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Russ Smith’s Evening News and Views

Russ Smith’s Evening News and Views



Oh man, I can already feel the comment section heating up.  But the 19th marks the 23rd birthday of Louisville All-American Russ Smith, who spent plenty of time celebrating over the last four years, bringing two Final Fours and a title back for the Cards in his sophomore and junior years.

There’s every reason to hate Louisville, and Louisville fans.  Their highest-profile coaches are proven and notorious liars who revel in infidelity (both personally and professionally); their fans are obnoxious for no reason; and that calligraphy “L” is just atrocious.  But some of their players, like it or not, deserve respect.  Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng earned it a couple years ago.  Montrezl Harrell is about to earn it next year (yep, get ready).  And Russ has definitely garnered the respect of the Big Blue Nation for his ability, and his class, over the last four years.  Anybody that says otherwise is either jealous, or hasn’t been paying attention.

So happy birthday Mr. Smith, we’re happy you’re celebrating turning 23, but we’re glad you’re gone.  We’re sorry you had to go 1-5 against the Cats.  And we’re really sorry that the birthday people think you’re Peyton Siva:

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Some news and stuff:

-UK recruits had some fun tonight in the Jordan Brand Classic, as all four made the prestigious roster for the New York-based All-Star game.  Karl Towns had the most highlight-reel plays, including a spectacular half-court, behind-the-back, no-look dime from half court that made the commentators take the next couple plays off in admiration.  But they all had fun, and more importantly, got some experience playing together.  We’re ready for them next year.

-Slow news doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, as DeMarcus Cousins provided some levity today with his response to Cal’s new book, Players First.  Apparently, Cousins was having some trouble completing the conditioning drills in his first few practices, and Cal gently reminded him that if he wasn’t in shape, he would come off the bench and “play eight minutes.”  Cousins apparently found out the story made the final edit, and made sure everyone knew he was “upset” with Coach Cal:


(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

-We heard it earlier, but Marcus Lee made his return to Lexington official today via a UK Athletics press release.

I’ve really enjoyed my college experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player,” Lee said. “Playing in the Final Four was such an amazing feeling, but I want to come back and help win that final game this year.

-Stan Van Gundy said that if Cal headed to the Lakers, he’d have less talent.  That’s clearly an exaggeration, but man, not by too much.  Don’t know whether that says more about the Cats or the Lakers, but either way, thanks Coach.  Sorry Dwight Howard ruined your career.

-UK Football has already distributed 25,000 tickets to the Spring Game.  The cap is 42,500 because of the construction, so if you want a seat, better act early.


-A bank robber with a giant UK back tattoo is making us all look bad.  And not because of the tattoo.  Mostly because of the bank robbery.  Leave the looting to the Louisville fans.

-New NBA Commissioner “Not David Stern” has grand ambitions to make a 20-year old age-limit a priority this summer.  This is great news for us, as not only would our talent stay longer, but our coach probably would, too.  Cal spoke out over the last week and said that a “two and through” rule would take a lot of stress off of him, and let him stay as the Grand High Poobah for longer than he’d be able to right now.  Let’s hope “Not David Stern” gets it done.

Finally, some quick-hit tidbits:

-CBS acknowledged that Kentucky is dominating college basketball.  Naw durr.

Mark Emmert opened himself to questions on Twitter with the #AskEmmert hashtag, and proceeded to take more public shots than a Tri-Delta at Two Keys.

-Former Florida guard Nick Calathes has been suspended by the NBA for 20 games after violating the league’s anti-drug policy.  Quick question: when did the NBA ban Rogaine?

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That’s all for tonight, we hope your Good Friday has been rewarding, and we’ll be back tomorrow to let you know if anybody spontaneously declares for the Draft (they won’t), or if Cal says something quotable (he will).  Typical off-season stuff for Kentucky.  Enjoy it.

Kentucky Recruits Shine in Jordan Brand Classic

Kentucky Recruits Shine in Jordan Brand Classic


Unlike the Nike Hoop Summit, which unwisely left a couple UK recruits off their list, all four Kentucky recruits got a chance to show their stuff in the high-octane, poor-defense shootout known as the Jordan Brand Classic.  The third major high school All-Star game, and the second of which to feature all four of our guys, was a fun exhibition of a diverse array of skills we can look forward to next year, regardless of who comes back.

First, Karl Anthony Towns.  The big man showed that he’s not limited to staying right around the rim, knocking down outside shots and throwing a few assists, including a sweet no-look, behind-the-back dime from half court that had the commentators ooh-ing and aah-ing for the next few possessions.  Not to mention, Towns apparently conveyed the opinion of his doctors that he might still grow another 2-4 inches.  Karl’s already pushing 7′, so any height on top of that would make an already daunting presence flat out ridiculous.

Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker got their fair share of attention as UK’s future backcourt, with some praise thrown Ulis’ way for being a guy to “facilitate,” and play “94 feet” on defense.  What he lacks in size, he makes up for in tenacity and vision, and the Jordan game was a great chance for him to show his stuff among much taller players.  We can no longer be surprised when Ulis shows up and either takes control of the team from the start, or challenges Andrew Harrison for playing time, whichever the case may be.  He also tossed in a three in the face of Louisville recruit Shaqquan Aaron, so we appreciate him getting a head start on that.  Booker displayed his nice outside touch on several occasions.

Ulis also got this shoutout from friend of LeBron, Cuffs the Legend (does anybody know his real name?):


Trey Lyles was fairly quiet on the offensive end, minus a nice and-1 in the second half to give the East an 11-point lead.  He did however pull down 8 boards, which is considerable when you’re surrounded by guys 6’10” and up.  He and Towns anchored the inside for the winning East.

There was an interesting note in the second half as ESPN high school recruiting expert Paul Biancardi mentioned that Tyler Ulis would have plenty of frontcourt help, with “Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson” coming back to UK.  Does Biancardi know something we don’t, or is he just making stuff up?  Of course, smart money is on the latter, but still.  Any news helps.

Also check out a fun highlight in the 3-D projection shown on the court pre-game.  As far as low-lights go, there was Joel Embiid’s fedora.

Why Size Really Does Matter


By now you know Kentucky is looking at having one of the tallest line ups in the history of college basketball next year, with our without the twins.  Even if Dakari and Alex decide to leave, we’re still going to be huge, but let’s assume they return.  With that, you’re going to have three seven footers – all of which can flat out play.  A 6’10 Trey Lyles, two 6’9 forwards in Lee and Willis, and a 6’8 forward in Poythress.  For those of you counting at home, that’s 48 feet of domination waiting to happen.

But not everyone seems to think so.

When Willie declared he was coming back, it was met with tepid reactions from national media.  Most of the pundits takes aren’t worth repeating here, because they generally don’t know what they’re talking about.  But there was one point that was raised that intrigued me – is now a bad time to be going big, when basketball in general is trending towards small ball?

It’s a valid concern.  If you want the best examples, look to the NBA.  The Miami Heat can ‘go small’ playing Bosh as a center when need be, the Thunder do it when they don’t play Perkins, Golden State plays better when they go small, and as a general trend, centers are disappearing and being replaced by forwards.  The emergence of a ‘stretch 4’ – a power forward that can take the ball behind the arc and shoot it, ala Frank Kaminsky – are almost a necessity if you want to contend for a title.

So should that be a concern in college as well?  Is there such a thing as being ‘too big’?

Frankly put, no.  I don’t think there is.

Let’s look at two examples.  For the first, we’ll point back to the NBA and look at the Indiana Pacers.  While everyone else was busy going small, they went all in on a big line up, focused on being the best defensive team they could, and anchored themselves to a dominant big man in Roy Hibbert.  The common thought here was – when Miami or another team goes small, they will be too quick for Indiana to handle.  Only it has worked the other way – in the same way that Alabama football became a power team in the midst of spread offenses, dominant post presence allowed for Indiana to score when needed, grab rebounds, but more importantly keep Miami out of the paint.

My other example?  Last years Kentucky team.  Much in the same way Indiana smothers you inside, Kentucky did the same game after game in the tournament, dominating the glass and making it tough to score off anything inside 12 feet. You can get away with going small in the pros, because if you’re a pro you likely have a decent jump shot and can score off screens or force the bigger post players to guard you outside the paint.  If there is one thing that college players aren’t great at, it’s knocking down shots.  While Kentucky will be getting easy points inside the paint, anyone who wants to beat us next year will have to light it up from the outside – a feat that few college players are capable of.

The key to next years team is still going to be in guard play – simply because that’s where we lack the most bodies.  But our identity will be down low, and even if teams are trending small… sometimes it pays to buck the trends.  


