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photo courtesy of Lexington Herald Leader
It is late so we will make this quick. The Senate is not going to pass the Rupp Arena funding proposal. After giving $75 million to the Yum Center and another $60 million in this session to the Louisville Convention Center, the Kentucky Senate has denied any funding for the new Rupp Arena project. The decision was lead by Senate President Robert Stivers, who earlier in the evening had said he was undecided on the project. We will look more into this tomorrow for details and discuss on the radio. This is a definite blow for the Rupp renovation and a big step in keeping UK behind Louisville on the facility/revenue side for the near future.
I spent a good portion of tonight watching the ESPN “30 for 30″ on the English football disaster that occurred in 1989 entitled “Hillsborough.” For those of you that don’t know the story, at a FA Cup Semifinal game (the major tournament that is part of the English football season), 96 Liverpool fans were killed after being crushed in the stands during an overcrowding situation. The scenes and video from the disaster are haunting and the documentary describing the events is one of the more heartbreaking things I have ever seen. I can remember as a kid seeing a picture of the scene in Sports Illustrated that showcased people being crushed against the metal fences, and the image haunted me for a very long time. After watching the documentary tonight, it will be in my mind once again. After telling the story of the events, the documentary also features a good deal on the coverup perpetrated by the police and authorities in England to try to blame the fans for errors that were caused by those in charge. Now even 25 years after the events, there are FINALLY open investigations taking place about what happened and justice may come for the 96 fans that passed away on that day. If you get a chance, make sure and watch the documentary on ESPN (it replays Sunday at 10 pm) or read more about the story here.
With that, some notes on the stories of the day:
Players Making Their Draft Decisions:
The NCAA deadline came and went today and as expected, no UK players announced their decisions. The real deadline is the one imposed by the NBA and that is April 27, giving all players 12 more days to decide their futures. Rumors began to spread today that the Harrison Twins could be close to announcing a return, likely fueled by speculation from a couple of UK reporters suggesting that good news was on the way. While I think it is perfectly possible that the Twins could return, I also think that all opinions on this subject are complete guesses. There are people “around” the Twins who are talking about the decision but I firmly believe that those folks are speaking with little knowledge. I was told by Mr Harrison at the Final Four that the decision would be made by his family and his family alone and there would be no leaks. I believe that and I don’t think the folks around UK know what the twosome are going to do either. Any guess by me would be just that…a guess and I think all speculation is exactly the same. Hopefully we will find out soon, although it could come at any time.
As for the rest of the players, I still believe we will hear a decision on Randle and Young this week and I expect both to enter the Draft. If either were to reach a different decision, I would be shocked. Alex Poythress has been the subject of some speculation today, but I still believe he returns to Lexington, where he is happy. That leaves Dakari Johnson, who is a true wildcard. One week ago, I think he was assured to come back to UK for another year, but at this point I am not sure. I still think smart money is on a return but he is definitely now actively considering leaving, something that didn’t seem possible just a week or so ago. These are anxious days for UK fans, but Willie returning does make everything a little brighter.
Calipari Continues to be Everywhere
At this point, I would be shocked if John Calipari does not end up on “Duck Dynasty” or “Party Down South” over the course of the next week or so. Calipari has been everywhere and is doing a great job at all his appearances. He will show up bright and early tomorrow on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and then will find his way next week to “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central (which has the potential to be epic. He continues to harp on the same themes about institutional change to the NCAA and there is no doubt that this is his focus throughout his travels. I am currently reading his book “Players First” (which is actually really interesting) and will be doing an event with him in Louisville on April 24th that I think you should check out. One of the things we have learned over the last couple of days is that Calipari is the master of the media and his appearances this week continue the theme of sports world domination that he is undertaking.
For what its worth, I am hearing that the Yahoo report of a UK basketball trip to Spain is not correct. The Cats are going to take a summer trip in August and my assumption is that it will be somewhere that isn’t Windsor, Canada. But I am hearing that it is much more likely to be a place like the Bahamas, or the like, rather than to Europe. Either way, save some time on your schedule for August basketball.
