After hints have been dropping the past few days, Willie Cauley-Stein just tweeted that he →
I spent a good portion of tonight watching the ESPN “30 for 30″ on the English football disaster that occurred in 1989 entitled “Hillsborough.” For those of you that don’t know the story, at a FA Cup Semifinal game (the major tournament that is part of the English football season), 96 Liverpool fans were killed after being crushed in the stands during an overcrowding situation. The scenes and video from the disaster are haunting and the documentary describing the events is one of the more heartbreaking things I have ever seen. I can remember as a kid seeing a picture of the scene in Sports Illustrated that showcased people being crushed against the metal fences, and the image haunted me for a very long time. After watching the documentary tonight, it will be in my mind once again. After telling the story of the events, the documentary also features a good deal on the coverup perpetrated by the police and authorities in England to try to blame the fans for errors that were caused by those in charge. Now even 25 years after the events, there are FINALLY open investigations taking place about what happened and justice may come for the 96 fans that passed away on that day. If you get a chance, make sure and watch the documentary on ESPN (it replays Sunday at 10 pm) or read more about the story here.
With that, some notes on the stories of the day:
Players Making Their Draft Decisions:
The NCAA deadline came and went today and as expected, no UK players announced their decisions. The real deadline is the one imposed by the NBA and that is April 27, giving all players 12 more days to decide their futures. Rumors began to spread today that the Harrison Twins could be close to announcing a return, likely fueled by speculation from a couple of UK reporters suggesting that good news was on the way. While I think it is perfectly possible that the Twins could return, I also think that all opinions on this subject are complete guesses. There are people “around” the Twins who are talking about the decision but I firmly believe that those folks are speaking with little knowledge. I was told by Mr Harrison at the Final Four that the decision would be made by his family and his family alone and there would be no leaks. I believe that and I don’t think the folks around UK know what the twosome are going to do either. Any guess by me would be just that…a guess and I think all speculation is exactly the same. Hopefully we will find out soon, although it could come at any time.
As for the rest of the players, I still believe we will hear a decision on Randle and Young this week and I expect both to enter the Draft. If either were to reach a different decision, I would be shocked. Alex Poythress has been the subject of some speculation today, but I still believe he returns to Lexington, where he is happy. That leaves Dakari Johnson, who is a true wildcard. One week ago, I think he was assured to come back to UK for another year, but at this point I am not sure. I still think smart money is on a return but he is definitely now actively considering leaving, something that didn’t seem possible just a week or so ago. These are anxious days for UK fans, but Willie returning does make everything a little brighter.
Calipari Continues to be Everywhere
At this point, I would be shocked if John Calipari does not end up on “Duck Dynasty” or “Party Down South” over the course of the next week or so. Calipari has been everywhere and is doing a great job at all his appearances. He will show up bright and early tomorrow on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and then will find his way next week to “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central (which has the potential to be epic. He continues to harp on the same themes about institutional change to the NCAA and there is no doubt that this is his focus throughout his travels. I am currently reading his book “Players First” (which is actually really interesting) and will be doing an event with him in Louisville on April 24th that I think you should check out. One of the things we have learned over the last couple of days is that Calipari is the master of the media and his appearances this week continue the theme of sports world domination that he is undertaking.
For what its worth, I am hearing that the Yahoo report of a UK basketball trip to Spain is not correct. The Cats are going to take a summer trip in August and my assumption is that it will be somewhere that isn’t Windsor, Canada. But I am hearing that it is much more likely to be a place like the Bahamas, or the like, rather than to Europe. Either way, save some time on your schedule for August basketball.
AT the time of this writing (a bit before 11), we are still waiting to hear what will happen to the Rupp Arena funding. The legislators have until midnight to make it happen and the Republicans in the Senate are still the ones holding up the process. We will know what they do by the morning and will deal with it then. If they don’t pass the money, after the University and city of Lexington made a number of the changes requested by them and after giving similar money not only to the Yum Center but to the Louisville Convention Center in this session…well somebody has some explaining to do.
Big day tomorrow…we are doing KSR Radio LIVE from Sleep Outfitters on 2105 Hurstborne Parkway in Louisville and giving away a trip to Las Vegas, Miami or another destination of your choice. If you don’t come, that is on you. So see you there…
For those of you that don’t know, I occasionally (not as often as I would like) do a podcast on the side about college basketball called “The Walk Ons.” My co-host is Ben Swain (a Duke fan) and we talk about whatever is going on in college basketball. Today’s episode is one you might want to catch as we talk a ton about Calipari and the Final Four experience, including some backstage stories from my trip to Dallas. It is entertaining for hopefully everyone, but I am certain it will be enjoyed by UK fans. So take a listen at the link below or subscribe below on iTunes. I promise you will be entertained or your money back:
Forgive me if I am a little rusty, but with Drew on vacation, I will be handling the night post this week, a task I haven’t had consistently in a couple of weeks. Luckily for me this is a busy time with much to talk about, and hopefully this will be like riding a bicycle and I can ease back into the flow. We start tonight with a dedication to the decision by Willie Cauley-Stein to return to Kentucky for his Junior season. This is probably one of the two biggest “returns” of a Calipari-recruited player (along with Terrence Jones) of the last five seasons and for many, is completely unexpected. All season long, Willie was presumed to be headed to the league and everyone around the program had long thought that two years of WCS would be all we would be lucky enough to get. But then things began to change in March. Willie started talking to friends/teammates about a return and after his injury the decision was made. We first got wind this was a real possibility last week and Ryan Lemond heard it was the proverbial “done deal” this weekend. Still I couldn’t help but be skeptical because what Willie did is unusual…he returned to school while potentially being a lottery pick. That takes a lot of guts and I applaud Willie for making the call.
Still, the decision does make sense for two reasons. First, there is an argument that Willie Cauley-Stein wasn’t the high pick lock that some presumed. A source tells KSR that Willie had surgery in the last couple of days and he would have been unable to workout during the draft process. This would have really hindered Willie’s likely draft status because he is the type of player who would be a workout warrior. NBA folks love guys like Willie…long, athletic and quick makes scouts drool and much of Willie’s projection was based on these qualities. If he was unable to show them, that could be a problem. Thus a return gives him a chance to put his best foot forward with another season of development and a chance to have all his best traits on display.
But the other reason Willie’s return makes sense is a fact intrinsic to him. Willie Cauley-Stein is just a different guy, to whom basketball is a part but not the whole of his life. Here is a secret about nearly every big-time college basketball player who is looking at the Draft…their life is basketball. One of my favorite questions to ask players when they arrive on campus is what they would do if they weren’t basketball players…for many the question has never even entered their minds. These guys grow up wanting to play basketball and most of their free time is based on basketball activities. Not Willie. WCS is a kid with a lot of interests in a lot of areas and a free spirit prone to search for the happiness of the moment he is in. After the national championship game, he talked to reporters about the allure of the NBA but then noted that if you are happy doing what you are doing now, why rush to something else? That is a great insight (not just about the NBA but everything in life) and one that few players truly carry. Willie is happy being a college student and being in school…a fact that is even more amazing considering he sort of hated school when he arrived. This has become a place where he is happy, has varied interests and has many friends of diverse backgrounds. In Willie’s mind, why change that if he doesn’t have to?
There will be a huge effect on the Kentucky team due to Willie’s decision to return. Kentucky is now loaded in the front court and he adds a huge dose of athleticism to a class that isnt quite as explosive athletically as in previous years. But it is also a testament to a kid who just does things differently…something I always like. Coloring books for everyone, Willie is back
A few more quick notes:
— Don’t forget about Marcus Lee: The first “announcement” today came from Marcus Lee, whose brother told Adam Zagoria that he would be returning to Kentucky. The idea of Lee considering the draft was mocked by some, but honestly it should not have been. Lee would have gone in the top 40 in the draft thanks to his potential and his length makes his NBA future very promising. He will now be part of a very crowded frontcourt (even more so if Dakari returns as well) but I expect him to improve a great deal this summer. Marcus is a great kid and one of my favorite guys on the team, With him and the other potential returnees back in Lexington, practices next season are going to be absolutely stacked.
— Calipari was Everywhere: John Calipari spoke to a ton of different interviewees today, ranging from Dan Patrick to CBS This Morning to Jim Rome to Bill O’Reilly to of course KSR. He revealed the “tweak” (Andrew passed it more), he gave his notion of how many players he thought would head to the Draft (less than five) and he gave a timeline for his new coach hire (a week or so). There were lots of little tidbits over the course of the day, but to be honest, the one that stuck out to me had to do with his future here in Lexington. He was asked about Rex Chapman’s tweet at the Final Game and after saying “who?”, he noted that it was not true. But he did once again tie his future at Kentucky to the NBA collective bargaining rules about the Draft. On KSR he noted that if the rule got changed to two years (which he believes will happen), “I will probably finish my career here and stay a long time.” But he also suggested that if it stays one year, he might not be able to endure the constant grind of building a new team every year. This summer could be the huge time for the two year decision as the NBA and the Players meet about the issue that was tabled last summer. We all have thought that Kentucky basketball would be better off if the rule changed, but now we know that Calipari’s future may be tied to it as well. That is a lot riding on a decision that will be made by those with no tie to college basketball. But a rejuvenated Calipari with two years worth of top talent? That could be special…
Big Day for Rupp Arena: The news is better for the Rupp Arena renovation, but still not completed. Today will be the day we find out whether the State Senate falls in line and supports the plan for money for a Rupp Arena renovation. The plan has been altered slightly and lawmakers spent today in meetings trying to hash out a grand bargain. IT must be done by today however or the Rupp project could fall by the wayside, with major negative consequences for the historic facility. It is a story worth following on Tuesday and we will let you know what happens.
— UK Football Loses One: There was some bad news in the world of UK sports as four star DB Montrell Custis changed his commitment from Kentucky to Alabama. Custis fell in love with the UK football staff when he visited and was a huge early commitment. But Alabama came calling and that is a tough school for a high school player of his talent to turn down. Alabama is big boy recruiting and it says something that UK has been able to go against them on a few players the last two years…but it is a tough battle to win and Kentucky today lost one of the potential crown jewels of the 2015 class in the process to Saban and the Tide.
Calipari is doing the ESPN Car Wash today, which means he will be on virtually every ESPN show today (except Colin Cowherd, who criticized Calipari loudly today and now finds himself not on the schedule). We will let you know any news that comes out of those appearances. Until then, celebrate as Willie is back and Kentucky basketball looks to be a happy time again next year:
Would you like to go to Indiana’s Journalism School? Well you should at least think about it…while we at KSR showcase that you can have a successful career in journalism with no training, little skill and many grammar errors, there is still something to be said for a journalism degree (it ranks with Philosophy degrees in terms of marketability). Indiana is one of the better Journalism schools in this great land of ours and thus they are promoting their status to the world. But how do they do it? Well not with pictures of Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford popcorn boxes or the player allegedly known as “Big Handsome.” No, Indiana wants you to go to their school by letting you know that you MIGHT get to interview John Wall. Yes, if one attends Indiana’s Journalism School a life of excitement awaits as you hope beyond hope that Kentucky will reignite their series with the Hoosiers and you may be in the presence of UK greatness.
If Indiana didn’t exist to continuously make us laugh, then we would probably have to create them…
The first weekend without college sports since August was a little bit sad for me. While most of this UK basketball season was a bit of a grind, the last month was one of the more special rides in the history of the program. The way this team completely reinvented itself, came together and shocked the college basketball world was something to behold. They produced four of the best postseason games this program has ever seen and they all occurred in succession, each a little bit more exciting than the last. Had Kentucky finished the job, it would probably have been the greatest run in the history of this program, and even as is, it is one that we will always remember. This 2014 Kentucky team will join the 1966 Rupp’s Runts as one of the most beloved to ever come so close and there is no doubt that this group will have a special place in all fans’ hearts.
But now after the joy of the season comes business time. The players spent most of this weekend thinking about their futures and talking about the Draft with their families. Randle, Young and Willie headed home while Poythress, the Twins and Dakari were in town, but all spent time with their families as they tried to figure out what their future holds for next season. Seven players legitimately have a chance to go to the NBA and all seven have considered it. A few days ago I updated where I thought the decisions for each of the players stood and after a few more days, it is worth an update. I expect the first couple of decisions to trickle out in the next 48 hours or so, and the last ones may go all the way to the NBA deadline of April 26. But we will know more very soon, so it is worth noting where we are before a big week for the future of the program. With that in mind, a couple of before we get going:
1. This look is based on my conversations with people close to the program, a couple of folks I know around the NBA and in two cases, people close to the players. I have gotten conflicting information in a couple of cases and have gone with the ones I think are most trustworthy.
2. It is subject to change because…well they are kids subject to change their mind.
So with that, the players:
Gone and likely to announce very soon. Randle is situated to be a top 5 pick and will compete with Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Dante Exum for one of the top spots. Randle actually has taken the information gathering process seriously and unlike a couple of the other “can’t miss” guys of recent years, I do think he considered the possibility of returning. But everyone agrees that his time is now and there is very little upside for Julius in a second year. I can’t imagine he comes back and I think we find out very soon.
All year I was under the impression that Young was certainly headed to the Draft, no questions asked. I still think he is headed to the Draft, but I am told by a couple of folks that he has strongly considered the possibility of a second year. For Young however, the dream has always been about the NBA and he will likely go in the lottery thanks to his amazing athleticism (one of my NBA people told me that his dunk in the UCONN game was maybe the most important moment of the Final Four in terms of how it was perceived by NBA team scouts). While I don’t consider him the mortal lock that I do Randle, I would still be shocked if he doesn’t enter the Draft, probably this week.
Almost certain to return. Alex looked at where he would go in the Draft and gathered the information and from what I am told, he is almost certain to return. If you remember at this time last week, I had two people in my “lock” category (Randle and Young) and I feel fairly comfortable now to put Alex there as well. I think he will be a key member of the team next year and is on pace to graduate in three years, making his return the correct decision.
The shock of this entire process to me has been Willie. All season long, I heard from everyone around the team and Willie that he would enter the Draft after the season. But now I am hearing that he is not only considering returning, I have people saying that he likely will return. That is amazing to me. But the two people telling me are people I trust and so for now, I am operating under the assumption that he is in the “Lean Return” status. Apparently Willie was torn up about his injury and not being able to finish the job with the team and legitimately loves the life he has as a college student in Lexington. He also understands that because of his injury, he can’t work out during the draft process and that will have an impact on his NBA Draft status. As one person close to the process told me, “not working out caused the certain #1 pick (Nerlens) to drop to #6, the result for Willie could be much worse.”) If he returns and plays well, he could be a guaranteed lottery guy next year in a weak draft. Plus his athleticism is something next year’s team could desperately use and would make for a huge, unexpected addition. I freely admit that I will be skeptical until the day he makes his decision, as I have assumed in in the Draft since before the year began. But at the same time, all the info is going in the direction of a return and so I can’t help but follow along.
Dakari is the opposite of Willie in terms of the fact that I believed he was certain to return all year and now I am not sure. Johnson is taking the process very seriously and is being told that he would be a late first round draft choice. Now it is just up to Dakari to decide if he wants to settle for that placement or come back and have a chance to play himself into the lottery. If I were a betting man, I would still place money on Dakari being back at UK, but I am not confident in that selection and it will be interesting to see if a return by Willie would have any effect. If they both come back, UK’s front court next year is officially crazy scary.
The most talked about of the draft prospects are also the most mysterious. As I have said over and over, people who say they know what the Twins are doing simply do not. I can tell you with some confidence that even those close to the Twins don’t know and they laugh at the stories of “they are gone” or “they are returning” that are out there right now. Their situation is like Dakari’s in that both stand to improve their games and stock by returning. But both thought of themselves as guys who would only play for one year and now they have to decide if they are ok with the second. I pay almost no credibility to the Chad Ford report today that scouts say the Twins believe they weren’t “showcased” correctly by Calipari…they were probably the two who Calipari had the least problems with all season. I just think they are torn and trying to make the best decision possible. I am asked all the time if they will return and UK definitely could use them…without them, they really only have three guards on the team next season (Ulis, Booker and Hawkins), so it will be thin without them. But any guess on their future is just a guess…to me they are a toss-up and we just cross our fingers and hope they make the best decision for UK, which I also think would be the best decision for them…one more year in Lexington.
Thats how I see it standing now. John Calipari does a media tour tomorrow in which he will get asked a lot about their futures and I would expect in the next 48 hours, we will get at least one and maybe many more decisions announced. Seven kids and all different levels of potential in terms of entering the Draft…should be an exciting week.
Yahoo.com has a feature on Karl Towns that is worth reading and is a nice way to spend your Sunday night. But in the feature, a little bit of news MAY have been mixed in. The article says Towns is trying to decide whether to play this summer for the Dominican Republic in Spain in the World Cup or go on a summer tour with UK in Spain. That suggests that UK would be playing its summer tour in Spain As you may know, the NCAA allows college basketball teams to take summer tours once every four years and it also gives teams a month of summer practice. This is Kentucky’s year. So Yahoo seems to suggest that the trip is to Spain.
I must say however that I have heard a different location, much closer to the United States (think island). So this is the first I have heard of Europe (which was discussed as a possibility early on but I had heard had been dismissed). It may be that Yahoo simply said Spain twice (since that is where the World Cup is) and made a mistake. Or maybe the trip is different than what I have heard. Either way, an interesting tidbit and an exciting summer.
After the excitement of the past three weeks, it was odd today to have a relatively normal day without any major news or electricity. While we all try to come down from the amazing high this team put us on, it is now draft decision time for these guys, as they try to figure out their NBA Futures. The players must make a decision by April 27, a deadline that gives them the time to gather information and make an informed decision. Unlike in past years, I expect that you may hear decisions drift out over the next couple of weeks as there is unlikely to be a unanimous decision by this group of seven as to their futures. I spent some of today on the telephone making calls and putting together my best stance as to where things are AT THIS MOMENT in the process for all of these guys. It is important to remember that it is still very early and everything may change. But I am confident that at this moment, here is where we are for each of the seven potential NBA Draft declarations.
All of the players spent today talking to John Calipari and collecting information about where they would stand in the draft process. As with everything, the information is surely varied and because of the run to the Final Four, for many of these guys this was the first time they have heard where they stand. I would suspect most will spend this weekend with their families talking about their futures and I would guess we will start to hear some news next week. For now, here is the rundown on each player:
JULIUS RANDLE: Almost assuredly gone. While the Jeff Goodman report today may have been premature, in the end I don’t suspect it will be wrong. Randle will be a top five pick and no one expects him to return and play for Kentucky. He is at that spot in the draft where he is so highly rated that my guess is Calipari would tell him he needs to go, even if he was considering a return. I can’t imagine a scenario where he ends up here for a second year.
JAMES YOUNG: Almost assuredly gone as well. Not quite the lock to enter the draft that Randle is, but very close. James will see himself go probably somewhere in the late lottery and he is a kid who wants to be in the NBA. Like with Randle, the working expectation in Lexington is that he will enter the Draft.
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: Probably the biggest news I found out today that surprised me a bit is that Willie is heavily considering returning to Kentucky. The scope of injury is enough that he probably won’t be able to work out during the Draft process and unlike with Nerlens Noel last year, that will hinder Willie. He will be unable to fix any concerns about his health and this could cause a drop in stock of some major degree. Plus, Willie likes being at Kentucky and enjoys his time in college, and isn’t in quite the rush that others are to get the NBA money. Most had assumed a couple of weeks ago that he was all but assured to enter the Draft, but apparently the last couple of weeks have raised some doubt in Willie’s mind and there is now a belief that me might decide to come back for his Junior year. I still think he will likely declare for the NBA, but now I think it is a very close call for Willie and he could be the surprise return that no one saw coming.
DAKARI JOHNSON: If Willie is the player that was almost certain to leave who is now having second thoughts, Dakari is the exact opposite. Before the Tournament, he was all but assured to come back to Lexington and nearly everyone was operating under the assumption that a second year was coming (one in which I think he will be dominant. But like Willie, Dakari is now having second thoughts, except in his case to look at the league. He is gathering information about his status, a decision that makes sense because…well what is the downside? He probably would find himself going at the end of the first round (at least this is what two NBA guys told me today), but most everyone thinks he would be better off coming back and being a force next year (and maybe a top ten pick). I still think he returns to Kentucky, but I do think the NBA is on the table now, whereas it was not just a couple of weeks ago.
HARRISON TWINS: The mystery of the process right now. I could see either decision for these two and I do think right now it is 50/50. I am told that Andrew is projected towards the end of the first round and Aaron the beginning of the second, so from a draft stock standpoint, it would seem returning is the play. But the Twins are their own guys and I think they and their dad will keep the decision very close to the vest. At various times, my opinion on their future has drifted back and forth…right now I am in the very so slightly “return” camp, but ask me tomorrow and I may change my mind again. The best thing UK has going for it is that they love playing (and being) together and they may want to do it for one more year. Their experience is much better at UK after this run (and the fan adoration that was shown) than it was during the early part of the year. No decision would surprise me with these two, and as one person told me about them, “these guys tell no one anything…anybody who guesses between now and the time they decide will be doing just that…guessing.”
Alex is also gathering information on the draft and some think that his Tournament performance got him back on the minds of NBA teams. I am told that of all seven, he is the most likely to return but that it isn’t assured and the decision will probably be made over the next week. Poythress is scheduled to graduate next year (which is a plus for those who want to see him return) and if he has a big year, especially with no Julius Randle in front of him as a similar player, he could blossom and rise on boards. The smart money is on a Poythress return, but I wouldn’t put it yet at 100%
So there you have it…I assume Randle/Young are gone, think it very likely Poythress returns and the other four are somewhat of a mystery. If you made me pick, I would say Willie to the NBA and Dakari back to Kentucky…and I don’t even have an educated guess on the Twins, who will be a mystery. This will probably change a number of times as we go over the next two weeks and as it does, we will let you know what we here.
If somehow they get five guys back besides Randle and Young…well that would be quite fun wouldn’t it?
You have two chances to win Final Four tickets tomorrow from GuyontheCornerTickets.com and KSR. If you live in the city of Louisville, we will be doing KSR live at Oxmoor Ford and then will be at Charlie Wilson’s Appliance during Terry Meiners’ Show. At both places, we will have Final Four tickets to give to someone in the audience. Here is all you have to do:
Oxmoor Ford 10-noon for KSR Radio: Come watch the show (next to Oxmoor Mall) and we draw at the end of the show (must be present to win).
Charlie Wilson’s Appliance: Come register from 4-6 pm, we draw at 6 and you need NOT be present to win.
Two sets of tickets and you can win. Why not try?
And until then, check out the link below when Jim Nantz came and sat with us for 15 minutes on the KSR Pregame show for the Michigan game…very cool stuff and Nantz was unbelievably gracious and interesting. Worth your time:
The KSR Pregame Show was something to behold last night…We did the show in front of a bar filled with UL fans. Seeing that the crowd didn’t like us (they booed us when we walked in), I decided I was going to have fun with it. I turned on my inner Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and basically talked trash to Louisville fans the entire time. It was…awesome. Drew joined me in the trash talking and we both had to get out of the bar, or should I say escape out of the bar, before the natives got restless. Below is a link to the “best of” moments of the hour and the entire broadcast if you are interested:
And if you want to hear the post game celebration, here is the entirety of the Postgame show that went on from 1:45 am- 2:45 am with packed phone lines and lots of fun:
A UK fan sent me this today as a UL fan seated in front of her was a bit wild last night. After every big Card basket, he would pull his shirt up to show his UL tattoo (and ass) and taunt the UK fans behind him. In the end however, it was probably a sad night. So Louisville and so awesome…
It seemed to be a done deal, but now the proposed Rupp Arena renovation project is in some serious trouble. With the Governor, members of both parties in the Kentucky House and UK (including Calipari) on board with the renovation project, I assumed it was all but assured to happen. But we know what happens when one assumes. Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers (pictured above) has stepped in and now the project is on shaky ground. The Senator from Manchester has cut out the Rupp Arena renovation from the Senate-approved version of the Kentucky budget and now the entire thing is in a bit of a state of disarray. As House and Senate negotiators get together to try and finalize the budget, sources tell KSR that Stivers is holding out on the Rupp Arena project, causing major concerns as to whether it can survive. It is unclear the reason for this holdout, whether he is against funding or simply looking for a bargaining chip, but regardless of the rationale, many believe the funding could be in trouble.
At issue are two parts of the budget…$65 million from the state to go with the money coming from the city for the project and approval for Lexington to institute a 2.5 cent tax on hotel rooms in the city of Lexington. Both are crucial parts of the funding for the renovation and without them, it is unlikely the project can begin. Stivers was on my show this week (you can listen to his comments here) and would not say whether he would support the renovation money, simply saying that he “received the documents” only a week ago. But after a week, negotiations are now ongoing and it remains to be seen what he will do. The decision will likely come within the next 48 hours and if Stivers doesn’t change his mind, the entire project could be dead.
When the city of Louisville came to the Kentucky legislature and asked for money to build the Yum Center, they were given $75 million ($10 million more than Lexington/UK is requesting) and the ability to add on a similar hotel tax. Senator Stivers voted for both of these provisions. It is unclear why there is now a change when it is the University of Kentucky and not the University of Louisville. If you would like to make your voice heard o the issue, you should contact your Senator (not your Representative…both parties are in agreement in the House). You can find out your Senator’s name and contact info here. In addition, you might want to contact Senator Stivers’ office, the numbers for which you can find here at his webpage.
UK is losing the revenue battle with UL and other universities that have undergone renovation in the last decade. Calipari has said he wants the program to remain the “gold standard” in college basketball…and the decisions made by Stivers and other Senators over the next 48 hours may determine whether, at least in terms of a basketball facility, that will still be the case.
Yesterday afternoon, the UK/UL week of craziness started to take hold and our own Matt Jones went on the Paul Finebaum radio show on ESPN Radio to preview the game. He talked about what it would mean and gave some tidbits about the season, so it is worth a listen. And if nothing else, check out the fact that Finebaum (who established the best regional sports presence of anyone in the country and was a model for the beginning of KSR) said nice things about Matt and KSR in the process. A media member praising our blog/radio show is like seeing a dodo bird.
If you know a UL fan, chances are that you saw the above picture at some point today. It has been Retweeted and shared on Facebook a number of times, as Louisville fans cling to their one celebrity fan, Jennifer Lawrence. While I like Jennifer Lawrence (she is saucy, especially in “American Hustle), I do think it is worth remembering that even in the realm of celebrity fans, Louisville is and always will be, Little Brother:
photo by Matt Dearmond
Go Cats…and remember tonight, we are all Jaspers. #TeamMasiello
I always dread reading any article like this one on the site “BroBible” (a huge and growing website) because I know what is coming. When sites rank the “Worst Fanbases in College Basketball”, I know Kentucky is going to be on the list, mainly because we are successful, large and loud. So when I opened up this latest set of rankings, I was pleasantly surprised to see that UK was only ranked #6 and the writing wasn’t too awfully negative towards the Big Blue Nation:
Mainly on the list because they’re more successful lately than anyone else, and thus more apt to be hated, Kentucky fans are a strange breed.
On the one hand, there are very few Wildcat supporters who you immediately hate when you first meet them. Even their main fan site (normally a place for the worst writing and whining on the Internet), Kentucky Sports Radio, is likable enough to non-UK guys. Unless you went to Louisville, conversation with a Wildcat is bound to be civil.
On the other hand… If you ever talk to a fan who perhaps has a few drinks in him, you’ll notice something weird. He makes absolutely no apology about the crookedness of Calipari. He’ll explain very matter-of-factly that yes, there’s a chance every win we’ll have will one day be forfeited. But, no, I’m not really concerned about it right now, because every year I get to watch the best fucking players in the country play. And he’ll be right, which is annoying. Deals with the devil have never sounded so great. Screw you for your unblemished conscience. At least feel some confliction, Kentucky.
Plus, much like Syracuse, Kentucky fans travel in giant hordes, driving up ticket prices and turning your home stadium into an away arena. Damn your support of your favorite team!
Now, while the article does the usual “Cal is crooked” nonsense, it does acknowledge that we are generally nice people, love basketball and want to win…all things that are true. We don’t have any conflict because Calipari’s reputation simply has nothing to do with what he does here, but that is a point that will be lost on almost anyone who is inclined to dislike him. Plus, they compliment KSR, and flattery will get you everywhere.
The top five we can all agree with Maryland, Duke, UNC, West Virginia and UCONN Women’s team…a spot on analysis I must say. Check out the whole list here.
After 18 days of travels, I am back settled in Kentucky and ready for the Madness of this Tournament to get started. There is a lot to digest, but here are some quick thoughts:
— Kentucky is of course in the hardest bracket and seeded a bit low, but we knew both of those things could/would happen. When you get past those frustrations however, I do like the matchups that Kentucky has in its first 2-3 games. Kansas State is a team that Kentucky should beat. They have lost 6 of their last 8 coming into the Tournament, they have very little in the way of size and while they are physical, they don’t overwhelm you at any position. Kentucky’s guards will get beat up a bit but the Cats should be able to control the glass and Julius Randle is set to potentially have a big game. It is definitely a winnable contest and one the Cats should handle if they are ready to do anything in March. As for Wichita State, yes they are 34-0 and yes they are very good. But if you were going to pick a one seed for Kentucky to play, you might pick the Shockers. They aren’t very big and while they are very efficient offensively, they don’t have the length to contest UK at the glass. The Cats have struggled all year in the SEC against teams that are long and athletic. Neither of their first two opponents play that way and that is why Calipari should like the matchups, even though they are harder than what the Cats could/should have had.
— If UK ends up playing Louisville in Indianapolis, the scene for that Sweet 16 game would be insane. However for UK, I don’t think it is (again) a terrible matchup. Louisville can’t like having to play against UK’s size as it is the one thing that Pitino’s team does not have in abundance. It will be a difficult moment and one worries about nerves for a young team, but this UK group knows that it can beat the Cards and their length will clearly give UL fits. If both teams get to that spot, the pressure will all be on Louisville and I think the UK guys can play loose and free. If the Cats were going to play two of the title contenders, Wichita State and UL aren’t the toughest matchups for them of the bunch.
— If you get a chance, check out the Twitter feed of NCAA spokesman Greg Shaheen. Last night he went into some detail as to how the bracket came about and it was very instructive as to the NCAA’s feelings on the issue. A quick read and summary is this…the NCAA favors geography much more than people realize. When they lay out the seeds, the first thing they do is try to place teams that are the highest seed in a particular place, close to home. So for instance if the four seeds are Louisville, Michigan State, UCLA and San Diego State, in that order, they place in regions based on proximity. Louisville got in Indy, Mich State then was placed in Memphis, UCLA couldnt go to West (because Arizona was the #1 seed) and went East, etc. Competitive balance is a factor, but not the controlling one…geography is. Thus we get the balance problems we had this year. It was very instructive to read and worth your time to check out.
— Every year, I pick my five teams that can win the title and I guarantee the title will come from that group. I have done this since 1994 and only once (1997 with Arizona) has the team that won not been in my group. This year, I am having a harder time than usual picking my five. I legitimately think there are eight teams that are in the same ballpark and another five (UK is one of these) that could get going if everything came together. Three of mine are already set (Florida, Michigan State and Louisville) but I am struggling to fill the other two between Michigan, Kansas, Duke and Arizona. I will pick my final five on Thursday but this has the potential to be another year where I am left struggling to get the final winner.
Finally, we taped another WALK ONS PODCAST last night for the first time in mini-months. If you have never listened to the podcast before, it is myself and a guy who covers the ACC and Duke (Ben Swain) and we talk national college basketball and of course the Cats. There is a lot of good stuff in this one as we preview the NCAA brackets and go 90 minutes with a lot of great stories. Check it out at the link below or subscribe on iTunes. Otherwise, I will see you tomorrow on radio:
Coming to you from Asheville, North Carolina, where they grow hippies like Idaho grows potatoes. The people watching in this play is fairly unbelievable and includes some of the odder scenes I have ever encountered. But everyone is nice, generally happy and accommodating and it is a good 2-day layover before the SEC Tournament. With that in mind, a few quick thoughts heading to Cat-lanta:
— I am not sure a word has ever gotten more play in a state than the word “tweak” got in Kentucky this afternoon. Calipari’s announcement last night on his radio show that he has found a tweak in the offense that could “change everything” had Big Blue Nation stirring today. Ever since that moment, folks have been guessing what said tweak could be and others have been assuming that no such tweak exists and writing off the whole thing to “Cal being Cal.” I of course have no idea if there has been a tweak or not, but I think it is likely Calipari is doing this to try and reset the game for his team going into postseason play. At this point, confidence may be his group’s biggest issue. Calipari apparently went before his team and apologized for not finding this tweak sooner and said that this can be the change that is necessary to make a move forward. At least with his team, there can be a belief that Calipari made a mistake (not them) and now they are headed in the right direction. It could all be for naught (and likely will be) but I think it is a smart move by a coach doing his best to try and get the bad vibes out of his players’ heads so they can focus on trying to reclaim their season over the next few weeks.
— Speaking of the SEC Tournament, the bracket in Atlanta is set up well for Kentucky to find its way to the Tournament finals. While everyone wanted to avoid LSU, a team that has given UK fits and is as physical as any in the conference, the rest of UK’s side is fairly convenient for the Cats. If they get past the LSU/Alabama winner, taking on Ole Miss or Georgia shouldn’t cause too many problems. The reality is that if Kentucky doesn’t play better than they have for the last two weeks, they won’t beat anyone and the draw won’t matter. But to have Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri end up on the other side (not to mention Florida), means that if Kentucky finds some kind of real tweak and plays closer to its potential, a spot in Sunday’s final shouldn’t be too much to ask.
— If Kentucky gets to the finals of the SEC Tournament, then I think the Cats would get a 6 seed, not a terrible place to be all things considered. Lose before that and I would say a #7 seed is likely in the cards. As much as any other year ever, a lot of the Tournament success will be based on sheer luck of the draw. There are some #2 seeds that I think are simply not very good (Villanova) and some 4/5 that could be great (Michigan State, Louisville, etc). What you are seeded matters less than who you are seeded against and thus we will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best on Selection Sunday.
— If you are going to Atlanta for the SEC Tournament, here is the schedule of events:
10 am: KSR Radio live from Stats
10 am: KSR Radio live from Stats
2-6 pm: UK Pep Rally like at the Phillips Center next to the Georgia Dome
After the Game: KSR Postgame Show with UK fans at Stats
In addition, the Atlanta Hawks have home games on Thursday vs the Milwaukee Bucks (and Brandon Knight), Saturday night (after the SEC Tournament games) vs the Denver Nuggets and next Friday versus the New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis and Darius Miller). They are offering discounts to UK fans for all these games by clicking on this link and using the promo code: CATLANTA. Check them out if you would like and see some more basketball.
— Finally, KSR is going a bit old school this weekend and bringing back the KSR LIVE RUNNING DIARY FROM THE SEC TOURNAMENT on Thursday. Drew, Aaron Flener and I will be doing what I used to do when the site first started…covering the tournament from the arena and focusing on all the side things going on (goofy pictures, people, etc). It will be a lot of old school KSR fun on the site and I hope you will tune in.
We head to Atlanta tomorrow and will be in the Georgia Dome in the KSR Suite tomorrow night. See you folks then!