Photo © Mark Zerof With two straight losses and the national media circling like sharks, →
Drew and I are currently sitting in the media room at the University of Pittsburgh, having just eaten a tasty meal (that included an overweight man throwing a piece of chicken at Drew) and headed to a 9 pm tip versus NC State. We just shot the KSR Minute on Drew’s iPhone (we are nothing if not high class) and are trying now to formulate posts for Foxsports.com. It is a fun night and before it gets too wild, a couple of thoughts:
— I was very pleased to see John Calipari say that he would be coaching slightly differently as this week goes along. He noted that he needed to do what the team needed and if this meant letting the guys play a bit more freely, that was what he would do. I like seeing that flexibility from Calipari and the fact that he said it (and will hopefully do it) is not surprising. He has in the past, adapted his strategies to his players and had much success doing it. This year, I think it has taken him a bit longer because he truly believed the team was close even as the results slipped away. The hope is that this move takes the team to another place, although I am sure we will all believe it when we see it.
— I understand much of the negativity we have seen from the fan base, as we all were frustrated by the game on Saturday. Predictably there are some idiots who are calling for Calipari to go, but we all know those people are insane. I have however seen some who suggest that if Calipari leaves on his own (a suggestion that got a lot of play today from Mike Wilbon), that would be ok. I couldn’t disagree more. Replacing Calipari will be VERY hard, not just from a coaching standpoint but in terms of finding the right coach. There are no obvious candidates that are can’t-miss and there is not anyone I think that is really on Calipari’s level that I think would take the job at this time. Kentucky needs Calipari and Calipari needs Kentucky. The VAST majority of fans realize that and unlike some speculating otherwise, I believe Calipari knows that as well.
— A quick story from our travels. At Virginia, you may have read about Drew Franklin’s witnessing of Jim Boeheim’s explosion at a security guard. But a bit before that, I had my own Boeheim/security guard moment. As the coach was about to walk on the court, I was asked not to move so that he could have a path to the floor…no harm, no foul. But then just as Jim started his trot through the tunnel, a UVA security guard (in fact the one pictured below), came running towards me, put me in a rebounding position box out, and stuck his ass into my body and knocked me back. It was literally as if Mr Mustache was trying to prevent me from hitting the offensive glass, not touching a coach that was a good 30 feet away from me. After he did it, I looked at him and said, “was that really necessary? Did you really have to block me out when I was standing here minding my own business?” And Mr Mustache just looked at me and said, “that is what we are taught to do with very important people are about to be in proximity to the public.”
So there you go…Boeheim is a “very important person” and if you happen to be in his proximity, at least at UVA, expect a rear end to hit you near the pelvic area.
For this and more excitement, take a second and follow our FOX SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL ROAD TRIP blog on FoxSports.com. Click on the link and you can read all of our various adventures and enjoy some articles we have worked really hard on. I hope you will get a chance to visit.
And if you miss the radio show while we are traveling, you can listen on our Archive page. Drew and I are doing the show from the road and today’s (after the technical difficulties) had some Funny stuff and good callers involved. See you tomorrow morning on radio from Columbus, Ohio.
Saturday’s 72-67 loss to South Carolina was one of the more difficult UK games that I can ever remember watching. It wasn’t just that the team played poorly, although it surely did, with one of the worst shooting performances that I can ever remember. And it wasn’t just that it low to one of the worst teams in a BCS conference in America, a group that took a 18 point loss earlier in the year to Manhattan on this very same court. No it was more than that…what made Saturday so painful was watching a team that could do so much more, fall so short of where they should be.
Let’s be clear. We all are guilty of overhyping this team, myself included. From day one this group was considered to be one of the best recruiting classes ever assembled and it was the thought of EVERYONE that this team was going to be special. Yes, there were a select few that went to the extreme and expected 40-0 (although this group is very small and includes only Gregg Doyel, Ryan Lemond and the occasional excited fan). But what many more believed (as did I) is that this was a group ready to impose its will on college basketball. With all of the talent assembled on one team, it was assumed that Kentucky would be at or near the top all year and would be one of the premier 3-4 teams going into the tournament, likely the favorite to win #9 in Dallas. Anything less than a dominant season was not only not expected, it was rarely even considered. Even the most pessimistic of announcers (say Doug Gottlieb) put Kentucky only as low as #7, because in the end, everyone bought the hype.
Obviously we were all wrong. But there is nothing that can be done about that now. This team is what it is and the hype that was put on by media, both national and local, fans and the coach himself, cannot be undone. But what can change is the way this team plays for its final few games. The reality is that the expectations of this team have burdened and weighed down this team all year. Most have focused on those expectations from the preseason hype and that is part of the equation, but it isn’t all of it. There is a burden that comes from the fans who have expected these young men to be saviors (“Keep Calm the Twins are Coming.” There is a burden from the families and friends of these players who have been pointing these kids to a future where they play basketball for money since their early high school years. There is the burden from the NBA scouts and draft boards that have projected all of these players as the best in America and as they have struggled, have anticipated their fall in mock drafts. And there is a burden from the players themselves, who are seeing struggles that they have never before endured and questioning why it has happened while putting pressure on themselves to change immediately. All of those burdens have weighed on this team heavily and have sapped much of the joy out of the process.
But in addition to all of these forces, the high expectations and pressure from the coach and program have surely played a role as well. John Calipari has wanted this team to be special from day one. He could taste the potential this team had and he wanted it for them more than almost anything. His energy and enthusiasm (at one point saying he was “coaching like a 35 year old”) has been ubiquitous, as he has attempted to will this team to success during the difficult stretches. I have watched Calipari all five years here and I have never seen coach, cajole, yell, cheer and teach more during the course of a season than this one. He has hoped that by micro-managing the team from the start and during games, he can somehow make them reach their potential and hit the special level that he envisioned from day one. He wants it for THEM more than anything and he is trying harder and harder to make it happen, even as it seems to slip farther from his grasp.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, this strategy simply hasn’t worked. Rather than willing the team to victory, Kentucky has played like a group of youngsters with an overwhelming weight on their shoulders that they can’t shake. You can’t watch this team without becoming struck by the fact that the players are not only not having fun, they seem always waiting for impeding doom to strike. Why is this happening? Well I am not around the team enough to know for sure but it probably is a combination of the burden of expectation, the personal pressure the players place on themselves (especially the Harrison Twins) and the struggles the team has taken during moments of adversity. And while all of these are part of it, I also think John Calipari’s coaching style is currently playing a role in it as well. During games, when the players make a mistake they immediately look toward the bench to see how the coach will react. The coach’s reactions, occurring because of his intense desire to win and make his players reach their potential, instead may be making the players even more tense and more likely to make errors that will cause even more loud reactions. It is a vicious cycle not easily broken. Calipari being thrown out of a game for the first time four years is not a coincidence, it is a symptom of a tension that has been building for quite some time.