AT the time of this writing (a bit before 11), we are still waiting to hear what will happen to the Rupp Arena funding. The legislators have until midnight to make it happen and the Republicans in the Senate are still the ones holding up the process. We will know what they do by the morning and will deal with it then. If they don’t pass the money, after the University and city of Lexington made a number of the changes requested by them and after giving similar money not only to the Yum Center but to the Louisville Convention Center in this session…well somebody has some explaining to do.
Big day tomorrow…we are doing KSR Radio LIVE from Sleep Outfitters on 2105 Hurstborne Parkway in Louisville and giving away a trip to Las Vegas, Miami or another destination of your choice. If you don’t come, that is on you. So see you there…
The Cats took the lead early and held on late as the bullpen and defense stood firm in a tight 4-2 victory to sweep the season series with the Cards. “It’s a game we want to win every year, just like they do,” head coach Gary Henderson said after the game. “It’s always good to win a tight game on the road because it gives your kids confidence moving forward.”
Freshman left-hander Logan Salow entered a tie ballgame with no outs and the bases loaded in the third. He allowed one run to score on a fielders choice but escaped further damage, ending the inning with a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out. Salow worked three and two-thirds shutout innings in relief, allowed five hits and struck out three on 63 pitches for just the second win of his collegiate career.
Zach Brown would take over for Salow in the sixth and pitched two and one third shutout innings before yielding to Sophomore Kyle Cody in the ninth. Cody struck out the first batter he faced and induced a 6-4-3 game ending double play for his third save of the season.
“That’s six innings of freshman pitching,” Henderson said of his young bullpen. “That’s significant on the road.”
The Cats got on the board in the top of the second on a single by Thomas Bernal and a throwing error by the Louisville center fielder that allowed Micheal Thomas, who what hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, to score from first.
After UL took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third, the Cats got both runs back in the top of the fourth as A.J. Reed scored on an error after leading off the inning with a walk to tie the game. Ka’ai Tom, who reached on the error, would cross the plate on a bases loaded walk to give the Cats the lead for good.
UK would add an insurance run with two-outs in the ninth as Reed hit a towering popup to shallow left that was misjudged by the UL third baseman and fell just inside the line for a two base error. Marcus Carson pinch ran for Reed and scored on back to back passed balls that give the UK the final margin.
The Cats (24-13, 7-8 SEC) will hit the road this weekend to take on the Aggies in their first ever trip to College Station.
For those of you that don’t know, I occasionally (not as often as I would like) do a podcast on the side about college basketball called “The Walk Ons.” My co-host is Ben Swain (a Duke fan) and we talk about whatever is going on in college basketball. Today’s episode is one you might want to catch as we talk a ton about Calipari and the Final Four experience, including some backstage stories from my trip to Dallas. It is entertaining for hopefully everyone, but I am certain it will be enjoyed by UK fans. So take a listen at the link below or subscribe below on iTunes. I promise you will be entertained or your money back:
Following last night’s slate of NBA games all 16 playoff spots have been locked up and a bunch of former Cats will be making some noise this May. The only question now is where the teams will finish and what teams the Cats will face for a playoff run:
Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson: Eastern Conference 3-seed Toronto Raptors
Chuck Hayes: 4th playoff appearance, 1st with Raptors
Patrick Patterson: 1st playoff appearance.
The young Raptors are here and ahead of schedule as they need just one more win to lock up the third seed. Toronto will bring a core of players making their playoffs debut and Patrick Patterson is chief among them. Pat’s numbers have fallen back a bit since going down to injury in March but I expect he will be ready to play in his first playoff run. Former Cat and head coach Dwayne Casey will have his work cut out for him if the Raptors have to take on the Heat in the second round but let’s not overlook the Wizards.
Nazr Mohammed and the 4th seeded Chicago Bulls
Marquis Teague and the 5-6 seed Brooklyn Nets
John Wall and the 6-7 seed Washington Wizards
MKG and the 6-7 seed Charlotte Bobcats
Currently the Wizards are tangled with the Bobcats in a battle for the 6 or 7 seeds in the East with the Nets controlling their own destiny for the fifth seed. Teague got some playoff experience last year with the Bulls but for Wall and Kidd-Gilchrist this will be their first appearance in the playoffs. The former Cats may not make much noise this season but the future is bright for these young players. Also don’t forget about former Cat Frank Vogel who led the Pacers to the top seed in the East.
