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Basketball Season Coverage

Has Karl Towns had a subpar season?

Karl Towns



Has Karl Towns had a subpar season? While he has shown signs of greatness, he has not been consistent in dominating play. However, NBA scouts continue to salivate and still rank him in the top 3 of this year’s NBA draft. Here are Karl’s stats through 19 games:

19.3 .500 .286 .738 6.3 0.9 2.5 0.4 1.4 8.1

In looking at his stats, they are not bad for just averaging 19 minutes per game. If he was on any other team in the country, he would average 30+ minutes and possibly would average All-American type numbers. His defense has been spectacular, blocking 2.5 shots per game in only 19 minutes of play.

I do not believe Karl has had a disappointing year, but he has been subpar in areas that do not show up on the stat sheet. Calipari is clearly frustrated with Karl’s lack of toughness and his weakness with the ball, contributing to his only 12 minutes of playing time against South Carolina. Those areas should be improved at this point in the season. He continues to fade away from contact and miss close shots. A caller to the morning show pointed out that Karl does not really have any post moves. We have seen the “Sky Hook” a few times, but have yet to see moves like the “Up and Under” Willie sometimes shoots.

If Karl can improve in mental areas such as being stronger with the ball and going after rebounds with two hands, his offensive game will come. With his high basketball IQ, it should just be a matter of time. With the caliber of players on Kentucky’s roster, it is hard not to expect greatness from every starter. Remember, he is just a freshman and we are just now halfway through the season. He has time.


Deflategate, Chris Jones’ Flop and the Morality of Sport

chris jones flops mattstonephotog

Call me a prude, but if I hear yet another story this week about how grown men handle their balls, I’m boycotting ESPN.

Unless you’ve been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with Reese Witherspoon (a great flick, by the way, from Ms. Flick), your aural and visual senses likely have been inside zone blitzed for days by “Deflategate,” the latest SPORTS SCANDAL OF THE CENTURY, in which the New England Patriots have been accused of breaking NFL rules by under-inflating footballs for competitive advantage during last week’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The over-scrutinized, über-hyperbolic media coverage of the brouhaha (more cleverly-named “Ballghazi”) clearly demonstrates how in today’s angry Twitterverse, the sports news vacuum created by Super Bowl Bye Week is no longer the exclusive dominion of pro-NFL hype.

But even though the media’s reaction has been wildly disproportionate to the nature of the wrongdoing, it’s an important discussion to have.  And while I’m a hard-core Pats fan (I went to school in Boston), should the NFL’s investigation prove the culpability of superstar quarterback Tom Brady or head coach Bill Belichick (who should already be on double-secret probation for 2007’s Spygate scandal), either man should be suspended immediately and punished severely.

For despite the extraordinary unlikelihood that the slight ball deflation altered the outcome of the game (New England crushed Indy 45-7), the incident strikes at the core value of competitive athletics.  Due to sport’s unique and exceptional impact on society, we must insist on a zero tolerance policy on cheating.

There are many gradations of cheating in the sports world.  First and worst is subverting team play in order to secure outside financial advantage, such as through point-shaving or game-throwing as part of an illegal sports gambling conspiracy.  Close behind is trying to capture game-day advantage through means that demonstrably risk long-term physical harm, i.e. overuse of performance enhancing drugs. (While I argued here that Big Sport should reconsider its War on Steroids, I have no sympathy for the Lance Armstrongs of the world who know the rules and deviously violate them.)  Then comes impropriety such as Deflategate — or baseball-scuffing or bat-corking –where the playing field is unleveled, and confidence in the sanctity of the game is undermined.

But in a different sense, perhaps the worst kind of sports cheating is the most subtle, by far the most common, and unfortunately, the most accepted as part of the nature of the game.  I’m speaking of the little lies that players tell as they seek unfair advantage through undetected deception and understated artifice.  It’s the outfielder who knows he trapped the ball but pretends to have caught it cleanly.  It’s the defensive lineman who burrows through a pile to wrest the ball out of the hands out of the running back who legitimately held possession when the whistle blew.  It’s the tennis player who calls the ball out when she’s the only one who knows that it nicked the baseline.  It’s the catcher who “frames” the pitch by quickly moving his glove into the strike zone to fool the umpire.

