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…Ron Groover, James Breeding, and Roger Ayers.
As Jerry Tipton and Not Jerry Tipton would say, this does not bode well for John Calipari, as Ayers has called three technicals on him in three straight years, and one on Darius Miller in 2008 for slapping a backboard.
Live blog starts in 20 minutes.
The new season for Kentucky Track and Field is almost officially here. When the Women’s team opens up competition on Friday at the Kentucky Invitational, they will be ranked 6th in the country, their highest pre-season ranking in school history. Kentucky’s previous highest pre-season ranking was 15th, back in 2008, which was their best finish since 1994. Last year, in his first season as Kentucky’s head coach, Edrick Floreal, led them to an end of season ranking of 20th in the country. With the 5th best recruiting class (as reported by Track and Field News) and three returning All-Americans, Kentucky’s Women’s Track and Field team is poised to have an excellent season. GO CATS!
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- Will look to play a very fast-paced game. 15th in the country in scoring.
- Aggressive defensive team; forced 276 turnovers this season (over 18 per game).
- Very good shooting team: 47.6% FG, 36.4% 3’s, 70% FT.
- Overall talented team with a balanced attack. Likely will see 9 players play 10+ minutes.
- Home-court advantage and really want a win. Coming off tough 2 point loss to Florida.
PG #12 Fred Gulley III: 6’2’’ 182 RS SR
A cousin of former Razorback standout Ronnie Brewer, Gulley comes in averaging just 3.6 points per game. The 5th year senior point guard is not much of a threat offensively, he is attempting just 3 shots per game, but he is a great floor general who will not turn the ball over.
SG #00 Rashad Madden: 6’5’’ 180 JR
Madden is a very efficient offensive player; he is getting his 11.2 points per game off of just 7 shots per game. He is shooting 50% from 3-point range and is coming off a team-high 23 points against Florida. We need to know where he is on the court at all, he is very adept at cutting to the open area.
SF #24 Michael Qualls: 6’6’’ 210 SO
The talented sophomore wing is currently the Razorbacks leading scoring at 12.7 points per game. Qualls also averages 5 rebounds per game; he will really crash the offensive glass. Like many of the players on this team, Qualls can shoot it from 3 (37.3% on the year).
PF #4 Coty Clarke: 6’7’’ 232 SR
Undersized 4-man who averages 8.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He will step out and shoot a 3, he is currently taking 1 per game. Clarke is also a very good passer, he leads the Razorbacks in assists.
C #10 Bobby Portis: 6’10’’ 242 FR
A very highly touted prospect out of high school, Bobby received a number of accolades including Gatorade Arkansas Player of the Year and being named a McDonald’s All-American. He was ranked #17 in the 247 Composite Rankings. The freshman may be the team’s MVP so far, averaging 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Another efficient offensive player, Portis shoots 74% from the free throw line and 54% from the field.
SF #2 Alandise Harris: 6’6’’ 237 RS JR
Alandise will most likely come off of the bench, but he will play starter’s minutes. He is a versatile offensive player that can play the 3 or the 4 depending on what type of lineup Arkansas wants to go with. Harris averages 10.4 points and 4.5 rebounds, but does lead the team with 2 turnovers per game. He is an aggressive offensive player who will come off the bench and get his shots up.
SG #5 Anthlon Bell: 6’3’’ 188 SO
3-point shooter!!! 70% of his shots come from beyond the arc, but Anthlon is only hitting them at a 31% clip so far this season. The sophomore comes in averaging 7.7 points per game.
C #33 Moses Kingsley: 6’10’’ 230 FR
Moses, a native of Nigeria, was ranked #44 in the 247 Composite Rankings. The freshman has been a solid back up to Bobby Portis this season, averaging 5.2 points, 4 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks per game in just over 10 minutes.
SG #20 Kikko Haydar: 5’10’’ 170 SR
3-point shooter!!! Exclusively a 3-point shooter, Kikko has attempted 32 of his 38 shots from beyond the arc and is hitting 47% of them. He is also a very active defensive player that will work very hard in the minutes that he gets.
- The primary thing to know about the Razorback’s offense is that they will play fast. They currently lead the SEC in scoring, and are 15th in the nation, with 84.5 points per game. Also, they share the ball really well (250 assists) while making sure they take care of the ball (only 181 turnovers).
- In terms of what they will do offensively, Arkansas will run a motion offense that will generally lead to some sort of dribble drive (sometimes random and sometimes off a ball screen). When they drive they will look first to kick out to an open 3-point shooter. They will shoot a lot of 3’s!!!
