interviewing for the vacant Penn State head coaching job. The 6-foot-3, 320 pound tackle is set to visit with LSU on January 17th, Kentucky on January 24th, and Miami on January 31st.
The Phoenix Suns are reporting that Eric Bledsoe will be out for at least one week with a sprained right knee. He’s likely to miss Phoenix’s 5-game road trip as a result. Bledsoe is averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game this season.
The New York Times had an excellent article on LPGA Golfer, Mallory Blackwelder. Blackwelder, a proud Kentucky girl and participant in Golf Channel’s Big Break series had the details of her life chronicled by writer Lisa D. Mickey. Topics of discussion included her professional golf career, recent marriage, and the relationship with her parents.
If there’s one thing in this world that John Calipari doesn’t mind, it’s talking about his basketball program, or talking about anything for that matter. Recently, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of the fans’ most pressing questions on his website, CoachCal.com. The main topic of discussion this time around was the teaching of life habits.