Good evening, sports fans. Drew here, back at the KSR Lexington office after defying the odds →
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It may not feel like it, but once the clock strikes 12 tonight it will officially be March. March has come faster than most would like (especially those waiting for the basketball team to ‘turn things around’), but it cannot compare to the sadness experienced by those born on February 29th. You learned in elementary school that once every four years there is an extra day in Febraury, but what you didn’t know is that Leap Years have been some of the Wildcat’s most successful years on the court. Rather than celebrate unbirthdays for Ja Rule or Tony Robbins, take a look at just how great the Cats have performed during Leap Years:
2012: National Championship team led by Player of the Year and #1 draft pick Anthony Davis.
2004: The “SuffoCats” led by Chuck Hayes and Cliff Hawkins won the regular and postseason SEC crowns before being upset as the #1 overall seed UAB in the second round.
1996: Rick Pitino’s National Championship team is arguably the best college basketball team of all-time, beginning a three year streak of National Title appearances.
1992: The Unforgettables put UK back on the map before losing the greatest college basketball game ever played.
1984: With Kenny Walker, Melvin Turpin, and a healthy Sam Bowie defeated Louisville in the NCAA Tournament on their way to a Final Four before falling to Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoya’s.
1948: Adolph Rupp wins his first National Title for the Cats with “The Fabolous Five” before taking his team to the Olympics, where they preceded to win Gold.
Now I bet you wish it was a Leap Year. Onto the news from today…
Kentucky opens as a 9-point favorite over South Carolina. The Cats will tip-off from Columbia tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN. If you’re round those parts, stop by The Flying Saucer before the game and hangout with Tyler Thompson and KSR’s favorite purple dinosaur, Fake Barney.
Stats say the Cats are still likely in line for a 5 seed. Sometimes Jonathan Schuette’s stats can be confusing, but today’s are simple to understand and EXTREMELY encouraging. While most fear the loss to Arkansas could potentially knock the Cats down to a 7 or 8 seed, TeamRankings.com’s statistical formula predicts the Cats have a 25.6% chance of getting a 5 seed, the highest odds of any other seeding position. May the odds forever be in the Cats’ favor.
Mrs. Polson for President. Larry Vaught has started a
presidential campaign to get Jarrod’s mother Chrisi to sing the National Anthem on Senior Day. Word on the street is that Mrs. Polson is an excellent singer as a member of Southland Christian’s choir. If the campaign does not come to fruition do not bet alarmed: popular local country act Sundy Best will be on-hand to perform “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Julius Randle is named a Naismith Trophy Semifinalist. Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Louisville’s Russ Smith also made the cut. You can see the full list here.
Somewhere on the KSR Road Trip Matt Jones is taking selfies with Bruce Pearl.
The Kentucky High School basketball postseason is in full swing. District tournaments are wrapping up tonight all over the state as teams begin their run towards the Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena. One performance that cannot pass through our radar was the play of Lafayette’s Jackson Davis. The Lexington phenom has been the talk of the town since decommitting Rice earlier this week. Tonight the 6’8 forward dropped 32 points and 31 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as Lexington Catholic went on to win 83-80 in 3OT.
Remember Sydney Moss? Randy Moss’ daughter was Boone County’s Miss Basketball in 2012 before heading to Gainesville to play college ball for the Gators. After becoming homesick she wished to finish her career at UK but Florida blocked the transfer, forcing her to play D-III ball for Thomas More College. Tonight, Syd the Kid set the D-III scoring record with 63 points against Waynesburg. Last I checked, that’s a lot of points.
Don’t forget to keep up with the KSR College Basketball Road Trip. Tonight they were in Manhattan to watch the fighting Steve Masiello’s defeat Iona 80-77 in OT. Just because Matt and Drew are gone doesn’t mean we stopped working: Mrs. Tyler Thompson is in Columbia and Ryan Lemond is on the mic to get you ready for what will hopefully be a feel-good win.
