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After spending a great deal of time looking for a worthy candidate to dedicate the news and views to, I settled upon the one and only Queen of Funk: Chaka Khan. Khan is known for producing groovy tunes as a member of the band Rufus before starting her own solo career. She became the star attraction of the band with her strong and hearty vocals and crazy outfits. Khan could do it all, singing, dancing and playing instruments on stage, and became one of the leaders of the disco/funk revolution. She has won ten Grammy awards and sold over 200 million records worldwide. No better person to honor today than a soulful funky musician if you ask me…
Sunday is her 61st birthday. Live it up Chaka. Now tell me something good Wildcats….
Coach Cal is Ready
Proud of our guys last night. We will have to play better tomorrow, but remember that was the first NCAA Tournament game for most of them.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 22, 2014
We’ll be busy preparing for a great Wichita State team. You don’t go undefeated without having really good players, which Wichita State does
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 22, 2014
Wichita State is Hard to Hate
In today’s pre-game press conference, the Shockers used their tournament darling charm to woo the reporters yet again. We can all agree it’s hard to root against such a “Cinderella” type team but it’s time to take away the love and shock the Shockers, right? That’s now even a more difficult task as WSU opened up about a few UK connections they had themselves. Ron Baker admitted growing up a UK fan, and he even said he’s been to a few Kentucky games this season. The Shockers were all about the praise, saying that they hadn’t seen athletes as strong and big as the ones UK had, especially for how young the Wildcats are. Stop making me like you Wichita….
Andrew Harrison Taking it “Day By Day”
After an ugly looking hyperextension of his elbow near the end of the last night’s victory over Kansas State, Andrew Harrison admitted he’s feeling a little sore today. Good news is that he didn’t have a sling or cast on, but he is icing it and taking it “day by day”. He plans on playing tomorrow though….fingers crossed.
Cats Know Wichita Has Swagger….Say Records Don’t Matter
It would be redundant to state the obvious. Kentucky, the team who some picked to go 40-0 this season, is matching up against the only undefeated team remaining in the nation, Wichita State. Willie Cauley-Stein said the team is aware of the situation, but they aren’t making a big deal of it. “You know they have a bunch of swagger with them and they are probably not really even thinking about their record. They’re probably just going step-by-step, game by game. That’s the way you really got to approach it.”
Coach Calipari agreed, and says he isn’t worried about controlling the Shockers, quite simply, because you can’t. “I watched five tapes. I am all taped out right now…I mean to be honest, I can’t control them.I’ve really focused on my team, but I want to have a feel for how they are going to play. I am focused on how do we continue to grow.”
Louisville Played the Ugliest Game of Basketball Ever
The Louisville Cardinals took down the St. Louis Billikens in the round of 32 today 66-51 to advance to the Sweet 16, just a UK win over WSU away from a Bluegrass Battle. The halftime score was a barn-burning 25-16 lead for UofL, and Twitter exploded with just how boring/painful/ugly the game was to watch….Good defense you ask? Nah, just ugly offense. We’re comin’ for ya Cards…
UK Hoops Open the NCAA Tournament With a Rout
The 3-seed Kentucky women put together a dominant performance to take down the 14-seed Wright State Raiders early this morning in Memorial Coliseum 106-60. Jennifer O’Neill led the way with 21 points, as seven different UK players scored in double-figures, and each player on the roster made at least one shot. The Cats move on to the round of 32 to face Syracuse on Monday night at 6:30. Coach Mitchell is hoping for one more sellout in Memorial Coliseum, so make it happen for him BBN, and cheer on the Cats to the Sweet 16.
Kentucky Baseball Takes the Series from #1 South Carolina
After posting a victory over South Carolina on Friday night, the Wildcats backed that up with a series clinching 2-1 victory over the top ranked Gamecocks. UK is now 3-0 against the number one team in the country, including a victory over Virginia to start the season. Shout out to the boy’s on the diamond as they go for the 3-game sweep tomorrow afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium at 1.
