The first few days after the season ends are always an adjustment. Not only is →
Basketball Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 5:30pm
A few weeks ago, The Washington Post ran a story that always gets run this time of year: the amount of money spent on college athletics is staggering, and disproportionate to the amount of money spent on academics. It’s an old narrative that gets trotted out every March to make everyone feel guilty about enjoying sports, but this particular piece took fire at UK specifically. The author, Will Hobson, pointed out that coaching salaries at UK (even for sports other than football and basketball) are rising at a much higher rate than faculty salaries; therefore, the school cares more about sports than academics.
Today, UK provost Tim Tracy, Dean of the College of Arts & Science Mark Kornbluh, and Chair of the Department of Chemistry Mark Meier fired back in an op-ed for the Herald-Leader, defending UK Athletics, which they argue is not only self-sufficient, but helps out academics, most notably in the form of the new $110 million Jacobs Science Building, $65 million of which was funded by the athletic department.
But salaries for coaches have not deterred our progress. In fact, the ability of athletics to fund vital infrastructure on our campus — and pay its own bills entirely — has, in many ways, made us more competitive for academic and research talent, not less.
In fact, the UK Athletics investment in the Jacobs Science Building alone is greater than all the coaches’ salaries combined for multiple years.
There’s a lot more logic where that came from over at the Herald-Leader, so go check it out.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 4:45pm
So far today, it seems the national media is really going with this “Luke Maye is the new Christian Laettner” narrative, which is entirely unfair to Maye because he doesn’t seem like a pretentious punk. Sure, both Laettner and Maye hit heartbreaking last-second shots to beat the Cats, and, wow, isn’t a coincidence that both wore the #32 and the shots happened 25 years apart, but other than that, whatever. Laettner further proved my point today when he embraced Maye on Twitter, trolling the #BBN as only he can do:
— Christian Laettner (@laettnerbball) March 27, 2017
Hard to believe that a few years ago, I was starting to not hate him so much.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 4:00pm
If you’ve ever been to a game at South Carolina, you’ve seen “Gamecock Jesus,” the long-haired super fan waving a flag and dancing in his own little world behind the basket. I got an up close and personal introduction to Gamecock Jesus (whose real name is Carlton Thompson) in 2014, when he practically gyrated in my face the entire game:
A post shared by Tyler Thompson (@mrstylerksr) on
A post shared by Tyler Thompson (@mrstylerksr) on
A lifelong fan and USC nursing school graduate, Gamecock Jesus is an institution at almost every South Carolina athletics event, and now, with the Gamecocks unpredictably in the Final Four, South Carolina fans have teamed up to make sure he goes to Phoenix. After Gamecock Jesus couldn’t afford to go to the East Regional in New York this past weekend, South Carolina fans started a GoFundMe page and raised over $5,000 to send him to the Final Four, well over their $3,500 goal. So, if you can stomach watching the games this weekend, keep an eye out for him, doing his thing. Here’s hoping he gets lots of screen time.
By Nick Roush on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
John Calipari may have not got the best draw in the NCAA Tournament, but he couldn’t have asked for a better selection at the McDonald’s All-American Game. Four Kentucky commits — Quade Green, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt — are teammates with Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bamba, Calipari’s remaining two targets in the class of 2017.
“They’re in my ear 24/7 talking about how good it is to play with each other and how we’re getting along with each other,” Knox said after this morning’s practice. Bamba’s description is the same: “Non-stop. Non-stop. Seriously, non-stop.”
Bamba is third-ranked player in the 2017 class. The lengthy 7-footer is down to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan and Texas. Knox is the eighth-ranked player in the class, choosing between the Cats, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.
Knox is also hearing it from Duke players, but the Cats have another ace-in-the-hole: P.J. Washington’s father, Paul.
“Him and my Dad are really close. They always talk at every camp. My mom and his mom are really close.” Knox said Paul asked him after practice, “‘How does it feel playing with Jarred and P.J. and Quade?’ He’s recruiting me too. It’s all fun when my parents and their parents get together. It never stops. They’re always in my ear.”
Green’s form of recruiting simple. “When I see Mo and Kevin, I just tell ’em ‘BBN’ and walk away from ’em.”
Washington might be the biggest talker of the bunch and he’s feeling pretty good about the Cats’ chances. “We’re trying to get them and I feel like we have a really good chance to get both of them.”
Jarred Vanderbilt echoed Washington’s statement.
“I’ve been in Mo’s ear all weekend. Kev too. We’re trying to make a dynasty,” Vanderbilt said. “I feel like we got some good chances. They’re still a work in progress but I think I we can get ’em.”