In the West:
Terrance Jones and the 4th seeded Houston Rockets
After a strong start to the season the Phoenix Suns fizzled down the stretch and now Terrance Jones is the lone Cat who will be playing in the West. Jones has been an revelation in Houston this season averaging 12 points per game with Dwight Howard drawing the defensive gameplan. The Rockets could take on the Spurs in the opening round with a chance to steal a spot in the finals due to Tony Parker’s recent back injury. Could be a very wild west this summer.
Which former Cat will you be pulling for during this playoff run?
Cuonzo Martin’s abrupt rocky-top exodus on the heels of the Sweet 16 is a tough blow for Tennessee Athletics. It’s bad from a personnel standpoint, obviously, and yet another spill in the PR aisle for the already unsanitary Volunteer Athletic Department as well as the Paid Athletic Department.
While the University of Tennessee is unquestionably a Women’s Basketball School, it does boast a large, fervent fan base and an athletic department with deep pockets. There was once a decent football team here they say, way back before such esteemed gridiron names as Kiffin and Dooley…’s idiot children were paid millions to roam the sideline.
Heck, even the men’s basketball team had a few good runs. There was the Bert & Ernie Show, and Jerry Green cobbled together a couple decent squads thanks to strong chemistry formed by players who never ran out of eligibility. And of course Bruce Pearl rallied the Vols all the way to the midseason AP Poll summit and an Elite 8 before his run in Knoxville went up in weed and barbecue smoke.
The gorgeous Thompson-Bowling Arena, on the pristine waters of the Stinkin Creek, is home to the Lady Vols and on super special occasions, the men are allowed to play here too they just have to clean up afterward.
Women’s Basketball is the pillar of UT Athletics, and there’s certainly no shame in that game. The Lady Vols are one of the greatest traditions in women’s hoops and the way things are trending, they’ll probably still be a top 10-ish program in that sport for the foreseeable future. How many schools can lay claim to a top 10-ish women’s sports team anchoring its athletic program?
Still, don’t be surprised if UT swings for a walk-off hire to replace Martin. After striking out on its last two football hires in an attempt to replace the Hall of Fame coach it fired, they swung hard and landed Butch Jones. As the great Harmon Killebrew might have said, “Sometimes you swing for the fence and you fly out to shallow center, but you sleep easy knowing you took an honest hack.”
Going to the Elite 8 in the Women’s NCAA Tournament year in and year out is what makes the University of Tennessee a special place. It also has a top-notch marching band. And, Knoxville has a Cheesecake Factory. Strong campus attributes, no doubt, but you have to wonder: just what exactly is the cost of living in the Lady Vols’ shadow?
The NCAA has finally made right on one of its most ridiculous rules, which dealt with the amount and even the type of snacks allowed to be given to student-athletes free of charge. In one of his many media stops this week, John Calipari mentioned just how absurd it was that players could be given peanuts, but not peanut butter. Well, it looks like the NCAA finally decided to spend time policing more important things than the quantity and quality of snacks being provided to the student-athletes. The topic was brought to light when in the midst of the NCAA tournament, Shabazz Napier mentioned that he and his teammates are often times hungry.
Division I student athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation, the Legislative Council decided Tuesday. The rule, which applies to walk-ons as well as scholarship student-athletes, is an effort to meet the nutritional needs of all students.
Calipari has been in the camp to allow more food and better nutrition to be provided to his players for a while now. In 2012, Calipari went on a bit of a rant about the nutritional needs of the athletes not being met by the NCAA. Calipari said in reference to the Wildcat Lodge, “We have a kitchen here that should be open for these kids whenever they want to eat.” Calipari even wrote about it on CoachCal.com in an article titled: “Let’s focus on rules that matter and let our kids eat.”
