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You’re looking at the Champion Chicken & Waffles, the highlight of the Final Four menu at AT&T Stadium. That behemoth of a sandwich contains savory hand-battered chicken, onion rings, pepper jack cheese, pecan-maple mayonnaise, and crisp bacon sandwiched between two Texas-shaped waffles. It’s one of several “gourmet” menu items specially made for the Final Four this weekend, and will set you back $15, along with multiple heart attacks. I fully expect Drew Franklin to have at least four (sandwiches, not heart attacks).
On Wednesday, we fully turned our sights to Wisconsin. Before we get into the headlines of the day, here are my keys to beating the Badgers:
Shut down Kaminsky – I wrote about this earlier, but Kentucky’s primary objective going into Saturday night has to be shutting down Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7′ forward who has become one of the stars of the tournament. Kaminsky can score from the inside and the outside, making him a matchup nightmare for most, and with Willie Cauley-Stein out, shutting him down will have to be a team effort. Kaminsky’s footwork and speed may be too much for Dakari Johnson, so the Cats will once again need a big game from Marcus Lee, Julius Randle and Alex Poythress.
Speed up the game - Bo Ryan will try to slow this game down to typical Big 10 style basketball, using a full 35-second clock on each play if he can. While Wisconsin is one of the best passing teams in the nation, they don’t have the speed or athleticism to keep up with the Cats in the open court. Kentucky must attack the lane and move the ball with confidence to keep the Badgers from controlling the tempo.
Own the boards – Kentucky is the best offensive rebounding team in the country. Wisconsin is the 12th best defensive rebounding team in the country. Look no farther than the boards to see where this game will be won.
Clamp down on the perimeter - Wisconsin really likes to shoot threes. All of their starters are capable of hitting it from the outside, and in an odd shooting environment like AT&T Stadium, that could spell doom. Kentucky is capable of surviving a poor shooting night, but they’ll need to make life as difficult as possible for the Badgers on the perimeter.
Now, the news…
Tyler Ulis continued to impress in the McDonald’s All-American Game
After an impressive week in Chicago, Tyler Ulis continued to turn heads during the McDonald’s All-American game Wednesday night, even trending worldwide in the first half. Although small, Ulis is dominant on the court, slashing, shooting and creating plays with breathtaking speed. He’s not your typical Calipari point guard–he’s about half a foot too short and 50 pounds too light–but he’s confident and downright pesky on defense. Whether or not the Harrison Twins come back next year, the Cats will be in good hands.
As of this writing, the game’s still going on, but Jay Hochstetler will be by in a bit with a full recap, so sit tight.
The Cats arrived in Dallas
Everyone is starting to roll into Dallas for the Final Four, including the Cats, who arrived via Southwest. On Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, John Calipari and Bo Ryan will do a joint press conference, which is kind of strange, but alright, and afterwards, one player from each team will address the media. Here’s hoping Kentucky’s representative is Marcus Lee.
On Friday, Calipari will address the media again at 2:15 ET, followed by the players, and an open practice at 3 p.m. ET. Matt, Drew, and I will all be on the scene, so we’ll have a ridiculous amount of coverage throughout the next few days. All the radio shows will be done in studio or at the stadium.
Willie blogs for CoachCal.com
In case you missed it earlier, Willie Cauley-Stein wrote an excellent blog entry for CoachCal.com in which he discussed his injury, and what it was like to be on the bench for the Michigan game. Willie says that there’s no update on his injury, just that he can now put pressure on his ankle. He talked a lot about being in the training room during the second half of the Louisville game, and even said a member of the coaching staff stayed in the bathroom for the last nine minutes of the game because that’s when the Cats started their comeback:
But yeah, we were going nuts in the back. Mike actually stayed in the bathroom for the last nine minutes of the game because when he went in there we started making a comeback. When he came out it sort of stopped, so we told him to go back in there and he stayed in there for the rest of the game. He didn’t even watch it. He sat in the stall the whole time.