TV and Radio information for the Spring Game



The Spring Game is next Saturday, and for those of you not able to make it in person, you can watch it on TV or listen on the radio. Here’s all the information from UK:

Former Wildcat lettermen Jeff Piecoro and Dusty Bonner will be on the TV call, which will air live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on CWKYT in Lexington, Ky., WMYO-TV in Louisville, Ky., and WSAZ-DT (My Z) in Huntington, W.Va.

Fox Sports South will have two delayed telecasts of the game. A same-day delay in the state of Kentucky only will air on FSN South at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, while the entire FSN South footprint will see the game at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 27.

The UK/IMG Sports Radio Network will air the game on radio with the Voice of the Wildcats, Tom Leach, joined by former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, and sideline reporter Dick Gabriel. The game will be live on 630-AM WLAP in Lexington and 840-AM WHAS in Louisville. Station information across the Bluegrass has not yet been determined. The radio broadcast will start at 3 p.m. ET.

Of course, you can’t beat being there in person. Tickets are free, and you can get them at Ticketmaster.comUK students can pick up their free tickets at the Joe Craft Center ticket office. Tickets still available on game day may be picked up free of charge at the stadium, based on availability.

Watch the NBA Cats in the Playoffs this weekend

Watch the NBA Cats in the Playoffs this weekend


The NBA Playoffs begin this weekend, and eight former Cats will participate. Here’s this weekend’s schedule (all times Eastern):


12:30 p.m., ESPN: (6) Brooklyn Nets (Marquis Teague) vs. (3) Toronto Raptors (Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes)

3:30 p.m., ABC: (6) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers

7 p.m., ESPN: (8) Atlanta Hawks vs. (1) Indiana Pacers

9:30 p.m., ESPN: (7) Memphis Grizzlies (Tayshaun Prince) vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder


1:00 p.m., TNT: (8) Dallas Mavericks vs. (1) San Antonio Spurs

3:30 p.m., ABC: (2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist)

7 p.m., TNT, CSNC: (5) Washington Wizards (John Wall) vs. (4) Chicago Bulls (Nazr Mohammed)

9:30 p.m., TNT: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (4) Houston Rockets (Terrence Jones)

Will you be watching?

Drew Barker tries to beat the odds


There are currently over 600 quarterbacks in FBS football. The young men joined the ranks of NCAA Division 1 football hoping to become the heroes of the school and dreaming of one day starting in the NFL. However, that dream just might be a little harder than the movies show.

With Whitlows departure, the spot for starting quarterback is left wide open. Thousands of quarterbacks have participated in NCAA football over the last ten years. Yet less than a handful have been successful in what Drew Barker is trying to accomplish.

Out of hundreds of BCS quarterbacks, there have only been 15 to start as true freshmen for a BCS Conference school since 2003 and the results have been nothing short of mixed. Of those 15 true freshmen, the completion percentages vary from as low as 39.5% to as high as 60.2%, both of which have room for improvement.

True freshmen usually have attributes that are in question from arm strength, to awareness, to vision and whatever else you can question. However, shouldn’t we just worry about how efficient they are? Of those 15 true freshmen that started for a BCS conference school, only two of them had a passer efficiency below 100. Is 100.0 passing efficiency good? Not necessarily. But for comparison sake it shows a good baseline of what has happened in the past.

The BCS might be dead, but the stigma of those power conferences will live on along with the rare feat of a true freshmen starting for a major FBS program. Does it always work out? In some ways yes and in some ways no, but it is rare that a player who doesn’t possess the skills necessary to start as a true freshmen will ever be thrown into that situation. However, as BBN has found out, it is not quite unheard of. Regardless of the rarities, more often than not when a young man is entrusted with the keys to an offense as a true freshman, he usually writes his name into his school’s football history.

Over the years, we have seen such history writing and perhaps it is UK’s turn to grab the pen and write it’s own chapter.

Take former Georgia Bulldog Matt Stafford for example. Stafford trotted out onto field against UAB for his first start as a true freshman and proceeded to lead the Bulldogs to a 34-0 victory followed by helping Georgia to an impressive win against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We all know the story from that point on, it worked out pretty well for both him and Georgia

Like Barker, Stafford graduated early from high school and enrolled at his college destination in January. It should be noted that Stafford played only sparingly until his first start which occurred in the fourth week of his freshman year. This formula could end up being Barker’s, the only question is when might his first start take place?

Barker has all eyes on him at the moment, but has not shown the pressure on the field so far. Barker looks at the stats not as a distraction, but rather more like a challenge to join the ranks of successful true freshmen quarterbacks of the past.