When you think of Kentucky/South Carolina basketball it’s hard not to think of the 2010 team heading down to Columbia to pick up their first loss of the season. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks Devan Downey isn’t walking through the door and since that 2010 win South Carolina is 0-6 against the Cats. With a record of 10-18 this year a win over UK could provide a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year. For UK it’s a chance to bounce back after last night’s disappointing loss. Here’s what UK needs to do to win tomorrow’s game:
Hit The Glass
South Carolina doesn’t do anything particularly well and they are especially bad at rebounding. They rank 170th nationally and 9th in the SEC in rebounds per game. Kentucky should be able to clean up around the basket. Arkansas was able to have success last night because they collapsed to the basket on defense and grabbed 27 defensive rebounds. UK’s offense is best when they are able to clean up misses around the basket for an easy score. Tomorrow in South Carolina they should have no problem returning to form against the smaller lineup the Gamecocks roll out.
Contain Michael Carrera
Last season Michael Carrera was the only guy who kept USC in the game as he scored 18 on 6-10 shooting. This season Mike has been in a a bit of a sophomore slump as his points and minutes have fallen back slightly. South Carolina doesn’t have the make-up of a team that should challenge UK but as we’ve seen all year you can expect the unexpected with this group of Cats. UK has played down to it’s competition all season long and if they mess around on the road tomorrow they could find themselves in trouble. Contain South Carloina’s guards, Carrera in particular, and we should win with ease.
What do you think the Cats need to do to win the game?
Hey you. Yes, you. The one furiously typing away at your keyboard in comment sections, message boards and facebook statuses. You are awesome. Your passion for Kentucky basketball is what makes the rest of us so thankful to be a part of the Big Blue Nation. You are the flag bearer for the BBN, and you are a huge part of what makes the Kentucky fan base the best fan base in college basketball – and arguably in all of sports. So thank you.
But we need to talk. I’m worried. I’m worried that you aren’t enjoying this season, that you’re letting the losses put you in an unexpectedly dark place. Sure, the season began with dreams of a 40-0 season, and to say that this season hasn’t lived up to those statements would be as pointless as saying Bobby Knight is senile – and there’s no need to restate the obvious. But it’s beyond the time to fret about the team, and now it’s time to realize that we only have about five weeks left of college basketball until next year. And there’s still a lot of basketball left to play.
Enjoy Willie Cauley-Stein for his individuality as much as you do his blocking prowess. Enjoy Julius Randle and his god-like touch by the rim. Enjoy James Young for the times he effortlessly racks up 15+ points in a game, before you know what he’s up to. It may be the last month those three wear blue.
Appreciate Polson’s senior night – if ever there was a Kentucky story, his is it. Watch Dominique Hawkins as he is poised to follow in Polson’s footsteps in the future. Love ‘Lake hair don’t care’ Jon Hood – he’s been through more adversity than most, and played with more NBA players than any other college basketball player out there.
Pull for the Twins – they have had to shoulder a heavier burden than most anyone else in the country this season, and they have grown tremendously. Give props to Dakari, who fought and played his way in to more playing time throughout the course of the year. Be astounded for Alex Poythress, who has really come in to his own, and has put himself in position to have a monster year next year.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves either. This season is a work in progress – the question now is how much progress has this team made? Last night was a hiccup, and that happens. Syracuse lost to Boston College, Arizona lost to Cal, and Wichita State hasn’t played anyone. The landscape is wide open, and Kentucky still has a very real possibility to put things together and go on a run. At which point, all the fretting will seem like wasted energy.
So what’s it going to be? Can you ignore preseason expectations and learn to enjoy this team for who they are? What will it take for this season to be a ‘success’ for you, the average fan? Title or bust? Final four? Elite eight? Or something else entirely?
Internet warriors – keep doing what you’re doing. Take to your keyboards and make the BBN what it is – but when you’re tempted to get down on the team, think of the positives instead. Think of UConn that lost 4 of its last 5 before going on a tear and winning the title. Think about the 2010-11 UK team that finally clicked in the middle of the tournament. And most of all, just enjoy the team – if you aren’t doing that, why bother? These are the last five weeks you’ll get to cheer for these 2013-14 wildcats, and they’ve been a hell of a team to watch.