- When you see a team like Arkansas that assists on 56% of their made buckets (that is a lot, for context, UK assists on just 47%), it generally means that they get a lot of open shots. We already touched on their ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc, but they get open shots in others ways too. The Razorbacks have a number of long, athletic guys who are great at slashing to an open spot as a dribble drive is going on. Alandise Harris and Rashad Madden will do this a lot. Also, if the drive is able to get deep into the paint, then a dump off pass to Bobby Portis is more likely to occur.
- Arkansas will play a switching man-to-man defense. Since Kentucky has such big guards I suspect that they will switch 1 through 4 quite a bit, meaning that on any ball screen or dribble handoff involving anyone besides Willie Cauley-Stein, the Arkansas players will simply “switch” who they are defending.
- Arkansas will also look to trap when given the opportunity. This may not always come in the form of a full-court press; the traps may happen at half court, when coming off a ball screen, or when the ball gets into the post.
Keys to the Game
- The Razorbacks are going to push the tempo and they are going to score points. However, the key for Kentucky will be to limit the big runs. Arkansas is a good enough shooting team that they are going to hit some 3’s, but the Wildcats need to ensure that they aren’t able to string 3 or 4 together in a row. Don’t allow a 10-0 or 12-2 run to occur.
- Don’t allow the crowd to become a huge factor. Bud Walton Arena has a tendency to get really loud, and you know the fans will be out in full force for this game. Key #1 will play a factor in limiting the crowd, but a quick start for UK will silence the crowd in a hurry.
- Continued strong play from Andrew Harrison. After receiving much criticism early in the year, Andrew has played very well of late. Arkansas, as we have touched on, plays a very aggressive style of defense and will force a lot of turnovers. Andrew, and Dominique Hawkins for that matter, will need to do a very good job of protecting the ball.
- Julius Randle needs to avoid cramps and be a beast down low. Arkansas has a lot talented players that can hurt Kentucky, but the truth is that the 4 or 5 best players in this game will all be wearing blue and white. If Julius can pound away down low and have one of his 20 and 10 games while the rest of our starters simply “do their job” then Kentucky should come away with a very impressive road victory.
We’re an hour and a half from tip, and the white rally towels are out in Bud Walton Arena for tonight’s “White Out.”
…Do you think the people at Arkansas realized the irony of handing out what are essentially white flags?
Let’s hear your predictions.
At last week’s pre-Vanderbilt press conference, Coach Cal said he was thinking about starting different people who understand what he expects from the players. He said he was much happier with the performance from his bench players more than the starters.
While he did not name anyone in particular he was upset with, little by little he has hinted at media it is Julius Randle he is disappointed in.
Three games this season Randle has exited games due to major cramp issues, which have only started after halftime. While out, Randle has received IV bags and other remedies to help take care and prevent the cramps to help him get back in the game.
While many fans are left baffled, Coach Cal believes he knows the reason of why this is happening.
“Everything we do is high energy and there are times he backs up,” he said. “He’s still going hard, but not like he is playing.”
Kentucky coaches have been pushing Randle harder in practice, trying to create more of a game environment to help Randle get where he needs to be.
“He has got to get to that point. He has to push himself and try to get a cramp in practice. If you go that hard and you don’t cramp in practice you’re going to go in the game and know you can do this. “
While Cal has his disappointments with Randle, he slightly understands his hardships as well.
“I think right now he’s the only college player that, when he catches the ball he’s got three guys on him. I don’t know if there’s another college player. You’d have to tell me who that would be. But he’s got three guys on him when he catches it. And they’re being physical. So he’s not just running up and down the court, he’s in, like, a football game.”
Randle’s bad practice habits might account for a lot of the cramping issues, but there are other things that could be changed to help as well.
Preventing cramps doesn’t stop at giving a player IV’s when it happens during a game. Randle might need to change his diet as well. Something the athletic trainers are most likely working on. Randle should balance more fluids, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and carbohydrates to help prevent the cramps.
While many fans are disappointed or worried about Randle being left out of the game, others look at it as a great learning experience for the rest of the team.
While working together as a team is very important to win National Championships, individual accountability might be just as important. When Nerlens Noel went down last season it seemed the team fell apart. Many of the players relied on him as a player and as a leader. Before his injury, there was no personal accountability and the team was left with the entire season trying to relearn a game without him.
At least with Randle only missing partial games the team is learning that lesson a lot easier.