The UK Alumni Association will be at the Fishbone Grill next to AT&T Stadium
The UK Alumni Association is hosting a pregame event on Saturday from 1:30 to 4 p.m. CT at the Fishbone Grill, directly across the street from the AT&T Stadium, in the rear of the restaurant in an outdoor covered tent. The cost to attend is $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers who preregister. A limited number of walk-ups will be accepted at the door for $40 per person. Admission includes unlimited food and beverages while supplies last. The menu will include barbecue brisket, sausage, potatoes, salad, beans, buns, beer, margaritas, soda and water. The restaurant will be open so attendees may also order other food and drink options from the menu.
Georgia is doing a good job of creeping out recruits
Georgia is sending their football recruits personalized hand drawn portraits in the mail, which are slightly creepy and resemble something you might get at a mediocre street fair. Suddenly, those picture puzzles Kentucky sends its recruits seem even cooler.
John Wall’s headed to the playoffs
The Wizards beat the Celtics 118-92 on Wednesday night, clinching a spot in the playoffs. This will be the Wizards’ first playoff appearance since 2008, and also a first for John Wall, who had 13 points and 10 assists in the rout. I think that deserves a mini John Wall dance all around.
Matt and Drew have hopefully arrived safely in Dallas, and will do the radio show from a studio in the Big D in the morning. See you then.
(Story submitted from UK fan Chad Abney)
Earlier this week I was sent a story from a Kentucky fan about a goodwill gesture that took place in Indianapolis last weekend after the Kentucky/Louisville Sweet 16 game. We joke a lot on this site about “Louisville Hate” week, and there are plenty of Louisville fans with line beards worthy of having a barb or two thrown their way. With that said, this is a story about a generous Louisville fan who went out of his way to make sure a Kentucky fan and his son got the experience of a lifetime.
Following Louisville’s loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the Louisville fan was walking around Indy after the game and ran into a UK fan and his son. The father/son duo had not been in the building for the Louisville/Kentucky game and admittedly just made the trip to Indy “just so they could be close to their Cats.” After hearing the story from the father about how the pair had just wanted to be in the environment around other Kentucky fans, the Louisville fan thought about some of his own experiences with his Dad and their love of basketball during his own childhood. The Louisville fan reached into his pocket, without being asked for the tickets or even having that brought up by the UK fans, and handed his pair of lower-arena Regional Final tickets to the UK fan and his son. Apparently the UK fan was almost in disbelief and had to ask him if he was serious, and then thanked him repeatedly before the Louisville fan walked away.
After some thought, the Louisville fan realized that the man may not have had prepared to bring “extra funds” to stay for the game or to buy any souvenirs or food while in the arena– having only planned to be around for the UK/UL game. Not wanting to offend, but wanting to make sure the young boy had the full experience, he reached back into his pocket and returned to the UK fan and his son. He handed them the cash he had planned to use for the next game and said, “I forgot that those tickets came with some money for food and souvenirs. Enjoy.”
I thought that was a neat story worth sharing about an amazing experience a father and son Kentucky fan duo got to have… thanks to a generous Louisville fan.
Within the last six days, UK has defeated Louisville three times. UK Men’s basketball took down the Cards last Friday, UK baseball took the win over the Cards last night, and UK softball defeated Louisville today at John Crop Stadium 5-0. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley threw seven strong innings against the Cards, allowing only 3 hits with no runs, striking out 5.
Offensively, Nikki Sagermann paced the Cats with three hits and 3 RBI. Sagermann scored 1 run in the bottom of the third on a hard single to center and 2 more runs on a hard single to right in the bottom of the fifth. Emily Gaines produced the other two runs for the Cats with a RBI single to center in the first and a RBI walk in the fifth. Nikki Sagermann and Sylver Samuel both had multi-hit games against the Cards, who brought 3 pitchers to the mound through the course of seven innings, unable to hold the Cats defensively. This marks the first time in head coach Rachel Lawson’s career at UK that she has defeated the Cards in back-to-back games.
The Cats will continue play at John Crop Stadium with a three day SEC series against Texas A&M starting Friday at 6:00pm. Game two of the series will be played Saturday at 6:00pm and the Cats will conclude play on Sunday at 1:00pm.
