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It was a fun and exhausting weekend for KSR and Big Blue Nation in Atlanta, our final trip to the Georgia Dome for college basketball, ever. Shout-out to all the fans who made the drive to support the Cats and fuel the team to a runner-up performance in the tourney, one that is a little disappointing but provided hope for the Big Dance. Moral victories don’t exist when you’re Kentucky basketball, but let’s not act like the two double-digits wins and that 14-0 run on Sunday didn’t get us fired up for more next weekend.
The team grew up before our very eyes in the SEC tourney and showed flashes of that fun-loving dominance we’ve seen from other John Calipari teams. Will that carry over to St. Louis? I don’t know. You don’t know. Will they continue to progress? No clue. But I do know one thing: I wouldn’t want to be Kansas State right now. That was a brand new Kentucky basketball team we saw in Atlanta and no one is going to enjoy seeing them in the NCAA tournament.
Let’s talk about it tonight before we talk about it some more tomorrow and all the way up until tip-off Friday night…
Oh boy! John Calipari was on the radio Monday night and he told his call-in show listeners that he did a little more tweaking after the loss to Florida. “It’s not a re-tweak,” he said. “But I did some more tweaking today for this week.”
“The tweak that we did will stay and I’ve got one more tweak now,” he added. “We got one more that I will throw in here that I think you will see, and you’ll say, ‘I got it. I see what he is doing.’”
The players had Monday off — outside of a team breakfast, a short meeting in Cal’s office, dinner and some film at Cal’s house — and then they’ll practice twice on Tuesday and Wednesday and then in St. Louis on Thursday to get ready for Kansas State on Friday.
“I’ve got three days to get these guys to continue on that path. We have to practice physical, we just have to keep doing it and I hate to keep doing it this late in the season, but you saw the difference.”
Calipari doesn’t call timeouts in late game situations, but did against Florida.
“As soon as I did, I was mad,” Cal confessed Monday night. He said Florida was barely hanging on, they were scrambling, and the timeout allowed them to huddle up with Billy Donovan for a pep talk.
“They were dying and they were looking for anything to grab onto,” he said. “Well, they got to their bench with their coach — ‘We can do this! We’re going to win! Do you dig in?! Yeah!’– that’s why you don’t call a timeout.”
He said Andrew Harrison waited a little longer than he wanted him to but it was fine, and if Young doesn’t slip, maybe they win the game. He thinks he would’ve gotten credit if that were the case, for calling the timeout and setting it up, but they would’ve done the same thing had he let them play. That’s why he regrets giving Florida the breather and resetting before the last stand.
What fueled Willie Cauley-Stein in the second half?
Kentucky’s sophomore big man played as big of a role as anyone in UK’s 16-point comeback in the second half against the Gators. He protected the rim, rebounded, hit a big free throw, and played with unstoppable energy on every possession on both ends. Coach Cal asked Willie what got into him after halftime when UK trailed big, and Willie told him, “I’ve never won a championship and all I’ve ever wanted to do is win one.”
We joke about Willie’s sidewalk chalk and coloring books, but that quote and his performance against Florida proved how bad he wants to win on the basketball court. Willie is determined and he will be a huge key to the Cats’ success over these next three weeks.
Julius Randle got some recognition on Monday.
Calipari said everyone had the most fun they’ve had all season in Atlanta except for maybe one player, but he wouldn’t say who. My guess is Julius Randle, but Randle had a reason to smile on Monday when he raked in a few more postseason honors to go with what he’s already earned. Monday he was named USBWA Freshman All-American, AP SEC Newcomer of the Year, and AP SEC First Team All-American.
Statistically, Randle currently ranks second in the country and first in the conference with 20 double-doubles on the season. His rebound total ranks 13th among any player in single-season school history, while his made free throws is the sixth most in a single year in UK history.
Atlanta wasn’t a great weekend for him individually, so he needs to pick his head up and have some fun in what will likely be his last few weeks as a Wildcat, beginning with a Friday night game against Kansas State in St. Louis. Calipari said, “We need to get him going.”