That’ll do it for me. Get a good night’s sleep Wildcat fans, we need all the positive mojo in the world to take down a one seed tomorrow. Until then…one love.
Amidst the steepest competition in collegiate gymnastics, the Kentucky Gymnastics team placed sixth overall in the SEC Championships and claimed second place in the first of the two meet session. Alabama won the conference title followed by: Florida, LSU, Georgia, and Auburn. Kentucky placed sixth out of eight with Arkansas and Mizzou rounding out the conference. It is the highest SEC Championships finish for the Cats since 2012 when Kentucky placed fifth out of seven. Audrey Harrison, Kayla Hartley, and Shannon Mitchell all earned All-SEC honors.
Kentucky started out on beam first, where Shannon Mitchell claimed a team best 9.850. The Senior duo of Harrison and Kayla Sienkowski both scored a 9.775, while junior Sara Shipley made her first appearance of the season with a 9.7. Taylor Puryear achieved a career-high 9.725.
The Cats then moved to floor where Audrey Harrison and Puryear both contributed 9.750′s. Juniors Shelby Hilton and Kenzie Hedges posted a 9.45 and a 9.375, and Kayla Hartley scored a 9.7.
After two events, Kentucky found themselves trailing in fourth place behind Auburn, Arkansas, and Missouri. They rallied on vault with a session-high event score of 49.175-the third highest team event score of the year. They were lead on the vault by Shannon Mitchell’s fantastic 9.875, and 9.85′s from both Holly Cunningham and Kayla Hartley. Kenzie Hedges and Audrey Harrison both scored a solid 9.8 on the event.
The fantastic showing on vault moved the Cats up to second place, tied with Mizzou. The Cats fought their way to an event score of 49.050 on the bars, the second-highest event score of the year, which secured the second place finish over Mizzou and the Razorbacks. Hartley led the pack with a 9.85, while Amy Roemmele and Kayla Sienkowski both contributed 9.825′s. Montana Whittle and Audrey Harrison posted 9.75 and a 9.8 respectively.
Now, the Cats sit and wait for the NCAA Selection Show on Monday. Kentucky is expected to make their 10th consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance, but are yet to know where they will be placed. This year, the Regionals will be hosted by three SEC schools: LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia, along with Penn State, Minnesota, and Washington. According to the schedule on UKAthletics, the Regionals will be on April 5th, while the NCAA finals will take place on April 19-20 in Birmingham, Alabama.
I can’t recall a game–especially one with stakes as high as this–being as completely incomprehensible as tomorrow’s matchup against Wichita State. In my view, the reason for this is because, even at this point in the season, no one really knows what either of these teams are capable of.
Even if you fall in the Wichita State believer crowd, you can still acknowledge why some people are tentative when it comes to the Shocker’s. Let’s be clear: 35-0 in Division I basketball is extremely impressive no matter which way you slice it. Better teams lose to inferior teams all the time (see: Mercer against Duke). Regardless of who you’re playing, to not lose a single game during regular season play is more than just an impressive feat–it’s shocking, especially in a sport where an outstanding performance by a single player can swing the tide of the game. Still, it would be hard not to hold onto at least a shadow of a doubt in regards to just how good the Shocker’s really are.
Since beating Alabama by five points on December 17th (over three months ago), Wichita State hasn’t played a single team that a casual fan of college basketball has likely heard of. This isn’t a critique of Wichita State’s scheduling. You can only beat who you play and when you are Wichita State, it’s easier said than done when it comes to scheduling top-notch teams. This is simply why some doubts are understandable, if not merited. Some people point to wins over Tennessee and Saint Louis as being WSU’s Saving Grace. Tennessee is a completely different team at this point in the season in comparison to where they were in mid-December when they were also losing to UTEP by nearly double digits. In regards to Saint Louis, Wichita State’s five-point win over the Billiken’s looks mediocre to fans that watched SLU play this weekend.