The McDonald’s All-American Game is coming up in about 15 minutes on ESPN, so flip on over and great ready to watch future Cats Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Devin Booker. All four have been impressive this week in the skills competitions and scrimmages, with Tyler Ulis dominating the talk of the event on Tuesday.
We’ll have a recap afterwards, but until then, use this thread to talk about the game.
Greatest Television Episode Tournament – The Syndicated Sixteen has Arrived, Bringing Genre Showdowns
By C.M. Tomlin on ©9:00 pm
After tight-fought races in all regions, the smoke has cleared on Funkhouser’s Greatest Television Episode in the Last Thirty Years Tournament. Did your favorite live another day or did it join the scrapheap with the King of the Hills, E.R.s and Moonlightings of the tourney? Remember, it’s on your shoulders to make the calls here — forget your Entertainment Weekly definitive lists and your TV Guide Channel montage shows; everything’s up in the air. So it’s very, very important that you stop working and vote on these matchups right away. Right now. Seriously. And…..go.
(UPDATE: Voting has closed for Wednesday. Check back tomorrow morning to vote on the Elite Eight!)
THE “I WANT TO BELIEVE” REGION MATCHUPS:
The “I Want to Believe” region is rife with interesting split-genre matchups, the first (though probably not the weirdest) being the long-running Simpsons vs. meta-cult-favorite Lost. On one hand, “Through the Looking Glass” features an Others/Survivors battle and the realization that suddenly we’re switching from flashbacks to flashforwards. On the other, “Marge Vs. the Monorail” was penned by Conan O’Brien, features musical numbers and is hailed as one of the finest episodes of the show ever. Is it apples and oranges — or is there a clear winner?
THE “MASTERS OF KARATE AND FRIENDSHIP” REGION MATCHUPS:
Alright, alright, alright. Here we go proper with some solid comic head-to-head. In Mitch Hurwitz’s Arrested Development, Michael and Gob track George Sr. to Mexico and Gob realizes his chicken dance means something entirely different south of the border (“Has anyone in this family ever seen a chicken?”). Meanwhile at the second season finale of The Office, Michael juggles two dates and Jim comes clean to Pam before heading off to Stamford. Will it be the Bluths or the Dunder Mifflin gang?
Why is Wisconsin in the Final Four? Junior Frank Kaminsky. The 7′ forward had 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Badgers’ win over Arizona, and 19 points in their previous games against Baylor and Oregon. Whereas Kentucky’s big men are tall, big and powerful, Kaminsky is gangly and awkward, but he’s also a matchup nightmare. Not only did Kaminsky look unstoppable in the post against Arizona, he also made three of five three-pointers. Why the touch from the outside? Like a certain other player we remember, Kaminsky hit a major growth spurt in high school, which made him shift his game from the perimeter to the post. Given Wisconsin’s love of passing, you better believe they’ll take the time to get him an open look.
For Kentucky to beat Wisconsin, they must contain Kaminsky. Unfortunately, the best matchup we have for him will likely be on the bench. With his height, length, and athleticism, Willie Cauley-Stein would be the perfect player to defend Kaminsky. However, that probably won’t be the case, so Kentucky will look to Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle, or Marcus Lee to shut him down in the post, with guards rotating on him when he moves to the perimeter, or Randle to do both as the primary defender. Dakari struggled at times to keep up with Michigan’s bigs, so I expect Marcus Lee to get even more time in the rotation, although it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he has now that a team’s had a whole week to prepare for him.
Yesterday, the team was asked how they were going to prepare for Kaminsky. James Young said they were going to limit Kaminsky’s shot by forcing him to take mid-range jumpers and tough twos, while Dakari Johnson said Kaminsky was “crafty with his moves” and they’ll have to shut him down as a team, not individually.
Meanwhile, Kaminsky’s also doing his best to start a trend off the court–#DirtyDub. What the hell is that? It’s a hand sign Kaminsky and the other Badgers have been throwing up after their wins in the Tournament:
He even got Bo Ryan in on it:
The last time we played a team with their own hand sign, I remember it going pretty well.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©6:55 pm
It’s Wednesday, and the Cats are still playing, which means it’s time to preview Kentucky’s trip to the Final Four with our friends at Google+. After a sensational performance last week, Fake Barney is back, and we’ve added country musician JD Shelburne to the crew, and he will perform his song “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you’ve gotta have Lee in the game” at the end of the show. Could Fake Barney join in?