UK is No. 28 in the new AP poll, No. 22 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
Polls don’t matter anymore, not that they ever really did.
Beat Kansas State.
Kentucky is getting 50/1 odds to win the NCAA tournament.
Once the preseason favorite at 7/2, UK now has 50/1 odds to hoist the John Wooden Trophy in three weeks. Have a look at the teams ahead of UK, according to VegasInsider.com.
Michigan State 11/2
Wichita State 15/1
Iowa State 40/1
One Las Vegas sports book told Deadspin that Louisville should be the second favorite behind Florida but the Midwest bracket is just too tough. He believes the Cards and Michigan State are two of the three best teams and he’s shocked that they’re four seeds. [Deadspin.com]
UK Hoops lands in the Notre Dame regional as the three seed.
As Wilder wrote in the post just south of this one, Matthew Mitchell’s team got a tough draw that features Notre Dame and Baylor as the one and two seeds. Baylor is the same team that gave the Cats a four-OT game in Dallas earlier this season, one we won’t forget because it delayed the men’s game.
Kentucky will host 14th-seeded Wright State in the first round in Lexington on Saturday, with the winner of Syracuse and Chattanooga on deck in the second round game Monday night, also in Lexington.
This video of an LA news anchor reacting to an earthquake is all over the internet.
A quick laugh before bed.
Calipari on his radio show: “Let’s go do something crazy.
Go do something crazy.
Well, we avoided UConn…so that’s good right? The Kentucky women were placed in the Notre Dame regional of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Like on the men’s side, the selection committee threw some “say whaaaat?!” surprises in the mix this year, especially in the seeding. South Carolina surprisingly grabbed the 4th number one seed, and Louisville, a team who many thought was a contender for a one seed, wound up with a three seed.
Let’s break down Kentucky’s bracket:
Wright State will provide a tough match-up for UK in some aspects as the Horizon League team is extremely guard oriented, reminiscent of Kentucky teams of the past. The Raiders force 20+ turnovers a game and average only 12, but shouldn’t have the depth or size inside to keep up with Kentucky’s bigs. Looking ahead to a potential second round game against either Syracuse or Chattanooga, either opponent would provide a great and very entertaining game in Lexington. The Orange are the favorites, coming out of the ACC with a 22-9 record, beating who they should have, but not really garnering any big time wins along the way. Chattanooga could be the dark horse in this bracket, boasting an impressive 29-3 record, and the Mocs have won 25 straight. Granted, UTC has failed to beat any good teams this season, but they sure know how to win.
Looking ahead, the Cats could be in store for a repeat of that historic 4 overtime thriller against Baylor in the Sweet 16 if the Bears and UK were both to win their first two games. Matching up with All-American Odyssey Sims is something Coach Mitchell surely didn’t want to have to do again, but UK can be confident knowing they can play with and defeat BU. With Notre Dame as the one seed well…it’s definitely not what the Cats hoped for. Kentucky was surely wanting to play either two of the one seeds who weren’t undefeated, but alas, they get the undefeated Fighting Irish. The Irish have won all their games for a reason, but are not on that same “untouchable” level as UConn is.
Overall, the SEC got a nation-high eight teams into the NCAA Tournament (South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt) and the conference boasts two of the number 1 seeds in the field of 64.
Cats tip off against Wright State bright and early at 11 am on Saturday morning in Memorial Coliseum. Coach Mitchell is imploring the BBN to come loud and reward his team for a great season and the opportunity to host a sub-regional in the NCAA Tournament. Do it. Purchase tickets here: http://www.ukathletics.com/ncaawbb/tickets.html
As BTI pointed out this morning the last time Kentucky met Kansas State in the NCAA tournament we were en route to our third national championship back in ’51. Sixty three long years have passed since that last meeting and now the two teams will square off for a chance to play spoiler for Wichita State’s perfect season. As an average member of the Big 12 the K-State Wildcats aren’t a team we usually keep tabs on but now that we have them as a partner in the big dance it’s time to learn. Here’s some things you need to know about K-State’s body of work:
The Wildcats started the season of struggling as they left the summer battling a slew of injuries. In game 1 they lost at home to Northern Colorado despite taking a 5 point lead into halftime. Two weeks later K-State would drop back to back games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament to Georgetown and eventual champ Charlotte. Charlotte went on to finish 17-14 and 8th in Conference USA. Georgetown finished with the same 17-14 record and 7th in the Big East. K-State didn’t suffer and bad losses in conference but it should be noted they ended the season with a 2-4 record in their final 6.