The 2013-14 season is here, and Kentucky will spend the entirety of it trying to atone for the disaster was the 2012-13 season. John Calipari’s team is trying to do something that no team in the history of college basketball has ever done: Win a national championship relying primarily on 6 freshmen who were McDonald’s All Americans. With disappointing losses to a whole bunch of teams, the team will fail to reach its ultimate goal of perfect season, and will instead try to console itself with a national title. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*A Bad Goodbye (Feat. Wynonna Judd): Near the end of the UK-LSU game, Tigers guard and Kentucky native Anthony Hickey fouled out. In a shocking turn of events, Kentucky fans gave him a standing ovation. Make no mistake, however, UK fans were not applauding Hickey’s 20 points. Nor were they applauding his gutsy performance or the fact that he made big play after big play to keep LSU in the same. No, the real reason Cat fans applauded him was obvious: they are furious that John Calipari didn’t recruit Anthony Hickey, and they wanted to let Coach Cal know it. It isn’t often that a head coach is drowned in derisive and mean-spirited cheers from the home crowd, but that’s exactly what happened Saturday. Calipari even commented on this during his postgame show, saying that he was “impressed” that the fans cheered Hickey. Sarcastic much?
*State of Mind: A recent “Bleacher Report” article written by Jason King painted this particular group of Kiddie Cats as stoic, business minded and quiet. Come March, these personality traits will likely be UK’s undoing. In order to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament, a team must display passion, enthusiasm and emotion. This group of stone-faced automatons reveals none of these traits, and figures to be overwhelmed and outworked in the Big Dance by any team that is more excitable, even if they are less talented. Coach Cal frequently tells his players “I can’t hide you.” But with this group of wallflowers, he doesn’t have to worry about that. They do a great job of hiding themselves.
*A Better Man: After UK edged LSU on a fluky last second shot by Julius Randle, the players celebrated as if they had just won the national championship on a last second shot. This does not bode well for Kentucky. By displaying this amount of emotion during a regular season game after failing to cover the spread by 9 points, the Cats revealed themselves to be just ordinary, excitable teenagers happy to be playing the game that they love. Come March, these personality traits will likely be UK’s undoing. In order to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament, a team must be business-minded, and avoid the temptation to give in to the emotional ups and downs like the ones that accompany a closely fought contest such as what was witnessed in that game. This group of Kiddie Cats acted as if they’d never won a big game on a last second shot before where the opponent played its best game of the year. Unless something changes, they figure to be overwhelmed and outworked in the Big Dance by any team that is more stoic, business minded and quiet, even if they are less talented.
* On this date: On this date in 2013, Indiana was ranked #1, had two top 4 NBA draft picks, and surely to goodness thought they could get past the Sweet 16.
And now, for something positive. Last year, I wrote a long story about the Committee of 101, aka the blue-clad ushers in Rupp. They’re a fascinating group, with many, many lifetimes of stories to tell about the Cats, with whom they’ve been associated for almost fifty years. Rupp TV put together a small clip of interviews with the Committee of 101, which you can see above. You can also see Drew Franklin, who was probably sending a Snapchat.
Next time you’re in Rupp, walk up and say hello. You might get a cool story out of it. (From both Drew and the Committee.)
Although Kentucky’s 71-67 loss to Arkansas was a hard pill to swallow, something positive did come from it. We got to see Willie Cauley-Stein play perhaps the best we have seen him play all season long.
Cauley-Stein played his best game since the Cats first played Ole Miss earlier this month. Before that, we hadn’t seen a decent performance from Cauley-Stein since Vanderbilt at the beginning of the year.
Against Arkansas, WCS scored 16 points and had 13 rebounds, making the performance only his third double-double of the season. Nine of WCS’s rebounds were offensive and three turned into second-chance dunks. Total, Cauley-Stein had six dunks on the night. Cauley-Stein single handedly kept Kentucky in the game with Arkansas, but sadly the loss overshadows a stellar WCS performance that only a handful of fans will remember.
Throughout the season Cauley-Stein has been criticized due his poor performances throughout the season which have left media, coaches and fans less than impressed. Many think he should be replaced by Dakari Johnson, or at the very least lose playing time. However that’s not what the man in charge thinks as of late.
