The first few days after the season ends are always an adjustment. Not only is →
Basketball Season Coverage
By Nick Roush on ©March 26th, 2017 @ 11:00am
Tayshaun’s Five Threes
The shot from the logo is one of the most memorable threes ever made at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky is Back
We knew the Cats were gonna be good with John Wall, DeMarucs Cousins and Co., but we didn’t know how good. The one-and-done thing was new. All of the experts insisted it couldn’t be done successfully. Then John Wall WOWed the world vs. North Carolina, finishing with 16 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds in a 2-point win over the tenth-ranked team in the country. Since then, nothing was the same.
Liggins Sends UK to the Final Four
Leading by one with a minute to play, DeAndre Liggins got open in the corner to take a four-point lead and silence the Tar Heels. The 76-69 win got Kentucky to the Final Four for the first time in 13 years.
Anthony Davis Ends It
One of the most hyped games entering the 2011-12 season, Kentucky and North Carolina were preseason 1-2, destined to dominate college basketball all season. Unfortunately, North Carolina lost the week before, knocking them down a few pegs before the game, but the game lived up to the hype. A back-and-forth affair throughout, you could feel the tension in the air until Rupp Arena exploded following Anthony Davis’ game-winning block.
Cats Keep Rolling to 38-0
The 2014 matchup at Rupp Arena was the last meeting in the annual home-and-home series. North Carolina hung in there for quite some time, but couldn’t handle the two platoons.
All Monk Everything
It wasn’t all Monk — De’Aaron Fox had 24 points — but Monk’s 47 point-performance is one of the greatest individual performances many fans have ever seen. He was great, but somehow got better every time down the floor until he knocked down the contested game-winner.
One more look at the ONIONS!
Sunday’s wake up: game day notes, spring scrimmage and March Madness, brought to you by Barleycorn’s
By Maggie Davis on ©March 26th, 2017 @ 10:00am
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Today’s the day
On to the next one. Even though fans are still celebrating Friday’s victory over UCLA, the Cats have another difficult task ahead of them tonight. Ah, the beauty of March. Tip-off for the UK vs. UNC matchup is set for 5:05 ET and can be seen on CBS.
Banners are back
The quick turn around between games did not deter UK students from getting creative with some new banners aimed at the Cats’ next opponent.
Today’s officials are…
John Higgins, Keith Kimble and Mike Reed. In each game the Wildcats have played with Higgins, a technical foul has been assessed. In a feature by Sports Illustrated, Higgins noted that he was “not disagreeing… and not apologizing” for the impression that he calls more technicals than the average referee.
“We’re supposed to enforce the rules as written, right? The NCAA is always preaching sportsmanship, sportsmanship, sportsmanship,” said Higgins. “You can eat a little crow if you know you probably screwed a play up, but when you let coaches and players and coaches act like idiots, you lose all credibility. I try not to let it happen in my games, that’s for sure.”
“We’re told to enforce sportsmanship. It’s no different than fouling the jump shooter. You break the rule, you pay the penalty.”
Only time will tell if Coach Cal will have a penalty to pay tonight, but I would say the chances are pretty high he will.
Something to watch: rebounds
In December’s UK vs. UNC matchup, Kentucky outrebounded North Carolina 39-35, something the Tar Heels were not used to. During the regular season, UNC was only outrebounded by three teams: Kentucky, Miami and Duke. In all three games, UNC left defeated.
North Carolina leads the nation in rebounding margins, clocking in at 13.1. Kentucky sits at No. 38 on that same list with a rebounding margin of 5.1. On the season, the Wildcats are averaging 40 rebounds per game, while the Tar Heels are grabbing an average of 44 per game.
Something else: defense
In Saturday’s press conference, both Calipari and the players discussed the possible differences between December’s meeting with the Tar Heels versus Sunday’s, and the one common idea was clear: defense. It’s obvious both teams have had several months to work and improve, and stronger defenses will likely lead to a lower score than the Cats’ 103-100 victory in December.
“That December game, there was no defense in that game. When you’re playing a 40-minute game and it’s 100-103. Both teams have gotten better,” Fox said. “It’s not about our offense. Like I said, if we can buckle down defensively, our offense is going to come. If we’re playing defense, we’re confident in how we play.”
Both teams relied heavily on their transition game early in the season, so Kentucky’s defense now must find a way to force North Carolina to the half court while simultaneously finding their own offensive mojo.
“We’re not scoring 90 points like we were at the beginning of the season because people just didn’t know how to stop us,” Fox said. “We know if we’re not going to score 30 transition points a game we know we gotta play defense. That’s what it comes down at this point.”
SomeONE else: Theo Pinson
North Carolina’s junior guard missed 19 games this season due to injury – including December’s face-off against Kentucky – but has started in 10 of the Tar Heels’ past 11 games. Although he’s averaging just 4.8 points per game, he’s grabbing 4.2 rebounds and is regarded as the team’s best perimeter defender, meaning he’ll likely be put on Monk patrol.
UNC senior Kennedy Meeks sure thinks so. When asked about the teams’ first game of the season, Meeks said:
“Maybe if Theo was playing, Malik only has 30 points and we still win the game. I think he’s definitely one of the best defenders, and I think he does a great job of coming in the game and giving us a lift.”
Don’t forget about football!
Switching gears: spring football is back in the Bluegrass, and KSR’s got you covered. Nick and Freddie attended Saturday’s scrimmage, and you can catch up with Freddie’s post here. Overall, Coach Stoops said he was “very pleased” with Stephen Johnson’s performance and was “all for” being more aggressive on special teams, while offensive coordinator Eddie Gran noted “there weren’t enough explosive run plays” for his liking. Be sure to stay tuned for more as spring training heats up over the next couple of weeks.
In other, non-basketball news, Kentucky Baseball (18-7, 5-1 in the SEC) won their series against No. 14 Ole Miss on Saturday, earning them the No. 1 spot in the SEC. The BatCats will take on Cincinnati at home on Tuesday, March 28 at 6:30.
Oregon upset Kansas and some other non-UK games
I can’t believe I’m just now getting to this: No. 3 Oregon defeated No. 1 Kansas 74-60 Saturday night. The Ducks are now heading to the Final Four for the second time in program history – the last time was in 1939. Last night’s victory also makes Oregon the first Pac-12 team to advance to the Final Four since Russel Westbrook and UCLA did so in 2008. The winner of UK vs. UNC will now face the Ducks rather than the Jayhawks.
Earlier Saturday, No. 1 Gonzaga cruised past No. 11 Xavier, defeating the Musketeers 83-59 and clenching their first ticket to the Final Four in program history.
No. 4 Florida will face No. 7 South Carolina in an SEC matchup no one predicted today at 2:20 ET on CBS. The winner of this game will advance to the Final Four, where they will play Gonzaga.
Today’s a stressful day. Try to sit back and relax until 5:05 – unless you’re in Memphis, then head over to Tin Roof at 1:30 Central time for the KSR pregame show. Go Cats.
De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are receiving all the glory for last night’s win over UCLA, but before John Calipari began taking questions at today’s press conference, he had to praise his center.
“Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I want to make sure that I don’t forget,” Calipari said. “I’m getting old; I do forget stuff now and then.
“The impact that Bam had on that game yesterday, some of you who write about basketball don’t really watch it, may not have understood. UCLA came in with one thought: We’re going to make this really hard on Bam. So he sacrificed. He had five assists. He created shots for both Dom and opened up the lane for De’Aaron Fox. He still tried to fight and rebound. Never says a word. So the impact on the game that he had, unless you really understood what was going on, they made that decision, and he rode with it.”
But Cal wasn’t going to let Bam get by without a little criticism too.
“Now, he did walk a couple times. He should have scored a couple more baskets. But the reality of it is he played well.”
Adebayo didn’t score until he dunked one in the final five minutes and he pulled in just four rebounds, but his five assists led the team. Calipari also used the time to shine a light on Isaiah Briscoe’s contributions. The sophomore guard had 5 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but that’s not what mattered to Calipari.
“When we talk on that court, when we’re talking, we are really good. When we don’t talk, we are really bad,” Cal said. “He gets the other guys to talk.”
More to come from Memphis.
All eyes were on De’Aaron Fox in today’s media session following his record-setting 39-point performance vs. UCLA last night. Fox has always been confident, but he seemed extra sure of himself this afternoon; in fact, John Calipari had to rein him in a few times at the podium. When asked about the SEC having three teams in the Elite Eight, Fox predicted that Kentucky will join the winner of Florida and South Carolina in next weekend’s Final Four.
“Both of those teams are great. I didn’t really play against South Carolina, but Florida was great. They beat us down there pretty good, and getting a chance at them again. Just all the SEC, everyone wants to talk down on it, things like that, but right now, it’s one guaranteed team is going to be in the Final Four just because those two are playing against each other, but I want to say it’s going to be two in there.”
“I don’t know about that,” Cal said. “He didn’t say that.”
Later on, Calipari cut Fox off from answering more questions when he said if things go as planned, the Cats have three games left.
“For me, I’m not worried about that,” Fox said of people who criticize Kentucky’s one-and-done culture. “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”
“You’d better play well, that’s all I’m saying, with the stuff you’re saying,” Cal said.
Fox’s teammates teased him throughout the rest of the session, but when the starters broke out into individual interview sessions, he made some more breaking news: he grew up as a North Carolina fan. Whaaaaaa????
“I grew up kind of a North Carolina fan,” Fox said. “Just watching them. Michael Jordan went there. They’re just one of those teams you kind of watch. I just like watching them play. They’ve always been winning. I’ve never seen a season since I’ve been alive and could comprehend basketball, I’ve never seen a season when they haven’t had a winning record.”
That should make beating them tomorrow even sweeter, right?
(Of course Fox said that right as I turned off my video, but you can see five minutes of the Q&A below)
By Nick Roush on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
Every time John Calipari’s team is near a Final Four, the “one-and-done” conversation gets brought up. Naturally, it was a topic yet again today.
Playing with a roster full of seniors, Roy Williams was asked if there’s a difference in the way he recruits that gives him team filled with veterans.
“Yeah, there’s a difference, he got them and I didn’t. I recruit the same guys,” Williams said he recruited all three of UK’s freshmen. “That’s the only difference is they got them and we didn’t. We’ve got to try to figure out a way to compete with them and go from there.”
Apparently the national media believes not having one-and-done players is a choice. It is a choice, for the player. They have to decide to go to your school. To be fair, Williams has landed his fair share of McDonald’s All-Americans — there are six on this year’s team — but his guys usually aren’t good enough to leave after their first year. Brandan Wright was the last Tar Heel freshman to declare for the draft, back in 2007. Williams doesn’t know how Calipari does it every year.
“What John does is just phenomenal to me,” Williams said. “To have to change four, five, six, seven guys every year is just phenomenal. What he does is really special there, and I’m not trying to suck up or anything, I really believe that.”
By Nick Roush on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 8:30pm
JOHN CALIPARI: Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I want to make sure that I don’t forget. I’m getting old; I do forget stuff now and then.
The impact that Bam had on that game yesterday, some of you who write about basketball don’t really watch it, may not have understood. UCLA came in with one thought: We’re going to make this really hard on Bam. So he sacrificed. He had five assists. He created shots for both Dom and opened up the lane for De’Aaron Fox. He still tried to fight and rebound. Never says a word. So the impact on the game that he had, unless you really understood what was going on, they made that decision, and he rode with it.
Now, he did walk a couple times. He should have scored a couple more baskets. But the reality of it is he played well.
The other is Isaiah. When we talk on that court, when we’re talking, we are really good. When we don’t talk, we are really bad. And he leads us. He gets the other guys to talk. He’s playing five positions on both offense and defense. He’ll do whatever you need him to do. And at the end of the game when they started pressing, if you watched, he was running the press attack and put us where we needed to go.
But that stuff doesn’t show up in stats. But when you’re coaching, you understand the importance of it. So I felt I needed to say that.
Q. I know how difficult it is to get to this point; what sense can you share with us of how special it may be here that you get to share it, not only about Big Blue Nation but also your Memphis friends, in person here, almost two-for-one?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, Ellen and I, we had some people that couldn’t be at the reception came to a practice. Last night we had wings, and my man from Ching’s Wings, Lafayette, came over to see us. That stuff is great.
But the reality of it is after we did that reception and we had a couple hundred friends come and see us, it’s been all about this basketball team. You know, it wouldn’t matter where we were playing. I’m having fun because of these guys. I just appreciate the fact that they’re fighting and doing it and doing it together and sharing. De’Aaron had it going, and they all accepted it.
We played games where Malik has had it going. We’ve had games where the guy controlling the game has been Isaiah. No one says a word. We’ve had games — every once in a while, about every 10 games, they throw it to you, Bam? Would you say? If he doesn’t travel. But this has been a fun ride.
Now, I’ll say it again. We don’t know what to expect. I just want these kids to go out there and have a ball, but we’re the youngest team. Out of 68 teams in this thing, we were the youngest team. One of the veteran teams is North Carolina, and they are outstanding. I mean, I watched it. I watched tape from last night and through this morning, and ooh, they’re good. Guard play, big. Jackson had 40 on us last time we played. I mean, they’re good.
Q. John and the players, I wonder if you could speak to having three SEC teams in the Elite 8 and what it is you like specifically about South Carolina and Florida.
DE’AARON FOX: Both of those teams are great. I didn’t really play against South Carolina, but Florida was great. They beat us down there pretty good, and getting a chance at them again. Just all the SEC, everyone wants to talk down on it, things like that, but right now, it’s one guaranteed team is going to be in the Final Four just because those two are playing against each other, but I want to say it’s going to be two in there.
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know about that. He didn’t say that.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
De’Aaron Fox is one of the most mature and polished talkers we’ve seen come through the basketball program, but today he was told to hush it at Kentucky’s press conference.
The ban came after he said, “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”
Coach Cal told him he was done for the day after the “three games left” comment, to which Cal added, “You’d better play well, that’s all I’m saying, with the stuff you’re saying.”
It became a running joke throughout the remainder of the press conference as Fox sat at the table with Derek Willis, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe and Calipari. At one point he said, “I was told not to answer anymore,” when asked the previous meeting with North Carolina.
Another time, Calipari said, “We’re passing Fox,” when a question was directed to everyone. The players also skipped over Fox in other responses throughout the afternoon.
I report this small story back to you to say this kind of cutting up and having fun on the big stage tells me the guys are relaxed and ready to go tomorrow against North Carolina.
And that there are three games left, per Fox.
Since he arrived in January, we’ve seen very little of Hamidou Diallo.
You’ll find the nation’s top-ranked class of 2017 shooting at the end of the bench, but that’s no fun. Watching him do crazy stuff in warm-ups, that’s a lot of fun. This might be the craziest thing we’ve seen yet.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 25, 2017
Why can’t he play again?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 6:30pm
The Kentucky/North Carolina game in December will go down as one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen, mostly because the teams combined for over 200 points. In the three months since, how have both teams changed? De’Aaron Fox said for Kentucky, it’s all about defense.
“That December game, there was no defense in that game,” Fox said. “When you’re playing a 40-minute game and it’s 100-103. Both teams have gotten better, but like I said, even with the UCLA game, that could have been in the 100’s. Yesterday, we showed we can defend. That team has so many shooters, so many ways to beat you. We didn’t shut it down because that’s impossible to shut a team like that down, but just try to contain them. We know we’re going to have to do the same thing against North Carolina.”
Fox and Monk combined for 60 points last night and when asked if they need a third player to score 20+ to beat the Tar Heels, Fox said what’s much more important is the team’s defensive effort.
“Last time, Malik had 50, so, that was different, but we can’t depend on him to do that again, that’s tough for anyone to do. We’re just going in, honestly, it’s not about our offense. Like I said, if we can buckle down defensively, our offense is going to come. If we’re playing defense, we’re confident in how we play.”
I like where their minds are at.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 5:49pm
Dr. Mike took the KSR camera to today’s press conferences to get shots of the Wildcats on their off-day.
Check out all of his photos in the gallery below:
By Drew Franklin on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 5:43pm
Malik Monk’s go-ahead three-pointer against North Carolina came against John Calipari’s orders.
If you remember, Calipari was screaming for Monk to drive the ball to the rim, but Monk decided to pull up from way outside and go for the lead in a two-point game, rather than attacking and playing for the tie.
Of course, the shot went in and Kentucky won the game, which was nice. But Isaiah Briscoe wonders what could’ve been.
“I always tell Malik, ‘What if you missed that,'” Briscoe said today, when asked to reflect upon that December game in Vegas. “Just what if?”
“I just remember that shot Malik hit, and I remember Coach yelling at him telling him to drive, and he shot it anyway.”
Briscoe said his heart beats fast when he thinks back to what could’ve gone wrong, had Monk not drained the game-winner.
On that note, let’s watch Monk’s 47 points from that game…
By Nick Roush on ©March 25th, 2017 @ 2:30pm
After De’Aaron Fox killed Lonzo Ball’s college career, the national media is in a frenzy after the pregame expectations were flipped upside-down. While the body is still warm, read all of Fox’s rave reviews.
De’Aaron Fox stood in a hallway, smiled, and said he wished he could play for Kentucky again in an hour. Lonzo Ball sat on a chair and said, in a monotone, that he will never play for UCLA again. The difference between them was just as stark as it had been during the game, when Fox and Kentucky dismantled UCLA’s Showtime Jr. attack.
De’Aaron Fox — the most entertaining, blazing, promising Kentucky point guard since John Wall — had a legendary performance in Memphis in the South Regional semifinal. Fox proved, once again, that he — not Malik Monk — is Kentucky’s best, most valuable player. Lift the lid, inspect and you’ll discover this has been the case all season. Now, with America having watched one of the more dominant individual tournament performances in recent memory, most will come to realize it.
Ball deserves a ton of credit for UCLA’s resurgence in 2016–17, and the Bruins offense this season was nothing short of extraordinary. But holy hell, did he ever disappoint against Kentucky on Friday. It wasn’t even that Ball played poorly in UCLA’s 86–75 loss, because he didn’t. He put up 10 points, eight assists, and three boards, which is in the range of what he averaged all year. Yet that’s precisely the problem. This game was always going to come down to Fox versus Ball, since they’re the two lottery pick point guards who can rip off a highlight at any given moment. Fox knew this, viewed this matchup as a personal challenge, and was out there to ATTACK from the second the ball was tipped. He could get anywhere he wanted on the court, while Ball, who clearly struggles to stop explosive guards, went with the it-can’t-be-considered-failure-if-I-don’t-actually-try approach.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to declare that De’Aaron Fox blew Lonzo Ball off the floor with 39 points and four assists. Those were the most points ever scored by a freshman in an NCAA Tournament game. Think about that. Michael Jordan played in the tournament as a freshman. So did Magic Johnson and Steph Curry. But let’s not allow all that to get out of hand.
Ball’s very bad final night as a collegian did include occasionally grabbing at his hamstring during the first half and something close to a full-blown limp late in the second. He said he tweaked his hamstring early, but declined to play the excuse card.
“I got outplayed tonight,” he said.
There’s no doubt about that. Fox was phenomenal, scoring Kentucky’s first eight points and racking up 15 by halftime. Late in the second half he went into closer mode, taking the ball to the basket repeatedly, drawing fouls and making his free throws (13 of 15 on the night).
UCLA has been a soft defensive team all season, and Fox exploited that. The fact that the freshman from Houston is left-handed may have been left off the Bruins’ scouting report, because they gave him the drive to the left repeatedly. Fox tortured UCLA in pick-and-roll situations from the top of the key – blowing past Ball and other guards, then pulling up in the lane when the Bruins’ big men gave him room to shoot.
(Magic) Johnson attended — and skipped the unveiling ceremony for Shaquille O’Neal’s statue in Los Angeles — to dissect the game of Ball, the West Coast product and projected top-three pick who could save the franchise from its ongoing misery in this summer’s NBA draft.
But Fox starred instead and complicated conversations about the best point guard in college basketball.
If a point guard must be the most important leader on the floor, then those attributes were more pronounced in Fox’s efforts than Ball’s.
The contrasting performances of Ball and Fox gave NBA evaluators something to mull over. Pelinka, newly installed as the Lakers GM, may be choosing one of the first players in the loaded, upcoming draft. He cannot comment on underclassmen, and he wouldn’t tip his hand, anyway. But the reason he traveled to Memphis was to see how top players perform against one another, and Fox thoroughly dominated Ball.
Sorry students, you’ve had your time. Over the last two weeks we’ve seen the two best celebrations ever brought to Kentucky fans, thanks to a few proud, joyful parents. Last week, Bam’s mother stole the show in Indy.
Bam Adebayo’s mother, Marilyn Blount, after UK’s victory over Wichita State. “He didn’t shut (Bam) down, did he?! Bam went at him!” pic.twitter.com/uRkR8B1vhD
— Tanner Hesterberg (@TannerWKYT) March 19, 2017
Last night, it was De’Aaron Fox’s mother Lorraine’s turns. All week we heard about the great Lonzo Ball, but last night Fox put the glove on Ball.
— Brian Ray Gilbert (@filterthree) March 25, 2017
“Fox put the glove on Ball” needs to be the title of Kentucky Joe’s next hit.
The students, they had their fun, but it was very average. In fact, it was much worse than normal. Somehow there’s a negative correlation between fires and arrests; fewer fires mean more arrests. There were only three fiery couches, but there were four arrests.
— Conroy Delouche (@ConroyDelouche) March 25, 2017
This was the only thing chanted outside of “C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS!”
— Conroy Delouche (@ConroyDelouche) March 25, 2017
I hate to see the students disappoint, but you can’t keep ’em down for long. No matter what happens, we’ll still get to see them drunk on the local news.
And just like that, Steve Alford is stuck with LaVar Ball.
Jeff Goodman reports Indiana will hire Archie Miller to be their next basketball coach. The 38-year old took Dayton to the Elite Eight in 2014 and has a 68.8 winning percentage in five seasons with the Flyers.
I was really hoping Indiana would hire Alford — a guy who can’t win in the Sweet 16 or coach defense — after firing Crean — a guy who can’t win in the Sweet 16 or coach defense. Instead, the Hoosiers made a homerun hire.