The 2015 recruiting class is starting to gain attention with the 2014 class nearly finished outside of possibly one more addition. Specifically, the power forward position is the main talking point at the moment with 6’8″ Carlton Bragg receiving a scholarship offer from UK. The offer was reported after Calipari watched Bragg battle Trey Lyles at the McCracken Hoop Festival last weekend. Bragg has been waiting on this offer for quite awhile. He is the 9th overall rated player in the 247 Composite rankings and the 3rd rated power forward.
If Bragg were to commit relatively quickly (the next 2-3 months), UK would have phenomenal piece to build around. I fully expect Bragg to commit to the Cats, but there are a few other power forwards that Kentucky is recruiting. The big prize for power forwards in 2015 is Ivan Rabb, a 6’10” forward out of Oakland, California. Rabb has elite athleticism, making him one of the best in the class at getting to the rim and finishing. While he is far from a stretch 4, Rabb still has the ability to take step back 15 footers and other mid range shots if the space is given to him. Rabb is the first choice of any top school recruiting the 5 star forwards in this class. The big problem for UK? He’s on the West Coast. Sean Miller has basically laid claim to the best talent on the West Coast, and it is pretty difficult to draw the California kids to Kentucky. Marcus Lee was a special case of course.
There is a dark horse outside of Bragg and Rabb as well. Elijah Thomas out of Prime Prep has received some interest from UK, but he appears to be a third option behind the two mentioned above. Thomas is a massive body on the blocks with a great post game and hands for his age. He may be tough to draw away from SMU and Larry Brown since he attends school at Prime Prep which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Even though Kentucky has a legitimate shot at any of the three targets, I think Carlton Bragg will end up in UK blue, and UK will not have much reason to recruit the other 2 at that point. Bragg has been desiring a Kentucky offer for a long time. If I had my pick, I would rather have Ivan Rabb, but its tough to go wrong with a player like Bragg who is so physically mature and full of defensive potential.
By T.Walters on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 6:25pm
Tune in to 630 WLAP in Lexington at 6:30 pm for the KSR pregame show with Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond, and Drew Franklin. The guys will be in studio to get you ready for tonight’s game between the Cats and the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville. 98.1 The Bull will carry the second half-hour of the show, beginning at 7:00 p.m, or listen online at WLAP.com.
Stick around for the Texas Roadhouse Countdown to Tip-Off Pregame Show on the IMG Network with Oscar Combs and Matt Jones. A list of affiliates around the state can be found here or you can listen online here.
And now, a follow-up to an earlier story about Matt Elam’s Army All-American game gear being sold on eBay. The Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts spoke with Keith Stevens, the father of the seller, Kenneth Stevens, who plays on the John Hardin football team with Elam. Stevens claims that Elam gave Kenneth the jersey and cleats as a gift, and wasn’t aware that Kenneth was going to put them up for auction.
As for the “game-worn” James Quick UofL jersey? Stevens says that the items have nothing to do with Quick, and are from the season before he joined the team, which you can tell by the Big East logo.
Read more details here.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 5:30pm
Before we get totally wrapped up in the Arkansas game, everyone send some good thoughts to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will return to the court for the first time in six weeks after breaking his left hand. MKG has been cleared to play in the Bobcats’ game against the Knicks tonight, and will wear a padded half-glove to protect his fingers.
Head coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer that MKG will start, and play in six to seven minute stints until he’s back in game condition.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 5:00pm
I don’t think I’m alone when I say it was a bit of a surprise to see Archie Goodwin sneak into the late first round of last year’s draft. Despite a recent cold streak, Archie has had a good rookie season so far, and after last night’s loss to the Knicks, had some interesting things to say to Adam Zagoria about his time at Kentucky. Archie said that Kentucky’s NIT appearance hurt his draft stock, and if the Cats had won more, he would have been a top pick:
“If we would’ve won more, then I would’ve been a top pick,” Goodwin told SNY.tv. “It was just a matter of us losing a lot of games that we should’ve won. I mean, we went to the NIT, so us losing there and then just a lot of games we should’ve won during the year, if we win those games then I feel like I’m easily one of those top picks. But losing has a big thing to do with it.”
When asked about the current Kentucky team, Archie had a lot of praise for Julius Randle, whom he compared to the Detroit Pistons’ Josh Smith. What about the Harrison Twins? Archie said what a lot of us would say: they’re big, but not quick like some of the smaller, faster guards at the next level.
“You have to guard a guy like that and 6-5 guys are not always as quick. The twins are good athletes but they’re not great athletes…They’re good athletes but I’ve seen them move and they don’t move as quick as Eric Bledsoe does. So guards like that, it’s hard to guard when you’re tall.”