In the month of February, Stein’s minutes have gone up, but his performance has not really. So why does Cal continue to give Willie so much playing time? Because of moments like this. Last night we got a glimpse of what Cal sees in Willie behind the scenes every day.
If only we could see this performance from Cauley-Stein more consistently. Right now, consistency is the deciding factor between WCS being good and elite. We know WCS is a good player, if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be at the school with the greatest basketball tradition in the country and he wouldn’t see the increase in minutes Cal has given him recently.
What we don’t know is what he would be like if he was to make the jump from being good to being elite. We know what an elite big man will bring to the table, we’ve seen it in the Calipari era with the likes of Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and even Nerlens Noel who simply didn’t have the full season to show us that he was an elite. You have Jorts who was refreshingly good.
Now we have the “Pandora’s box” of a big man that simply hasn’t opened up yet. With time running short and uncertainty of how far that postseason run will go, consistency is all we want and need. If we see more consistent days like yesterday, we will see that jump and we will see elite.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©5:00 pm
Let’s take a break from the postmortem and look towards the future. Remember Charles Matthews, the 5-star shooting guard who become Kentucky’s first 2015 commitment earlier this week? I spoke with Jerry Meyer, 247Sports’ Director of Basketball Scouting, to get his thoughts on Matthews, and what his commitment means for the rest of UK’s 2015 class. To the Q&A!
What’s your take on Matthews?
Matthews is an exceptional athlete as a wing finisher. Capable of playing the two or the three, Matthews loves to attack in transition and along the baseline. More of a slasher than shooter at this point, Matthews has room to improve as a ball handler/passer. Defensively, he has the tools to be a force.
I see him most suited as a three in the system, playing a role similar to James Young. Matthews will improve as a shooter. He will also be a dangerous rebounder as a three man.
I don’t think it hurts at all. Anyone, including Kennard, is considering Kentucky because they want to practice against and play with great players. That is the recruiting sales pitch. If anything, getting the expected commitment from Matthews, helps with Kennard.
Kentucky is in a great position with its top 2015 targets. If there is a weakness, it is with the big men. If a post player separates himself this spring, I could see Kentucky going after him.
Nothing new on Gill-Caesar that I’m aware of but I’ve expected him to reclassify to 2014 and still do expect that. My prediction, however, is that he ends up at Michigan State.
Thanks to Jerry for sharing his thoughts. You can follow him on Twitter @JerryMeyer247.
Vegas has spoken and Kentucky opened as a 9-point favorite over South Carolina tomorrow in Columbia. Chime in with your thoughts on the line below.
If you’re making the trip to Columbia, join me, Fake Barney, and our parents at the Flying Saucer (931 Senate Street) before the game to talk about the Cats and prepare for a must-win game. (If it goes the other way, we may be back there later to drown our sorrows.)
After a crushing overtime loss to an Arkansas squad who entered Rupp Arena as a 10-point underdog, Kentucky must look to the future and prepare for what lies ahead. Of course, preparation for the future will prove difficult as the Cats have looked wildly inconsistent throughout the entire season. Planning will prove difficult in the coming weeks given our inconsistencies, but something which will inevitably be prepped for in the coming weeks is the NCAA Tournament. Our seeding undoubtedly took a hit last night after a home loss to one of collegiate basketball’s worst road coaches – but just how big of a hit did we sustain? While any number of Bracketologists can tell you where a team stands right now, TeamRankings.com has developed a formula to give the most probable future seeding based upon dozens of factors.
If you’re unfamiliar, TeamRankings.com is a site that specializes in statistics, odds-making, and computer modeling. This season, for their NCAA Tournament coverage, they’ve unveiled a system that not only predicts the likelihood of making the tournament, but one that gives odds on earning a certain seed as well. Whereas a typical Bracket Guru will tell you where a team currently stands, TeamRankings.com runs hundreds of simulations with every D-1 team’s remaining schedule to project the odds of obtaining a certain seed. After last night’s home loss to Arkansas, Kentucky’s most likely tournament set-up is a 5 seed at the present time. Below, you’ll see our current probabilities of earning any possible seed in the tournament.