And then — by far the most pervasive subtle cheating today — it’s the flop: the World Cup midfielder, or NFL wide receiver, or NHL defenseman who fakes contact with an opponent to delude the referee into calling a penalty on the other team.

The Big Blue Nation witnessed one of the most ridiculous exhibits of this misconduct in Kentucky’s December matchup with intrastate archival Louisville.  As Cats big Dakari Johnson hauled down a rebound, Cardinal guard Chris Jones pretended that he was struck by Johnson’s elbow; and in what my colleague Drew Franklin termed the “worst acting performance since Eddie Murphy in The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” he continued to feign an imaginary jaw injury minutes after Dakari’s swing and whiff. (Watch the replay or check out this Play-doh recreation.)

Of course, sports fans, there was a happy ending. The refs didn’t buy what Jones was selling; the national press lambasted him; and much to his credit, coach Rick Pitino benched the Card guard for most of the following game.  Even Jones admitted later that the whole incident was “embarrassing.”

But too often, crime pays.  Miami star Dwayne Wade’s infamous flop in Game 2 of last year’s NBA finals put All-Star San Antonio Spur Manu Ginobili into early foul trouble, likely influencing the outcome of a game that Wade’s Heat won by only two points.  And just a few weeks ago, a Tyson Chandler flop pretty much clinched the game for his Dallas Mavericks, fouling out the Sacramento Kings’ best player, former Cat Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins.

But it’s less the outcome than the behavior itself that’s most disturbing.  To be clear, game-throwing, PED-using and even equipment-altering are much more morally offensive than subtle play-acting.  But when these transparently egregious infractions are identified, the strong penalties that are usually imposed send a powerful public message.

By contrast, when a player gets away with a particular crafty flop or an ingenious deception — especially if he is on our team — he sometimes is celebrated.  Bobby Thompson may have hit “the shot heard around the world,” to win the 1951 National League playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but New York Giants were stealing the catcher’s signs to his pitcher, a practice still defended to this day by some fans and surviving players.

And that’s the pernicious problem.  Over the past few months, I’ve used this column to extol the virtue and meaning of sport, particularly my favorite, college hoops.  I’ve discussed how Anthony Davis models selflessness; how Richie Farmer’s foibles offer meaningful lessons on hubris, entitlement and forgiveness; and most of all, how Kentucky basketball serves as the most powerful force in our Commonwealth for community and connection.

So when players cheat and then triumph, sport is sending an equally compelling, but this time a sinister and destructive message: that dishonesty is permissible on occasion, that deception is acceptable societal behavior.  In a culture where winning is everything, the lesson learned — particularly by our impressionable youth — is that corner-cutting, spin, and clever chicanery are the necessary arsenal to achieve the American Dream.  The slope from flopping to test cheating to tax dodging to political lying to insider trading to criminal defrauding is quite slippery indeed.

Sports have a commanding influence on our society; they must model integrity, fairness, rectitude, and character.   That’s why the NFL must crack down strongly on the Ballghazi perpetrators.  And that’s why college refs should start assessing technical fouls — and in the most egregious cases, suspensions — for any proven instances of malicious flopping.

As we watch grownups play kids’ games, we should always remember to see them through our children’s eyes.  It’s critical that the lessons young people learn from the sport model the kind of society we’d like them to inherit.

Coach Cal had a message for Coach K regarding his 1,000 Win


Coach K finally got that 1,000th win today (even though ESPN has been ready for it for about 2 weeks now). Duke looked to be in trouble early, but rallied late to give Krzyzewski his milestone victory. Before the game, John Calipari had a message for men’s college basketball’s winningest coach.

I still hate Duke. And I still can’t spell that last man’s name without looking it up.

Update: Tai Wynyard may join Kentucky in January of 2016


The good news of the day may even get a little sweeter, as Kentucky’s latest 2016 commitment, New Zealand big man Tai Wynyard says he might join Kentucky in January of 2016. For those who struggle with math like I do, that means that Wynyard COULD join Kentucky’s team next year halfway through the season. 

The 6-9 descendant of wood choppers caught up with Evan Daniels of Scout to discuss his timetable for arriving at Kentucky as well as his reasons for committing. “I committed to Kentucky because I feel like they will push me to my maximum potential , the academic side looked awesome and the facility was great.” 

When pressed on what his favorite part about Kentucky was, Wynyard responded, “The fans. They were awesome.”

As far as when Wynyard plans to enroll, he told Daniels that he hasn’t quite made that decision yet. He will either join with the rest of the 2016 class, or join midway through next season. 


To read Daniels’ full article, click here. 

Kentucky has at least an 88 percent chance of winning next five games

Kentucky has at least an 88 percent chance of winning next five games

According to ESPN, Kentucky has an 88 percent changing of winning each of their next five game.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.07.52 PM

After a good win in a tough environment in Columbia earlier today, what are your thoughts on Kentucky’s next five games? Do you think Kentucky will lose any of these games? If not any of these games, which one? Let’s hear what you have to say!

Jeff Goodman actually put us in the No. 1 spot for something


Jeff Goodman tweeted out earlier his ranking of the top 10 craziest basketball fan bases. Surprisingly, Goodman put Kentucky first in his ranking of the craziest fan bases. Thanks for putting us first in this poll, Jeff.

I am kind of shocked not to see Duke or North Carolina on that list, but at least he knows the BBN is the best.

Get your highlights here folks


Watch full highlights (courtesy of KyWildcatsTV) of Kentucky’s 58-43 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks as the move onto 19-0 on the season.


Nine notes on 19-0

Nine notes on 19-0


Sorry, college basketball: Kentucky’s still undefeated. The Cats put on a defensive clinic in Columbia today, beating South Carolina 58-43. Kentucky is now 19-0, matching the 2009-2010 team for the best start in the Calipari era. Let’s break it down.

It was all about the defense

As it has been all season, the secret to UK’s success today was its defense. The Cats smothered the Gamecocks, holding them to 22.6% shooting for the game and a ridiculous 17.3% in the second half. South Carolina only made four field goals in the second half. Four. To put it in ever better perspective, Kentucky had more blocks and steals (17) than South Carolina had field goals (12), the eighth time that’s happened this season.

“What makes it so effective is their bigs. When you drive into the lane, you can’t see,” Sindarius Thornwell said of Kentucky’s defense. “It’s tough shooting it over top of them. When you’re jumping, all you see is their hands.”

Can we get that stitched on a pillow, please?

As you can imagine, Frank Martin wasn’t pleased.

From watching the telecast, it seemed Martin wasn’t pleased with ANYTHING his team did this afternoon. I mean, look at this guy:

Odds he was actually saying “fun” instead of the other f-word?

After spending twenty minutes in child’s pose after the game, Martin calmed down and had nothing but compliments for John Calipari and the Cats in his postgame remarks. “Sometimes the bear gets you and sometimes you get the bear. Today, the bear got us,” Martin said of his team’s performance. And that defense? “Phew, phew” was Martin’s response.

“Their little breakdowns that they had last year? They don’t have them anymore,” Martin said of this year’s team. “I respect the heck out of John Calipari. I’ve heard people say he can’t coach. What a joke.”

Devin Booker warmed back up

Booker only scored six points vs. Vanderbilt on Tuesday, prompting Cal to joke that one night he’s shooting the lights out, and the next he’s making airballs, but he bounced back this afternoon, leading the team in scoring with 18 points, including two threes. That meant he got to break out the three shotgun twice:

Does the gesture bother the coaches? “They haven’t said anything to me about it, they joke around with me about it. I guess it’s just something I do now.”

It’s something the entire BBN does now.

Frank Martin’s reaction to Devin Booker was priceless

“Wooooo! Woooooo,” Martin said when asked about Booker. “And we have to play them again?? God, he’s good.”

Martin made the excellent point that because Kentucky is loaded and has veterans to shoulder a lot of the pressure, Booker can just go out there and play. “The burden of being great is not on his shoulders,” Martin said.

I’m really going to miss him when he goes pro.

Aaron and Tyler played great, too

It was a strong game for Kentucky’s guards in general. Aaron Harrison scored 13 points, but his defense was most impressive to me this afternoon. Aaron had four rebounds, three steals and even a block, and told Mike Pratt he fed off a rowdy South Carolina crowd. “Oh yeah, we enjoy all that,” Aaron said of South Carolina’s jeers. “We love the boos.”