To read more of Archie’s thoughts on the team, including Willie Cauley-Stein, click on over to ZagsBlog.
Seinfeld and Larry David Headed to the Stage: Is Broadway the Last Unexplored Frontier for Big Comedy?
By C.M. Tomlin on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 4:44pm
During a Reddit Ask Me Anything session last week, Jerry Seinfeld hinted that he and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David may be reuniting in the near future on something “gigantic.” Yesterday, news broke that the pair may possibly be collaborating on a Broadway show together. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the fact that Seinfeld’s dabbled in the theater world by recently directing pal Colin Quinn’s Long Story Short and Larry David tipped off his affinity for musical theater by dedicating an entire season of Curb Your Enthusiasm to a storyline wherein he took the lead in the Broadway hit The Producers.
The news of a Seinfeld/David Broadway collaboration is more interesting, however, because it denotes the further attempted colonization of musical theater by actual comedians. For almost a hundred years musical comedy has been relegated to vaudevillian puns, outrageous mugging and physical slapstick – all fine stuff if you’re into that sort of thing – but while Broadway musical comedies have traditionally been of the “funny enough, I guess” variety, I don’t think we’re breaking any barriers here by admitting that precious little of it was really truly, riotously, cleverly funny. A large woman henpecking her husband by hitting him with a bouquet of flowers is fine comedy for, say, 1942 – but this is 2014, and hilariously running back and forth while you hold on to your hat isn’t as funny as it used to be.
The first glimmer that real, live Big Comedy (and I capitalize the term to denote comedy spearheaded by well-known, respected comic writers and performers) could find a home on the Great White Way came, admittedly, with curtain raising on Mel Brook’s The Producers in 2001. Here was a show based on a film widely hailed as great comedy, a fan favorite from a comic mastermind. Would it work in musical form? Could it be musical-ized without being cornball? It could. Brooks made waves not only by making The Producers a bona fide Broadway hit, but by showing Broadway audiences that risque comedy works on the big stage as well as it does on the big screen. Dirty jokes! Sex-starved ladies! Hitler enthusiasts! It sure wasn’t a four-hundredth revival of Oklahoma.
Over the next few years more shows began to test the waters of legitimate comedy in musical theater: Avenue Q, a raunchy puppet show with satirical musings on yuppie life: The Drowsy Chaperone, which starred Bob Saget in an upending of traditional musicals; and Spamalot, a musical endorsed by British comedy troupe Monty Python and attracting star players like Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce. Suddenly Broadway comedies were not only playing like television and film comedies, a few of them were actually blowing up pretty big.
If the internet and channels like The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim were, at the same time, heralding and breaking new “small comedy” – viral videos, produced and filmed bits from regional improv gangs – Big Comedy was swinging its dick on Broadway, as if to say “we know exactly how hard it is not only to put on a Broadway Show, and keep it on, and we have the backing, power and material to do it. This is even bigger than a movie.” Indeed, there are countless stories of starry-eyed “let’s put on a show” crews who had to go back to Kansas or, worse, waiting tables. Big Comedy was busting out on stage in a big way and leaving the carcasses of the eyelash-fluttering best gals and crooning fellas of old Broadway in its wake.
It seems like a no-brainer, if you think about it. Music has always gone hand-in-hand with comedy – why did it take so long for legit comedians to take a run at the marquees of Broadway? The proof that Big Comedy was on Broadway to stay came when Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of the notoriously blue television hit South Park, collaborated with Broadway vets to create The Book of Mormon, nabbing an insane fourteen Tony award nominations for their take on the Latter Day Saints. Stone and Parker, of course, have always shown a respect for music (one of the most brilliant bits of the South Park movie, in fact, was a Les Miserables song spoof); the fit seemed organic. And it worked.
Now, as juggernauts Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David announce they’ll tackle the stage, it certainly seems likely that Big Comedy will once again find its place in the footlights – and no doubt inspire the next big name or troupe to try their hand at bringing their stuff to theater audiences. It’s kind of fun to watch, really. After all, for the past fifteen years we’ve been under the impression that viral video aggregators like YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion were the last undiscovered country for proving comic chops. For established big-name comics, fist-pumping onto Broadway to find out how much your adoring audiences really love you has been right down 42nd Street all along – and may in fact be the true Wild West for contemporary comedy.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 4:30pm
After opening as a 2.5-point favorite over the Razorbacks yesterday, the Cats are now a 1-point underdog in tonight’s game in Fayetteville. Calipari is 0-2 in games at Arkansas, and this will be his young squad’s first real SEC road test (I don’t count Vandy).