Previously, schools were only allowed to provide 3 meals a day to student-athletes. Calipari argued that nutritionists have done studies that say college athletes are under-fed. With the amount of energy and calories being expended each day by athletes, Calipari says the players should be eating 6-7 times a day.
Somewhere Melvin Turpin is smiling.
We now take a break from the Calipari media tour for an afternoon laugh. Athletes have to deal with trolls on Twitter everyday, and most of the time, they ignore them. Former Cat Eric Bledsoe couldn’t resist yesterday, delivering one of the funnier and classic comebacks to a fan who called him the worst player in the NBA:
— Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) April 15, 2014
Bonus points to that guy for using the correct “you’re,” though.
Watch all other schools fall apart
as their only good players declare for the draft. Yeah, Kentucky might have a few players leaving, but we will still be stocked up for next year. Other teams will fall off the radar as their ringer goes straight for the NBA without even looking back.
Watch Cal’s press tour
as he continues to defend grandmothers and hip-hop. Buy his book to follow along with as well so you don’t get loss, since you will be only watching Cal non-stop with all of the appearances he has been making.
Watch Jeff Goodman
downplay Willie’s return like there are other seven foot first round picks growing on trees. Better yet, as a Goodman protest go out and buy that awesome Willie shirt and Snapchat him a picture.
Laugh at Chad Ford
and his analysis of players. Don’t forget to listen to the opposite of what he
says. It can be like a fun game of opposite day. At least his errors can bring us
joy in some sort of way, right?
Start getting yourself ready
for football mode as the spring game is right around the corner. Yes. Kentucky still has a football program. I know it got lost a little as Kentucky did well in the tournament. But with the spring game approaching next week, it’s time to get ready for tailgating and watching guys knock each other out.
Go and see Draft Day.
Just kidding. You can always wait until the real life NFL draft in May. Sorry, Roger. I know you really wanted that money.
Send thank you letters
to Indiana’s school of journalism for promoting UK alumni in their brochure. That was so nice of them to promote our basketball program and we should let them know how happy we are about it.
Take your significant other somewhere nice
to make up for ignoring her for the past 6 months during basketball season. You have been putting that person off for a while now and it’s time to show them how much you appreciate them…when it isn’t basketball season.
Cancel plans with your significant other
as you realize the NBA season is still going on and you have other Cats to watch. It’s just one date, they can wait a little bit longer right?
Thank the players
for all the heart attacks and joy they gave us throughout the season and especially March. Let them know you appreciate them for joining BBN and leaving everything on the court no matter what decision they make.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©5:45 pm
During all of the talk about players staying and going, many believed that Alex Poythress returning to school was a relatively safe bet, right? Well…Larry Vaught spoke to Antoine Poythress’, Alex’s father, who said that this year, the process is “so muddy and convoluted”:
“For Alex, it’s even worse because it is not very clear. Last year (making a decision about the draft) looked like a cake walk compared to this year. It is so muddy and convoluted this year.”
Poythress Sr. says that the limited time frame and the process of getting feedback through the NCAA has made the whole ordeal “a nightmare,” but in the end, it will be his son’s decision, even if it differs from his own opinion.
These comments correspond with those from our own Ryan Lemond, who says he’s hearing that although Alex himself wants to come back, there are some in his camp that feel he may not get the amount of playing time he should with all of these players returning. Ryan added that he believes Alex will be back, and his scoop has been spot-on so far. To hear all of Ryan’s comments, listen to the second hour of today’s podcast.
Vaught has a ton of quotes from Alex’s dad, which you should go check out on VaguhtsViews.com.
Right now, the Kentucky Senate is reviewing the new financial plan for a renovated Rupp Arena, which includes $80 million of funding from the state, as proposed by Governor Steve Beshear. According to WKYT, the new plans also call for $2 million of the funding to come from selling the arena’s naming rights. That’s one of the highest sums for naming right to an arena without a professional team in the country, behind The Sprint Center in Kansas City, which sold its naming rights for $2.5 million, and ahead of the Yum Center, which sold its naming rights for $1.3 million.