Watch it all go down in the video above, and ask questions via the Google+ event page or on Twitter with the hashtag #TourneyChat.
The team has landed in Dallas after what I’m sure was enjoyable Southwest flight, and is headed to the hotel. Willie seems to be walking without his crutches, too:
By the way, it’s Brian Long’s birthday, so I hereby declare this Brian Long Appreciation Day. Remember to return that tupperware to Mrs. Cal once you’ve finished those brownies, Brian.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©6:00 pm
As Kentucky has surged in the postseason, so has the draft stock of its players, particularly the Harrison Twins. Before the SEC Tournament, most mock drafts didn’t even include the Twins, but now, they’re back in as late first round and early second round picks. During his chat today, ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford said that while their recent play has improved their stock, he still believes they should return to school for another year so they can “really dominate”:
They’ve played great. They’ve quieted the doubters. They’ve proven that you shouldn’t write off heralded freshman just because they get off to a slow start. But I still think both players, despite their strong play for UK in the tournament are bubble first rounders. Aaron Harrison has always been in that place. I don’t think his stock has moved much all year. Andrew was once considered a Top 10 pick and his stock has obviously fallen. He’s helped it in the past two weeks (scouts will always find ways to give 6-5 point guards a second and third look) but he’s not cracking the lottery. I hope they go back to school and really dominate next year. If they declare, they are likely late first rounders to early second rounders.
Ford also said that Julius Randle remains Kentucky’s top pro prospect as a top 5-6 pick, while Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee definitely need to return for another year to fully develop. Alex Poythress? Ford conceded that he “might” be drafted, and could be a terrific defender at the next level.
How far does Ford have the Cats going? Losing to Florida in the Championship game. Then again, this is the same guy who said James Young was a terrific passer, so… (just kidding, Chad).
Everyone loves to blame the refs when they lose, but one UofL fan took it to another level on Saturday, posting over 25 screenshots of what they believed were “missed/wrong” calls in the UK/UofL game. The poster broke down the game play-by-play and highlighted when they felt the Cards were cheated. Here are a few highlights:
4:55 Mangok fouled on shot by Dakari Johnson. Somehow he just never fouls though . Right after, Chris gets hooked by Johnson’s left arm while Johnson is moving into him, spinning him on his shot. Then, on top of all this. Terry is called for a foul on the fast break when Harrison’s foot taps his foot on incidental contact. I guess it is a foul, but that runout wouldn’t have happened if the calls were correct. Easily 4 point swing here.
2:14 Poythress plays strong to hit Harrel just enough to bobble the rebound. Wanna play strong? Hmm? Well, here’s an invisible foul for you!
There’s simply no way you can call that foul and not have Dakari Johnson, Randle, and Poythress foul out of the game. There is just no way.
While I guess the guy has the time now that the Cards are out, this is taking “sore loser” to another level. Here are some of the hilarious responses:
“This thread and details should be sent to NCAA for the referee investigation. Seriously.”
“This post makes me sick. We were so cheated in this game.”
“Great breakdown. It is helpful to see a comprehensive breakdown of our raping by the officials. There is no way to explain these things to normal people, let alone UK fans. This awesome year of basketball has turned into my worst nightmare because of referees and UK. They keep moving forward but I am stilled stunned from what happened. We will never get recognition or justice. If we hadn’t been effed in the a, our road to the championship would have been cake. Like I’ve said before, UK IS the new Duke, they play the refs, not basketball.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©4:30 pm
Ready for the least shocking headline ever? According to WAVE 3′s Janelle MacDonald, former UofL star Chane Behanan was cited for marijuana possession after a traffic stop early this morning in Louisville.
If you’ll remember, Chane was dismissed from Louisville right before the season started, reinstated for the second game, and later, dismissed again. He transferred to Colorado State, and was on track to be eligible by December 2014. After he left Louisville, he admitted that marijuana use was the reason for his dismissal.
Good grief, Chane. This is starting to get really sad.
Spring practice started last Friday, but the real fun began this morning.
The coaches gave the players two practices to get used to being back on the field before putting all of the pads on today and they did not disappoint. The team had a physical day of work, revealing where many of the new guys stand, especially the quarterbacks.
The media was allowed to watch the first hour of practice. During the first full contact drill of the Spring, fights broke out almost immediately between offensive and defensive linemen. Drew Barker had a feeling it was coming, with defensive linemen talking trash all week, “Wait til the pads come on.” Defensive tackle ‘Mean’ Regie Meant was in the middle of a couple scuffles, scuffles coach Mark Stoops actually likes to see.
“I do, to a certain extent. We can’t have it interfering with practice all the time and getting very sloppy. I think it was the first day with pads on, you have a tendency to do that,” Stoops said. “I think everybody was all anxious to get out here and show off their muscles from the off-season lifting and conditioning and all that.”
For some, contact was a wake-up call. Braylon Heard was excited to get full contact reps for the first time since the Fall of 2012, but it wasn’t so pleasant for others. Mikel Horton really impressed coach Stoops without pads on, but the guy that should still be in high school took some hits he’s never had to take before. “Today he was out there running a little bit high. He got the ball knocked out of his hands once. He needs to toughen up and he’ll get that through camp. We need to see him in there with some good, physical runs,” Stoops said.
The quarterbacks (of course) did not take any hits like Horton, but Neal Brown loves what he’s seeing so far, “On all three days we’ve looked as good in the three days than we did at any point last year. We’re better. I don’t think we’ve arrived, but we’re definitely better.”
The most notable difference of any quarterback is the change in Pat Towles fundamentals. Towles worked with an outside quarterback coach, Donnie Walker, throughout his redshirt year and offseason to improve his footwork and release. Towles said today, “I had a huge dip when I was throwing the ball and it wasn’t getting out soon enough. Now I’m more straight back and over the top. It’s so much more efficient, so much more consistent and I’m like a whole new player really.”
The other redshirt quarterback, Reese Phillips, was actually very close to having his redshirt pulled last year. When Jalen Whitlow went out with a stinger against Georgia, Stoops and Brown were very tempted to put Phillips in the game instead of the ailing Max Smith. In hindsight, Stoops is glad they kept him on the sideline as he “added some juice” during the time off. Phillips is confident in his play, “I may be an underdog with the media, but I definitely don’t feel that way with the coaches.”
Drew Barker is in the middle of a learning process as the Cats heavily install the offense. One of his best coaches is the injured Max Smith, frequently taking questions from Barker between snaps. It’s a lot for a high school Senior to handle, and he’s just taking it one day at a time.
Jalen Whitlow has become much stronger this offseason while improving his accuracy, but unfortunately a tight hamstring has him missing reps from time to time. Whitlow is now the veteran at quarterback despite being only 20-years old, “I’m an old-hair now. We’ve got guys that are supposed to be in high school right now, it’s crazy. I felt like I was just in high school.”
Brown and Stoops have not set a specific deadline for when they will choose a quarterback, “We want to name a starter sooner than last year, but we’re not going to give us a false deadline,” Brown said. Brown doesn’t know exactly who will be THE guy, but no matter who takes the role he knows they will be better than last year, “The whole practice is better because they’re better. The receivers are better. The running backs are better. The O-line is better because (the quarterbacks) are better.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©3:15 pm
Our friends over at 98.1 The Bull sent us these pics of country music stars showing their support for the Cats, which were too good not to share. And yes, while Lucy Hale is best known for “Pretty Little Liars,” she also has a country album coming out soon, so there.
It’s been another crazy day in the BBN, so let’s get to some notes…
– As we inch closer and closer to Dallas, here’s a telling stat from @ESPNCBB: Kentucky’s freshmen have scored 254 out of 283 pts (90%) in the NCAA Tournament. Wow.
– You know how I know Bruce Pearl is really back? He’s already taking his shirt off in public. Check out this video of Bruce in a dunk tank at Auburn this afternoon:
Welcome back, Bruce. Put on a shirt, please.