Perhaps Cal can use the underdog role to motivate his team to capture that sense of urgency he’s been looking for all season?
By Jonathan Schuette on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 4:00pm
In five short hours, Kentucky will put their four game win streak on the line when they march into Bud Walton Arena to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The home of the Hogs has been a house of horrors for John Calipari in his first two visits as Kentucky’s head man. Not only did the 2011 Final Four squad lose in Bud Walton to an Arkansas squad that finished with thirteen losses on the year, but the Nerlens-less Cats from last year were pummeled in Fayetteville by a 13-point margin. While the 2011 loss to John Pelphrey’s Hogs occurred for a number of reasons, blame for last year’s loss to Mike Anderson’s team can be attributed to one factor alone – Kentucky’s eighteen turnovers.
It’s no secret that Mike Anderson wants his team to force turnovers. In fact, since 2002 when he began coaching at UAB, his teams have been ranked within the national top-10 in defensive turnover percentage nine times. This season is no different from the historical trend as the Razorbacks are ranked 6th nationally in turnover percentage. Obviously, this style of defense can wreak havoc on the opposing offense, but it’s also instrumental in setting up easy transition buckets on the offensive end of the floor. The numbers back this up as well. As indicated by the table below, when Arkansas forces a steal and decides to shoot in transition (within ten seconds of the possession), a shot attempt at the rim will occur nearly 75% of the time – a recipe for efficiency as evidenced by their 71% field goal percentage at the rim in transition.
While forcing turnovers to get easy offensive run-outs is the Mike Anderson way, there’s another, more overlooked way to get even more offensive opportunities – defensive rebounding. In terms of defensive rebounding, the Hogs are only pulling down 65.8% of available boards – good for 271st nationally. This won’t strike fear into an offensive rebounding juggernaut like Kentucky, but there is some cause for concern here. This low ranking is mainly due to the fact that Anderson has most of his players release to the other end of the floor for an easy run-out while the big men battle for boards. Obviously, because of this, the Hogs aren’t pulling down too many defensive boards, but they are getting easy offensive opportunities when they do pull one down. As the table below indicates, when Arkansas pulls down a defensive board and decides to shoot in transition (within ten seconds of the possession), 41% of their attempts come at the rim with 56% accuracy. The combination of transition shots after rebounds and turnovers combine for 28.4% of Arkansas’ total field goal attempts – good for 33rd nationally.
Naturally, field goal percentage at the rim after rebounds isn’t as high as its steal counterpart due to the sheer number of defenders already back on the other end of the floor, but they’re still getting easy buckets as a result. When you pair these percentages with Kentucky’s shaky transition defense (75.9 FG% allowed at the rim after a steal and 74.2 FG% allowed at the rim after a rebound), you have a recipe for easy buckets on offense.
As for tonight, I don’t anticipate Arkansas having too many run-outs after defensive rebounds as Kentucky is an absolute titan on the offensive glass. However, I do anticipate the Hogs to get a number of easy points after steals as the Cats struggle in that offensive category – as evidenced by our 183rd ranking in offensive turnover percentage. In order to minimize the risk, Julius Randle must look to pass when double and triple teamed in the post. Additionally, passes from James Young and the Harrison twins cannot be lazy or telegraphed as the Arkansas guards and wings will feast upon the opportunity. If these problems persist, it’ll be difficult to come out victorious tonight. However, if Kentucky can limit Arkansas’ transition opportunities by cutting out turnovers, there’s a very real opportunity for a marque road victory in one of college basketball’s most underrated venues.
With the SEC season officially underway, Andrew Harrison is steadily making progress in becoming the point guard Calipari wants him to be. However, like with every player, there are some areas where he can improve. With that being said, let’s dive into the stats to see what he is doing right and what he can improve on.
Here are his stats courtesy of ESPN:
What He’s Doing Right:
With the extraordinary talent on this Kentucky team, every player is looking for their fair share of shots. Andrew, being the point guard, doesn’t need to score as much as his teammates do. His job is to start the offense and to beat his man off the dribble to get to the basket. One thing to note, in every double digit win Kentucky has had, he has taken <7 shots per game. In games where Kentucky lost or won by single digits, with the exception of Michigan State, Andrew attempted >7 shots. If he can be a shot creator instead of a shot maker, this will have more of an impact for Kentucky. When he has the open driving lane, he needs to drive and get fouled, since he’s making 71% of his attempts at the line.