In December the Wildcats found their stride as they went unbeaten and picked up a victories over 8 seed Gonzaga and 9 seed George Washington. In conference K-State held their own at home against the powers of the Big 12. They picked up home wins over 9 seed Oklahoma State, 5 seed Oklahoma, 2 seed Kansas, 7 seed Texas, and 3 seed Iowa State. On the road in conference play things were much different as they went 2-7 with their only wins coming over bottom feeders TCU and Texas Tech. The Wildcats were just 3-9 away from Manhattan this season.
Comparatively Kansas State was able to take down a good number more tournament teams this year than the Cats but that has more to do with playing in a better conference than better play. Kansas State finished 50th in the RPI and 44th in the KenPom. The Wildcats have an adjusted offense ranked 104 and an adjusted defense ranked 25th. Compare that with our Kentucky Wildcat’s KenPom ranking of 17th with an AdjO of 19 and AdjD of 35. Kentucky has played a better schedule and can score on more possessions. However, as the win column shows K-State can beat some solid teams, I just don’t think they can do it away from home.
What do you make of the other Cats’ resume?
DraftStreet is hosting a mega four-day survivor style contest for the first four days of the NCAA tourney with a prize pool of $40,000. The league opened its doors today for sign-ups and spots are filling fast so get in soon if you like college basketball and winning money. The first place winner will walk away with $10,000!
So how does the contest work? It’s simple: finish in the top half each day and advance to the next round. Final standings will be determined by your score on the final day. It’s like this…
Day 1: Top 1,000 advance (of 2,000 entries)
Day 2: Top 500 of 1,000 advance
Day 3: Top 250 of 500 advance
Day 4: Final 250 play for $40,000 in prizes
The action gets going Thursday and you could be the one holding all the cash when the first weekend is over on Sunday! So sign up now!
Pundits everywhere are talking brackets, and it’s been interesting to see which of them are picking the Cats to make a run. (Spoiler alert: not many.) Here’s a roundup of how far the national media thinks Kentucky will go:
Jay Bilas: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Wichita State over Kentucky: The Wildcats have been playing better over the past few games, but Wichita State is just the better team. The Shockers are relentless in getting to the glass, take great pride on defense and have guards that will not back down to Kentucky’s talent. Wichita State moves on.
Gary Parrish: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Matt Norlander: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Gregg Doyel: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Jerry Palm: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Jeff Borzello: Losing to Wichita State in the round of 32
Dennis Dodd: Losing to Kansas State
Dick Vitale: Losing to Louisville in the Sweet 16
Several analysts have Kentucky as their sleeper picks in the Midwest bracket, including ESPN’s Myron Medcalf and NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster:
Dark Horse (Kentucky): Yeah, this sounds crazy. But Kentucky showed some signs of life in the SEC tournament. And the Wildcats had a chance to knock off Florida in the final seconds of the championship game. They didn’t win. But they’re more focused than they were in their 84-65 loss at Florida March 8. Most of the teams that beat Kentucky this season were nationally ranked programs. And Florida is the only team that really crushed them. They’re big and athletic at every position. They’re certainly flawed and might not get beyond Kansas State in the second round. But what if Kentucky finally puts it all together in the next few weeks after securing a shot at someone other than Florida? Could it make a run? Maybe.
Final Four sleeper: No. 8 Kentucky
Are the Wildcats really a sleeper? You kind of sacrifice that name when you are the preseason No. 1 team in the country, but after a disappointing season, Kentucky heads into the dance as a No. 8 seed. The good news? They played their best basketball of the season during those three days in Atlanta. ‘The Tweak’ that John Calipari talked about so much was simply getting his team to buy-in to what he wanted. The key is Andrew Harrison at the point. He was terrific during the SEC tournament. He needs to be terrific in the NCAA tournament. If he is, this is still one of the most talented teams in the country.
The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy doesn’t go as far to make the Cats his sleeper pick (that’s Iowa), but he does have them making to the Sweet 16:
Don’t be surprised if: Kentucky finds a way to end up in the second weekend. Perhaps you should be surprised, because it probably should take two 40-minute efforts to overcome Kansas State and Wichita State, but the Wildcats played only about 15 good minutes against Florida in the SEC championship game and only lost by a point. The Wildcats remain dangerous to everyone in the field—including themselves, of course.
Also, who’s had this moment today?
Live at Memorial Coliseum, it has just been announced that the Kentucky women’s basketball team will be playing in their 5th straight NCAA Tournament as a 3 seed. The Cats will take on the 14th seeded Wright State Raiders in the first round right here in Lexington on Saturday at 11 am, with a chance to play the winner of 6th seed Syracuse and 11 seed Chattanooga on Monday night. UK is in the Notre Dame regional. A rematch of the historic 4 OT Baylor game awaits in the Sweet 16, with top seed and undefeated Notre Dame looming in the Elite 8.
Stay tuned for more coverage of Mitchell and Co.’s reaction to their NCAA Tournament placement.
The Kentucky and Kansas State Wildcats have met eight times, with UK winning all eight. The last came in the semifinals of the 2008 Las Vegas Invitational.
In a game that tipped off at midnight eastern the day after Thanksgiving, UK won 74-72 despite turning the ball over 31 times. Jodie Meeks dropped 37 and outscored K-State 24 to 23 in the first half as UK shot an incredible 68.8% for the game (22-32).
Above all, the game is most remembered by the BBN as the game that (then) freshman DeAndre Liggins refused to enter midway through the second half. The issue would, by and large, blow over as Liggins played 27 minutes the next day in the championship game as UK upset West Virginia, a high water mark in the Billy Gillispie era.
Click here for the original KSR game post which includes a great Photoshop of Billy-G.
The Other Seven Meetings:
1940: 56-26 in Lexington
1941: 28-25 in Manhattan
1951: 68-58 in the NCAA Championship
1962: 80-67 in the UK Invitational Tournament
1967: 83-79 in the UK Invitational Tournament
1972: 71-64 in Manhattan
1976: 81-78 in the NIT quarterfinals.
John Calipari is currently talking to Tom Leach on his radio show, and said that today, he did even more tweaking in preparation for Kansas State: “The reason I say there is room, we still have a couple of guys not playing how they’re capable of playing. I did some more tweaking today. It’s not a re-tweak. But more tweaking for this week.”
“The tweak that we did will stay, and I’ve got one more tweak now,” Cal said, joking that the national media was calling him to ask what the tweak was. “We’ve got one more that we’ll throw in here that I think you’ll see, and you’ll say, ‘I got it. I see what he was doing.’”
Here we go again…
While the Commonwealth of Kentucky has plenty to complaint about regarding the stacked Midwest region and the poor seeding, the
nature sanctuary state of Indiana did even worse, failing to get a single team into the tournament. Particularly, as you might have heard, the “flagship” program at IU wasn’t even offered an NIT invitation, meaning their season is officially over.
Feel free to take a minute to laugh. Again.
And speaking of laughing, McDonald’s All-American, Indiana native, former Hoosier recruit, and current UK signee Trey Lyles sent out a tweet that got his future teammate, Mississippi’s Devin Booker, questioning the intended target:
“@TreyMambaLyles: Currently LOL’ing” is this a subtweet at Indiana or no? 🙊
— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) March 17, 2014
Turns out that no, Lyles was just watching some particularly hilarious Kevin Hart stand-up, but I like where Booker’s head is at. Dealing with Indiana is one of the best and worst parts of being a member of the BBN. So while Trey wasn’t laughing at the Hoosiers (yet), thanks to Devin Booker for asking the question I wanted to.
Although, come to think of it, the Hart standup that had Lyles cracking up might as well star Tom Crean. After all, it was called Laugh at My Pain.
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then Indiana is gonna love the postseason when they eventually get there next year.
Want to cheer on the Cats in St. Louis? On Friday night, they’ll play in Session 2 at the Scottrade Center, with an approximate tip time of 9:40 p.m. ET (note: St. Louis is on Central time). Tickets are available via Ticketmaster for $66-$86/each. Click here to go getcha some. If you don’t like what Ticketmaster has to offer, GuyOnTheCornerTickets.com also has some deals starting at $98.
Meet you in St. Louis?
UPDATE: Groupon also has a deal for $63.90 tickets to Session 2 Friday night. Tickets are in the Mezzanine level. Thanks to chitowncat for the tip.
Turns out the AP voters didn’t think UK’s performance at the SEC Tournament was good enough to get them back in Top 25. The Cats are 28th in the latest AP poll, a three-spot rise from last week. They’re back in the USA Today/Coaches poll at #22:
Time to make them eat they feet.
Congrats to Julius Randle, who was named SEC Newcomer of the Year and All-SEC First Team by the Associated Press this afternoon. Randle was the unanimous choice for each honor. James Young also received Honorable Mention. Here’s a full list of honors:
u-Julius Randle, Kentucky, F, 6-9, Fr.
u-Scottie Wilbekin, Florida, G, 6-2, Sr.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee, F, 6-8, Jr.
Casey Prather, Florida, F, 6-6, Sr.
Jabari Brown, Missouri, G, 6-5, Jr.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee, F, 6-6, Sr.
Trevor Releford, Alabama, G, 6-0, Sr.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU, F, 6-9, Jr.
Patric Young, Florida, C, 6-9, Sr.
Jordan Mickey, LSU, F, 6-8, Fr.
Chris Denson, Auburn, G, 6-2, 181, Sr.; Kenny Gaines, Georgia, G, 6-3, 195, So.; Marshall Henderson, Mississippi, G, 6-2, Sr.; Charles Mann, Georgia, G, 6-5, 210, So; Rod Odum, Vanderbilt, F, 6-9, Sr.; Jarvis Summers, Mississippi, G, 6-3, 186, Jr.; James Young, Kentucky, G-F, 6-6, 215, Fr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
COACH OF THE YEAR — Billy Donovan, Florida
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR — u-Julius Randle, Kentucky
The knowledgable minds behind the Las Vegas sportsbooks are now speaking out against what everyone believes to be an incredibly lopsided NCAA tournament bracket. One oddsmaker, Ed Salmons of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, told Deadspin, “I don’t know why they’re doing this. It’s rare to see two of the top three teams favored to win the tournament are No. 4 seeds.”
Salmons called the Midwest region, where you’ll find Kentucky, the hardest bracket he’s ever seen in his life. “It was a comedy show to watch all the teams they stacked that Wichita State would have to beat to get to the Final Four. It was over-the-top insane,” he said.
That difficult Midwest region is why Kentucky now has 50/1 odds to win it all after opening the season as the favorite at 7/2. Louisville, the region’s four seed, is 8/1; Wichita State is 15/1.
The Cats faced No. 16 Missouri in a three-game SEC series over the weekend with Kelsey Nunley in the circle starting game one. The Tigers came out swinging and quickly went up 2-0 in the first inning. Mizzou then doubled their lead after the Cats were unable to produce in the 2nd and 3rd inning. Shannon Smith replaced Kelsey Nunley on the mound in the 4th inning and found herself in a jam that she could not get out of without any harm done, and the Tigers went up 6-0. The Cats were having no trouble reaching base as they found themselves stranding runners, 7 throughout the first 5 innings, but could not bring the runners to round for home. What looked like a rally from the Cats in the 6th inning after a Sagermann single and a double by Gaines to put runners on second and third with no outs came to a quick end after a line-drive caught ball by the third baseman who got the double play, followed by a ground out by Krystal Smith to end the inning. The Tigers didn’t hold off any in the bottom of the 6th, scoring one more run before the Cats finally produced in the 7th inning. However, it was little too late and 6 runs too short and the Tigers took the win 7-2 in game one.
The Cats were scheduled to face the Tigers once on Saturday and once on Sunday but due to inclement weather being expected they faced Mizzou in a double header on Saturday. Kelsey Nunley, with a 7-2 record and 2.15 ERA, started game one on Saturday in the circle for the Cats. The bats were still alive for the Tigers, who produced 2 runs in the bottom of the 2nd. The Cats did not score a run until the 4th inning when Samuel was unintentionally walked, stole second, Ansley Smith reached on a walk, and then Griffin Joiner hit a 2-RBI double, tying the game 2-2. Joiner is currently on 5-game hitting streak after starting the season on an 11-game hitting streak, which is a career best for the catcher. The game remained tied until the 7th inning when Lauren Cumbess hit her third homerun of the season putting the Cats up 3-2. Cumbess leads UK with 8 multi-hit games and is on a 4-game hitting streak. Kentucky was able to hold off the Tigers to claim to victory 3-2 and tied the series 2-2. The Cats are now 8-0 in games where they have hit at least one homerun.
The Cats headed into game three of the series with freshmen pitcher Meagan Prince in the circle, who was 5-1 on the season with a 1.44 ERA. The Cats produced two runs in the 2nd inning after a single by Steed and a homerun by Stokes. Mizzou then cut the lead to 1 in the bottom of the third but Kentucky stretched it back out by 2 after a RBI single by Carroll, who is on a 4-game hitting streak and has a .438 on-base percentage in UK’s last five games. The Wildcats entered the top of the 6th up 4-2 and Sagermann put the Cats up by three more runs after a 3-run homerun. Nikki Sagermann leads UK in SEC play with two homers, six RBI and a .588 slugging percentage. The Tigers went on to push 3 more runs across in the bottom of the 6th, cutting the lead 7-5 and then tied the game in the bottom of the 7th after a 2-run homerun. Pitcher Lauren Cumbess then came in to replace freshman Meagan Prince in the circle to get out of the inning, but then faced the Tigers in extra innings. Samuel started the 8th inning with a hard triple, the first of the year for the Cats, and then went on to score after a RBI single by Ansley Smith. Ansley Smith has reached base safely in 11 straight games for the Cats, which ranks 3rd in the SEC. The Tigers couldn’t rally back in extra innings and the Cats went on to defeat the Mizzou in the 8th inning, 8-2.
Kentucky is now 21-4 on the season and 4-2 in the SEC, which is the first time in school history that UK has won two road series to start SEC play. Kentucky will travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers at 5:00pm Tuesday in a non-conference game before returning home for a 15 game home stand starting Friday at John Crop Stadium.
Indiana will not participate in a postseason tournament because Indiana isn’t one of the 100 teams that received an invitation to the NCAA or NIT tournaments. One hundred teams, people.
The Hoosiers did, however, receive a bid to play in the College Basketball Invitational, a gathering of 16 teams that aren’t very good, but IU declined the CBI invite because Indiana is above that, apparently.
“We’re Indiana,” Hoosier AD Fred Glass said yesterday. “We don’t play in the CBI.”
One fan of the program put down his 2013 Sweet 16 coffee mug and picked up his 2012 Sweet 16 cordless phone and called in to Kentucky Sports Radio radio this morning to defend his favorite basketball team, reminding Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond that Indiana beat Kentucky on a buzzer-beater in December of 2011. It was such an Indiana move and it sent Matt on a rant about the fall of the Hoosiers:
I attended IU’s Senior Night two weeks ago (it was during a dark time in my life) and Tom Crean spoke to the crowd after the game, a loss to Nebraska, thanking them for being a part of Indiana’s rise to national prominence. Tommy and I must have contrasting definitions of national prominence, because I don’t consider a 17-15 season and no NCAA or NIT appearance being all that prominent. It’s sad, really.