Until now, we had heard naming rights would be a last resort for funding, but it looks like we’re nearing that point, even if $2 million is only a drop in the bucket of the $310 million estimated overall cost. Right now, every penny matters, especially since Senate President Robert Stivers is STILL non-committal after talks on Tuesday. Remember that regardless of who buys the naming rights, “Rupp Arena” will still be included in the name.
So…Big Ass Rupp Arena?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©4:45 pm
Throughout his tour of the ESPN headquarters today, John Calipari has been asked about the NBA several times. On “First Take,” Skip Bayless asked him if the Lakers called, would Cal go? “NO!” On “SportsNation,” he was asked if the over/under on him taking the Lakers job was 1%, what would he take? “UNDER!”
On “Numbers Never Lie,” he put it this way: the work he’s doing at Kentucky, helping families, means more to him than the work he could do in the NBA, even if he believes he would be more successful in the league his second time around:
“I think I would be (better than my previous NBA stint) if I did it, but that’s not the point for me. Can I say this in a humble way? I don’t need the money. If I stop coaching today at Kentucky, my toes are up and I’m eating Cheetos and I’m fine.
“But here’s my point: What’s happening for me, what I’m feeling about coaching, goes beyond wins, goes beyond building a franchise. Can I do that in the NBA? If there was someplace that I felt that it would be more than just coaching and trying to win … I’m not there to help you build your franchise value or help sell tickets. That doesn’t move me. What moves me now is what I’m doing, and how I’m helping families.”
Let’s keep it that way.
Cal is all over ESPN today, even doing an online chat with SportsNation. Miss it? Here are my six highlights…
1. Cal says he’ll take about a month off to recover from his hip surgery
When asked when he would get some time to relax, Cal said he will take about a month off in May to have his hip replaced, the first time in his coaching career he’s taken that long of a break. He later added that his hip injury is more of a nerve issue than bone-on-bone, and he tried “steam massages and anything else I could do to help alleviate that.”
2. He hopes UK football will be as special as UK basketball someday
A fan asked Cal if he ever wished he coached at a school where football was as big as basketball to balance some of the media attention, and Cal said there are about four programs in which you can win in both sports, and he hopes Kentucky is added to that list. For now, he says he enjoys helping the football program “grow into something special.”
3. Cal likes golfing, reading, and long walks on the beach
And he really prefers penne pasta to bucatini.
4. He says he tried to make just as many funny faces as Julius Randle this year
When asked who makes the better funny faces, him or Randle, Cal said he tried to match him funny face to funny face, but “he got me.” Yeah…
5. Cal’s never filled out an NCAA bracket
6. He admitted part of “the tweak” was “toying with the media”
Martin from New York asked Cal if he got any enjoyment from watching everyone try to guess what the tweak was, which led to this classic Cal admission: “Obviously, I like toying with the media.” Naaaah. No way. He then added that he kept the tweak a secret so other teams wouldn’t find out he was playing Andrew as a passer.
Read a full transcript of the chat here.
Although we probably won’t hear anything official from UK until Cal gets back from his national book tour, it’s looking more and more likely that Barry Rohrssen will become the next UK assistant coach. Rumors have linked the Pitt assistant to the job for almost a week, and Rivals’ Matthew Steinbrink, who covers Pitt athletics, tweeted that multiple sources are saying it’s happening:
Barry Rohrssen will be taking the vacant assistant spot at Kentucky, per multiple sources.
— Matthew Steinbrink (@MattSteinbrink) April 15, 2014
Come on down, Slice.
Want a signed copy of John Calipari’s new book, “Players First”? Dates and locations for Cal’s local book-signing tour were announced this afternoon. Here’s a list:
Remember, the signing event in Louisville on April 24, “An Evening with John Calipari,” will take place at The Clifton Center, and will feature a discussion led by our own Matt Jones. Tickets are $30, which gets you admission to the discussion with Calipari and Matt, a copy of Calipari’s new book, and a designated place in the book-signing line based on the letter on your ticket stub. Seating at the event will be general admission (no reserved seats). You can order your ticket here.
Can’t make it to one of the stops? You can order your copy of “Players First” online by clicking here.