Knox will be making his decision during Spring Break after the Jordan Brand Game. He initially planned on announcing in March, but wanted to see how the college basketball season ended.
“That’s one of the reasons I pushed it back from March to April is to wait to see how people did in the tournament, what people are leaving, what people are staying. That’s definitely going to play a big part in my decision.”
When the small forward was discussing each of his finalists, I laughed a little when I heard, “Duke, they lost pretty early.” Knox cracked a smile when he started talking about his Kentucky-bound teammates. “I’m on a team with all the Kentucky commits. It’s good to play with them. They like to run and gun.”
Bamba’s perspective on Duke is different than I’ve ever heard before, validating those who say Coach K’s time as the Team USA head coach is a recruiting advantage.
“With Duke, you get something a little bit different because you’re getting three different brands,” Bamba said. “You’re getting the university, you’re getting the program and you’re getting Coach K. Coach K has his own global brand, which is pretty outstanding.”
When Bamba visited UK’s campus, he was taken aback seeing the walls filled with NBA players and banners at the Joe Craft Center, but that will not be the primary reason he chooses Kentucky.
“I really like their coaching staff and I really like the players that are coming in next year.”
Next year’s players have two more days in Chicago to convince two more All-Americans to become Cats.
We’re gonna get over this, I swear, but to mourn properly, we must wallow. Grab the tissues and let all of the emotions out on your lunch break. You’ve earned it.
— Jordan Burgen (@theburgo) March 27, 2017
While we’re all sad, at least we’re not this guy, who pulled his calf muscle cheering in the final minutes:
— Jeremy Fritz (@JeremyFritz05) March 27, 2017
— Jessica Childs (@J_Savyy) March 27, 2017
— Gabe Antrobus (@antrobus15) March 27, 2017
Okay, that’s enough.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 12:30pm
Had Kentucky won last night, Isaac Humphries would be a hero. Humphries came out of nowhere to score a career-high 12 points to give Kentucky a crucial boost in the second half vs. North Carolina. How surprising was Humphries’ breakout? He had eight total points over his last 12 games coming into this one. His performance was enough to earn him a spot on the All-NCAA South Region Team, alongside De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, and that kid who hit that shot (and was named the Regional Most Outstanding Player).
“We were all really obviously excited to play this game, so I was in the mindset of coming out and doing whatever I could to help my team,” Isaac said afterwards. “And I was given a great opportunity, and I just wanted to take advantage of it.”
“We know how good Isaac is,” Dominique Hawkins said. “In practice he shoots the lights out. We have a drill where we shoot for five minutes and he makes at least 80 shots. For him to step up in that moment, I’m proud of him, and I knew that he had it in him.”
“So proud of how these guys fought,” Calipari said. “So proud of Isaac. Can you imagine his first real opportunity to do this was in this game, and he performed? Amazing.”
It’s crazy to think that just two weeks ago, Isaac was questioning his future at Kentucky. Hopefully, last night showed him that just a little bit of confidence can go a long way.
We’ve known for a while that Kaylee Hartung is leaving her job at ESPN for CNN, but today, Hartung made it official, posting this message on social media:
Best of luck to Kaylee in her new career. We’ll miss her on the sidelines at games, but she’s got one heck of a gig ahead of her. If you’ve got some time today, send her a message @KayleeHartung.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 27th, 2017 @ 11:15am
The final 30 seconds of the game included the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for Kentucky fans. Lee K. Howard from WKYT captured this video that sums the roller coaster of emotions up perfectly, if you can stomach watching:
— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) March 27, 2017
Sunday’s loss was heartbreaking, but we still love our Cats! Congrats to Coach Cal and the team on a great season!
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If you need another reason to get over to Barleycorn’s, how about this promo they’re running right now!? Now through April 3, bounce back in to Barleycorn’s for a FREE order of chicken tenders when a player scores 30 or more points in a single Men’s NCAA Tournament game!
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It seemed touch and go there for a minute last night, but the sun did come up this morning, although here in Nashville, it’s shrouded in clouds, which suits my mood perfectly. After rolling into town in the wee hours and getting a few hours of sleep, the loss to North Carolina still sucks, but as with all things, we must move on.
1. At least the season ended with a game like that?
At times yesterday, it felt like North Carolina was going to run away with the game, but as they have all year, Kentucky rallied, refusing to give up until the very last second. The Tar Heels were up seven with a minute left, but thanks to some clutch threes from De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, the Cats tied it up with 10 seconds left. Unfortunately, the basketball gods had a different ending in mind and Luke Maye, a former walk-on, cemented himself in UNC lore with the game-winning shot with three seconds left. No shot will ever hurt as much as Christian Laettner’s 25 years ago (ironically, both wear #32), but Maye’s will sting for a long time to come.