– The McDonald’s All-American game is coming up tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, and we’ll have some previews on the site later on. For now, Karl Towns is channeling his inner Doron Lamb by taking pictures of fellow UK signee Devin Booker passed out on the bus:
Sleep while you can, young one. Once you get to Lexington, it’s #TeamNoSleep.
– ESPN’s Jeff Goodman ranked every single player left in the NCAA Tournament (except Willie Cauley-Stein, who will likely not play). Here’s where he put the Cats:
3. Julius Randle
6. Aaron Harrison
8. James Young
10. Andrew Harrison
16. Dakari Johnson
23. Alex Poythress
24. Marcus Lee
30. Dominique Hawkins
33. Jarrod Polson
37. Jon Hood
38. Derek Willis
45. Sam Malone
49. EJ Floreal
52. Brian Long
54. Tod Lanter
Young ahead of Andrew? Malone in front of Floreal? Tod Lanter last?? Come on, Jeff. I think Malone’s reaction was the best:
— Sam Malone (@SamMaloneuk13) April 2, 2014
– The Cats are still playing, which means I’m still previewing games for the Google+ crew. Last week, Fake Barney made his Google+ Hangout debut to rave reviews, and this week, we’re also bringing in country musician JD Shelburne to join the fun. Earlier this week, we shared Shelburne’s song “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you’ve gotta have Lee in the game,” with you, and rumor has it he and Barney may team up for an encore performance at the end of the show tonight. The Hangout starts at 7 p.m., and I’ll post it here on KSR for you guys to see. I can’t wait.
On today’s show, Matt and Drew were live from my city, Nashville, Tennessee, on a pit stop on their way to Dallas. Tune in to hear their thoughts on the Final Four, Dallas, and everyone’s favorite new game, “Awesome or Weird.” What? Listen to find out.
The scene in Indianapolis on Friday was nuts. Because of nerves, I stayed at the arena for most of the day to run the site, but from what I hear from my husband, Drew, Matt, Ryan, and the countless fans I talked to afterwards, the streets were literally a battleground for Cats and Cards fans. The guys had to hold the pregame show inside a Louisville bar, which made for awesome radio, but some seriously tense moments. The atmosphere in Indy was high-pressure to the point it was uncomfortable, and I’m sure from an outsider’s opinion, ridiculous.
Thankfully, SB Nation’ s Steven Godfrey was on the streets of Indy as well, and documented his experiences from the entire day in a hilarious post. Godfrey spent the day walking around observing the scene, and even went to the official UofL pep rally at Sensu nightclub to get an inside look at the Card Nation. His description is priceless:
Sure enough, this club is teeming with the “bro-y River City trash” a disgusted Wildcat loyalist warned me about outside. A trio of male U of L students eye me suspiciously, armed with those aforementioned line beards. Their outfits are best described as that point when, in the outlet mall of life, you knows it’s time to visit Express For Men but you can’t quite walk out of Affliction.
Bahahaha. Of course, Godfrey gives it to the BBN too, saying “Kentucky fans will co-opt whatever narrative is most convenient” (well, true). His description of the heated exchange between a UofL fan and a UK fan along with a picture of them near blows is one I’ve seen before and will see again:
OLDER DRUNKEN LOUISVILLE FAN: “Preseason No. 1 with all those lottery picks and just because Johnny C can’t get ‘em to play together, you beat K State and some one seed from the Horizon League, y’all are supposed to be Butler now?”
YOUNGER DRUNKEN KENTUCKY STUDENT: “Hey man, as long as we beat y’all I don’t care if we’re UConn. Also Wichita is the Missouri Valley Conference. Learn some basketball, sir. Seriously.”
SURROUNDING CROWD, AND ME: “Aw, SNAP!”
Enough quotes. Go read it now.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©2:00 pm
Before the tournament began, The Boston Globe’s Derrick Z. Jackson compiled the graduation rates for each team in the Big Dance, and believe it or not, Wisconsin was tied for the third worst percentage at 44%. Where were the Cats? Tied with Gonzaga for the tenth highest percentage, with 82%, or 24th overall. The worst overall? UConn, who the Cats could face in the Finals, with a whopping 8%. Wow.
Nobody tell Bobby Knight.