Tyler Ulis was equally impressive, putting up six points, three rebounds, one steal, and six assists. A lot of those were to Devin Booker, and judging by how easily and naturally the two find each other on the court now, it’s like Kentucky has another set of twins. Ulis’ strong performance helped offset a rough outing for Andrew Harrison, who only had four points; however, as you would expect, Calipari praised Andrew for rallying late in the game after a shaky start. “He’s a sophomore. A sophomore. People forget. So much better than last year. Not even close.”

What does Cal tell Andrew when he gets into a slump? “Play with more energy, man. Be more active.” Cal compared Andrew to Derrick Rose in terms of how he internalizes things, and the clearest example of that was in the first half when a South Carolina fan yelled “You blew the National Championship” at Andrew, causing him to look up and frown. Thankfully, Andrew was able to shake it off and make a difference in the second half on the defensive end.

Aside from Marcus Lee, it was not a great day for UK’s bigs

Marcus Lee played well yet again, turning in a career-high four blocks in only thirteen minutes. Meanwhile, the rest of Kentucky’s bigs struggled. South Carolina actually outrebounded Kentucky by 12. Karl Towns really didn’t play well, putting up only two points, one rebound, and two blocks in twelve minutes. Too many times, Karl got beat on defense, and after the game, Cal said the game was just too physical for him. “I love Karl like he’s my son, but I killed him today,” Cal said. “We still had some guys that struggled in the physicalness at the game. It’s a great lesson for them.”

Willie made UK basketball history today

While he only scored two points, Willie did cement himself in UK basketball history this afternoon. Wille had two steals, which makes him the first player in UK basketball history with 200 blocks and 100 steals. Not too shabby.

South Carolina fans 0, Sam Malone 1

Near the end of the game, South Carolina students were so upset they resorted to mocking Sam Malone on the bench, yelling at him to take off his headband because he would never get in. Sam’s response? He pointed to the scoreboard. Even better: after the game was over, UK fans chanted “Just like football,” which I’m sure Steve Spurrier just loved.

Trap game? Nah.

After Kentucky lost in Columbia last season and showed vulnerability at Texas A&M, many had today circled as a trap game. Hell, ESPN even sent Dickie V to South Carolina for a noon tip. How often does that happen? Gamecock fans were desperate for the upset, and in the first few minutes of the game, admit it, we were all a little nervous; however, as they have so many times this season, the Cats stood tall and played to their strengths, making it almost impossible for South Carolina to score.

Last year, Aaron Harrison famously said that he believed his team could still be a great story, which rang a bit hollow in the wake of the worst loss of the season. That line will live on in UK lore, and Devin Booker was asked about it after today’s game. “This is just the beginning for us,” Booker said.

19-0’s a pretty great start.

Blue got in and blue got loud

Let’s all give a round of applause for the many Kentucky fans who were at the game today in Columbia. From the girls in the student section who refused to cover up their blue (that was B.S. by the way) to the several packs of fans scattered around the arena, everyone did their part in dimming one of the SEC’s best atmospheres.

I made a second half trip to get Bojangle’s, because Bojangle’s is amazing, and I couldn’t differentiate between the roars during the time I was away. I would hear an eruption and assume South Carolina did something big, only to look back toward the court and see Kentucky was the team that actually made the play. Big Blue Nation was just as loud as the home crowd all day long.

So pat yourselves on the back for this one, BBN. You people are crazy as hell. Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if you have any chill at all.

Highlights from the W

From the good people at Kentucky Wildcats TV.

Booker claims his Tuesday night airball was tipped


Devin Booker threw up an airball during a critical possession in the Vanderbilt game and Cal referenced it Thursday afternoon in his pre-South Carolina press conference.

Today, Booker would like everyone to know the ball was tipped. It was not an airball, so he says.

“Not many people know that,” he told us today.

Sure it was, Devin. Sure it was.


As Flener mentioned in the post just south of this, Booker led Kentucky with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field in today’s win at South Carolina. It’s time we start preparing for his early departure because the NBA talk is only heating up, just like his game.

Coach Cal didn’t get tossed but he made this face at the official