2. If you’re still angry about the refs, well, so is Calipari
Complaining about the refs after a loss is petty, but the officiating was so horrendous in the first half, it’s merited. Questionable calls on the Cats and a lack of calls on the Heels put almost all of Kentucky’s starters on the bench for most of the first half, and it was the first thing on Calipari’s mind when he took the podium after the game:
“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team. Amazing that we had a chance. So proud of how these guys fought,” Cal said. “I told them at halftime, it is what it is. And you’ve got to beat who’s out there, and let’s go, and don’t worry about it.”
3. Burn the tape
Calipari echoed all of our thoughts when he told reporters last night he has no desire to watch the tape of that game ever again.
“When that three went in and it tied the game, I probably should have called a time-out. It entered my mind, but they got that son-of-a-b in so quick, I couldn’t get to anybody to do it. But I needed to stop that right there. Someone said, well, what happened? I said, I don’t know, and I probably will never know because I won’t watch this tape, and I never watch the last tape of the season. Watched enough tapes all year. Watched a thousand tapes. I’m not watching a thousand and one.”
4. The locker room was heartbreaking
I was so far back that the only video I could get was of the backs of other people’s heads, but De’Aaron Fox’s sobs echoed through the room and will probably haunt me for a long time. Fox did most of the talking for his brothers, and after watching the heartbreaking video, I don’t know how anyone could claim that these players don’t care about the program.
Well, so much for that whole “no crying” thing.
5. There was no talk of who’s staying and who’s going
We know for certain that Kentucky’s three seniors are gone (although, if someone can figure out how to get an extra year of eligibility for any of them, you’ll be a legend in this state forever), but the trio of freshmen with the highest draft stock squashed any talk about whether or not they’re staying in school or going to the draft. With Fox and Monk projected to go in the top ten and Bam in the first round, they’re probably, definitely gone and although he’s not even on some draft boards, it feels like Briscoe is too. What about the rest, i.e. Wenyen Gabriel? With the new draft rules, he’ll probably test the waters and get feedback, which is entirely merited. Given that he only played four minutes last night, it’s hard to imagine a team picking him up, but you never know. Cruelly, yesterday was Wenyen’s birthday, and as the team headed back to Lexington, he sent out this sad, reflective tweet:
So blessed to have been part of such a great group. Gonna miss all my brothas and will never forget everything we went though together #BBN
— UPMΛN™ (@WenyenGabriel) March 27, 2017
6. Lexington didn’t handle the loss too well
If you expected UK students to handle the loss well, well, you haven’t met many college students. Thankfully, there were no arrests or significant fires, but two people were taken to the hospital. Here’s a video from the Herald-Leader:
7. Where does this one rank in terms of heartbreak?
The comparisons to Laettner’s shot are inevitable, especially since it’s the 25th anniversary and both he and Maye wear the same number, but this morning on Twitter, someone asked me which hurts more, and it’s got to be Laettner, right? Try as I might, Luke Maye doesn’t even seem like a hatable guy, whereas Laettner was a total punk. I’m sure this depends mostly on age, but for me, this ranks third in terms of heartbreak behind Wisconsin and The Shot. Nothing will ever top the loss to Wisconsin in 2015, something I oddly took some comfort in last night.
Again, everyone’s different. Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.
8. Fans met the team at the airport
I just put this up in the post before this one, but a group of fans met the team at the airport, a small solace for a group that’s really hurting right now:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 27, 2017
9. Brace yourself for the haters
The usual suspects spent the night trolling the BBN on Twitter and it’s only going to get worse today. For some reason, even Louisville fans started chirping at me, which seems hilarious because Kentucky got farther than they did, but hey, that’s what the mute and block button are for. Also, if you do follow him for some reason, go ahead and do yourself a favor and block Clay Travis. You’re welcome.
10. Group therapy begins at 10 a.m.
Let’s all grieve together on the radio show, which starts in about a half hour. Bring the tissues.
Nothing was going to make the team feel better about the loss last night, but seeing the group of fans that gathered at Bluegrass Airport must have been nice:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 27, 2017
— Mark Mahan (@MarkMahan) March 27, 2017
Some views from Snapchat:
UPDATE: Here’s another video from KSTV.
Where do you even start with a game like this? Coming in, we know this game would be tough, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that. In a way, this game felt like a microcosm of the entire season. North Carolina controlled the first half, but just when it looked like it could get out of hand, Kentucky rallied, making a gutsy comeback to take the lead with 6:41 left thanks to the unlikeliest of heroes. Isaac Humphries, who, two weeks ago, was questioning his future at Kentucky, hit the free throw to put the Cats ahead, and kept firing to push the lead to five with five minutes left. Unfortunately, for every big shot Kentucky made, North Carolina responded. The Tar Heels were up seven with a minute left, and it looked like Kentucky’s fate was sealed, but the Cats didn’t give up thanks to huge threes from De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. Monk, who struggled most of the game, did as Monk does and drained a three to tie the score with ten seconds left, but North Carolina’s Luke Maye hit a jumper seven seconds later to seal the win. From there, the game, and Kentucky’s season, was over.
The dramatic ending aside, you can see why Kentucky lost. It seemed like the entire team was in foul trouble from the start, a point Calipari hammered home in the postgame presser.
“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team,” Cal said. “Amazing that we had a chance. So proud of how these guys fought. So proud of Isaac. Can you imagine his first real opportunity to do this was in this game, and he performed? Amazing.”
The fact that Isaac scored 12 is just the tip of the bizarre iceberg. With so many players in foul trouble in the first half, Dominique Hawkins stepped up and carried the load, scoring ten points before halftime to keep the Cats within striking distance. Malik Monk, who had 47 vs. North Carolina in Vegas in December, was out of sorts, finishing with only 12 points, six of those in the final minute. De’Aaron Fox, who had 39 points on Friday night, finished with 13 from 5-14 from the floor. Bam Adebayo had 13 points, five from the free throw line.
Novels could be written about the officiating and yes, this matchup should have taken place in the Final Four and not the Elite Eight, but instead of focusing on the negative, I’m going to remember how this team rallied. The outcome clearly wasn’t what we had all hoped, but a few months ago, could you have imagined this team making it this far? If you’re looking for some solace, remember how bad things were in the middle of the conference season. A tearful De’Aaron Fox said it best.
“We went through that stretch and we lost those games and everybody talked about how we didn’t care. This isn’t a locker room that looks like guys don’t care. I love my brothers, man.”
In the past two months and especially the last seven games, this team endeared itself to the BBN. It was a fast and furious courtship, but this group was well on its way to becoming one of the most beloved of the Calipari era for their resiliency, fearlessness, and swagger.
The next few days will be full of speculation about who’s going to the draft and who’s coming back, but it speaks to the character of this squad that none of the players asked — many of which are projected to go in the top ten of the draft — were focusing on that.
“I really don’t know right now,” Malik Monk said. “I haven’t talked to my mom, brother, or coach yet. We’ll talk about that later.”
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Fox said, cutting off a reporter. “I love these guys. I’m not thinking about what’s next.”
Right now, the cruelest part of today’s loss may feel like Luke Maye’s dagger, but I have a feeling in the weeks and months to come, it will be the fact that Kentucky’s season ended just as fans were falling in love with this squad.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 26th, 2017 @ 10:30pm
JOHN CALIPARI: You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team. Amazing that we had a chance. So proud of how these guys fought. So proud of Isaac. Can you imagine his first real opportunity to do this was in this game, and he performed? Amazing.
Five minutes to go, I told the staff in the huddle, they’re going to go zone. Some guys argued. I said, they’re going to go zone. And we did not quite execute. We kind of — we weren’t in the spots we were supposed to be in, and it kind of started from there.
But they never stopped, and the only — I told them, they’ve got to self-reflect because we made some plays, some individuals made some plays down the stretch, like what were you thinking, but young kids. And the second thing is I’ve got to look at myself. When that three went in and it tied the game, I probably should have called a time-out. It entered my mind, but they got that son-of-a-b in so quick, I couldn’t get to anybody to do it. But I needed to stop that right there. Someone said, well, what happened? I said, I don’t know, and I probably will never know because I won’t watch this tape, and I never watch the last tape of the season. Watched enough tapes all year. Watched a thousand tapes. I’m not watching a thousand and one.
But hats off to Carolina. What a great team. Well-coached. Roy deserves to be there. They out-played us, but I am proud of these guys. Really am.
Q. Isaac, can you talk about your performance today, what was clicking well for you, and then Dominique, can you just talk about Isaac’s performance and how that impacted you all with the foul trouble that Coach alluded to?
ISAAC HUMPHRIES: We were all really obviously excited to play this game, so I was in the mindset of coming out and doing whatever I could to help my team. And I was given a great opportunity, and I just wanted to take advantage of it.
DOMINIQUE HAWKINS: We know how good Isaac is. In practice he shoots the lights out. We have a drill where we shoot for five minutes and he makes at least 80 shots. For him to step up in that moment, I’m proud of him, and I knew that he had it in him.
Q. Isaac, end of the first half, you guys go to a lineup you typically wouldn’t play because of foul trouble, but you played UNC even. What was the move with all the guys on the floor there?
ISAAC HUMPHRIES: Like I said earlier, we were all super ready for this game, and I think we all just wanted to do as much as we can. In a moment like that, I don’t think that crossed our mind once. I think we just needed to fight, and we tried to just fight, even though the lineup wasn’t obviously what it usually was.
But honestly, we were just trying to fight, and we weren’t even thinking about stuff like that.
Q. There was a couple big calls in the first half, the goal-tending and the wiped-out basket. How did that change your momentum in the first half?
JOHN CALIPARI: I’ll come back to this. There was a lot of stuff that went on, and our kids fought through it. I told them at halftime, it is what it is. And you’ve got to beat who’s out there, and let’s go, and don’t worry about it. And I even said, I’m going to back off because it’s on TV. It’s tape. You can’t — you can say that — but deal with it, and they’ve got to deal with it, too.
But don’t take away from North Carolina. I mean, you think of the plays they made, down five, to get back, and I mean, it was bang-bang. And then to get up, and then us come back and tie the game, and then they make one at the buzzer? Come on. It was a terrific game. I just wish we could have played a first half with a full roster. But it is what it is. I mean, you look at it, and guys stepped up. I mean, somebody just said, you played even with a group that you never played before. We never played those guys. We play them in practice some, but I was proud of them. I was proud of how they fought in the first half. Should have been down 15. We were down five. It’s crazy.
Q. What did you see from the sideline during Carolina’s 12-0 run in that second half?
JOHN CALIPARI: They went zone. We missed — we didn’t execute great, but we missed open shots. Then we took a bad shot. And then you take a turnover, and all of a sudden it’s a 12-0 run. I want to say that, you know, we needed to make one to stem the tide and try to win the game, and we just missed them all. But how about, the game was tied up? What were we, on a 6-0 run at the end? What were they seeing? These were two teams just slugging at each other.
As soon as John Calipari made it to the podium following today’s Elite Eight buzzer-beating loss to North Carolina, he directed his attention to the officials — Keith Kimble, Mike Reed and John Higgins.
“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team,” Coach Cal said. “Amazing that we had a chance. So proud of how these guys fought.”
Isaiah Briscoe was the only Kentucky starter who didn’t have at least two fouls at halftime. Still, Calipari couldn’t put the loss entirely on the officials’ shoulders. Instead, he applauded his team’s fight and North Carolina’s play.
“Hats off to Carolina. What a great team. Well-coached. Roy deserves to be there. They out-played us, but I am proud of these guys. Really am.”
Tonight Derek Willis played his last basketball game for the University of Kentucky. In his four years at UK, the Bullitt County native become a beloved figure for fans. Throughout his up-and-down career, one man got to see it from a unique perspective.
Derek Willis, a journalist for ProPublica, was often mistaken for the basketball player by Kentucky fans. @DerekWillis received many of the messages meant for @Derek_Willis33. After the basketball player’s career ended, the journalist thanked the forward for taking him on a remarkable ride.
For past 4 years I’ve been occasionally mistaken on Twitter for @derek_willis33, a Kentucky basketball player with the same name. I’ve always been a huge college basketball fan & I knew about UK’s standing among great programs. I knew nothing about #BBN, though.
At first I was kinda annoyed; this kid with my name hadn’t played a college game & he was already stealing my Google SEO. I get it: basketball recruiting is huge & UK basketball is even bigger. But hey, I’ve been on the Web since 1995. This was my turf!
Once @derek_willis33 started getting playing time, I started getting tweets. Not always praise, but more than I would have thought. He was a raw talent – tall, skinny, liked to shoot the 3 – and I figured he might just be a role player on a very talented team. Which is why I was stunned by the reaction of #BBN, the Kentucky fanbase.
Y’all were unbelievably nice, esp when I started to respond. When I say “nice” I mean nice on Twitter. Think about that. They had no reason at all to be nice. I was intruding into their space. People who were nasty mostly didn’t use his (or my) twitter handle, which I guess is a blessing. He’s a college senior, after all. College kids do dumb things. I did. The least of them happen on the basketball court, in my experience, even in the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, @derek_willis33 got the chance of a young lifetime to play UK basketball. But he’s got a lifetime ahead. #BBN has his back. And even though we’ve never met, I want to thank @derek_willis33 for being a good sport & for allowing me a glimpse of #BBN. It has been maybe the weirdest fun time I’ve had online & I won’t forget it. Good luck to you & #BBN, and thanks.