At the moment, Kentucky has a 1-in-4 chance of earning a 5 seed according to Team Rankings. While there’s certainly time to improve that projection, our schedule doesn’t set up favorably for this to occur given our upcoming road-trip to Gainesville, Florida. As a result, our second most likely post-season set-up at this point is a 6 seed – Team Rankings gives this scenario a 1-in-5 chance of occurring. However, a 4 seed or above isn’t out of the question if Kentucky can somehow march into Gainesville and pull off an upset while winning every other game in which we’re favored. It is interesting (and sad) to note that the chances of earning a 3 seed or falling to an 8 seed have identical probability of occurring (6.7%). Now that we know where Kentucky stands according to computer simulations, just how much did the home loss to Arkansas hurt us? The probabilities below tell the tale.
Before last night’s game, a 4 seed was the most probable option according to Team Rankings with a 28% chance of occurring. While a 5 seed was the second most probable tournament set-up, there was at least an outside shot of obtaining a very high seed before last night’s game. However, statistically and logically speaking, those hopes have all but been erased at this point.
It’s anyone’s guess as to which seed Kentucky will earn for the up-coming NCAA Tournament. The team could use last night’s loss as motivation and move forward or they could continue the downward trend. Given the way the season has trended thus far, I haven’t seen much evidence that this loss will be used as a motivational springboard going forward. Who knows though, maybe this team will pull themselves up and out-perform their current 5 seed projection. While these projections paint a fairly accurate picture, the only thing that will tell us our seed with absolute certainty is time.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©3:30 pm
Tuesday is Senior Night, and our good friend Larry Vaught has started a campaign over at Vaught’s Views to get Jarrod Polson’s mother, Chrisi, to sing the national anthem. Country music duo Sundy Best is already scheduled to sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” but not the anthem, and Vaught thinks that having Mrs. Polson do the honors would be the perfect way to kick off the Senior Night festivities:
But why not make it even better and let Polson’s mother, Chrisi, sing the national anthem? She is an accomplished singer — one source told me “she is excellent and you wouldn’t believe how good she is” — and can you imagine the reaction from UK fans — and players — to having Jarrod Polson’s mom singing the national anthem on Senior Night. There likely would not be a dry eye in Rupp Arena — and certainly not in the Polson family — by the end of the ceremony.
Sundy Best’s Kris Bentley tells Vaught he’s heard Chrisi may sing the anthem, but it can’t hurt for the BBN to get behind the movement.
Chances are, I’m like you. After last night’s unthinkable loss to Arkansas, almost every part of me wants to throw in the towel and declare this season a complete failure. With the greatest on-paper recruiting class of all time and two returning players who could have gone to the NBA, the fact that this team currently sits at 21-7 with 4 losses in the SEC makes me want to smash the keyboard on which I’m currently writing.
But what good will that do? We are less than 24 hours away from March and I can’t afford a new laptop. It’s time to quit lingering on what this team could have been and start accepting this group for what it is. While the negative aspects of this team outweigh the positive, there are still a few encouraging facts that we can cling to. We are well aware of the reasons that this team will struggle in the tournament. For our collective sanity, let’s review some of the positives.
UK is still one of college basketball’s most talented teams
While the past two years have caused us to question the emphasis we place on talent, the fact remains that UK is one of the most naturally skilled teams in the country. This is a good thing. Look at it this way; if you were the Indiana Pacers, would you rather face the Brooklyn Nets or the Charlotte Bobcats in a playoff series? Both teams have nearly identical records, but I’m guessing the majority of us would rather play the Bobcats. While Kentucky has proven to be incredibly inconsistent, they can still compete with any one in the country on pure talent alone. This makes them inherently dangerous and gives us a little hope for the team’s postseason chances.