Free Throw Percentage: 71%
I know 71% from the free throw line doesn’t seem like a good number, but hear me out. In games where he has attempted <9 free throws, his average from the line is 81.5%. He has only attempted 10+ free throw shots in 2 games this season. He was 10-17 vs North Carolina and 6-12 vs Louisville. When he gets to the line, he shoots an excellent percentage. If he can get to the line more than 10 times per game, I’m fine with it. He just needs to knock them down when he gets there.
What He Needs to Improve On:
Steals per game/ Personal Fouls
On the season, Andrew only has 4 steals, but averages 3.4 fouls per game. With Andrew guarding the primary ball handler for the opposing team, his lack of quickness seems to be hurting his defense. Aaron is more natural playing the shooting guard and Dominique, who has played excellent this season, doesn’t seem to be comfortable bringing the ball up the floor. Andrew needs to be in the game for Kentucky to be elite. In the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Kentucky can’t afford their leader and best play maker to be sitting on the bench. With an emphasis on defense and coaching from Coach Cal, I think his foul numbers will go down.
With the Cats facing the Arkansas Razorbacks tonight, Andrew Harrison is the key. Can he stay out of foul trouble? Tonight will be a great test for the Cats to see how they handle the hostile crowd down in Fayetteville. If Andrew can make plays for his teammates before himself, while staying out of foul trouble, this team will be fine. As always, GO CATS!
Follow me on twitter: @Perk_21KSR
Is it too early to discuss seeding? Is it ever too early to discuss seeding? Is it always too early to discuss seeding? I don’t know, but I’m about to discuss seeding. Although Kentucky is just now getting things rolling in conference play and plenty of unknowns and variables exist– those hoping for as good a seed as possible for the Cats have to start watching for certain things to start happening from here on out. Joe Lunardi (ESPN’s resident bracketlogist… had you heard?) currently projects Kentucky as a #4 seed in his most recent bracketology, which was released on January 9th. As a current 4 seed, a number of things could happen to bump Kentucky up a few lines into a highly coveted and highly favorable seed (a 1-seed is certainly a long shot but still in the realm of possibilities, for now anyway), or a number of things could happen to drop Kentucky into a less than favorable seed. Let’s take a look at some of the things that could happen, and what we should hope for as we watch the next month and a half transpire, and what we should root against happening.
What Kentucky can control:
Obviously some things are out of Kentucky’s hands as far as what happens with other teams and results, but Kentucky has control over its own destiny when it comes to the Cats’ schedule.
Best Case Scenario: 1-2 SEC losses
The fact that Kentucky already has 3 losses on the season isn’t a HUGE downfall for them, especially considering that 2 of the 3 teams are Top-15 ranked teams (Michigan State and Baylor). And North Carolina, although very inconsistent– has a handful of surprising wins against some of the best teams on its schedule. If Kentucky could keep the total loss total on the season to the 3-5 range, that would give Kentucky its best shot at a really good seed (I consider really good to be a 1 or a 2 seed). Winning tonight on the road at Arkansas, I think, greatly increases Kentucky’s chances of not dropping more than 1-2 games in SEC play with a favorable schedule and a relatively “down” SEC.
Average Scenario: 3-4 losses
If Kentucky picked up 3-4 SEC losses, assuming at least 1/2 of them were to teams like Florida or Missouri as opposed to the bottom/middle of the pack SEC teams, the Cats could still be in decent shape seed-wise. I think 3 things are important here for Kentucky:
1) Don’t lose all of the games against the top teams (aka Florida, Missouri). Kentucky needs to pick up at least 1-2 quality wins among that group of games.
2) Avoid a streak of losses. Sometimes the worse thing that can happen as far as the perception of what a team really is or isn’t can be a bad losing streak of even as few as 2 games. If you lose one, you don’t want to keep the bad momentum rolling with another loss quickly.
3) Avoid a loss to a bad team. (And IF Kentucky is going to take a “bad loss,” it needs to be on the road). There are some teams in the SEC that quite frankly, it would just look really bad to take a loss against.
Worst Case Scenario: Lose more than 5 SEC games
If Kentucky drops more than 5 SEC games, considering the overall weakness of the conference, along with the 3 losses already– the resume’ wouldn’t look great for a favorable seed.
What Kentucky can’t control:
Best Case Scenario: Some of the teams in the top 10 need to start losing some games
A few teams seem like locks for a #1 seed, at least at this point (example: Arizona and Syracuse). It’s not necessarily so important that those teams start to drop some games, but the next tier of teams vying for the rest of the 1 seeds and 2 seeds could stand to lose some games to help Kentucky’s cause. If Kentucky can keep winning, and some of those teams start to take losses– it might only be a matter of time before Kentucky leap frogs some of those teams (example: Villanova, Florida, Iowa State, Ohio State). The more those teams lose, the better (assuming Kentucky racks up impressive conference wins).