With eight minutes to go last night however, things changed a bit. After Calipari’s ejection, the game seemed certainly lost and the players switched their approach and began playing in a different manner. In fact, for those eight minutes, Kentucky looked like the team we saw this summer and fall in the workouts that had everyone so giddy about the Wildcats’ potential. They ran up and down the floor, played loose, made mistakes but then quickly recovered without lingering bad effects. After a turnover, a steal could be made. After a missed shot, a quick defensive stop. Each mistake wasn’t met with dread but was quickly discarded in their minds. And miraculously, shots began to go down, confidence increased and they very nearly made an epic comeback for the ages.
John Calipari has forgotten more about basketball this week than I will ever know. So it is ludicrous for me to suggest anything in terms of Xs and Os as it pertains to this UK team. I also think Calipari is the perfect person for this job and has done more for the University and the program in the last five years than I would have ever imagined. I want him to retire at this school and establish a run for the ages in Lexington. But from a psychological, instead of a basketball perspective, it seems to me that with this particular team maybe Calipari should adopt a different strategy this week. Turn down the intensity a bit, retreat from coaching like a 35 year old and instead let the players play without the worry of what their coach’s reaction will be. If the players make a mistake, let them play through it. If they do something mind-numbing, let them realize it without having it screamed at them. It is not that the intense approach doesn’t ever work (it does) but with this group at this time, dealing with the crazy expectations put upon them has made it not work now. So it is time to try something different.
A couple of years back, my time at KSTV ended and I was faced with a crossroads in my career. I had been let go at CBSSports.com a year before and my time at KSTV had been rocky at best. I looked in the mirror and said, why is this happening? I realized that I had to change how I approached things…the method of red-hot intensity and constant pressure to succeed had been crucial to building KSR, but it was also causing difficulties in the work environments that had been created. If I was going to reach my goals, I had to change my approach and alter how I treated people on a daily basis. By changing myself, spreading myself less thin and treating people better, I reach my full potential and get the best out of those around me. I did and the website, radio show and KSR as a whole flourished. What had worked before had to change and I needed to adapt.
Kentucky goes Saturday to Florida to play the #1 team in the nation in a game that no one expects them to win. There will be no pressure beyond that self-inflicted because there won’t be one person in the country assuming they can get the victory. So why not come out and do things completely differently? Let the players play free, attempt to have fun and tone down the intensity just a tad. IF they make a mistake, let them go and see what they can do without the red-hot pressure that this season has given them. No one will believe in them, but so what. As long as they do and have the freedom of the ability to fail, then who knows what will happen. It may not work…heck, it probably won’t work. But it might just allow the guys to have a little fun playing basketball for once and change the mindset of the team before the postseason.
Why not? At this point, what do we have to lose?
Did you miss today’s KSR Radio Show? If so, that was a mistake on your part and needs to be corrected (you can do so by subscribing to the show on iTunes here or listening online here). But if you missed it, you would have not been able to hear seven national college basketball commentators pick UK’s future in March. All of them said the same thing…yes, Kentucky could make a run at the Final Four. All thought Kentucky had the talent and is close enough to being a team to crash the elite group in Dallas. That was encouraging.
I then asked each of the guys to pick the 5 teams that have the best chance of winning the title. This is a game that I do every year right before the Tournament and it has been very successful for me. Generally speaking, one can go into any NCAA Tournament and select the five teams that can win it and be fairly confident it will come from that group. In fact, going back to 1993 (when I started doing this as a young lad), there has only been one year I haven’t had one of the five in my group…1997 with Arizona. Twice my “outsider” team has won (I usually try to keep one in the group), Florida in 2006 and UCONN in 2011, but generally the title winner comes from a small group of teams. So I asked all the guys doing commentary to pick their FIVE FOR A TITLE (in the order they said them) as of now. And here is who they said:
she enjoyed the show today (h/t Gyero)
JEFF GOODMAN: ESPN
SETH GREENBERG: ESPN
BOMANI JONES: ESPN
DAN DAKICH: ESPN
GARY PARRISH: CBS Sports
JAY WILLIAMS: ESPN
ANDY KATZ: ESPN
What struck me about the lists of the teams? Three things
1. Florida was mentioned by everyone. They are the only team that is a consensus pick to have a shot at the title…people love the Gators and believe that with their Seniors, they are the favorite as of today. Kansas and Michigan State were picked by six of the seven, but each couldn’t quite make it unanimous.
2. Nobody likes Syracuse as much as you probably would have thought. Only two of the seven even put Syracuse in their five. Part of this of course is due to the immediacy of seeing the Boston College loss, but part of it is also a realization…the Cuse has been hanging by a string and it may have just been cut.
3. People like Kentucky more than our own fans do. Five of the seven guys included UK and the two that didn’t (Dakich and Katz) said that there were certainly circumstances in which the Cats could make a run to the title. Part of that may be that they were on a UK show, but I have talked to a number of these guys privately and they express the same thing…the Cats have what it takes to win six, even as others don’t…they would probably be the team most likely to lose early out of most people’s picks, but they also can win a stretch in a row as well.
Getting the thoughts of others is always good and worth some fun on a mid-week show. With that said, we are doing the show tomorrow at TK’s PUB in LOUISVILLE from 10-noon and giving away UK tickets in the process. You need to be there, and it will make you happy to do so. With that two more things:
Aaron Harrison helped out a fan
The fan “BWWalker27″ on Twitter is a high school student who wanted to go to a UK game. His mom told him what he would need to do to make that happen:
And Aaron obliged…he Retweeted the tweet and now presumably the young man is headed to a game…and hey BWWalker…text your mom more. It doesn’t look like you communicate enough.
UPDATE: It was fake…oh well
And with that, have a great rest of your day…it is awful nice out.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…
For a portion of the UK fan base (the amount of that portion may be in some dispute), there is no question that Saturday night’s loss to Florida was a tipping point. Given a chance to beat a top 5 team in Rupp Arena, with the environment as raucous as it could be, the Cats struggled down the stretch and it became too much for some in the BBN to handle. While there are always crazies ready to say the sky is falling after every loss, the Florida loss also caused some reasonable folks to throw up their hands and proclaim that “all is lost” and the season is effectively over. And at least in part, that feeling is understandable. Kentucky has played eight games this year against opponents that you would count as quality opposition (either due to team strength or location of the game). By my count, Kentucky is 2-6 in those games (with wins vs Louisville and at Missouri…I don’t put Tennessee in that group because the game was at home, but it is close). That isn’t a sterling record for a team that started the year with dreams of winning #9 and thus I can certainly understand why the level of disappointment in the Big Blue Nation is so high.
With that said however, I am not ready to completely give up on the season just yet. I don’t see the Florida game as a complete and total loss as many others do. The Cats played what I think is one of the 2 best teams in the country even for 35 minutes…then it slipped away. In those 35 minutes, we saw the making of a team that can be as good as anyone in the country…but they were not able to finish the job. However very good teams can have that happen and even title teams can lose on their home floor to other very good teams (2012 UK did not, but 2010 Duke, 2011 UCONN and 2013 Louisville all lost on their home floor to a top conference team). Most of my frustration and questioning of the UK team has little do with how they finished against Florida. Yes, it would have been nice to beat the Gators, but Kentucky lost in large part because they didn’t execute and make plays, and due to a bad stretch where they let a 7 point lead go to a 2 point deficit, with three straight defensive mistakes. These are correctable errors…whether they will be corrected is another question entirely, but they can in theory be fixed.
At its core, the loss to Florida is not why we question this Kentucky team. It is the loss to Baylor, the loss to North Carolina, the loss to Arkansas, etc. Over and over, Kentucky has left home to play inferior teams and received a loss that they shouldn’t have taken. And that is why at its core, we are so negative. But luckily for UK, there aren’t many true road tests left for Kentucky to drop. Two of UK’s three remaining road games should be fairly certain outcomes…it is hard to see Kentucky winning at Florida and hard to see them losing at South Carolina. That leaves Ole Miss, a game I will get to again in a moment, as I think it is of the utmost importance. If Kentucky takes care of business in the next seven games, they can finish 6-1 and go into the SEC Tournament with a 24-7 record. If they then make the SEC Tournament final, they go into the Selection Tournament process, probably looking at a 4 seed (because the Championship game won’t be considered in the seeding process thanks to the new late start time to the tournament…3:15). If you assume that Kentucky doesn’t get put in Florida’s bracket, that likely means they would find their way into a bracket where the #1 seed is either Syracuse, Arizona or Wichita State. I don’t necessarily like the Cats chances with the Cuse (although not impossible), but is it crazy to say that Kentucky could beat Arizona or Wichita State? Not to me it isn’t.
With that said, things can go the other way too. This will be a Tournament where Kentucky could lose in the first round or make the Final Four. I firmly believe that. Think about 2011. We of course remember the great victories over UNC and Ohio State to head to Houston for the Final Four, but we often forget that Kentucky could have (maybe should have) lost to Princeton in the first round. Brandon Knight hit a running scoop layup that if he misses, causes that team to be looked at completely differently. The same fate could await this one. Look at Lunardi’s bracket today. If Kentucky opened with Toledo, then played St Louis, then Arizona and then San Diego State or Virginia, do you think that is an impossible path to a Final Four? I don’t. But is it also possible that they could get upset against Toledo and disappoint everyone? Yeah, it probably is.
When you are a great team, who you play doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. In 2012, any team in the draw except for maybe North Carolina (pre-Kendall Marshall injury) was headed for a loss. This team is different. UK’s Tournament success will depend on the draw, the matchup and their ability to make shots, all variables that mean any result could occur. That is how it is for teams that aren’t elite. I had hoped UK would be elite this year…but they aren’t. However that doesn’t mean they can’t make noise as non-elite teams such as Michigan/Wichita State/Syracuse showed last year (and Butler, VCU, etc showed in years past). What matters is that Kentucky enters the Tournament with a good psyche and hopes the draw gives them an opportunity to make a move. If Kentucky beats Ole Miss (and this is important, not just for seeding but also for keeping this team’s frame of mind in the right place), they will enter the Tournament one of 20 teams that have a shot to win four straight and get to Dallas. After that, who knows.
We wanted a UK team that would roll all year long and have us smelling #9. Saturday showcased (maybe finally) that we don’t have that team. But that doesn’t mean this is a UK team that can’t have a special March…they just need to improve, clean up their errors and hope for a little bit (maybe a lot of bit) of luck as well. While this season has left me unsatisfied, that doesn’t mean the ending will do the same…I still believe this group can do what is necessary to make a strong Tournament run…whether they will remains to be seen. Like Calipari said today, I believe this team can meet most of its preseason goals, I really do…well at least for now.
Photo by @UKphotogs
I love this picture of the UK Hoops’ locker room after Kentucky’s first win at Tennessee since 1985. This is the actual exact scene that takes place at the KSR Compound every time something positive happens, so it is good to see another group showcasing that same happiness.
When you do radio, part of the job is reading endorsements at various times on the air. If you listen to our radio show, you know that this is a part of the job that has led me to take a somewhat different philosophy from many in the business. Like my radio hero Tony Kornheiser, my view is that if I am going to do ads, I might as well make them fun and in my style…thus reads for things like the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Hudson Toyota and Mid-American Security are chances for me to riff on whatever is going on in my life and mention the product as well. But when I was called two weeks ago to do ads for “Sheri’s Berries”, I became a bit nervous. See,Sheri’s Berries is a national company that sells chocolate/nut/decorative swizzle-covered strawberries and they are one of the biggest advertisers on radio shows in the country. Chances are, if you listen to national radio shows, you hear the hosts do Sheri’s Berries ads. However they rarely use hosts for local radio shows, preferring to run their regular national spots. But do the KSR podcast success (#1 on iTunes for college sports), they contacted us, asked me to do the reads and I have for ten days. They have been goofy and have included me referring to Ryan Lemond as “juicy and enormous”, but they have also apparently been successful. While all of that is fine and dandy, I didn’t get to taste the product until this weekend, when a shipment arrived for me to try. And I have to tell you, they are really good…while I would probably shill for them either way (since, ya know, they are an advertiser), it helps that I can now say definitively that they taste pretty darn good as well. There is a special deal for KSR listeners (and I guess today readers) if you go to BERRIES.COM and click on the microphone and type in “KSR”. Its a good place to get a Valentine’s Day gift or just to splurge on yourself. So go buy one (or many) if you want and hopefully we can get more national folks on board with the show so that we can fund equipment that doesn’t cause helicopters to land during the Matt Elam announcements of the future.
And with that shameless plug, lets take a look at the top ten storylines of the weekend:
1. UK Wins Ugly
Well it wasn’t pretty and it was often tedious, but Kentucky got an important win on Saturday in Starkville. The last 25 minutes of the game were basically the same…Kentucky kept a 7-10 point lead, never able to put the game away but also never really in danger of falling behind. The Cats were able to basically halt Mississippi State in the half court set (once again playing some solid zone) but struggled in transition, a fact that kept the Bulldogs close in the first half. UK was hurt a bit by the foul trouble with Andrew Harrison, a player it is becoming increasingly clear that UK has to have to be solid in its half court offense. We can break down the game and all its intricacies, but it basically can be summarized with this…Kentucky did what it needed to do to win and not one bit more. That is probably how it is going to be for this team the rest of SEC play…the key will be, when it plays the remaining good teams on the schedule (Florida, LSU, Ole Miss) and whoever in the postseason, will good enough be enough? That remains to be seen.
2. Julius Randle
Sometimes its hard to know what to make of Julius…he goes through games where he seems to be sleepwalking and Calipari has said that he has been disappointed in Julius at times for blaming others for his problems. But Julius had a quietly effective game in Starkville that helped Kentucky gets its victory. Julius knows that because he is seeing double teams on every possession, he has to be more of a facilitator. It isn’t his nature and he has always preferred to get to the basket and score, but it is what this team needs. At this point he still has work to do in this area, but we saw some small strides on Saturday, including setting up a number of passes for easy baskets. Kentucky can’t be great without Julius but at times the offense has been better without him…it is up to him to correct that deficiency and Saturday was a mini-step towards that goal.
3. Hood and Polson
The KSR postgame show callers had the moment of their dreams on Saturday as Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood not only played, but they gave key contributions to the victory. Polson played the most minutes of the season and was a steady contributor throughout the game. He showcased what he brings to the table from start to finish, mainly a lot of energy and the ability to read situations to make plays. Throughout the game he showed what the rest of the team could learn…after a mistake, he bounced back quickly and often corrected the error. His minutes were crucial (especially with Andrew Harrison out) and it is no coincidence that he was in the game during crunch time. As for Jon Hood, he had been an afterthought for most of the year, but on Saturday he was excellent. He played the last seven minutes of the first half, a time where Kentucky took a two point deficit and turned it into a 9 point lead. He hit an open three, made a couple of big hustle plays and overall was a huge positive for the team. Whether this leads to more minutes in the future remains to be seen, but Hood gave UK exactly what it needed when it needed it, and that was great to see for a young man who works very hard.
Calipari at the Wizards-Kings game last night with KSR’s favorite rock star, Andrew Rogers
4. The Week of Calipari
John Calipari played the media like a maestro this weekend, accomplishing to goals with his “most over-scrutinized team in sports” comments. First, he got Kentucky back in the national conversation and noted that people had slept on the Cats as a contender after losses, when other teams didn’t receive that fate. Thus a 18-5 team ranked 18th in the country is a topic on Sportscenter and PTI while teams ranked above are not. And second, he deflected attention about his players back onto him. This team is not the most scrutinized in sports, but it may be in college basketball and by moving the conversation from the guys on the court to the heavy shoulders of the man holding the clipboard, the players can in theory be allowed to grow and get better. I still don’t know what the future for this team holds, but I do know this…every time the Pat Fordes of the world think they have landed a shot at Calipari, they are actually playing into his hands as he continues to make the UK program the dominant storyline in college basketball, even when they are not the best team.
5. Marcus Smart
By this time you have seen the footage and probably made up your mind about Smart’s pushing of a fan at Texas Tech. I was watching the game live (on ESPNNEws of all things) and thus was drawn in by the scene. Smart clearly overreacted no matter what was said to him…you can’t push people and you definitely can’t go after fans…it just is a no win situation. With that said, I can’t crush the guy as most people have never been in that situation to have to deal with it. I have never received half the abuse of even the worst player in basketball, but I have known what it is like to be in a situation where people are looking at you and screaming insults but you can’t say or do anything back…it isn’t easy. As for the guy who did the yelling, we don’t know what he said and we probably never will. Many believe it was a racial slur, and I can understand why that would be the case (considering Smart’s reaction). I however won’t jump to that conclusion with more facts. Labeling someone as a racist is, in my view, wrong unless you know definitively such a word was said. It is a tough label to beat and thus one should give the benefit of the doubt. Either way, the guy yelling at Smart should be kept away from the arena for awhile and should look in the mirror…its a game and yelling at kids half your age like that is pathetic. Hopefully now everyone can move on from the event and go forward…I don’t think it crushes Smart’s draft status unless he does something again…which my guess is that he is too “smart” to do. #Puns
6. Signing Day Success
I was fairly impressed with the news that Kentucky had the 7th highest web traffic of any team in college football for its Signing Day special. Not only has UK gotten the best class in its history, but it also has produced a ton of momentum that could pay huge dividends going forward. The excitement around that practice facility on Signing Day was really special. The staff seemed to see it is a watershed day and their enthusiasm was infectious to be around. I don’t know what next year or the future holds, but I do know that I have hope and have bought into the “Why Not” belief that is all over the program. And if they can sell me on that (a huge skeptic on the topic), then their success with recruits is not a huge shock.
I have a huge crush on country singer Kasey Musgraves…that is all
7. New Rupp Arena Design Today
At 1 pm today, the city of Lexington will unveil the Rupp Arena design models that will showcase what the future of the arena will look like. It will be an interesting event to observe, first to obviously see what is planned. There has been a lot of speculation in this area and with all the various entities that need to be pleased, the final product is an area of much speculation. But it will also be interesting to see what (if any) presence Kentucky has as part of the ceremony. There has been a gap between where Lexington is in the process and where the University is at the same time. Tomorrow we find out if that gap has closed at all as we more forward.
8. Michael Sam Comes Out
If you had told me the first gay football player to come out of the closet would be from the SEC, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that is why one shouldn’t make assumptions. Sam was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for Missouri at Linebacker and was considered one of the most physical players in the league. To come out two weeks before the NFL Combine (apparently speculation about him had grown locally and he expected the story might come out) is courageous. Regardless of what else happens, he will enter the league as the first openly gay player and as a rookie. That will be a lot to bear on his shoulders and it will be interesting to see how he handles it. The most positive part about the whole story to me is how his teammates handled the news. They all knew about him last year before the season (he announced in a preseason meeting), allowed him to come out on his own time and have shown support throughout the process. That more than anything else, is a positive step to see. Being a good player trumps all differences in sports…as it should be.
9. Anthony Davis is Really Good
Anthony Davis is a freak. Oscar Combs says he is the best to ever play at Kentucky. This play tonight was yet another highlight in an ever-growing reel on what will be an amazing career.
10. The Greek Sing
I admit that I had no idea what Greek Sing was until Saturday. The biggest event on UK’s campus (in terms of student attendance) occurred on Saturday night in front of a packed house at Memorial Coliseum. I was one of four judges and until I got there, I didn’t know what I was attending. Basically 31 Greek organizations on campus, create 3 minute choreographed dance routines (no “singing” per se) and then perform in front of the school. The guys basically use it as a chance to act silly and hump each other, while the girls use it is a chance to channel their inner Broadway star and put on exquisite productions, the likes of which I have never seen. Seriously folks, the entire spectacle is unbelievable as these girls wear the most intricate costumes and elaborate makeup creations, all the while doing dance moves that clearly took weeks (or months) to get down. I have never seen anything like it in my life, and if you had no idea what was going on when you walked on campus that day, you would think you had stumbled into the most serious Halloween party in our nation’s history. The event raises money for Make a Wish (over $150,000) and actually was a lot of fun. The group that won was below (ADPI…they did a Batman-themed routine that was something to behold) and I am told that this was a historic year because one fraternity (Sigma Chi) was not disqualified for “too much humping” for the first time in a few years. So see, we were all winners. Thanks to the Greek Sing folks who had me as a judge and to my newest friend (and fellow judge, WKYT’s Barbara Bailey) who walked me through the entire proceeding.
pic by @randi99
We start the countdown to College Gameday week tomorrow morning with radio and the blog…watch for the Rupp Arena renovation design in the afternoon and note that we have TWO LIVE SHOWS on Monday and Tuesday where you can come by and win UK tickets:
Monday: Louisville Athletic Club (Westport Road)
Tuesday: Sleep Outfitters in Lexington
We will have UK/Arkansas tickets for the Monday show and UK/Florida tickets for the Lexington show. Stop by and register. Until then, have a big week and help this place get warm soon…please
I got to know future UK Cornerback AJ Stamps a bit
I spent most of this afternoon in Lexington filming interviews for the UK Football Signing Day Show that will air on UKAthletics.com on Wednesday. Folks this is going to be the kind of production that you just haven’t seen at this school before. For four hours on Wednesday, UK Football will go live from the Football facility to tell you all about the team and announce the signees for the roster as they come in. They are bringing in professional television people to run the show and it will be made as if it were a 4 hour television show, the only difference is that it will be streaming on the internet. A few highlights of what is to come:
— I will be hosting from 8-10 am (Tom Leach will follow from 10-noon) in the UK Football “War Room” with the coaches and as the recruits’ Letters are faxed in, you will see their names being added to the UK roster live. It will be the first announcement of the future UK players.
— Dick Gabriel and former UK Quarterback Freddie Maggard will break down the players as they are announced, what they bring to the table and how they will fit in at Kentucky.
— Tim Couch will be in the “UK Film Room”, showing film of the new UK players and breaking down their roles with their UK position coaches. It will be real live scouting like you have never seen before.
— I will be interviewing coaches throughout the day to talk about who has signed and the team as a whole.
— Tim Couch and I will have taped interviews with the newly signed UK players that are already on campus (Barker, Snodgrass, Williams, Horton, Johnson, Stamps and Hendrix)
And there will be a lot more. From what I have seen, it looks to be one of the larger undertakings that UK has tried to do and I think it will be great for the UK football fans. It will stream live on UKAthletics.com starting at 8 am on Wednesday and we will link the broadcast here as well. Combine the live show with our coverage here on KSR (a running diary throughout the day) and you will have the best Signing Day in UK Football history totally covered. It should be fun.
The highlight of the whole thing could be Tim Couch’s interview with Drew Barker today…I watched the whole thing and it is must-watch television
Everyone is understandably focused on The Super Bowl tonight, but the game was a complete dud so spending much time on it in the night post seems like a waste. Thus I would rather focus on the untimely death of one of the best under 50 actors in the world, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman’s film resume includes some of my favorite movies of all time…Almost Famous…Big Lebowski…Magnolia…Talented Mr Ripley…Boogie Nights…Scent of a Woman…The Master…Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Throw in guilty pleasures like Twister and Along Came Polly and you have a resume of quality that is barely matched by any actor of his generation. He could play evil, bizarre, creepy, charming, goofy and virtually any other emotion, all by having you become mesmerized by his facial expressions and his involvement with the character. Generally speaking, with a few exceptions, if you knew Hoffman was in a movie, you could be rest assured that it would be good. He died of an apparent drug overdose, a senseless death made more disturbing with news that he was found with the needle still in his arm. It is always baffling that some of the talented folks in the world are also the most troubled, but we see it repeated on a continued basis. Hopefully he has now found peace and his work will live on, a testament to a creative master who rose to the top of his craft while also being decidedly “uncool.”
As for the Super Bowl…it sucked. But I did have 5 Things I Really Enjoyed From the Super Bowl:
1. The Halftime Show (Bruno Mars was much better than I thought and his James Brown dancing moves were impressive…not Prince doing “Purple Rain” in the rain, but still cool)
2. The Radio Shack Ad (Smart move by Radio Shack to acknowledge that we all think of them as an outdated company, by putting stars of the 1980s in their commercial. I might actually go in a store)
3. Joe Namath’s Fur Coat (Only Joe Namath could do that in this setting…he looked somewhat cheesy, but still pretty smooth. Broadway Joe strikes again)
4. The Coke Commercial (I know it will generate controversy and I don’t care. America The Beautiful has always been my favorite patriotic song and the soud of it performed in a number of different languages, with pictures of the diversity in America was beautiful to me. Yes, it was done to sell a soft drink, but if you have had the Diet Coke at McDonald’s…as I do all too often…, you know it can stir up powerful emotions)
5. Me Dancing to the Red Hot Chili Peppers Like it Was 1995 (No musical group quite says “high school” to me like the Peppers. When I first started liking music, they were popular and some of their songs are timeless. Plus there is something awesome about seeing 40 plus year old men like Keidis and Flea out there with their shirts off dancing in the cold…well done…and I am glad they had no cameras on my house in Louisville during the performance)
With that, lets look at the weekend that was for UK Basketball and Football
UK BASKETBALL GETS HUGE WIN FOR SEASON
I am not going to say the season would have been over had the Cats lost in Columbia. But it wouldn’t have been good. After losing in Baton Rouge…take that back…after getting DECIMATED in Baton Rouge, the Cats did exactly what they had to on the road. What impressed me most about the win was the grit, fight and resilience this team had during many occasions when they could have easily given up and packed it in. Kentucky came out and played well early, hit their stride in the middle ten minutes of the game (last five of first half and first five of second) and played some of their best basketball of the year. But what was most impressive was after that, as Missouri made their run, took advantage of some defensive breakdowns and put the game in jeopardy. Every time Missouri looked on the verge of a major run to tie the game, Kentucky would hit a big shot. Both Harrisons, Young, Randle and Johnson all hit shots that stopped momentum swings and made sure the Cats would end up on top at the end. It was a gritty performance and the kind of game we simply hadn’t seen up until this point. With that said, a few quick specifics:
Andrew Harrison: His best game as a Calipari point guard. You may think I have said this a lot recently, but I actually believe it to be the case. With the exception of the game at LSU, 4 of Andrew’s best 5 games at UK have been in the last five and he keeps getting closer to how Calipari wants him to play. He is the key to everything for UK in March
James Young: He has become the best scorer on the team…when he shoots and does so in rhythm, he can be special. I still would like to seem him go to the basket more (he has more talent than he has shown) but if he shoots in the vicinity of how he did Saturday, the Cats become much more dangerous.
Zone: Loved the decision by Calipari to play zone and it was effective. He picked a good time to do it (at the end of the first half when Missouri’s point guard was out with foul trouble) and a lineup that could execute it well (Andrew Harrison and Jared Polson’s defense being covered up and Marcus Lee protecting the rim). I thought he played it the right amount and against a team where it was needed (penetrators)…whether we see it more remains to be seen.
Poor Ball Defense: Kentucky can’t stop dribble penetration against quick guards. That isn’t going to change. It might get slightly better but it will never be great. What they have to have is some zone, some games where they score lots of points (since they will give them up) and their rim protectors be effective. The latter of those hurt on Saturday as Willie Cauley-Stein was a no-show once again
Team Chemistry: Some very encouraging moments from a chemistry perspective on Saturday. When Dominique Hawkins fell early in the game, the entire team ran to help him up…a huge contrast to what happened at LSU. The guys looked to have fun (Jon Hood played air guitar) and their was more team play than we have seen in some time. It has been inconsistent but Saturday was a very good sign.
Overall it may not be a turning point, but it was a HUGE step in the season. Win the next three and when Florida comes to town for Gameday, it could be a heck of an environment.
I agree with Craig Ferguson here and while I normally don’t find him funny, this pronunciation of Louisville guide is
Wednesday is a huge day for UK Football…the process of bringing together the best UK football recruiting class in history will be finalized at Signing Day and fans can see again what Mark Stoops has accomplished so far off the field. There is a chance he could add another late 4 star (Lloyd Tubman who you can read more about below) and either way, he is going to be able to get national publicity for having one of the most surprising recruiting stories nationally. Today Kentucky celebrated Super Bowl Sunday by releasing this commercial:
It was awesomely put together and included the screenshot below of the renovated Commonwealth:
This is an exciting week for UK football and some of the details will come out tomorrow. Until then, be happy about where the future is headed as I do honestly think this is the coach to do it.
We will be up and ready on a snowy morning tomorrow at radio from 10-noon…tune in then.
If you watched the UK-Missouri Pregame Show, you saw the picture above in live form. As Rob Bromley did an interview with Mike Pratt, a Missouri student dressed in a hand costume danced behind them. The video is one of the two or three funniest things I have ever seen, as the kid danced the entire interview and simply would not leave. I beg of you WKYT…PLEASE PUT THIS INTERVIEW ON YOUTUBE. People need to see it and I promise it will go viral. Do it for the fans.
pic courtesy of @Bradm94
John Calipari spent last night watching Luke Kennard play in the King of the Bluegrass Showcase in Louisville (the kid dropped a smooth 45 as well). As part of the game, the King of the Bluegrass Hospitality room is legendary and apparently Calipari liked it as well. After eating the KOB “Dumplins and Puddin’”, Calipari apparently left this note to thank them for the delicious recipe. For some reason, I find it awesome.
The 2014 UK recruiting class is likely the best in school history and as of now, stands as a testament to the incredible energy Mark Stoops has brought to this program. The Cats can take 28 kids and as of now, they have 28 commitments. But they may not be done just yet. A source tells KSR that there is still a chance for a late switch to Kentucky by Seneca High School’s Lloyd Tubman, from his commitment to Penn State. Tubman is a 4 star DE from Seneca, who committed early to James Franklin at Vanderbilt. When Franklin went to Penn State, he switched his commitment there, but a source tells KSR that he may be wavering on the idea of heading to Pennsylvania for college. He was considering a visit to Nebraska this weekend (but cancelled), but told the Courier Journal last week that he was still considering Kentucky.
The Cats would love to have the big guy’s services and I hear that this is becoming a distinct possibility. We shall see as the next 48 hours or so continue. It would be a huge late steal for Mark Stoops and his staff…
I can’t get over the fact that 3,500 Morehead State students turned out to watch Blossom talk about science. As a matter of fact, there are at least four parts of that sentence that are funny to me. But alas it is just part of the news of the day, and here is the rest:
— Saturday is the turning point of the UK season for me. While one can never exactly predict how a team’s season will be defined (remember last year after Kentucky won at Ole Miss, we were ready for a run and then Nerlens got hurt), for a fan, there are moments that you decide whether or not to still believe. For me, that moment comes on Saturday. Missouri is a beatable team. Their strength is on the perimeter and they have virtually nothing down low, a recipe this season for some of Kentucky’s best performances. The Cats have their backs against the wall and need to respond after arguably the worst game of the season at LSU. So now is the time to determine what Kentucky is made of. Beat Missouri and you are set up for a potential good run…Ole Miss at home, followed by Auburn and Miss State on the road would seem to be exactly the mix for a little winning streak. You could then go into College Gameday at Rupp versus Florida 9-2 in the SEC and ready to make a move. Lose and the opposite path becomes possible…Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson doesn’t look like a total sure thing, Florida becomes daunting and then two late road losses (Ole Miss/Florida) and you go into the SEC Tournament potentially needing a win or two to even make the Big Dance. Long story short, Saturday is crucial. For me as a fan, I can’t imagine this team not making the Tournament or not being dangerous. But I am also not sure how much “waiting for this team to turn the corner” I have left in me. If the Cats lose in Columbia, I may have very little left for the rest of this season.
— The news about the Harrison Twins potentially returning according to Calipari gives me both a little skepticism and some encouragement. The skepticism comes from the fact that I think it is highly unlikely any decision has been made and I would be surprised if Calipari is really saying much of anything definite about their future. The encouragement however comes from the fact that this conversation even taking place says that the return is a possibility and one that would be good not only for the Harrison Twins, but the program as well. Many UK fans have been recently saying, “why can’t we get guys to stay longer” and here they may get their wish. The Harrison Twins are quality players and in their second year, could potentially take a huge step up. This should make UK fans happy. We can’t both wish players would come back and then be upset if players who come back, have struggled a bit in their first year here (if they hadn’t struggled, they wouldn’t be back). A 2014-2015 UK team with the Harrisons, Dakari, Poythress, Lee, Willis, Hawkins and the new recruiting class would be a great mix of players (arguably a better one from a team perspective) and would also be quite deep. I hope the Twins step up their game and make the potential of an entry into the Draft possible by being so good down the stretch. But if not, the news this week is an encouraging sign.
— Who are the teams that have the strongest connections to their local fan bases? This shouldn’t surprise you:
— Finally, the commitment of Matt Elam is a huge moment for UK Football, regardless of what type of player Elam becomes. As far as five star talent, while it gives you a much better chance of being successful than does 2 star talent, one never knows who will make it and who won’t. But the symbolism of beating out Alabama for an in-state recruit that Saban coveted, is quite large. The Alabama radio voice Paul Finebaum spent the first 30 minutes of his show talking about the development and for a day, UK football was the talk of college football recruiting circles. Mark Stoops’ class is one for the books and he will get much praise come Signing Day. But it needed a cherry on top, and the large one that Mr. Elam provides is one that will pay dividends for some time. In fact, one day we may get this statue in front of the redesigned Commonwealth Stadium (courtesy of @BuckyHooves):
The woman above is Tammy Wadley, and while she looks to be a lovely young lady, she may also be slightly dangerous. Apparently yesterday, Wadley went into a Heine Brothers on Bardstown Road (my hood) and began threatening people and promising to blow up the building. A policeman was called and she continued her threats. She was then asked to leave the building and as she left, she blamed President Obama and threatened to kill him too. She was then arrested and charged with terroristic threatening and disorderly conduct.
With such a lovely tattoo, I really didn’t see this coming at all.
As I type this, my television is currently on The Grammys, the yearly reminder that I am getting older and more and more detached from the music scene. This year I have at least heard of nearly all the artists (thanks to the bartender at Local Taco) and am familiar with virtually all the songs. I consider that a win in comparison to years past. With that said, there will always be things that baffle me, this year including the outfits worm by Pharrell and “Daft Punk” when they went on stage to get an award. While one looks like he is trying to prevent forest fires and the other two are just weird, they were a couple of the big winners on a night where we saw some good moments. I loved the Kendrick Lamar performance (including Taylor Swift dancing), the Kasey Musgraves girl is too cute, Metallica and the Piano Dude rocked the house, it was nice to see Chicago is still alive and I loved the reuniting of the Highwaymen (although I could do without Blake Shelton, but we have to have tradeoffs I guess). Another year down, another Grammys passed and I didn’t turn the television off with frustration. I consider that a win.
With that, below are four thoughts about the weekend in UK sports, followed by my favorite four pictures from the last two days. I will start with this one of the Highwaymen in their prime:
Kentucky With the Most Complete Game of the Year
It is too early to say that Kentucky has “turned the corner” and I think we learn a great deal more about the team this week (more on that later), but I do think that Kentucky’s 79-54 win over Georgia was a HUGE step in the right direction. For the first time all season, all of the major players on the team played well in one game and what followed was the most complete performance all year (barely edging out the UL game due to the bad 10 minute start in that one). Willie Cauley-Stein put on the headband and returned to his old form, blocking six shots and showcasing the energy level that had him starting the season with such promise. Julius Randle had his beastly moments, Alex Poythress was excellent finishing once again and Kentucky had one of its best nights from behind the three point line as well. But what was most encouraging to me was not any individual’s play but rather the sight of seeing this team start to connect as a unit. The ball moved as well as it had all year, with players passing up shots they could have taken to make Georgia’s defense work a bit harder and to get a better shot. Even more importantly, the defense was at a level that we just haven’t seen all year. The Cats had UGA to 54 points, but even more importantly, every shot was contested and UK gave up almost nothing easy around the basket. The Cats have seen their Defensive efficiency rating improve in the last two weeks from 48th nationally to 31st. That is markedly better and continuing on that trend could be the most important factor as to how the rest of the season will go. Either way, it was a great night for Kentucky on both ends and a game that gave a lot of encouragement on a very cold Saturday in Lexington.
Speaking of cold, this map for Tuesday morning is absolutely bone-chilling
Andrew Harrison is Finding The Groove
The one player I do feel has turned the corner is Andrew Harrison. Beginning with the second half of the Louisville game, I think Andrew Harrison has improved drastically and is very close to being the point guard that John Calipari needs to run this team. Sometimes Andrew showcases his talent by scoring (such as the second half versus UL and the Tennessee game) and sometimes he does it via distributing. But most importantly, he seems to be finally learning how to run the team and make sure that the offense flows with greater regularity. Calipari is unbelievably hard on his point guards and at times this year from my spot behind the bench, watching his interactions with Andrew has been difficult. He pulled Andrew often early and couldn’t believe the mistakes he was making. But the mistakes are fewer and farther between and Calipari clearly trusts him much more. We don’t see the sulking (at least not as often) as we did earlier in the year and the defense has improved a bit as well. Andrew is a victim of expectations…we (and especially me) thought he would come in immediately and be better. But he is starting to round into form at this point in the season and with each game he improves, Kentucky’s chances in March rise.
This picture came from a mashup on Twitter and is what Calipari and Willie Cauley-Stein would look like if mashed together…frightening
The Next Week Will Tell Me How Good this Team Is
I will write more about this tomorrow in detail, but for me, the next two games tell me what my expectations for March will be. LSU and Missouri are both decent teams (the 5th and 6th best in conference for me…I have Ole Miss 3 and Tennessee 4 as of today), but Kentucky is most certainly better than both teams. Both games are on the road in arenas that will be lively. Both of those teams need a victory over Kentucky to help improve their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Thus both games are tests…UK is better but they are on the road. Great teams win such games…good teams get in battles and can win or lose…decent teams lose them. The Arkansas game was somewhat freakish and had the Cats boxed out and won in Double Overtime, people would be talking about Kentucky as a legit national title contender. Now they get two more chances. If Kentucky wins both, I start to think that Kentucky can get to Dallas…win one and I will continue to reserve judgment and see if improvement continues to take. Lose both and it is hard for me to see this team having what is necessary to win it all (although they will still be able to make some noise in Tournament). I will judge where we are based on next two games…for me they are the games of the year.
Love this picture taken by KSR’s Dean Bowling of the UK team at the Jarrod Polson jersey retirement Friday at West Jessamine. Good example of this team building as a group
Matt Elam to Decide Thursday
I won’t go too much into this as we have a week to discuss. But Matt Elam picks his school Thursday at noon. He visited this weekend and it was quite the spectacle at the game as the seven current enrollees in the 2014 class got a great ovation from the UK crowd. The Elam recruitment has been an up and down affair but UK needs the kid. If he picks the Cats, the class will be Top 15 and it will be the cherry on top of the best group to ever be brought together at UK. Thursday could be a #Yahtzee to remember…should be quite the scene in Hardin County.
That is all for now…we will discuss all of this and more on the radio show tomorrow from 10-noon. Before we leave, a picture from the Royal Rumble tonight of Ben Roethlisberger, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. All look bizarre to me for different reasons. See you tomorrow:
We are just 46 hours or so from another UK Basketball Game and a little under 2 weeks from getting ready for National Signing Day. With that in mind, some notes to get your afternoon going:
— The Cats now face a Georgia team that may be better than we previously thought, starting SEC play at 4-1. This is yet another team that plays an ugly, nasty style of basketball, but at times this season has broken out and had big wins. Georgia will have a hard time matching up with Kentucky on the defensive end (they are 138 in Defensive efficiency), and if the Cats are playing anywhere close to their best game, they should run completely over the Bulldogs. The key to the game will be Julius Randle (as it often is) as he should be able to control the paint, much the same as he did during parts of the Texas A&M game. There are very few “easy” wins in the SEC, but this Georgia team should be one, even though they now sit at 4-1.
— The biggest conversation amongst UK fans over the past few days has been the question of what is going on with Wille Cauley-Stein. Everyone’s favorite center has now had three straight games of almost no production, averaging only one point a game and showcasing none of his defensive presence that was so effective earlier this year. Theories have abounded from girlfriend problems to loss of blonde hair to his new tattoo (below, which seems to have replaced his Hakuna matata look).
Regardless of why he is struggling, the reality is that Kentucky cannot get to where it wants to be without Willie playing near his potential. He is the only real rim protector that UK has (especially off the ball on help, due to his quickness) and he has shown an ability to finish around the rim in improving fashion this season. I have thought all season that he was playing a bit above his level on offense and I expected his production to come back to the median (although not back to the ground), but the problems on defense are surprising. Cauley-Stein is too good a defender and shot-blocker to be beaten as thoroughly as he has in these last three games. Georgia gives him one more chance to play against a thin front line before he finds LSU and Johnny O’Bryant next week. It is time for him to get back to his lottery pick level which can give the Cats the best front line in America
— Here is yet another Duke sorority video recruitment video, not quite as lame as the previous one (but still yet lame), and once again, proof that recruits need to see this before making their college decisions
— Another big week of football visits is upon us as Kentucky tries to find their final three commitments to round out the Class of 28. There is a lot of talk about one or two possible surprises coming in around Signing Day, but regardless of who ends up being part of the final class, this much is clear. This will be the best recruiting class in the history of Kentucky football. It is truly amazing to think about the fact that coming off back to back 2-10 seasons, Mark Stoops has been able to assemble a group like this in 2014. This statistic has been said before, but it bears repeating. When it comes to 4 star recruits at Kentucky, here are the numbers.
2013-2014 (2 classes): 13 combined commitments
2002-2012 (11 classes): 14 combined commitments.
Unbelievable. To read about one of those stars, check out this discussion on Catspause.com about Denzel Ware…an absolute stud who will make a big impact early on in Lexington.
— Finally, Kyle Wiltjer sent out this picture of his Sophomore year at Kentucky today. #TeamRobes…quite a look:
It is a miserable day around the Bluegrass as the snow and cold air makes us all want to stay indoors. But we have a game tonight folks and we all need to get ready. So with that, a few notes:
— Tonight’s game is likely to be a difficult to watch, ugly affair as Texas A&M tries to muck up the play. The Aggies are very physical and their style has had some success this conference season as the referees let the teams play more. The big difference is that UK should have a strong advantage inside and really hurt A&M in depth. Last year Kentucky showed its problems with the loss to the Aggies, but this team doesn’t have an Elston Turner type to go off in Rupp. For Kentucky, establishing an early presence will make a big difference as this isn’t a team that can score in bunches and catch up if behind. The Cats need to come out early, use their position advantages (Randle and WCS) and take over to give space. I think they will play a lot like at Vanderbilt, but win by more since it is in Rupp…somewhere between 13-17.
— 2015 RB Damien Harris decommiting from Michigan is good news for Kentucky, even if his chances of ending up a Cat are still low. WKYT reporter Lee Howard spoke with Harris last night and said that Harris told him he had never really considered Kentucky up to this point. That sounds like bad news (it certainly isn’t good), but there is still another year for this to happen. Harris essentially meant that Kentucky hasn’t been good and it will be up to Neal Brown and Mark Stoops to convince him that things will be changing. For now, Michigan and Ohio State are probably the leaders, but with Harris’s talent and his in-state status, just being in the game is good. There are some who tell me that he is the best Running Back this state has produced in 30 years (even including Shaun Alexander and Michael Bush). And then there are some that think he is slightly overrated. I have no idea, but I do know this…for a consensus 5 star player to be from Berea, going to school in Richmond and now open again in his recruitment…well it certainly isn’t bad news.
— I don’t care who you are, if you can’t laugh at the Miami Heat/Michelle Obama “mean mugging” video then that’s on you. The gif below after Michelle dunks and then gives her “OH face” is awesome:
— Matt Elam is going to visit Kentucky again this weekend. While I have learned that guessing where he will go is probably fruitless, this is good news as many had believed the tide had turned (in more ways than one) to Alabama. He has been on campus a ton of times and if this last visit doesn’t work, then we should all just wish the best to him. Get it done Stoops/Marrow/Brown/Barker…
— You heard John Calipari talk this weekend about the “clutter” that players are hearing from those around them and their families. I wrote a little bit about this on the House of Blue site at Cats Pause and you can read my thoughts there. It gives a bit of insight as to who I think he is talking about and what Kentucky has to do to get past it. (As a side note, sign up for that message board while you are there…it is free and we are going to be doing some cool things over there in the coming weeks….)
More later tonight as we do the Pregame Show and get ready for the game. And for those of you that listen to the radio show, after many words of encouragement, know that if you are a female and have nice calves, I will still compliment you.
Jarnell Stokes was a beast yesterday in Rupp Arena. He dominated down low (especially early) and in the one-on-one battle with Willie Cauley-Stein, he definitely came out on top. However his team didn’t win and thus one would expect some gracious comments after the game. Well that isn’t exactly what our man Stokes did. After learning to stretch, he apparently learned to critique other opponents, and his comments about UK after the game were interesting. From a Knoxville reporter:
h/t Nation of Blue
Some very interesting comments from Stokes. “I would definitely love to play them on a neutral site” is fair, but you know Calipari has to dislike that yet another team finishes the game by giving the “we are the better team” critique (and Cal wants the players to be upset as well). As for Stokes’ notion that they have some players who are very good and “some aren’t.” Well if these two teams meet up in the SEC Tournament (a distinct possibility), I can guarantee you that quote will be a part of the pre-game preparation.
Stokes is a beast, but a little post-loss grace wouldn’t be too bad.