The Top Teams Are Vulnerable
I would argue that the only team that has been dominant this year is Arizona. It’s quite a turnaround from my feelings during the Champion’s Classic, when it looked like certain squads would be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. While Wichita State is on the verge of finishing the season with a perfect record, most computer systems have them ranked outside of the nation’s top 5. Florida has the same problem; both Sagarin and KenPom have them in bottom half of their top 10s. The team has also had several recent scares in the SEC (vs. Auburn, @Vanderbilt, and @Ole Miss). Kansas and Duke both have 6 losses, and Syracuse lost at home to one of the worst BCS teams in the country. Arizona is the only team that really frightens me; the rest of the field seems pretty beatable.
As BTI pointed out this morning, UK is one of the 10 teams that ranks in the top 40 for both offensive and defensive efficiencies. As previous tournament results have shown, this is a good place to be. Also, BPI (ESPN’s computer rating system that claims to the most reliable in college basketball) has Kentucky ranked as the 8th best team in the country. Do any of us agree with this assessment? Hell no. But the fact that a completely objective source that prides itself on reliability ranks the team so highly has got make us Kentucky fans feel a bit better. I think.
Hope is important. It’s helpful for us to be positive during this time of disappointment. Don’t you agree, Bruce?
Oh. Well then.
Regardless of what The Boss says, there are still a few reasons that this Kentucky team can have a successful postseason. Whether you choose to focus on them is up to you I guess. There is one thing that we should all be hoping for: that Adam Silver passes that new age limit soon.
After the Cats, a team many predicted to go 40-0, picked up their seventh loss of the season last night, everyone–from fans to media–is trying to figure out what happened with this group. Sadly, the bar was set way too high for a team consisting mainly of freshmen, and you can’t just pin the blame on the media. Cal and the players talked about the goal of going 40-0, and now that daydream has turned into a nightmare that seems to haunt the team in each outing. Adam Zagoria talked to an NBA scout this morning who was blunt about this group, going as far to say none of UK’s young players are ready for the league, including Julius Randle.
“Honest to God, people get so excited about Kentucky,” the NBA scout said by phone Friday morning. “And John [Calipari] does a terrific job getting those young kids, but at the end of the day, most of the time they’re going to let you down. And as good as they are, they need another year to learn how to win on the road and the whole thing.
“The truth be told, they all need another year. But Randle’s going to be a very high pick, so he’s gonna come out.”
Ouch. Go read more of the scout’s comments about Randle and the Harrison Twins over on ZagsBlog. After that, pray for two-and-through.
The team is on their way to Columbia, South Carolina for tomorrow’s game, and John Calipari spent part of his travel time reflecting on the loss. He just sent this message to the BBN via the Twitter machine:
#BBN, last night was not what I expected, but it does not change how I feel about this team. I love this team. We have a bunch of good kids who want to do well, but nobody said this was going to be easy. My job is to continue to paint a picture of how they need to play. It’s not so much about what I don’t want them to do; it’s about what I want them to do. There were seven minutes in the second half last night where we played exactly how we needed to play. They didn’t make every shot but they played w/the energy, the chemistry & the will to win we are looking for. But it was only seven minutes. We just have to refocus and get back on that positive path.
Beat South Carolina.
…he did have a Snapple and a Mr. Goodbar. Thanks to our KSR spy for snapping this pic.
Bobby played nice last night, especially when it came to Willie Cauley-Stein, but had some lines that truly left you scratching your head, including some questionable math that made Ryan Lemond look like Pythagoras. However, Knight did pay the BBN a nice compliment towards the end of the game, saying that whenever he brought his teams to Rupp, he could tell the state had fans who really appreciated the game. For Bobby, that’s like a love letter.
This season, both Dakich and Knight have called UK losses. Which UK hater is next up at the mic?
Congrats to Julius Randle, who was named a top 10 semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy today by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
Randle has 288 rebounds so far this season, the fifth most in UK freshman history; along with a team-high 439 points on the year, 12th most in UK freshman history. His 15 double-doubles are the 20th most in a single-season in NCAA history for a freshman. He now ranks 10th among any UK player in program history and third among all UK freshman behind DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis who both notched 20 during their freshman campaigns.
From March 3-17 the voting academy will select four finalists from this group. Those finalists will be announced March 23. Here’s the list of the ten semifinalists, from naismithawards.com: