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UK fans on a bus want Thursday Night News and Views

I probably think about retirement a lot more than the average 30-year-old, but it’s because of pictures like this. This bus full of Kentucky fans braved the icy roads in Mississippi yesterday to make it to the game, and in the process, became the envy of the Big Blue Nation. This group travels to as many of UK’s away games as they can on their trusty bus, and I’m sure they have a hell of a time. Can I just retire now and join them for the NCAA Tournament? Maybe we could make it a work assignment?

Anyways, I’m back in Nashville after a whirlwind trip to Starkville for last night’s game. It was an odd trip, full of heavy wet snow, scared drivers, a half-empty arena, and lethargic Cats, but luckily, it ended with the team being one step closer to history. I can’t exactly say I’ll have a lot of fond memories of my time in Starkville, but when the arena broke out into a “GO BIG BLUE” chant at the end of the game, it was all worth it.

Now, let’s get to the news so I can go sleep out the crick in my neck courtesy of the La Quinta Inn (no TempurPedic mattresses there).

The team is finally home from Starkville

The snow kept John Calipari and his squad in Starkville much longer than they’d like, but they finally got home around 6 p.m. They originally planned to drive a bus to Memphis and fly from there, but the Starkville airport got itself together enough to let them fly out this afternoon. Because of the delay, the team practiced in Mississippi State’s Mize Practice Facility, which hopefully won’t throw them off their routine too much. Cal’s so happy with them these days they’re only practicing twice a week, so it can’t hurt too much.

Mike Anderson ain’t scared

Arkansas’ coach met with the media this afternoon to preview Saturday’s game, and told reporters he’s not scared of big, bad Kentucky. “We respect our opponent, but we don’t fear anyone,” Anderson said. “So our guys are going in with a lot of confidence. We’re playing well.”

Anderson should have some confidence–he’s beaten Kentucky three times in a row; however, he knows this team is different than the one Arkansas swept last season. “If you ask many people their opinion, the game is already over with,” Anderson said. “You line it up, as I said, man for man, there’s no way possible you would say we would win this game from a talent standpoint. But the beauty about basketball is you play five guys at the same time. And the best team wins.”

He’s not making a very convincing argument for himself.

3-star TE Justin Rigg committed to Kentucky

The 6’6″ 240 lbs. Rigg is considered the 28th best tight end in the 2016 class by 247 Sports and also holds offers from Pitt, West Virginia, and Eastern Michigan. He’s Kentucky’s 11th commitment in the 2016 class, and moves them up to FIFTH in 247 Sports’ 2016 Team Recruiting Rankings and tenth in Rivals’. Vince Marrow is on a roll.

I spent part of my afternoon watching a llama chase on Twitter

 

…and I’m not sad about that. It was a lot of fun actually. If you missed it, two llamas got loose in Sun City, Arizona, resulting in a wild llama chase that captivated Twitter. Twitter is made for ridiculous and spontaneous events like this, and the memes were priceless. Google “llama drama” and you’ll find them. Or, you can watch the entire chase set to “Yakety Sax” on Deadspin. Do that instead.

Also, for the last time, the dress is white and gold.

The Chris Jones story is sad

In case you’ve been under a rock, this morning, former Louisville player Chris Jones plead not guilty to charges of rape and sodomy stemming from an incident this past Saturday night. The story took over the state today, and since we’ve covered it on this site, I won’t spend much more time on it. It’s sad, and if true, horrible. The one thing I will say is during Pitino’s remarks about it this afternoon, he said that he suspended Jones for two weeks on Tuesday, but reinstated him for Saturday’s game against Miami, albeit with a strict 9 p.m. curfew. Pitino backtracked a lot on the two-week suspension timeline, eventually saying “I don’t think I gave a timeline. Normally, it’s two weeks.”

In this awful, no good, very bad story, I had to shake my head at Pitino saying he normally suspends players two weeks. Moving on…

Go ahead and put the “Uptown Dunk” video on loop

Kentucky’s new motto to college basketball: Don’t believe me, just watch.

Willie was named a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy

Congrats to Willie and former Cat Kyle Wiltjer, who are among the 14 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, given annually to the nation’s best player. The winner will be announced on April 14, and something tells me it’s going to be Jahlil Okafor or Frank Kaminsky, but it’s nice to see two of our boys on the list.

Who had the best reaction to Aaron’s dunk: Karl or Sam?

Let’s hear your votes in the comments. I’m going with Sam.

KSR is live from Total Quality Logistics tomorrow

…and they’re giving away UK/Arkansas tickets. Come on out to see the guys at 2473 Fortune Drive, Suite 145 in Lexington. There will also be FREE FOOD from Malone’s and Drake’s. How can you turn that down?

See you in the morning.


Kevin Stallings Loses His Mind for a Second

Kevin Stallings Loses His Mind for a Second

The video you see above is Kevin Stallings, telling a player what looks to be “I will f****** kill you” during the post-game handshake line at Tennessee. The player had apparently been taunting the crowd a bit and Stallings did not like it. The phrase certainly makes Calipari’s infamous name calling of Terrence Jones seem minimal and it led to a small outcry. Stallings then responded with this statement:

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We always knew Stallings could whine, now we also know he can get quite angry as well.


Cats Snap Losing Streak

Cats Snap Losing Streak

goss steal

(photo via UK Athletics)

 

The 13th ranked UK Hoops led for all but the first 45 seconds of the game. After leading by as many as 17 points, Arkansas had the lead down to one possession under 20 seconds to go, but Kentucky held off the run and leaves Fayetteville with a 56-51 win.

 

The weather kept the crowd down to a minimum for Arkansas’ senior night, maybe the reason for the slow start by the Razorbacks. After Arkansas scored the first basket of the game, UK went on a 13-0 run, followed by a 9-point run shortly after. Kentucky had a seventeen-point lead with a little over seven minutes left in the first half. Bria Goss hit her first four shots of the game, accounting for 9 of the teams’ first 14 points. On the other hand, Arkansas’ Kelsey Brooks and Jessica Jackson struggled early, a combined 2-18 from the field, while they as a team hit only 3 of their first 23 shots.

 

In his first season as head coach, former Kentucky assistant and ESPN analyst, Jimmy Dykes, desperately needed to pick up a win in order for his team to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament. Knowing what’s at stake, Arkansas made a 9-0 run of their own, cutting the Kentucky lead to just three under two minutes remaining in the first half.

 

The first ten minutes of the second half mostly featured Arkansas eliminating the lead, with UK matching it every time. At the 8:11 mark, senior Kelsey Bowen was carried off the floor after rolling her ankle. Kentucky was already on a 6-0 run when this occurred, and after the injury took even more momentum from Arkansas, Kentucky extended the lead to 11 with about five minutes to go.

 

But Arkansas wouldn’t go away. Azia Bishop, the teams’ leading scorer tonight, picked up her fourth foul by running into a player 50 feet from the basket with just under two minutes left. Kelsey Bowen, who taped up and returned, about twelve seconds later draws Bishop’s fifth foul while hitting a basket down low. Bowen banks in the free throw, cutting UK’s lead to just two, and it looked like everything was going Arkansas’ way. After Linnae Harper missed the front end of the first shot on the bonus, Arkansas had the ball with 30 seconds left and a chance to tie. They weren’t able to get a shot off, though, as Bria Goss comes up with a huge steal and layup with 15 seconds left on the clock to seal the victory.

 

Azia Bishop lead the way, scoring 12 points on 6-8 shooting, also grabbing 6 rebounds and 2 blocks before fouling out. Makayla Epps, returning from her Achilles injury, was, as expected, a step slow. Although she struggled shooting (2-7), she had 4 of the teams’ 5 assists (0 TO). Other main contributors in the game include Jennifer O’Neill and Bria Goss, who combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds, as well as Linnae Harper with 8 points, 7 rebounds.

 

With just one match remaining in the regular season, Kentucky trails Mississippi State by one game for the four-seed in the SEC tournament. While Mississippi State plays a very winnable game against an unranked Ole Miss team, UK will host #2 South Carolina. In order for Kentucky to grab the last double-bye of the tournament, Matthew Mitchell may need to pick up the biggest win of his career. Tonight’s win gives Kentucky their twentieth win of the season, snapping a three-game losing skid. Come out and send off the four seniors in Memorial Coliseum at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

 


This dress is…

Clearly white and gold, right?

Cal has the real answer:

What do you see?


AP Photo/James Crisp

ICYMI: Alandise Harris Says Kentucky Would ‘Just Be Another Win’

AP Photo/James Crisp

AP Photo/James Crisp

In case you missed it, Arkansas senior forward Alandise Harris told CBS Sports Radio’s Scott Ferrall on Wednesday that beating undefeated No. 1 Kentucky at Rupp Arena would “just be another win for us.”

“It’s very possible,” Harris said about the Hogs’ chances of knocking off the Cats. “We did it before. There ain’t no reason we can’t do it again.”

To be fair, he’s right. Arkansas swept the Cats a year ago and have won three straight in the series. Will the Hogs’ confidence work for them or against them Saturday in Rupp Arena?

Earlier this season, South Carolina coach Frank Martin didn’t want to use his team’s win a year ago as reason for optimism against the 2015 Kentucky squad. “This Kentucky team is so much better than last year’s team,” Martin said. “It’s not even a conversation.”

It is clearly a different Kentucky team that appears eager for the challenge. “They beat us twice last year. Saturday is personal,” Aaron Harrison said after Wednesday night’s win in Starkville.

Bring it on, Arkansas.


Behind Enemy Lines: Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump”

Behind Enemy Lines: Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump”

IMG_4516

Over the past few seasons, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some of UK’s SEC road games for KSR. Along the way, I’ve also been reviewing the venues across the SEC, and yesterday, I visited Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum for the first time. Before we get rolling, here are my past reviews:

Vanderbilt’s Memorial Coliseum
Auburn Arena
Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum
Ole Miss’ Tad Smith Coliseum
South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena
Florida’s O’Connell Center

Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump”

Built: 1975
Seating capacity: 10,575

The Hump on a much prettier day

Exterior: 3

Like a lot of SEC basketball arena, The Hump was built in the 70’s and has gradually been renovated over time. With a capacity of 10,575, it’s the largest on-campus arena in Mississippi, and it will remain that even after Ole Miss’ new arena, The Pavilion, opens in December. The Hump lies at the center of Mississippi State’s athletics facilities, sandwiched between the baseball and football stadium.

The outside of The Hump isn’t terrible–the oval shape is classic and somewhere on there is the school seal. The design is nice, and I appreciate that they didn’t mess with that when they added on the 57,611 square foot, $11.2 million Mize Pavilion practice facility in 2011. The Mize Pavilion is adjacent to The Hump and was built from the same materials, albeit in a more modern style; however the two blend nicely together, and the Mize itself is gorgeous. More on that here in a minute.

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Interior: 4

Once inside, I was very impressed with The Hump. All of the 10,500 or so seats are chairbacks, a luxury lost on big arenas like Rupp. Because the arena is pretty small, there are no bad seats. I’m all about embracing one’s quirks, so I kind of love the bold “THE HUMP” at the ends of the court. It’s a great nickname, and come on, it’s Mississippi State basketball, so why not.

The concourses are still basic white-painted cinderblock, but part of the arena opens up to the Adkerson Atrium, a modern, airy entrance to the Mize Pavilion that kind of catches you off guard as you round the corner:

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Flow: 3.5

Because of the inclement weather, the announced attendance was only 6,795 (and that’s being generous), so I never noticed any congestion in the concourses. The oval shape of the arena helps that, although the concourses are pretty narrow and I would imagine they could get crowded during a sell out.

Concessions: 3.5

I almost feel like I should give Mississippi State an incomplete here. When I first heard of the genius that is the Dawg Snax in-seat food delivery system, I was excited. I daydreamed about fresh popcorn being delivered right to my seat with the flick of my phone. Unfortunately, Dawg Snax was not available last night, I guess because the staff was too busy mopping up muddy water and slush from the floors to deliver food. Whatever, fine. Of all the reasons to return to Starkville, getting to try Dawg Snax for the first time is probably the best one.

Even though I had to walk my lazy butt the 40 feet to the concession stand, the food was fine. Typical fare of popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, BBQ, candy, etc. There was a Dreamland BBQ station as well, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Hot dog price: $5

IMG_4493

Popcorn: 3

It was good, but nothing special. Not to be a popcorn snob, but I prefer buckets or bags to boxes. Boxes may be easier to carry around because they close, but they’re a little cumbersome when you’re also trying to run a live blog.

Signature food: 4

At concession stand three, you can get the famous Dreamland BBQ, which is certainly nice. The Alabama BBQ chain is extremely popular across the South, and for good reason. They also had smoked sausage available at some of the concessions stands, which is pretty unique for arena food.

Bathrooms: 2.5

Meh. I won’t go into detail, but they had those faucets that only run when you hold them on. Those annoy me.

IMG_4465

Scoreboard: 5

Mississippi State got a brand new scoreboard this past summer and it is REALLY nice. Four huge LED screens with two LED ribbon boards underneath to show the score and stats. If UK agrees to stay at Rupp when the lease is up in 2017, for the love of God, put Bertha to rest and put in one of these.

PA System/announcer/music: 3.5

The music was a typical blend of pop and hip-hop. I got to the arena really early, so I got hear the whole spectrum, from Maroon 5 to Taylor Swift to Rick Ross. Whoever is in charge wisely uses the new scoreboard as much as possible, with lots of crowd shots, “cams,” and contests. Like many SEC schools, Mississippi State showed a lot of video features of the players, including interviews, games, and quizzes. I hear UK is showing clips from “This is Kentucky Basketball” show with Jennifer Palumbo during timeouts at Rupp, so at least we’re babystepping in the right direction.

Fun stuff: 4

There were lots of “cams”: the dance cam, the kiss cam, the cheer cam, a bizarre “chicken dance” cam, and my favorite, the “oblivious cam,” which would focus on people in the crowd not paying attention and keep a running clock of how long it takes them to realize they’re on the jumbotrons. There were also plenty of free t-shirts tossed out in the crowd, always a crowd pleaser

Pep band: 4

Lots of new stuff mixed in with the oldies. They played a rendition of “Happy” that I’m still not ashamed to say I danced to in my chair.

Halftime show: 3

Halftime got off to a weird start when Miss Mississippi came out and sang a show tune. After that, “Corey the Dribbler” performed, and he was alright. He’s apparently been on Letterman, SportsCenter, NBA on TNT, etc. etc., but last night was not his finest work. This video is much more impressive.

(more…)


YAHTZEE! 3-star TE Justin Rigg commits to Kentucky

Mark Stoops is wasting no time with his 2016 class. According to Justin Rowland, 3-star tight end Justin Rigg has committed to Kentucky. Rigg is from Springboro, Ohio, prime Vince Marrow country, and he’s considered the 28th best tight end in the country by 247 Sports.

At 6’6″, 240 lbs., Rigg is big, and accordingly, holds offers from Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), Ohio, Pitt, Toledo, and West Virginia. He visited Kentucky for their Junior Day last weekend.

Rigg is reportedly UK’s #1 TE target, which explains why big Vince is so excited:

Welcome aboard, Justin Rigg. Can I call you Riggins?


Blast From The Past: “Rod Winkler vs. The World”

Mark Cornelison | The Herald-Leader

Remember Rod Winkler, the Arkansas fan who almost bit off more than he could chew at last year’s game in Fayetteville? You know, the kid who squared up with Aaron Harrison after the game, then defended himself on KSR the next day.

Well let’s flash back to him tonight as we await his Razorbacks this weekend because “he a man like you a man and I’m a man like he a man.” Or whatever he said.

Winkler told KSR, “I don’t never look at nobody and say I don’t want a part of anything.”

He’s from Little Rock and that’s what Little Rockians(ers?) do. They fear no one…

 

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winkler-malice2

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winkler-ali2

 

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Come see KSR at Total Quality Logistics tomorrow for the chance to win UK/Arkansas tickets

Come see KSR at Total Quality Logistics tomorrow for the chance to win UK/Arkansas tickets

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Matt and Ryan will be at Total Quality Logistics (2473 Fortune Drive, Suite 145) in Lexington in the morning for two hours of KSR fun. Come on out to hear them talk C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS and for the chance to win tickets to the UK/Arkansas game, a huge, huge prize.

Need more incentive? There will be FREE food from Malone’s and Drake’s, reason alone to get in the car right now to camp out for a spot.

At the last remote at TQL, Ryan delivered this epic pregame speech before the Florida game:


Rick Pitino speaks about the Chris Jones arrest

Rick Pitino speaks about the Chris Jones arrest

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 4.32.53 PM

Earlier today, former Louisville player Chris Jones pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and sodomy stemming from an incident this past Saturday night. Rick Pitino just addressed the media about Jones and his dismissal from the team, and told reporters that he’s still in shock. “I am totally saddened to the point of disbelief at these allegations,” Pitino said. “It’s very disheartening.”

Without going into too much detail, Pitino said Jones’ initial suspension for last week’s game against Syracuse was for the threatening text he sent to a female student on Tuesday night and Jones’ refusal to turn his phone over to the coaching staff. From there, Pitino said he enforced a two-week suspension with a 9 p.m. curfew, then backtracked on the timeline of the suspension. “I don’t think I gave a timeline,” Pitino retracted. “Normally it’s two weeks.”

Pitino said he reinstated Jones with a strict two-week curfew, which Jones broke Saturday night. Once Pitino found out that Jones broke that curfew, he dismissed him from the team. “There’s a lot more I can’t say,” Pitino said, citing ongoing investigations.

For more coverage, check out WHAS11 or WDRB.com.


If you need me, I’ll be watching this for the next 2 weeks

This song will be this tournament’s “Happy.” Write it down.


Coach Cal ranks fifth in DeCourcy’s “Best Expanded Bracket Era Coaches”

cal-what

Mike DeCourcy of El Sporting News ranked the 15 Best Expanded Bracket Era Coaches, a group he calls the “Tourney All-Stars.” Coming in at No. 5 on the list, John Calipari…

JOHN CALIPARI

Final Fours: 5

NCAA titles: 1
Tournament record: 43-14
Overview: Calipari has coached during a time when being one of the advantaged had extreme advantages: more television exposure, easier scheduling, increasing differences in the ability to recruit elite talent. He has made the Final Four at all three of his stops, however, and coached in three NCAA championship games. His current team is viewed as a favorite to perhaps become the first in nearly four decades to complete an undefeated championship season, something once dismissed as no longer possible – in part because the tournament had expanded to 64 and required six victories to claim the title.
DeCourcy explains the era as when the NCAA tournament became THE NCAA TOURNAMENT under its current format.
Mike Kryzkaskeskwi, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino are the only coaches ahead of Cal, in that order.

Latest Bracketology has Wisconsin as UK’s 2 seed

Latest Bracketology has Wisconsin as UK’s 2 seed

Andy Katz told KSR the committee will toss out the idea of keeping things close geographically if that scenario puts Kentucky with the tourney’s best 2 seed; however, today’s Bracketology gives the Cats a potential Elite Eight matchup with Wisconsin, a team on pace to be the tourney’s best 2 seed.

Looking at the current projection from Lundardi, that 8 Ohio State/9 Texas A&M matchup is a good first second round game. Give me the Aggies there, setting up a rematch with UK. Overall, I like the Cats’ chances to reach Indy with this Midwest field:

midwest-bracketr


Anthony Davis wins NBA Community Assist Award, can’t stop giving back

As if you need another reason to love Anthony Davis, here’s news that he received the NBA’s Community Assist Award for the month of January.

The release from the NBA gives us an idea of just how much charity work Davis puts in around New Orleans:

Kaiser Permanente and the NBA are honoring Davis for his increased commitment to the New Orleans community and his efforts to improve the health of local youth. Davis initiated the launch of AD’s Flight Academy, which hosts monthly events for various youth groups in the New Orleans area. This week, Davis hosted his February event including a night of laser tag, bowling, arcade games and giveaways for 150 students from the Jefferson Parish Parks and Recreation at Laser Tag and Games. Last month, he treated more than 100 kids from a local YMCA chapter to bowling, refreshments and giveaways, including surprise tickets to the following night’s Pelicans game. In December, Davis joined teammates Ryan Anderson and Jeff Withey to host a shopping spree at Toys “R” Us for 75 local kids from Boys Hope Girls Hope, Raintree Child Services and Kingsley House. The week of Thanksgiving, Davis, joined by his immediate family, hosted and served a holiday dinner to residents at the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope.

In addition to donating his time to youth outreach, Davis has led his team in its Player Ticket Program, spending $30,000 to send more than 3,700 underprivileged local children to Pelicans games. His contribution and generosity encouraged several of his teammates to sign up for the program as well.

So it sounds like, when he’s not playing basketball, Davis is always giving back and creating smiles around New Orleans.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.


CBSSports.com talked to Mike Anderson about the Razorbacks and playing UK

Ranked No. 16 and riding a seven-game win streak, Mike Anderson’s Arkansas squad is Kentucky’s toughest competition on the SEC schedule. Problem is, his Razorbacks have to travel to Lexington for their one shot and taking down college basketball’s No. 1 team. That’s not an easy task for anyone.

CBSSports.com caught up with Anderson today for a little chat as his team gets ready for its road trip to the Bluegrass. Anderson, who beat the Wildcats in both meetings last season, sees this year’s game as the ultimate challenge and a great opportunity for his program.

“(Kentucky) is very, very talented,” Anderson told Jon Rothstein. “It’s one of the more talented teams you’re going to see from a depth standpoint. Obviously, the numbers speak for themselves. Kentucky is undefeated right now and they’re a very good basketball team. They’ve got size, a few 7-footers, the Harrison twins are playing very well, Devin Booker — they’ve got McDonald’s All-Americans. The Tyler Ulis kid is a guy that I think is a really good basketball player. They’re one of the best teams in the country and it gives us the ultimate challenge of playing them at their place. It’s a great opportunity.”

[CBSSports.com]