Kentucky’s physical advantages in tomorrow’s game are decisive. Wichita State’s experience, including a final four run last year, is possibly overwhelming. It’s hard to argue with results. Many have tried and many have failed. Kentucky’s results have been a mixed-bag. Wichita State’s, by contrast, haven’t been mixed at all. There bag has 35 wins and ZERO losses. In the end, trying to decide what you think will happen tomorrow probably comes down to how much stock you put in Wichita State’s results this year. I think Wichita State is really good. I don’t think they are a lot better than Kentucky. The spread, which is currently sitting at 2.5 points, and developed by people with one driving factor in mind–money, not fanhood–seem to agree with me. I think Kentucky pulls off the “upset” tomorrow. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised by anything. Neither of these teams has provided us with a concrete measuring stick.
Even with the new CBS/Turner deal that let’s you watch every game live like the good Lord intended, you can’t be everywhere at once. The internet can be everywhere, though, and I dug in to find you the 5 best nuggets from the Round of 64 that you probably missed while you were in the bathroom.
1. Manny Pacquiao and the Arizona State Sun Devils were stunned at the buzzer by 7-seed Texas
2. An 81-year old woman refused to let doctors begin fixing her collapsed lung until the Memphis-George Washington game was over
3. Mercer becomes America’s favorite team by upsetting Duke, and Kevin Cavenari becomes the unlikeliest person to hit the post game “Nae Nae”
4. An NBA-level flop sends Stephen F. Austin to the Round of 32
5. My favorite one of all. Mercer player videobombs his coaches postgame interview with a spot-on rendition of the “Chappelle’s Show robot. Here’s both for you to compare:
BEST MASCOT: Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Look at that beautiful mullet, suspenders, wrist bandana, and purple axe combo. This would easily be the Florida in the mascot bracket.
WORST MASCOT: St. Louis Billikens
WHAT ARE YOU?!?
In a world full of media training classes and political correctness it’s always nice to appreciate someone like Willie Cauley-Stein, who makes me glad he’s a Wildcat every time he opens his mouth to the media. Today’s Cauley-Stein quote of the day attempts to explain the physics of “swag” and how that will translate to tomorrow’s Kentucky-Wichita State matchup.
Cauley-Stein says UK, WSU playing with “a lot of swag.” “Those swags are gonna intertwine and whoever fights more is gonna win the game.”
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonRivals) March 22, 2014
Yes, Willie. Tomorrow at 3:00, the swags will intertwine. Whose swag will come out on top?
With the tying run 90 feet away and the go-ahead run at the plate, the much maligned UK bullpen gutted through a tense final inning to earn the Cats’ first save of the season and claim the series from the top ranked Gamecocks in a 2-1 win in front of 2220 on a gorgeous afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The bullpen had previously been 0-3 in save attempts on the season, including a gut wrenching loss in the series finale last week at Alabama. “I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with a team that’s had to play 23 games until they got their first save”, UK head coach Gary Henderson said.
Kyle Cody, who took over in relief for starter Chandler Shepherd with one out in the eighth, gave up a leadoff double to eight-hole hitter DC Arendas, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt to bring the top of the Gamecock order to the plate in the ninth. Henderson turned to JUCO transfer Spencer Jack who struck out the South Carolina lead off man Marcus Mooney. Henderson then brought in freshman lefthander Logan Salow for a lefty-lefty match-up with DH Max Schrock who grounded out to JaVon Shelby at second to end the game.
Once again the Cats got off to a hot start offensively as senior catcher Micheal Thomas put the Cats on the board in the second with a one-out solo shot to left for his fifth homerun of the season and second of the series to give the Cats an early 1-0 lead. Max Kuhn gave the Cats their second (and winning) run in the third with a two-out single that scored Shelby who reached on a leadoff base hit.
Henderson praised Thomas after the game saying, “It changes the game in the other dugout when the guy hitting behind A.J. (Reed) is not somebody that you’re not real eager to pitch to. If the guy behind A.J. (in the batting order) is hitting .230 instead of .430, all of a sudden A.J. is not seeing near the pitches (that he is now).”
The Gamecocks finally broke through in the eighth on a one-out sacrifice fly by catcher Grayson Greiner. Shepherd hit the leadoff man, gave up a single to the second, and both runners advanced to scoring position on a sac-bunt. That would end Shepherd’s day as Henderson turned to Cody who made his first appearance since the first of the month due to forearm tightness. Cody allowed Greiner’s sac-fly but got the next man to line out to second and strand the tying run at second.
Shepherd worked seven and one-third innings, giving up one run on six hits, and struck out four on 116 pitchers for his fifth win in six starts. Shepherd did put himself in a few tight situations, issuing four walks and hitting a batter that led to South Carolina’s only run, but worked is way out of them. “He wasn’t terribly efficient until it really mattered, then he really showed up, several times”, Henderson said. “Two weeks in a row now, every time he’s had to make a pitch to get us off the field, he’s done it.”
Before the late game excitement, the biggest fireworks came in the top of the fifth as South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook was ejected for arguing a force play a second. After a lead off single by nine-hole hitter Tanner English, Mooney hit a ball deep in the hole to short. Matt Reida had to range way to his right and threw across his body to second where English was called out despite appearing to easily beat the throw. South Carolina’s third base coach immediately protested the call and Holbrook sprinted out of the dugout and made a beeline toward second base umpire Todd Henderson who ejected him after about thirty seconds of animated arguing. The call would prove to be pivotal, instead of the Gamecocks having two on and none out, Shepherd would retire the next two batters to end the inning.
The Cats will go for their second consecutive home sweep of South Carolina and first sweep of a top ranked team since LSU in 1991 tomorrow afternoon at 1pm, which will be broadcast on ESPN3.
John Calipari just wrapped up his interview session in St. Louis before heading out to practice. Here are a few of the more interesting news items…
While Cal believes Andrew is fine, they’re preparing as though he’s not
I asked Cal how Andrew’s elbow is, and he said that while he thinks he’s alright, they’ll prepare as though he’s not:
“I think he’s going to be alright. We have to prepare as though, what happens if he doesn’t play? What happens if he’s 70%? Do we feel we should play him? We’ve just gotta prepare. He looks good. I think he’ll be fine.”
For the record, all of the players said they believe Andrew will go, and if he can’t, Cal says he hasn’t decided who they’ll use in his place. When asked if they’ll turn to Polson, Cal said “I don’t know how we’ll do it. We may have Aaron start at point guard” before joking “will they postpone the game for a little while so he’ll get healthy?” As if.
Cal doesn’t want his players to make this game bigger than it is
When asked if he’s trying to use Wichita State’s undefeated record as motivation for his team, Cal said he wants his team to think of this as just another game. “At this point, I just don’t want my team to make this game bigger than it is. It’s a basketball game,” Cal said, praising his team’s growth, but adding that they still have those “why’d you do that?!” moments. “We just don’t want to make it bigger than it is. It’s an NCAA tournament game against an outstanding team that’s well coached, that plays extremely hard and has a great will to win, has been in close games and then just made play after play after play. They’re good.”
Cal admits Julius is still a work in progress
You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. The cold hard truth about this team is that sometimes, they operate best with Julius Randle on the bench. Today, Cal admitted that Randle is “a guy that’s still trying to find who he is as a player.”:
“I was trying to help him and didn’t do a very good job until hopefully now triyng to get him to figure out exactly how he needs to play to have success both for himself and his team.”
Cal still wants more time with this squad
And not just two more weeks. Cal said he wants another month with this group so they can fully “lose themselves in the team.” Even today, Cal said that the staff will do more coaching than they’d like in practice, but that’s how it is. UK Basketball: Baby steps on steroids.
The word tweak wasn’t used once
It was kind of glorious.
This is becoming a trend. For the 2nd straight game the Kentucky baseball team took down #1 South Carolina at home, this time behind a dominant pitching performance from Junior Chandler Shepherd in a 2-1 victory. The righty Shepherd moved to 5-0 on the season by holding the Gamecocks to 1 run and 6 hits over 7.1 innings and striking out 6 along the way. The ‘Cats are ranked 27th in the country and with the win today improved to 17-6 on the year, 3-2 in the SEC.
The win marks the 3rd time in the history of Kentucky baseball that the Wildcats have taken a 3-game series from the country’s top ranked team, and the first time since 2012. The Bat Cats also improved their record to 3-0 on the season against the #1 team in the country, including their season-opening win over #1 Virginia.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©5:07 pm
Good, if cloudy, news from St. Louis: Andrew Harrison is not wearing a cast or sling on his arm today, and when asked, said that his elbow is in “some pain” after the hyperextension, but he’s icing it and taking it “day by day.” My buddy Larry Vaught asked him to expand on that, and Andrew said he expects to play tomorrow, and will do “whatever I can do” in practice this afternoon.
Send your healing vibes to St. Louis, please.
pic by Meisterburger blog
The situation UK faces tomorrow is not unprecedented in Kentucky history. Kentucky has faced an undefeated team in the NCAA Tournament, and in that case, it came out victorious. The 1975 Indiana team is considered by some Hoosiers fans to be their best ever. The Cats came into the game and pulled off a huge upset that is one of the better performances in UK history. Watch the video below to see the highlights and hear the voice of the legendary Cawood Ledford calling the action. A good way to spend your Saturday afternoon
It’s interview day here in St. Louis, and the Wichita State players just took their turn with the media. Ron Baker, Teleke Cotton, and Darius Carter all went up in front of reporters to share their thoughts on playing Kentucky tomorrow.
Ron Baker immediately won the room over when he said his father is a UK fan, and he few up watching Kentucky basketball, and has even been to a few UK games this season. “When you hear ‘Kentucky,’ you think of basketball,” Baker said, a sentiment echoed by his teammates. Tekele Cotton made everyone in the room feel old when he said he grew up watching Jodie Meeks play at UK, while Darius Carter said it’s hard not to know about Kentucky because they’re on TV so often.
The difference in recruiting rankings/pedigree has not gone unnoticed by Wichita State and their players. When asked if he recruited any of UK’s current players, head coach Gregg Marshall quipped “maybe the walk-ons,” and said that he didn’t even bother sending UK’s players a form letter. “Thats a different level of recruiting,” Marshall said. “We don’t even recruit the second level down from Kentucky’s recruits.” He even went as far to say that at Kentucky, “you’ve got some of the best athletes of their age in the world.”
Ron Baker is particularly impressed with Julius Randle, a “workhorse” who he said is unlike any 19-year-old he’s ever seen. As for the rest of the team? “I saw on the scouting report that their shortest starter was 6-6. You don’t get that anywhere else in the country.”
Stop being so likable, Shockers.
With only 3 teams competing in the NCAA Tournament, the SEC has earned and gained the reputation nationally of being a football conference, with only Florida and Kentucky as true every year contenders in basketball. However, could the SEC’s poor rep have been an exaggeration on the part of the media? With 4 teams in the NIT as well, the conference has 7 teams playing postseason basketball, and the results have been somewhat surprising.
Through right now, the SEC is 9-1 in postseason play with the only loss a 79-71 defeat for Georgia in the 2nd Round of the NIT. Florida has moved on to the Sweet 16 already, and Tennessee plays 14th-seeded Mercer for a chance to advance to the final 16 as well. Meaning if Kentucky can pull off the upset against Wichita State, its probable that the conference with only 3 teams in the NCAA’s can put all of them in the 2nd weekend of the tournament.
Maybe we’re not world-beaters in the Southeastern Conference, but we may not be as bad as you think:
First Round - W, 69-57 over (16) Albany
Second Round - W, 61-45 over (9) Pittsburgh
First Round - W, 56-49 over (9) Kansas State
Second Round - vs. (1) Wichita State, Sunday
First Four - W, 78-65 over (11) Iowa
First Round - W, 86-67 over (6) UMASS
Second Round - vs. (14) Mercer, Sunday
First Round (NIT): W, 85-77 over (7) Davidson
Second Round (NIT): vs. (3) Southern Miss, Sunday
First Round (NIT): W, 63-56 over (7) Vermont
Second Round (NIT): L, 79-71 vs. (3) Louisiana Tech
First Round (NIT): W, 91-71 over (6) Indiana State
Second Round (NIT): vs. (2) California
First Round (NIT): W, 71-63 over (4) San Francisco
Second Round (NIT): vs. (1) SMU, Monday
Hosting their first NCAA Tournament regional in school history and facing a team who doesn’t start a player over 6’0, the Cats knew they would have a few advantages facing Wright State in the opening round of the Big Dance. Kentucky used those advantages to dominate the Raiders, blowing out WSU 106-60 and move on to the second round. The Cats were paced by 21 points from junior Jennifer O’Neill, but seven different UK players scored in double-figures in an all-around offensive onslaught by Kentucky.
Coach Matthew Mitchell started out his press conference all smiles. “I’m thrilled with the margin of victory. It’s nice to see them come out and give good effort. We made a lot of mistakes today but we came out and attacked today.”. The Cats were forced into 22 turnovers by the nation’s leading school in turnover margin, but when you shoot 55% from the field, you make up for that. Kentucky routinely pounded the ball into the paint, and were rewarded with countless possessions with the help of offensive rebounds. UK out-rebounded WSU 67-40, tying an NCAA Tournament record for total rebounds in a game. The Cats also set a school record for total points scored in a tournament game and winning margin. Samarie Walker was a monster inside, recording a double-double….just in the first half alone. She finished with 12 points and 14 boards and was well aware of the size advantage going in to the game. “Rebounding is always an emphasis for us, no matter who we’re playing. This time he definitely emphasized it, there was no reason to lose the rebounding battle today.”
To round out the scoring, Thompson had 14, Harper had 12 Goss and Stallworth both had 11, and Bishop had 10. Every single Kentucky player recorded at least two points this afternoon, and when the Cats are firing from all cylinders like today, they’re almost impossible to defeat. Since post-season play began at the SEC Tournament in Georgia, the Cats have looked like a completely new set of players. Coach Mitchell knows that the sky is the limit from his team and is impressed with how they overcame the adversity of some disappointing losses in conference play. “The fact you wear a uniform and play for a university does not make you a team. This team decided to become one, this is an opportunity to show how good you are, but they don’t have anything left to prove to me. They’ve become a team, not much more you can ask. Now it’s all fun, to see where you can land: we hope it’s Nashville. This is a special group.”
Hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament is a privilege not many schools get to have, but Kentucky was rewarded for their excellent program and fan attendance this year, and having that home court advantage definitely helped. For an 11 am tip off on a day when the men’s team played just 12 hours before, Memorial Coliseum was nearly at full capacity, making their presence known from the opening tip. Coach Mitchell was overwhelmed with gratitude…
I didn’t know what to expect in respect to the crowd. I shouldn’t have been so overwhelmed with gratitude, I should have expected it, it was packed here today. People had to pay a real premium to come out today, people had to show up. I was really blown away. It was a great scene there. I told our players all week that I felt it would be a good turnout, but we needed to give them something to get charged up about. They were fired up, they were hungry for this.
Kentucky will face the winner of 6 seed Syracuse and 11 seed Chattanooga in the 2nd round of the tournament in Lexington on Monday night at 6:30. The Cats will be vying for their 3rd straight Sweet 16, a feat never accomplished in school history. Don’t miss out. Until next time…