Average Scenario: A few of those teams in the 4-12 range in the rankings begin to catch fire.
The problem with the perceived (and in all honesty, likely the reality) weakness of the SEC is that if Kentucky keeps winning AND the teams in front of them from tougher conferences keep winning… the pecking order won’t change much. The teams ahead of Kentucky have to do worse than Kentucky when it comes to conference play.
Worst Case Scenario: The teams in front of Kentucky all stay in front of Kentucky AND other teams catch fire who are currently BEHIND Kentucky
A few teams behind Kentucky right now are potentially dangerous (example: Kansas, Duke, Memphis, Louisville). Kansas has been playing much better lately, while Duke has been moving in the opposite direction. If Kentucky doesn’t excel in conference play, and teams like Duke and Kansas get hot, along with the scenario mentioned above– it’s a bad recipe for Kentucky.
What Kentucky can watch for with teams they have played/will play:
Best Case Scenario: The tough teams from Kentucky’s schedule continue to remain respected/perform well.
Even though I hate Louisville as much as the next person, Louisville is Kentucky’s best win to date. Louisville needs to remain a top-25 ranked team in order for that win to keep looking as good. Kentucky’s losses will look better too if Baylor continues to do well, along with Michigan State. North Carolina could help Kentucky out by doing more of the good UNC, and less of the “what the hell?” UNC. Kentucky also needs for the SEC teams who are currently respected to keep doing well: Florida, Missouri, Arkansas. Kentucky still could use a few marquee wins, and when those opportunities come– those teams still need to be ranked or at least considered to be tourney teams. In a perfect world, a few other SEC teams might climb into contention as well so that those wins look more respectable. That appears to be a bit of a long shot though.
Average Scenario: The tough teams from Kentucky’s schedule do average/the SEC schedule only produces a few chances for quality wins
If some of Kentucky’s good wins and perceived good losses (Michigan State, Baylor, UNC on the road) lose value because a team like Louisville underperforms or a team like Baylor goes on a big skid, or a team like UNC falls into complete shambles– it wouldn’t be great for the Cats. If some of the quality SEC teams now start to fall off (example: Missouri or Arkansas), that wouldn’t be great either.
Worst Case Scenario: If everyone Kentucky played starts to collapse and the SEC is a free for all.
If the SEC creates a bunch of middle of the road teams, with no great teams for Kentucky to score wins against– that would be the worst case scenario. If Louisville falls out of the top 25, or UNC goes .500 in the ACC, or Baylor drops out of the top-25… all of those things would be really bad for Kentucky.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 3:00pm
Looks like the Manchester Federal Correctional Institution is about to get a new shooting guard. This afternoon, former Cat Richie Farmer was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for misusing funds during his time as State Agriculture Commissioner. That’s the maximum sentence. Farmer must also pay $125,500 in restitution to the state as part of his plea agreement.
He will report to prison on March 18. No word on what happens to all the stolen VCRs and fax machines.
– Elizabethtown (Ky.) John Hardin 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam will take an official visit to Alabama this weekend.
Elam was downright euphoric after his Nov. 9 visit to Tuscaloosa for the Crimson Tide’s win over LSU and a return trip could potentially tip the scales of his recruitment back in Bama’s favor.
Since he was expected to pick Kentucky, not sure how you can read Elam’s decision to postpone his announcement as anything but bad news for the Wildcats, but still think UK leads heading into Elam’s visit this weekend.
– Wednesday marks the end of the dead period and it will be very telling as to whom the Kentucky staff reaches out to in an attempt to fill its four remaining spots in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day Feb. 5.
In addition to Elam, the UK staff would also like to add at least one more offensive lineman (tackle specifically) and another playmaker in the secondary.
– In addition to hosting three current commitments (Blake Bone, Jarrett LaRubbio and Stanley Williams), the Wildcats will also have a handful of recruiting targets on campus for official visits this weekend:
Birmingham (Ala.) Spain Park
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 305
It will likely come down to UK and Mississippi State for Stallings, who is being recruited by UK offensive line coach John Schlarman.
Stallings is originally from Mississippi and had a brother who played at Ole Miss.
Niles (Ohio) McKinley
Ht: 6-8 | Wt: 300
Krok is currently committed to West Virginia but is mulling over a visit to Lexington this weekend.
Whether he actually makes it to campus will be a huge indication of his interest in the Wildcats.
Outside of Elam, offensive tackle is UK’s No. 1 priority to close out this class.
Eden Prairie (Minn.) Eden Prairie Senior
Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 250
Olson’s offer sheet (Yale, Nevada, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State) won’t blow you away but he’s a kid with a lot of upside.
Likely the UK staff wants to get him on campus and get a look at him before deciding to pull the trigger on a potential scholarship offer.
Tampa (Fla.) Tampa Catholic
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 210
Louisville was the heavy favorite for Harrell before Charlie Strong’s departure, which has given Kentucky a chance to get its foot in the door for the talented playmaker and this weekend’s visit will go a long way in determining UK’s chances.
Harrell is cousins with UK running backs coach Chad Scott. Florida State, Michigan State and Ole Miss are also in the mix.
– Kentucky also had its eye on Louisville (Ky.) Seneca 4-star defensive end and former Vanderbilt commitment Lloyd Tubman, who followed James Franklin and flipped to Penn State.
It is unclear as to whether Tubman will take his scheduled official visit to UK this weekend.
– Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln defensive back Kendall Randolph has canceled his scheduled official visit to Louisville this weekend and is likely down to Kentucky and Oklahoma.
He will visit UK Jan. 24 and Oklahoma Jan. 31.
– UK defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley‘s name has been bandied about as a potential replacement for the same position at Georgia.
The Bulldogs recently lost their defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, to Louisville, so the defensive backs hire may be put on the back burner for the time being.
For more recruiting scoop, head over to CatsPause.com.
Follow Chris Fisher on Twitter @ChrisFisher247.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 2:00pm
Ready for a little after lunch reading? ProBballReport.com’s Stephen Brotherson has a nice profile of Patrick Patterson on his site today, in which the Toronto big man opens up about how coming back to UK for his junior year and playing under John Calipari changed his game for the better:
“Being taller than everybody, I was forced to play the 5,” Patterson said. “In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game. He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.
“It opened up my game. Had I not stayed with DeMarcus (Cousins) and John (Wall), I would have come out as a 6’8 center. A guy who had never stepped out to the three-point line or even taken an 18’ jump shot, I would be pretty much a version of Chuck (Hayes), but not as strong and not as wide. That would have been my game, just around the basket and then I would have had to start from scratch when I got to the NBA. Coming back with John and DeMarcus and Calipari is definitely the reason that I am the type of player I am today.”
Calipari is attempting to do the same thing with Julius Randle, who more often than not is flooded with double and triple teams in the post. We’ve seen glimpses of Randle’s perimeter game this season, and it’s very much still a work-in-progress, but if he could develop at least a mid-range jumper, he’ll be an even more successful pro. Just look at the effect it had on Patrick.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2014 @ 1:17pm
And now, for some “news that makes you go hmm”: someone is selling Matt Elam’s Army All-American practice game jersey and pants on eBay. The seller, “thesofasurfer,” says Elam gave him the jersey and pants as a gift, and has them priced at $300. Here’s the description:
Winner of the the Paul Hornung Award as the State’s # 1 player, Matt Elam just played in the 2014 Army All-American Game and is a phenom to say the least: he’s ranked 7th OVERALL in the Nation (not his position but overall), he’s 6’6, weighs 350 and runs a 4.9 40 (that’s moving folks, for a man his size!). Matt hasn’t decided where he is going to college in the fall but you can guess many recruiters like UK, Alabama and Notre Dame have been on edge. I obtained this jersey and pants from Matt as a gift and only his used practice jersey pictured are part of this auction and NOT the 2 jerseys and yellow undershirt above his practice jersey that are pictured in photo # 4. The other jerseys pictured in photo #4 are not a part of this auction but only meant to compliment the practice jersey. Matt’s a great person, humble and I know he will make a bigtime impact at the next level; he was probably the biggest guy on either the East or West squad at the Army All American Game. Shipped via Priority Mail box with signature delivery confirmation for $11.00; express is $55 with insurance.
The seller also lists Elam’s used RGIII Quickframe cleats, a pair of adidas shoes Elam was given and adidas travel bag from the game in separate listings.
I love Elam, but this does not sound good.
UPDATE: Here’s a picture of the seller, Kenneth Stevens, in Peyton Siva’s jersey, with Peyton Siva’s dad from his Twitter profile. (Thanks, RD)
Don’t gloat so fast, Louisville fans. It looks like Kenneth has James Quick’s game used jersey, helmet, and gloves for sale too. I’m pretty sure he’s still on Louisville’s roster, too…
UPDATE #2: The auction for Elam’s practice jersey and pants has ended: