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Ranking Thanksgiving Side Dishes, from worst to best

Ranking Thanksgiving Side Dishes, from worst to best


Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a truly American holiday because yeah, the historical stuff, but also because people are encouraged to eat as much as they can. Only on days like today are you encouraged to stuff your face, get drunk, put on stretchy pants, watch football and nap, all before 5 p.m. (In some cultures, we also call this “Sunday Funday.”)

To get you ready for the busy day ahead, I ranked every Thanksgiving side dish I could think of from worst to best:

16. Creamed onions

Look, I love onions as much as the next person, but what is that?! The internet tells me creamed onions are pearl onions that are cooked slowly over time until they’re sweet. Apparently it’s a New England thing, and that’s fine by me. They can keep their mushy little onions while we slather butter and cheese over carbs like normal fat Southerners.

15. Cranberry sauce (canned)

Cranberry sauce is the dish you think you have to have on your Thanksgiving table but is rarely ever touched; that’s especially true of canned cranberry sauce, which is why you put the least responsible person in your family in charge of it because there’s no messing that up.

Mmm…you know what goes great with this delicious turkey we spent hours slaving over? This gelatinous cranberry substance in the shape of an aluminum can that Derek didn’t even bother to cut up. 


14. Carrots

No matter how hard you try to dress them up — balsamic reductions, roasted, truffle butter, etc. — they’re just carrots. The only reason they belong on the Thanksgiving table is so you can guilt your kids into eating something healthy before the second helping of pie.

13. Squash

You know what sucks? Serving yourself what you think is sweet potatoes only to find out it’s squash.

12. Cranberry sauce (fresh)

The only reason this is higher on the list than the canned variety is it takes actual effort to make, meaning whoever is in charge of making it will guilt you into eating at least a spoonful.

11. Brussels Sprout

As an adult, I have mostly gotten over my childhood distaste for brussels sprout; however, I think it says something about them that they are only acceptable as a Thanksgiving side dish when they’re cooked with bacon and onions.

10. Green bean casserole

The real stars of this dish are the fried onions on top. One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving is that it’s perfectly acceptable — encouraged, even — to make foods that are supposed to be healthy — green beans, brussels sprout, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc. — totally unhealthy.

I guess we should have something green on the table…hmm…just put these beans in a dish, put some Cream of Mushroom soup, butter, and cheese on them and stick it in the oven for a while. …Wait, still too much green. Throw those fried onions on it. 

9. Broccoli casserole

See above.

8. Sweet potato casserole

See above, just make it even better by putting brown sugar, butter, and pecans on top. Or marshmallows. I personally prefer the former, but hey, neither is healthy and both give you an excuse to eat something sweet before dessert.

7. Baked apples

And no, not like whole baked apples like some people make. I’m talking about sliced up apples cooked in brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon served piping hot, Cracker Barrel style. The ultimate example of healthy gone bad and by bad I mean awesome.

6. Dinner rolls

The dark horse of any holiday meal. I personally prefer rolls to be slightly sweet and just soft enough to soak up leftovers on the plate. If you’re in the Danville area, Burke’s Bakery has THE BEST dinner rolls around. Tell ’em I sent you.

5. Corn pudding

Not a huge fan of corn by itself, but who isn’t a fan of corn cooked in butter, milk, sugar, and eggs? This is a staple dish on any southern Thanksgiving table.

4. Gravy

Some people may consider gravy a condiment, but not this blogger. Gravy is the Tyler Ulis of the Thanksgiving table; it makes everything around it better. Mashed potatoes a little bland? Gravy. Turkey too dry? Gravy. Little brother won’t shut up? Gravy. (Although that last one might get you in trouble.)

3. Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese on any day is amazing. Fancy it up by popping it in the oven and you’ve got a Thanksgiving classic. Even if all of the other side dishes fail, you can never go wrong with mac and cheese.

2. Mashed potatoes

I mean, just look at that. I went back and forth over mashed potatoes and stuffing for the #1 spot, and even though mashed potatoes didn’t come out on top, everyone wins. Lumpy or smooth, with gravy, sour cream, or butter, there is nothing better than overloading on this delicious carbohydrate. Some things are just worth being fat for.

1. Stuffing

Other than Thanksgiving and Christmas, when do you eat stuffing? Exactly. That’s why it’s the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish, no matter how you prepare it. My mother makes stuffing balls with spicy sausage, taking the dish to an entirely different level. (My sister and I fight over who gets to be the taste tester.) Since we don’t put our stuffing inside of the bird, technically I guess it should be called dressing, but whatever. That just sounds odd. Stuffing balls FTW.

I’m sure some of you disagree on the rankings, which is why I came up with this handy little ranking tool for you to weigh in yourselves:

Happy eating.

Governor’s Cup Positional Analysis

In a seemingly quiet Governor’s Cup game week, the Cats and Cards are preparing for Saturday’s showdown. Louisville is favored; but after digging in on statistics, schedules, and other factors, I wouldn’t be comfortable declaring either a prohibitive favorite.

Here’s an interpretation of position group analysis:


Quarterback: Louisville

Lamar Jackson or Kyle Bolin? Most likely both based upon situation, weather, down-distance, and momentum. True freshman Lamar Jackson has, at times, put on a freakish athletic show and, on other occasions, reminded Cardinal fans that he is just one year removed from high school. Jackson is most dangerous with his legs; however, he’s shown improvement as a passer. Lexington’s Kyle Bolin was forced into action last year and with the help of DeVante Parker, beat the Cats 44-40. Bolin is a pure pocket-passing quarterback. Within the U of L offense, it all starts and finishes with the quarterback position.

Drew Barker will be making his second start in the biggest game of the year. While I don’t feel Barker is easy to rattle, the moment is going to be awfully big for the redshirt freshman. His first start was efficient as he managed the elements and explosive run game for a 58-10 win over Charlotte. Drew will be helped by a trio of capable running backs.

Running back: Kentucky

Both Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp went over the 100-yard mark against Charlotte. Sihiem King added 5 carries for 90 yards as Mikel Horton remains at the ready. A new wrinkle in a jumbo/short yardage package was the addition of 336-pound fullback, Jacob Hyde. Kentucky is coming off of 415 yards against Charlotte and 225 against a Vanderbilt defense that was only allowing 113 per game.

Louisville’s leading rusher is quarterback,Lamar Jackson. RB Brandon Radcliff has gained 569 yards and scored 5 touchdowns.

Offensive line: Even

Against Charlotte, the Cats had something going on the right side with Cole Mosier and George Asafo-Adjei. It became obvious that part of the Wildcat OL struggles correlated with Asafo-Adjei’s absence due to injury. Left tackle Jordan Swindle will have his hands full on Saturday and will require RB/TE assistance versus Louisville edge rushers. Kentucky has allowed 27 QB sacks and 74 tackles for loss (TFL). UK is averaging 379 yards and 25.3 points per game.

The Cardinals have given up 43 QB sacks and 86 TFLs. Starting three freshmen has been a trial by fire for the U of L front five. Even with the overabundance of lost yardage plays, Louisville is averaging 398 yards per game and 28 points.

Receiver/TE: Louisville

Cards average 253 passing yards per game as it spreads catches throughout a young yet effective receiving corps. Replacing DeVante Parker has proven to be as challenging as Kentucky finding its next Bud Dupree. James Staples and James Quick lead with catches, yards, and touchdowns. TE Mickey Crum has developed into a chain moving target.

Kentucky’s passing yardage has declined as the season progressed. It’s now averaging 210 yards per game. Dorian Baker leads the team in catches as Garrett Johnson tops the receiving corps in yardage. CJ Conrad and Darryl Long have not been targeted nor thrown to; however both are potential first down producing pass catchers.


Defensive line: Even

This advantage or lack thereof may surprise. But, following research, Kentucky and Louisville have two defensive linemen in its Top 10 tacklers. For Kentucky, Cory Johnson is third and Farrington Huguennin is sixth.

Sheldin Rankins leads the Cardinal defensive front with 48 tackles, 5 QB sacks, and 10 TFLs. Rankins will be the best defensive lineman in the game and is assured to play on Sundays. DeAngelo Brown has 6.5 TFLs and 2 QB sacks.

Linebackers: Louisville

The Cards are deep and talented at this position. In the preseason, UofL LBs were considered potentially the best in the ACC. Keith Kelsey, James Burgess, DeVante Fields, Keith Brown, and Trevon Young are active, disruptive, and aggressive. An extremely high number of TFLs and QB sacks/hurries statistically supports: 30 QB sacks and 80 Tackles for Loss.

Secondary: Louisville

Louisville has intercepted 15 passes. Its secondary is not as dynamic as 2014, but still a solid group led by former Georgia Bulldog Josh Harvey-Clemons. He’s joined at safety by Charles Williams. Corners are fellow former Dawg Shaq Wiggins and Trumaine Washington.

Kentucky’s true freshmen cornerbacks are gaining momentum and confidence with each snap. Chris Westry and Derrick Baity will be challenged on Saturday. The Wildcat safeties are its only true, SEC two deep at the position. AJ Stamps and freshman Mike Edwards are this week’s starters with Darius West and Marcus McWilson in the rotation. Given the Cats’ 8 interceptions compared to 15 for the Cardinals, this analysis was close. Louisville has played poor offenses in the closing portion of its schedule.


Kicker Austin MacGinnis’ health is again under the microscope. Miles Butler has ably filled in for the All-SEC performer. Landon Foster has somewhat returned to 2014 form. Governor’s Cup field position battle will be critical.

Louisville’s Traveon Samuel returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but other than that, the two teams are a wash.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Louisville best position group: Linebacker
  • Kentucky best position group: Safety
  • If it rains: Advantage Kentucky
  • Kentucky wins at home if it plays like it did vs: Missouri (When Maty Mauk existed)
  • Louisville wins if it plays like it did on the road vs: Perhaps NC State. Louisville has not played well on the road in 2015.

What does this mean?

Numbers give the Cardinals a slight edge. The game could come down to which freshman quarterback makes the least mistakes (Lamar Jackson or Drew Barker) and which struggling offensive line plays the best; however, in a rivalry game, the unexpected is expected. Last year’s game broke the trend of the winner goes to the team with the highest rushing totals. If the game comes down to the ground game, Kentucky would have the advantage.

For the Cats to win, it must stay out of certain passing situations. Louisville’s pass rushers are just too good for Kentucky’s offensive line to sustain. Conversely, UK’s pass rushers have to produce QB sacks and TFLs as field position will play a critical role.

As for who wins? Vegas says Louisville. BBN says UK. Card Nation says UofL. As for me, Saturday is a toss-up dependent upon situational execution, field position, and turnovers. For the Wildcats, 1st down offensive plays cannot continue to lead to 2nd and 10 plus. Passes have to be caught. Tackles cannot be missed.

Sit back and enjoy, this one may go down to the wire. 

© Mark Zerof | Getty

Poythress and Skal push Kentucky past a cold shooting night at Rupp

© Mark Zerof | Getty

© Mark Zerof | Getty

Judging by the first few minutes, it looked like Kentucky was going to wipe the floor with Boston; however, the Terriers lived up to their mascot’s reputation by nipping at the Cats’ heels throughout the game until Kentucky eventually pulled away to a 82-62 win.

It’s late, so let’s run through the highlights.

Alex Poythress was the star

It surprised me on Friday and it still surprises me now that Alex’s double-double against Wright State was only the third of his career. He followed that performance up with another double-double tonight, putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds off 7-8 shooting. Alex wasn’t perfect — Calipari berated him for a slow start — but he finally clicked into beast mode and gave Kentucky a much-needed inside presence on a night outside shots weren’t falling.

“I thought Alex — I subbed him four seconds in. He didn’t go after a ball. Athletically, you’re an athlete, explode and go get balls, even if it’s on the floor. And he stood there and watched it. Boom, you’re out.”

“Then he got back in and he’s a double double and he could be dunking every ball, making free throws, getting fouled. I mean, that’s who he is and that’s where we got to get him back to.”

Alex played well enough that Calipari told him after the game that he thinks he should be starting.

“I just said, when I went in after, I think he should be starting, but we’ll figure that out. He’s a starter, it’s just he or Marcus.”

Speaking of Alex, let’s watch that lob from Ulis again:

Want to know what Kentucky looks like when they’re cold?

Look no further than tonight. Last year, Kentucky was able to survive cold shooting nights with smothering defense and post play. Tonight, we saw what could happen when Kentucky’s guards go cold. Kentucky shot only 3-15 from three, a paltry 20%. It wasn’t much better from the free throw line, where Kentucky shot 13-26 for 50%.

“We do have good shooters, we just don’t have good makers,” Cal quipped. “I will say this, we got, you got to make some threes, you can’t win good games being 3-15 from the three-point line. And we have been that now since the beginning of the year.”

Tyler Ulis was 1-5 from behind the arc, but Calipari is encouraging him to shoot through the mini-slump.

“We’ve got to make some threes,” Cal stressed. “Right now Tyler’s not making them. I just told him, you got to shoot ’em. You got to let it go.”

Skal continues to progress

Labissiere was the leading scorer tonight, with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers, and 1 steal. For anyone else, that’s a pretty impressive stat line; for Skal, it’s just scratching the surface of what could be.

“Skal did some good stuff. He’s coming, but he’s still got some things he’s got to do,” Cal said, continuing to reference Karl Towns’ struggles early last season. “He’s getting better. Look, last year, I think I’m going to get for him to see where Karl was in some of these games, because it may have been Buffalo he had 3-pointers and two rebounds last year, Karl did. Couldn’t get it to the basket, was shooting fade aways, couldn’t get a ball, had a couple blocks and it’s going to take time.”

Like Karl, Skal continues to react well to Cal’s criticism.

“If I wanted pats on the back, I could have gone anywhere else,” Skal said.

Charles Matthews was the unsung hero

We know the top six in the rotation — Ulis, Murray, Briscoe, Labissiere, Lee, Alex — but beyond that, it’s been a bit of a mystery. Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, and Charles Matthews have all battled for the seventh man spot, but tonight, it was Matthews that impressed the most. The freshman shooting guard put up three points, seven rebounds, and endless hustle in 18 minutes of play.

“I thought Charles Matthews was outstanding,” Cal said. “I think he moved into the rotation now. If you ask me, he changed the whole game. It’s not what he just did offensively, it’s what he did defensively and coming up with balls and being active and trying.”

Isaac was held out, but should be good to go Friday

Humphries has been battling a foot injury and although he dressed tonight, he did not play; however, Calipari said he should be good to go vs. South Florida on Friday.

“Isaac, I didn’t play him today only because of his foot. He limped around for a couple days. But I’m thinking South Florida, who won today by the way, beat Albany. I’m thinking that he has a chance, because that’s a game. They have a couple guys that I think he could guard that he can play with.”

Meanwhile, Dominique Hawkins got some minutes at the end when Jamal Murray got into foul trouble and appears to be getting back to full strength.

We teach ’em young in the Bluegrass

Ten years old and he’s already better at spotting walks than Karl Hess.

How did Boston’s coach compare this team to last year’s?

Boston’s strong first-half performance was reminiscent of last year’s game against Kentucky, when the Terriers were within five at halftime. Head coach Joe Jones was asked to compare last year’s team and this year’s team, and his response sounded pretty familiar.

“They’re both remarkable teams,” Jones said. “They’re both really talented teams. Obviously, last year had more depth than this year’s team. I thought the girth and size of last year’s team was unbelievable. This year’s team, the guards may be a little more skilled  — Briscoe, Ulis, Murray — than the guys that played the bulk of the minutes last year. But both teams are very talented, both teams are very long, both teams execute at a pretty nice level, both teams play as a group. I just thought last year’s group had a little more depth up to this point in the season.”

Depth or this trio of guards? Never thought I’d say it, but I’m taking the latter.

Josh Hutcherson was in the house

On a night with so many Hutchersons, was it a coincidence that a certain Hutcherson was in the house? For those of you who actually get that inside joke, I think not. Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson was courtside at Rupp tonight, his second appearance at Rupp. Although I’m happy he supports the Cincinnati Reds, I suggest he get a blue hat next time.

The Governor’s Cup and Thanksgiving on the KSR Podcast

Normally during Louisville week, the hate would be overflowing from our Podcast Crew.  There aren’t many that hate Louisville more than Jared Lorenzen, but the hate really won’t kick in until the day after Thanksgiving.  Instead of talking a lot of trash, we talked about Kentucky’s chances of getting a bowl birth with a win over Louisville, AND:

—  The position group that will win or lose the game.

—  Our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.

—  Our confidence in the Cats, on a scale of 1-10.

—  The right way to do Thanksgiving, “The Jared Lorenzen Way.”

—  Tyler’s crush on Les Miles.

—  Freddie’s childhood as a raccoon hunter.

Find it on iTunes at “Kentucky Sports Radio” or LISTEN HERE.

Prepare to Beat Louisville with Two Nicks in a Special Edition of the KSR Podcast

Prepare to Beat Louisville with Two Nicks in a Special Edition of the KSR Podcast

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 29 Kentucky at Louisville

The usual KSR Podcast crew is currently making some magic, but I didn’t think that was enough to get you prepared for 2015’s season-defining game.  A Governor’s Cup victory would give UK a bowl birth, so I needed to know from the other side what it would take to beat Bobby Petrino for the first time.  Nick Coffey of The Cardinal Connect joined me for about an hour to talk about UofL’s season and the game that lies ahead.  It’s not only entertaining, it’s reassuring.  Some of the topics we touched on…

—  Louisville’s struggles aren’t so different than Kentucky’s.

—  What worries him most about UK.

—  How much I hate Kyle Bolin.

—  What makes a Mississippi Applebee’s so special.

—  Louisville’s defense isn’t as good as the numbers say.

If you were timid to talk trash, this podcast should remind you that Kentucky isn’t as bad as you think, and Louisville isn’t as good as you think.  Listen in, enjoy and send Nick a Thank You for coming by (@TheCardConnect).

If you haven’t subscribed to “Kentucky Sports Radio” yet on iTunes, you’ve been missing out on a lot of awesome audio.

Cats run by the 49ers by 48

UK Athletics | @UKAthletics

The Drew Barker era was ushered in by a ground explosion as Kentucky rushed the football 44 times for 415 yards. A snowy Commonwealth Stadium was sparsely occupied, but that didn’t detract from an exciting outing from a team that has frustrated its fan base for the better part of eleven weeks. Butts in the seats aren’t a right, they’re earned. On Saturday, UK did its part to regain the BBN’s trust in a dominating win over Charlotte.

Observations from the Frozen Tundra of Commonwealth Stadium


— Drew Barker managed the game. Wind conditions coupled with rain/snow made for difficult passing conditions. Barker was patient and efficient in his first start. Drew went the distance and finished the game 16-29 for 129 yards. Again, given conditions and circumstance of a first start scenario, Saturday was an effective beginning for the redshirt freshman.

— The much maligned offensive line excelled in run blocking, but is still lacking in pass protection. After focusing on the group, its deficiencies are mainly at Tackle. Center and guard play was exceptional.

— The right side of the offensive line is much more competent with Cole Mosier and George Asafo-Adjei. George picked up twists and stunts as Mosier controlled the point of attack that freed up Wildcat runners. A healthy George Asafo-Adjei is force magnifier for an offensive line that has very little depth.

— Speaking of those runners: JoJo Kemp, 11 attempts for 165 yards and 3 TD’s. Boom Williams joined in the fun with 16 carries for 150 and 2 scores. The Cats were 9 yards away from having three one hundred yard rushers as true freshman Sihiem King had 91 yards on just 5 runs and a touchdown. All above hit the hole at a higher speed than seen before.

— Kentucky is a better football team when it establishes the run. Lack of offensive line depth and the inability to secure the edge vs. elite pass rushers dictate this offense to be reliant upon the ground game. It’s not the Air Raid nor is it the ground and pound. I’m really not for sure what it is, but whatever it was on Saturday, it worked.

— First down continued to plague. If UK is to beat Louisville, it has to somehow manage to keep itself out of certain passing situations. 2nd and 10’s were too plentiful, again. Louisville is too talented on the edge to live behind the chains.

— On a night when it could, Kentucky simplified its game plan and executed plays that were consistently successful. This included a new power package that featured Jacob Hyde at fullback. The Lawnmower’s block on the poor Charlotte defensive back will be a highlight reel favorite. UK also had more success when running north and south. Boom Williams lost ten yards on run plays, many of which were on first down.

— The whole Dorian Baker/Drew Barker hysteria was debunked as the team’s leading receiver had zero receptions. Garrett Johnson led with 5 grabs for 33 yards.


— Kentucky picked up where it left off against Vanderbilt. However, the difference in Saturday’s game was the across the line of scrimmage action. The UK defense totaled 9 Tackles for Loss (TFL) and 4 quarterback sacks. Both were categories in which the Cats were ranked last in the Southeastern Conference.

— Senior Farrington Huguennin led the way with 6 tackles, 1.5 QB sack, and 3 TFL. Josh Forrest resumed his role as the team’s leading tackler with 8 before being taken out of the game for a much deserved rest.

— Sophomore Matt Elam got in on the Tackle for Loss parade and played a solid football game.

— Khalid Henderson, what can you say? He’s been a consistent linebacker on a defense that has lacked in that category. Henderson rushed the passer, was persistent against the run, and delivered the hit that led to Mike Edwards pick 6.

— One concern from the game was that Charlotte established the stretch run play off the read option look. The 49’ers rushed 48 times for 146 yards. But, it was only 3/17 on third down. Andrew Buie had 23 carries for 80 yards and QB Brooks Harden ran the football on 10 occasions for 70. The latter worries.

— The secondary was aggressive following short pass completions. Charlotte’s leading receiver, Austin Duke, had 3 receptions but totaled minus 1 yard.

— Darius West displayed the talent that Mark Stoops and staff have been telling us about.  The redshirt freshman racked up 7 tackles and was a force on special team coverage units. Combined with fellow freshman Mike Edwards, the safety positions appear to be trending upward. Same can be said about fellow freshmen Derrick Baity and Chris Westry at cornerback.

— True freshman OLB Josh Allen, a former 2 star I might add, had one QB sack and 2 TFL. At one point in the game, Kentucky had six defensive freshmen on the field.


— Kicker Miles Butler had himself a night. Two kickoffs sailed through the end zone as he was perfect on the night in FG and PAT’s.

— UK had no glaring special team’s errors. That’s improvement from the past month. Punt returner Charles Walker remained confident as coverage teams were enforcing.


— Many had asked for this category. For the third consecutive game, Mark Stoops was faced with a 4th and 1 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. On Saturday, he decided to punt. Result was zero late half points surrendered.

— The team was prepared and motivated. On a nasty evening, the Cats sustained inspiration through the elements and a less than capacity crowd. Winning is fun. Winning in a route is a blast.

— Between series, the sideline was busy. Assistant coaches were hands-on instructing technique as well as working the grease boards. A complaint I’ve had in the past are the “heater huddlers” or players more concerned with warming than participating. Didn’t see that vs. Charlotte. Players were engaged, coaches were coaching, and adjustments were timely. Before the remarks section blows up, yes I understand it was against Charlotte. But again, if you’re going to criticize, you have to be willing to praise.

— A similar punt return situation presented itself that was reminiscent of the 8 man out debacle from earlier this fall. Stoops and company handled it as eleven men were on the field to include a punt returner.

— As stated above, OC Shannon Dawson kept it simple and adjusted short yardage strategies. While racking up 544 total yards, not sure there are valid complaints. Improvements necessary? Absolutely, most noticeably in pass protection.

What does all this mean?

Truth is, Charlotte was not a very good football team. Going into the game, the spread was 24.5. UK hadn’t scored 24 points in a game since October 15. Racking up 58 while giving up just 10 can only be described as an efficient win over an opponent it should have beaten. Same could have been said against EKU which as we all know took an overtime session to secure the W. In the season’s opener, UK had to rely upon a late Mikel Horton touchdown to beat Louisiana.

Kentucky was better than Auburn and Vanderbilt. Both resulted in a loss. Forgive me for not being overly critical of a 48 point home win. For one, it gives a resemblance of pride back to a team that has taken a pounding on the field, in the stands, and from behind keyboards. Yours truly included. It also provided a spark going into an ever so important, Governor’s Cup week.

The argument that Mark Stoops inherited a depleted roster and that a three year turn around will take five years has been doubted and ridiculed. True, Kentucky may have 22 better starters, but an eleven game stretch has shown that it takes time to develop adequate depth. The lack thereof is obvious and has been magnified on the line of scrimmage. Reality is Kentucky needs more SEC quality players and more birthdays from its rookies.

Now, it’s on. Kentucky vs. Louisville for all the marbles. Win and go bowling. Lose, and well, that won’t be good. How will this team react? Will Saturday’s momentum carry over?  Will CWS be packed? We’ll have many discussions about the Cards. But for one cold November night, all was good in Commonwealth Stadium.

UK Athletics

Eight Takeaways from The Win Kentucky Desperately Needed

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

After five insufferable weeks of Kentucky football, tonight the Big Blue Nation can enjoy a victory.

It was a must-win against one of the worst teams in the FBS, but even the most cynical fan can appreciate a 50-point victory.  The beginning of the Drew Barker Era was defined by the running game.  The offense finished with 415 rushing yards, led by Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp who combined for 5 touchdowns and over 300 yards rushing through a windy, and sometimes snowy, Commonwealth Stadium.

The defense had only one poor drive, but they still managed to keep the 49ers out of the end zone.  Most importantly, they were opportunistic.  Denzil Ware recovered a muffed punt that led to a touchdown, the DLine finished sacks and Mike Edwards took an interception to the end zone off a big hit from Khalid Henderson.  They capitalized on errors, finishing the routine plays.  C.J. Johnson also took the time to show us something spectacular.

It should go without saying that despite all of the good we saw, we cannot forget that Charlotte is extremely terrible, but this game has allowed us to remember that UK can play good football.  Heading into the season finale against Louisville with a bowl birth on the line, this game is exactly what we needed.

Drew Barker was Good Enough

In his first game as Kentucky’ starting quarterback, Drew Barker did a pretty good job.  Before the second half snow storm hit, Barker was 16/26 (61.5%) for 129 yards.  The elements prevented Shannon Dawson from opening up the playbook and going downfield too much, making it tough to judge.

The Pros: “Barker to Badet” was a consistent combination on the outside.  Even though he wasn’t going down the field, he hit his targets on short, inside routes.  He was proficient on 3rd down, keeping drives alive before his running backs hit the big play.  Most importantly, he didn’t make any awful “rookie” mistakes.

The Cons:  Even though his quick release has given many reason to believe he’ll handle pressure better, I get nervous when the defensive ends fly into the pocket.  A few times it saved him, taking the hit as he threw.  There were also a few times where you could see the indecision on whether to run it, force it or throw it away.  The only way to improve this part of his game is through reps.  Hopefully he had enough tonight to prepare him for a much better pass rush next week against Louisville.

The Young Guys Came Ready to Play

Mike Edwards executed when he got his opportunity.  Edwards gets pretty regular snaps at safety, but for a lot of young Wildcats, tonight was their first real opportunity to show the coaches and fans what they can do on the field.  They did not disappoint.

Sihiem King took his second carry 61-yards to the house, displaying the speed we saw during Summer practice.  Bunchy Stallings and Jarrett LaRubbio helped open up the hole for King, providing solid minutes at the end of the game.  Kengera Daniel had quality reps at defensive end, but not quite as good as Josh Allen, who had his first career sack (it was alongside Sr. Farrington Huguenin, who had his first tonight as well).

Matt Elam Stuffed the Middle

Charlotte’s offensive line isn’t quite as skilled, or big as the guys he’s used to going up against, but it was still nice to see improvements from the noseguard.  He had a tackle for loss and kept Charlotte from even trying to run the ball up the middle.  Even though some of his success came because Matt merely out-muscling his opponents most of the time, he showed the explosiveness we’ve been waiting to see.


I can’t remember a time I’ve ever seen it snow at Commonwealth Stadium.  It was pretty cool from inside the press box, but it drove almost all of the fans away at half and kept Kentucky from throwing the ball in the second half (Barker only threw it three more times).  Some may have hated it, but I’m ready to start building a snowman.

Worries Don’t Go Away at Offensive Line

Starting a game with a 3-and-out was disheartening.  The offensive line gave up penetration up the middle and around the outside.  There were times where I just wanted to ask Jordan Swindle, “What in the hell are you doing?”  Even though they were able to open holes in the running game, which they deserve praise for, it’s going to be difficult doing anything downfield in the passing game if they cannot contain the outsides better.

Can Kentucky make the 2-Minute Drill Work in the Season Finale?

Kentucky has had games decided by miscues in the final two minutes of the first half.  Tonight was not a complete disaster, but there were still enough mental errors to make you shake your head.

They began the final drive of the first half with a nice post pass to Juice for a 16-yard gain.  We immediately thought, “Wow, have they really turned it around?”  Then Barker started getting more pressure, a pass was broken up on the outside, then the ultimate brain fart.  On 3rd and 10 Barker threw a two-yard out route.  Without a chance at a first down, the receiver should have stayed inbounds near midfield to keep the clock running and prevent the opponent from having a chance to score.  Instead, he went out of bounds and killed the clock.

Luckily, it’s Charlotte.  Hopefully Kentucky can mitigate the 2-minute mistakes against Louisville or we may have another long, bowl-less offseason.

Jacob Hyde Returned to Offense

The powerful package that was talked about so much during the Spring and Summer has only been seen maybe once this entire season.  Tonight they brought out Clay County’s finest in short yardage situations and it worked perfectly.  He smacked a linebacker on 4th down, making way for an easy rushing touchdown.

After seeing the results, it would have been nice to have tried it a couple of times last week.

We Have to Watch Rewatch C.J. Johnson’s Interception One More Time

7 Takeaways and 1 Great GIF from a Sluggish Win

7 Takeaways and 1 Great GIF from a Sluggish Win

© Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

It definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Cats took care of business tonight at Rupp, beating Wright State 78-63 to improve to 4-0.

Only 15 points?!”, you say? After the high of the Duke win, a hangover was to be expected, but ugh. Kentucky looked sluggish, keeping John Calipari out of his seat most of the game, begging his team to show some energy. In the second half, fouls slowed the game down to a crawl, but a win is a win, and there are some positives. Let’s go over it all.

Tyler Ulis is captivating

I could start with the bad things, but why when you have a player like Tyler Ulis? One of the best things about this season so far has been watching Tyler work. He’s an artist on the floor, carving up defenses and painting plays with a fine brush. Tyler had 21 points tonight, his second straight career-high. He also had five assists, two turnovers, and two steals. Most importantly, he held his teammates accountable when they slacked off. For example, this insane pass to Marcus Lee, followed up with some teaching:

As Ulis goes, this team goes, which is why Calipari kept him in 36 of the 40 minutes tonight.

“I didn’t want to play him as many minutes as he played,” Cal said. “But I said I want to win a game more than worry about not playing him. If we can’t win without him on the floor, then he’ll be on the floor every minute. And that means someone’s not playing much. When he went out, we let them back in it.”

Wright State Coach Billy Donlon was so impressed by Ulis that he shouted his love across the Rupp Arena media room. 

“Tyler Ulis is really good,” Donlon said. “Tyler Ulis, he never panics, he never gets nervous, he makes the right decision every single time. He doesn’t hit home run plays unless it’s a home run. He never strikes out, never. When he comes off a ball screen, he never gets it wrong, and that’s really hard to guard. When he’s in transition, he never gets it wrong. That’s really hard.”

Too much “casual play”

Judging by Calipari’s postgame press conference, you would have thought the Cats lost. That’s how frustrated Cal was with his squad. Cal reamed his team for “a lot of casual play,” telling reporters that Wright State used the perfect game plan to beat the Cats (pack line defense, zone), but missed too many shots to get the upset.

“I don’t think we played particularly well,” Cal said. “We had a lot of casual play.”

The offensive stats: 9 assists, 12 turnovers. Murray accounted for five of those turnovers and only one assist. Ouch. Cue the Calipari “Let’s pump the brakes” speech.

“So again, this is going to be a process, folks,” Cal said. “You tell me that looked like the No. 2 ranked team in the country. We’re — there’s got to be 20 teams better than us right now. Couldn’t throw it to the post. Couldn’t throw it to the post. Skal couldn’t hold a position.”

Is a hangover a good teaching tool?

I know it is for me after a big night out. Not so much for Cal, or if so, he ain’t telling.

“No, I don’t,” Cal said when asked if he secretly wanted a performance like this to humble his squad. “I want us to just keep climbing. We took a big step back. Guys didn’t listen. We’re doing certain things and they just kind of broke it off and did their own thing. In a league game, we lose. Not winning a league game playing the way we played.”

No quick Fat Mo’s cheeseburger, Gatorade, and Advil for this group. Cal’s making them sweat it out.

Jamal Murray got another technical for talking 

Murray saw Alex Poythress, Isaiah Briscoe, and Wright State’s Joe Thomasson exchanging words and couldn’t help but get involved, advancing on Thomasson, which got him a quick T from the ref. That’s his second technical foul in only four games for talking. I love Murray, but that’s not good.

“I’m disappointed and I said something to him,” Cal said afterwards. “We’ll address it. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t swear or do anything, he just said, but he walked to the guy when he said something. You can’t — you got to be smarter than that.”

So. Many. Fouls.

Fifty, in fact. Wright State came in with a reputation for fouling and just couldn’t hold their own against UK’s trio of guards, racking up 33 fouls. It made the game unbearable in the second half, but the Cats got plenty of practice at the line; some looked good (Ulis, Murray), some looked bad (Labissiere, Briscoe). That pissed Cal off too.

“Two guys are 20-22 from the line. And three guys are 2-11. I’m sorry — where is Marcus Lee, because I thought he was 0-2. They only have him 0-1. The stat sheet is not right.”

You know it’s bad when Cal’s calling out the stat sheet people, ugh.

Alex got only his third career double-double

If you were worried that flossing with the net in Chicago would make Poythress tentative about dunking, well, don’t. Poythress had a few roaring dunks tonight on his way to 10 points and 10 rebounds, only his third career double-double.

Here’s one of those dunks:

“He’s just got to build on it,” Cal said afterwards. “He had a dunk that he wasn’t athletically ready for. He had the last rebound he tried to grab with one hand. He got beat on the bounce a bunch. But to get a double double and start down this road, let’s go.”

Isaac Humphries and Dominique Hawkins did not play

Humphries was in a boot with a bruised foot and is now considered “day to day,” while Hawkins is under the weather with a stomach virus. Both are expected to be back soon.

This is the best thing to come out of the game

For some reason, the SEC Network folks asked Calipari if he’d rather be on “The Muppets” or “Dancing With The Stars.” Cal said “The Muppets” so he could be one of the co-hosts and chair dance:


Yeah, expect to see that GIF a lot this season.

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

KSR’s Favorite Clips From The Duke Game

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

It has been almost 48 hours since our beloved Cats ran wild on Duke in the Champions Classic. I don’t know about you, but I’m still riding high after watching Kentucky roll in its marquee matchup on the regular season schedule. I’ve yet to come down from how UK dominated that game.

So tonight, before we put the win completely in our rearview and move on to Wright State, let’s take one last look back on some of the best moments in the game.

All video courtesy of ESPN; hand-picked and edited by yours truly for your viewing pleasure.


Marcus Lee caught two long lobs in two minutes.

As fans of Kentucky basketball, we’ve grown used to seeing lob after lob after lob, with so many athletic bigs over the last few years. But that doesn’t mean we’ve grown tired of them.

Marcus Lee picked up right where Willie Cauley-Stein left off, catching two lobs in a brief, two-minute span in the first half, and throwing them down for easy scores.


Coach Cal wanted Jamal Murray to drive the ball.

Murray took an ill-advised three-pointer with 19 seconds on the shot clock, early in the game. The shot bricked, and Coach Cal was quick to let Murray know it was a bad shot.


Photo by UK Athletics

6 Leftovers From a Statement Win Over Duke

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

After 48 hours of fun and a white-knuckled flight home, I am back in Nashville. I’ve been on a lot of fun trips the past few years, but watching Kentucky beat down Duke in a city full of Cats fans definitely ranks high on the list. Add in two five-star commitments in a 24-hour span — three in six days if you count De’Aaron Fox — and this may go down as one of the better weeks of the Calipari Era, which is really saying something. Before I surrender to my Tempurpedic mattress, here are some thoughts on it all.

It was Tyler Ulis’ night

On a night most predicted would be Jamal or Skal’s coming out party, Tyler stole the spotlight. After splitting time with Andrew Harrison last season, Ulis showcased that he’s the captain now, turning in 18 points, 6 assists and 0 turnovers in 40 minutes (that’s right–he played the whole game). As a result, the rest of the world is finally catching on to how special he is and after the game, Coach K all but got down and worshipped at his feet. I don’t think he was just being gracious in defeat, either; Coach K seemed genuinely impressed by Ulis, calling him a winner with a heart five times bigger than most. We all know how great Tyler is, but sometimes it takes hearing it from somebody else — one of the most respected names in the sport, nonetheless — to fully appreciate it.

Beating Duke is the best

There’s just something special about Kentucky vs. Duke. College basketball doesn’t get more elite than it did during last night’s showdown of the defending national champions and the team that should have been the defending national champions. Two Hall of Fame coaches, a long and loaded history, enough five-stars to fill a galaxy, and fans who care more about the sport than anything else. Add in the United Center and a national audience and it was a BIG NIGHT, which is why it was so satisfying to see Kentucky step up to the plate and kick some ass. After a rocky start, the Cats ran circles around Duke, looking every bit the superior squad. After 1992, that will never get old.  I’m not going to say beating Duke is more fun than beating Louisville, but after dealing with their fans all over Chicago, it might be 1A.

What Wisconsin game?

Okay, maybe that’s reaching a bit too far, but if last night’s win did anything for me, it exorcised last year’s demons. With every Tyler Ulis dish, Jamal Murray drive, or Marcus Lee dunk, I moved further past last season’s heartache. Gone are the flashbacks to that numb night in Indianapolis and the depressing drive home. In its place are no-look passes, dipsy-doos, lobs, and dunks. Only so many things can get a fanbase like the BBN off the floor after last season, but this team is fun enough to do it.

© Dennis Wierzbicki

© Dennis Wierzbicki

More fun to watch than last year?

Listen, few things will top last season. The Bahamas trip, seven NBA players, platoons, the Kansas and UCLA beatdowns, Willie’s slams, Karl, Devin, all of it was amazing. Kentucky didn’t just beat teams, they crushed them behind three seven-footers and an impenetrable defense. In terms of style, it wasn’t always the prettiest or most exciting basketball to watch; it’s certainly not as pretty or exciting as what’s happening on the court with this group. Last year, the Cats pounded teams with a sledgehammer; this year, they’re picking locks with precision. Sometimes it’s sloppy and yeah, they can definitely improve in the post, but give me that trio of scrappy guards over anyone. If it takes a loss or two to figure it out, so be it. As we learned, perfection can be overrated.

When Worldwide Wes wants the bar to stay open, it stays open

After watching the end of Michigan State/Kansas, we headed to the team hotel bar for a nightcap. The team has already left town, but plenty of movers and shakers were still there, making for some excellent people watching. Even though bars in Chicago don’t close until 2 a.m. or so, the staff at the bar called last call around midnight, which did not sit well with one Worldwide Wes. Wes and his well-dressed posse rolled in and, when they heard the bar was getting ready to close, took action.

“Let’s see if we can keep this party going,” Wes said, strolling up to the bar with resolve. Minutes later, servers started circulating again, as did Wes, who bought a round for every UK fan in the bar. All while talking on a beat up flip phone circa 1998.

A statement was made

What a week. In the past six days, Kentucky has landed three five-star recruits and beaten one of its arch rivals who just so happens to be the defending national champion. Duke was riding a wave of momentum into this season that had some pundits hitting send a little too early on their “Coach K is beating Calipari at his own game” columns (looking at you, Ian O’Connor).

Last night, Kentucky made a statement. Even though they didn’t win the title last year and lost seven players to the NBA, the Cats’ dominating win over Duke reminded the country that Kentucky is still the most important program in college basketball. This morning, Calipari’s newly-minted #1 recruiting class reminded everyone they’re likely to stay that way, too.


Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

Kentucky is very good at basketball again… Just ask Duke

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

For only the second time since the 1978 NCAA Championship, Kentucky defeated Duke in a college basketball game. It had been 17 years since the Cats last beat the Blue Devils — that’s one whole Isaac Humphries lifetime — dating back to that unforgettable 1998 comeback.

Needless to say, Duke was due.

Kentucky finally got another one in the win column Tuesday night, cruising past Duke in the Champions Classic, 74-63. It was all UK from start to finish as Cal’s young team proved it is well on its way to a fun and exciting season, playing high-level basketball in only the third game of the year.

For those of you at the computer and not out celebrating like it’s 1998, let’s go over the highs and the lows of the big win.


Tyler Ulis: Point God.

In the wise words of Jay Bilas on tonight’s broadcast, “If you’re good enough, you’re big enough.”

Well, Tyler Ulis is certainly good enough. Kentucky’s point guard had 18 points, six assists, four rebounds and, maybe best of all, ZERO turnovers in the ball game. Ulis proved once again that he is this team’s fearless leader and he will not be held back by his size.

After the game, John Calipari said, “He may not have height, but his heart is five times bigger than most people’s.”

He has the biggest heart on the court at all times, no doubt. He’s a fighter and we should forever be grateful he suits up for the blue and white each game.

Thanks again, Emmanuel Mudiay. We can’t thank you enough.

Keep in mind, Kentucky did this without Skal Labissiere.

The potential No. 1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA draft played only 13 minutes for Kentucky. Thirteen minutes. So you’re telling me Kentucky is 11 points better than Duke, the fifth-ranked team in the country, without its star center? That’s scary.

To be somewhat fair, Labissiere wasn’t a complete absence. He did manage to score seven points and grab four rebounds in those 13 minutes. The other 27 minutes, though — no contribution whatsoever.

Kentucky spotted you that one, Duke.

Jamal Murray is crazy good, but likely to give Cal a heart attack.

As we’ve said many times before, Murray can do things most players can’t do. He’s a special talent and his rise to superstardom is only beginning.

But at the same time, Murray can try to do too much, and it drives John Calipari crazy. He had his share of ball-hog moments against Duke and that behind-the-back pass on the fast break almost got him shipped back to Lexington.

With Murray, we’ll likely have to take the good with the bad. And the good is going to outweight the bad by a lot. I’ll take the occasional selfish, ill-advised three-ball in exchange for three highlight reel buckets, all day long.

This was gorgeous…

Definitely worth losing a tooth on the play.

Duke game Alex Poythress is my favorite Alex Poythress.

I don’t know what Duke did to Poythress early in life but he clearly has it out for the Blue Devils. Poythress packed his elite athleticism, per Calipari’s request, for Chicago and showed flashes of the cliché “beast mode”  fans are dying to see. He’s still not all the way there, but he’s close.

Kentucky’s backcourt is unbelievably good.

Ulis, Briscoe and Murray combined for 46 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds and eight steals. Together, they’re so strong with the ball it’s nearly impossibly for team’s to force mistakes in a comeback attempt. You will see Kentucky maintain several leads this season because the trio is simply too good to give anything away.

There isn’t a better backcourt in the nation.

Isaiah Briscoe’s mouthpiece is Kentucky’s unsung hero.

If you didn’t catch a glimpse of Briscoe’s mouthpiece, you didn’t watch the game. He left it hanging from his mouth at all times, even during that bucket in the closing seconds of the first half. The damn thing even has its own Twitter account now.

Playing second fiddle to Briscoe’s mouthpiece was Briscoe himself. He played great with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field.

Big double-double for Marcus Lee.

If Marcus Lee can play like he did in this game, Kentucky’s inside presence will be just fine. Lee was all hustle and heart in this one, recording a 10 and 10 game before fouling out with five minutes left.

He’s come a long way since he arrived on campus and he will be crucial to this team’s success.

Isaac Humphries stepped up when called upon.

With Skal Labissiere in serious foul trouble, Isaac Humphries saw playing time early and often. He held his own for a guy who is only 17 years old and playing in one of the biggest games college basketball will see all season. Good, quality minutes from Humphries in his increased role. Future is bright for him on down the road.

Duke’s first fast break basket came with six minutes left in the entire game.

The Blue Devils only scored four more fast break points than you and I did.

Julius Randle’s mom was at the game.


She was there to greet Alex Poythress (wearing a Throwboy Tee) with a hug after the game.

If not for Plumlee 8.0’s early scoring barrage, Kentucky wins this game by a ton.

The final scoreboard is kind to Duke, because this game could’ve been much worse. Kentucky’s offense played near perfect basketball, and if not for Plumlee’s early points and Matt Jones’ hot shooting, this is a 20-point game in favor of Kentucky.

Take your 11-point loss and be happy with it, Dukies.

Coach Cal moves to 11-6 in top-5 matchups.

Only four coaches have more wins in such games.


Duke led for a total of five seconds in the game.

Sheer dominance by Kentucky.

A look at Freddie Maggard in the stands from across the stadium in the press box.

Week 12: An Angry KSR Podcast

A look at Freddie Maggard in the stands from across the stadium in the press box.

A look at Freddie Maggard in the stands from across the stadium in the press box.

The fan base is reeling after the Vanderbilt loss.  For Freddie Maggard, Kentucky football has literally handicapped him.  After hiking up 60 rows to watch Saturday’s abomination, his knees have given out on him.  But he wasn’t the only on angry on this podcast.  Drew tried to cheer us up with pizza, but it was an hour of anger.  Here’s a little tease of what you’ll hear.

—  “I’d rather live in Starkville for 40 years than one day in Nashville.”  – Freddie Maggard

—  Jared Lorenzen calls out a receiver or two.

—  An apology to the fans

—  #Disorganization

—  How many categories UK ranks last in the SEC.

—  Drew ends the show with a surprise.

Subscribe to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or LISTEN HERE.

A Refresher Course On Why We Hate Duke

A Refresher Course On Why We Hate Duke


Tomorrow night, Kentucky wall take on Duke in a primetime battle of the sport’s bluest bloods. It will be the 21st meeting between the two programs, a rivalry steeped in classic moments, the most famous of which we’re forced to relive every March. “The Shot” has been called the greatest moment in college basketball, but none of the players who will take the floor tomorrow were alive when it happened. Not even Miles Mason Marshall Plumlee, who is approximately 400 years old.

Imagining a world without “The Shot” is like imagining Oscar Combs with a British accent; it’s unfathomable. The moment that ball dropped into the net, I found out what it really meant to be a Kentucky fan. Seven years old on the floor of my parents’ den, heartache and hatred bloomed. Duke became Puke, Laettner became the devil, and every subsequent meeting between the two teams became an opportunity for revenge. “The Shot” shaped my fandom, which is why it’s so surreal that there are Kentucky fans and players alive who can’t say the same.

So, in order to educate our younger fans and the players who will take the floor in Chicago tomorrow night, here’s a refresher course in why we hate Duke.

The Stomp

Before we move on from ’92, the other big moment from that game needs to be addressed: The Stomp. Minutes before Laettner spun, shot, and slayed, he stomped on Aminu Timberlake’s chest, an act that would most certainly get him thrown out of the game today. The stomp was poor sportsmanship at its best, perfectly encapsulating Laettner, the sport’s ultimate villain. When UK fans say they still hate Laettner, it’s mostly for the shot, but the stomp is ten times more offensive. After the “30 for 30” on Laettner was released last spring, he apologized to Timberlake on social media and Timberlake accepted, but no matter how gamely Laettner sucks up to the Big Blue Nation, resentment will always smolder.

The court slapping

Is there anything more Duke than a 6-foot white guard slapping the floor? No. It’s not like Duke invented the act, but they’ve sure run it into the ground. In the book “Tales from the Duke Blue Devils Hardwood” (don’t everyone rush to buy it at once), former Dukie Mark Alarie gave some background on the iconic gesture:

“It was Coach K’s way of showing us that if we did what he said we would own the defensive floor, that no one would get by us.”

Gag. Court slapping is so Duke that opponents are now mocking them with it:

The flopping

Duke flops so often they make Italian soccer players look tough. During halftime of the 2012 showdown between Kentucky and Duke, John Calipari totally called them on it too.

“They’re flopping all over the place,” Calipari said. “In the NBA, they’d all be suspended. So we got to get to where we’re getting the ball by guys, and knowing that they’re going to take charges.”

During his career at Duke, Greg Paulus had more flops than Eddie Murphy.

The media bias

It’s probably a shock to those of you who read this site, but the sports media is supposed to be objective; however, over the years, Duke has earned a reputation as a media darling, especially when it comes to announcers like Dick Vitale (“You mean DUKE Vitale?!?! Amirite?!”). A few years back, The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen actually went through and listened to five Duke games Vitale called to prove Dickie V was biased. Now, Dick’s heaped plenty of praise on Kentucky the past few years, so I don’t think that’s exactly fair, but the media’s lapping of Coach K and Duke over the years is pretty obnoxious.

Remember Billy Packer’s freakout when Jamal Magloire and Wojo got tangled up?

“What is he doing here? What is Magloire doing?!?!”

(Note: this bit of acting by Wojo could also be filed under flopping)

The Whining

Look, every fans thinks the officials are out to get their team, but every fan outside of Durham also thinks that Duke gets ALL the calls. Somehow, when refs step into Cameron Indoor Stadium, they’re sprinkled with fancy nerd dust and all the calls magically go in Duke’s favor. Coach K must carry that fancy nerd dust (pencil shavings?) around with him because they get more than their fair share of calls on the road too. And when they don’t, Coach K whines like Shannon the Dude during a Star Wars marathon.

The Success

As Kentucky fans, we know what it’s like to have people hate us cause they ain’t us. In the modern era, Kentucky and Duke have been the two most successful teams in college basketball, which, as you might imagine, makes people pretty jealous. And like it or not, Duke’s had Kentucky’s number lately. The Cats are 1-7 against the Dukies since 1978:

11/17/2015 Kentucky vs. Duke Champions Classic (at Chicago, IL)
11/13/2012 (#3) Kentucky vs. (#9) Duke L 68 – 75 Champions Classic (at Atlanta, GA)
12/18/2001 (#7) Kentucky vs. (#1) Duke L 92 – 95 OT Jimmy V Classic (at East Rutherford, NJ)
12/22/1998 (#3) Kentucky vs. (#2) Duke L 60 – 71 Jimmy V Classic (at East Rutherford, NJ)
3/22/1998 (#5) Kentucky vs. (#3) Duke W 86 – 84 NCAA South Regional Finals (at St. Petersburg, FL)
3/28/1992 (#6) Kentucky vs. (#1) Duke L 103 – 104 OT NCAA East Regional Finals (at Philadelphia, PA)
11/19/1988 Kentucky vs. (#1) Duke L 55 – 80 Tip-off Classic (at Springfield, MA)
3/13/1980 (#4) Kentucky vs. (#14) Duke L 54 – 55 NCAA Mideast Regional Semifinals (at Lexington, KY)
11/17/1979 (#2) Kentucky vs. (#3) Duke L 76 – 82 OT Tip-off Classic (at Springfield, MA)

That one win was glorious, but, after seventeen years, Kentucky is due for another. So is Calipari, who is 0-2 vs. Coach K in his career.

There’s also the fact that Duke won what should have been Kentucky’s ninth national championship in April. The blame for that lies on Kentucky falling apart in the final four minutes vs. Wisconsin, but the fact that it was Duke up there in the blue and white confetti makes it all especially cruel. What should have been Kentucky’s crowning moment was another step forward for Duke, who’s been surging the past few years.

The double standards

Remember when Corey Maggette admitted to accepting thousands of dollars from his summer-league coach Myron Piggie, which one would think would make him ineligible and force the NCAA to vacate Duke’s 1999 Final Four appearance and runner-up status? Well, they didn’t, a fact I’m sure sits well with Calipari, whose 2008 Final Four appearance was stripped because of Derek Rose’s SAT scandal. The same goes for the Lance Thomas jewelry fiasco a few years back. Thomas was sued by a jeweler for defaulting on $70,000 of merchandise in 2009, the season Duke went on to win the national title. What college senior has that kind of money to throw down on jewelry?! When the scandal broke in 2013, it had “ruh roh” written all over it, but mysteriously, a week later, the lawsuit was settled and Thomas and Duke never received any punishment from the NCAA.

The hypocrisy

Okay, so the media’s hypocrisy regarding Coach K and Calipari isn’t Duke’s fault, but it doesn’t mean I don’t resent them a little bit for it. When Cal took the job at Kentucky in 2009, he took the one-and-done system mainstream. Even though the media painted Cal’s system as an evil NBA factory, it was one of the most fun seasons in Kentucky basketball history. (So fun our friend Aaron Torres wrote a book about it that you should buy!) When Kentucky won the national championship in 2012, the narrative became ‘sure, you can win with freshman, but only if you have veterans, too’. So, imagine our surprise when Coach K and Duke won the national championship with Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow — all freshman who went to the NBA after one season — and the media praised Coach K for bravely “adapting” to the “harsh reality” of the one-and-done rule.

But wait, doesn’t that make Calipari a trail blazer? Haha. Like he would ever get that kind of credit. Instead, Cal’s haters said Coach K was beating Calipari at his own game, conveniently leaving out the fact that three years earlier, Kentucky won the title with three one-and-dones. But hey, don’t let that get in the way of an agenda, right?

The momentum

With four Final Fours in his six years at Kentucky, I think you can say John Calipari is doing alright; however, after their national championship and huge recruiting coups the last few years, the pendulum is swinging back towards the Blue Devils. A lot of this is due to Coach K’s status as head coach of Team USA. Calipari is a recruiting master, but Coach K gets access to the best recruits earlier than anyone, forming relationships that have brought Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles to Durham. A win tomorrow night wouldn’t reverse that momentum, but it would be a nice, very public reminder of Kentucky’s stature.

© Jim Brown

WTF is wrong with Kentucky football?

© Jim Brown

© Jim Brown

Ten games into Mark Stoops’ third season, Kentucky is 4-6 with two games left. An optimist would say that’s two chances to achieve bowl eligibility. A pessimist already has those in the loss column. A realist is still staring at their TV wondering WTF happened.

On the morning after a humiliating loss to a bad Vanderbilt team, I’m in the third camp, although flashbacks to last night’s baffling play calling have me contemplating the second. In ESPN’s Football Power Index, Charlotte is ranked 125th, the fourth WORST team in the country; however, if Kentucky’s excelled at anything in the past month, it’s winning games for other teams. The Cats were directly responsible for seven of Vanderbilt’s points yesterday, indirectly responsible for fourteen. Sorry, Derek Mason, but Kentucky’s ineptitude got your team their fourth win yesterday. I hope you sent the bill for the postgame celebrations to the Nutter Field House too.

What is happening with the program? Where did it all go wrong? I have no answers, only questions.

WTF is happening at quarterback?

After a season of regression for Patrick Towles, Drew Barker finally got his shot in the second quarter yesterday. For two minutes, all of the offense’s problems seemed solved. Receivers miraculously caught the ball. Routes opened. Ryan Timmons caught a freaking touchdown. Hallelujah, put the crown on the kid’s head and anoint him king, right? Not so fast. Barker threw a nasty pick six and couldn’t muster up any momentum on his next drive. In the third quarter, Towles went back in, and despite a few last gasps, the offense stalled again.

Both quarterbacks had about sixty passing yards, but Drew got there in only eight attempts, whereas it took Patrick 26. Going in to the game, we heard Stoops was going to start Patrick but keep him on a short leash. If Patrick’s leash was short, Drew’s was practically a choke collar. After the game, Shannon Dawson justified the switch back to Patrick by saying the staff wanted to “go with the hot hand.” Stoops said they wanted Patrick’s experience. Whatever the reason, the offense is currently in such shambles that the only heat to be found is on Shannon Dawson’s seat.

With two games left, who knows what will happen at quarterback. One positive thing I noticed is that after Drew’s touchdown, Patrick was one of the first to congratulate him. Bash Patrick all you want, but he’s a lifelong Kentucky football fan who wants this team to win more than anything, even if that means he’s on the bench. Hopefully the rest of the team will handle this situation as maturely.

WTF is happening on the sidelines?

Look, I’m a blogger. I type nonsense for a living. I don’t claim to be a football guru, expert, and certainly not a coach. So, when even I can see that the playcalling this season has been totally bogus, you know something’s wrong. I get that this is Shannon Dawson’s first season calling plays, but did Dana Holgorsen do everything at West Virginia? Yesterday, Kentucky had two trips inside the Vanderbilt five-yard line and no points to show for it. Having Barker throw it long on 4th and 1 on the 49-yard line was even more offensive.

“We communicated on the sidelines we wanted to take a shot, so we took a shot. Ultimately, hindsight is 20-20 on everything,” Dawson said of the play. “It didn’t work out and obviously, like I said, if it would have worked out, it would have been great.”

And if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

Right now, it seems like all the coaching staff has is hindsight. At times, it doesn’t look like there’s any forethought in what they’re doing. People used to criticize Hal Mumme for scratching plays in the dirt on the sidelines, but at least he scratched plays. This staff seems to just throw that dirt up in the air to see what happens. But if it had settled in the shape of Touchdown Jesus, it would have been great, right?

On the other side of the ball, I’m not convinced things are much better. Sure, the defense is less offensive than the offense right now, but giving up seven on a trick play? That’s almost as baffling as DJ Eliot’s answer as to why the coaches in the booth who saw what was happening didn’t get word to the sideline fast enough to call a timeout.

“We have a guy who watches that, and he did see it, and he did communicate it,” Eliot said. “But he just didn’t communicate it the right way quick enough for us to get a timeout.”

“The right way”? What exactly did he say?

“Well, football stuff that you wouldn’t understand.”

What? You mean “HEY, CALL A TIMEOUT”?! You’re right, I don’t understand that.

WTF will happen now?

The million dollar question. Charlotte is terrible, so unless Kentucky decides to just sit on the field and play duck duck goose instead of football, surely they can get a win over the 49ers. If not, well, I don’t even want to think about that. That leaves Louisville, but given what’s happened in the past month, I don’t know how you can have any faith this group will beat the Cards.

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Ten Things We Learned About UK Basketball This Weekend

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Kentucky survived its back-to-back season openers with wins of 13 and 30 points against Albany and NJIT, two competitive, potential NCAA Tournament teams. However, the competition gets really real this coming Tuesday when the team leaves the friendly confines of Rupp Arena to meet No. 5 Duke in the Champions Classic in Chicago.

With a brand new team of fresh faces and several question marks, we got a taste of what John Calipari has to play with, through its first two games this weekend. With those games in the books, let’s take a look at what we learned ahead of the upcoming blockbuster matchup with the Blue Devils.


1.) Derek Willis will not accept the role of a benchwarmer.

One of the major stories after 48 hours of Kentucky basketball is the emergence of Derek Willis. It hasn’t taken him long to go from the talented local boy tucked away at the end of the bench to a potential major contributor in his junior season.

If you really think about it, Willis’ progression is pretty normal for any college basketball player: sit the first two years, earn some minutes as a junior and be one of the guys as a senior. But here at Kentucky, we’ve grown to expect instant results from Calipari’s annual crop of talent, and Willis fell victim to the high expectations placed on him.

Over the summer, Calipari said Willis will have to “steal minutes” if he wants to see the floor. It’s safe to say, 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting through the first two games is a pretty big statement that he’s more than willing to hijack someone’s playing time. He has done everything that’s been asked of him so far.

2.) Jamal Murray is a star in the making.

Without getting ahead of ourselves and raising the bar too high here, let’s go ahead and say Jamal Murray is a special player. He has a seat waiting for him in the John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis/Karl-Anthony Towns group by the time this year is over.

Through the first two exhibitions and the first two regular season games, we’ve already seen Murray do a number of things only a handful of people are capable of doing: high-arching floaters in traffic, off-balance runners, contested three-pointers and all of the dunks. You could go ahead and build an NBA Draft highlight reel right now and he still has 38 games to play in his freshman season.

Then there’s the whole triple-double possibility. I still think it’s unlikely, but if anyone’s had a chance of logging the second in UK history, Murray’s the one with the best odds.

Enjoy him while he’s here, folks. Next summer, he gone.

3.) The team has some work to do defensively.

Like with any young and inexperienced team, mistakes are going to happen and vulnerability will be an issue defensively. Teams are getting easy looks in transition as the Cats have failed to get back on the other end, among other slip-ups here and there. The full-court press seems to be the way Cal wants them to defend, but even that has some holes. That’s to be expected two days into the season, though. Let’s just hope they can defend well enough to beat Duke in a couple of days.

4.) Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem.

While Kentucky has its share of defensive woes, the offense is already rolling. This looks to be one of Cal’s best shooting teams and their willingness to share the ball will only create great looks to knock down shots. And on a night the shooting hands get cold, they’re not afraid to attack the basket with reckless abandon. Murray and Isaiah Briscoe can drive and finish through anything.

5.) Skal Labissiere is smooth.

Labissiere didn’t show us a ton offensively Friday night against Albany, but he put on a clinic Saturday night against NJIT. Labissiere hit his first seven shots for 13 points in the first half, and ended the game with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 clip from the charity stripe.

To steal Cal’s overused quote, Labissiere “still has a long way to go.” But his baby-hook and short-range game is pretty money right now. The rebounding, defense and physicality will come in time. This kid’s going to be a monster by the time February gets here, a la Karl-Anthony Towns from a year ago.

6.) It’s an eight-man rotation, for now.

This may change as the season progresses, but for now, the majority of the minutes are going to Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis and Charles Matthews. Ulis, Briscoe, Murray and Labissiere will play as many as they can, while Lee and Poythress will split time at the four, and Willis and Matthews will sub in based on how well they are playing on a given night.

Fans of Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins and Mychael Mulder shouldn’t get their hopes up any time soon. Humphries may get some situational minutes, but Hawkins is behind a logjam of talent in the backcourt and Mulder just isn’t ready to contribute.

This, of course, can drop to fewer players or extend to more as time goes on.

@rupp_arena | Paul Hooper

@rupp_arena | Paul Hooper

7.) Tyler Ulis is the leader of the team, as expected.

No surprise here. Ulis is the loudest of the bunch and its undisputed captain on the court. The team looks to him to lead and it’s a role he should handle well this season.

His five turnovers were a little uncharacteristic in the season opener, but outside of that, he’s been everything fans expected. I don’t think we’ll see many five-turnover nights from him again, if ever at all.

“Tyler Ulis is, in my mind, the best floor general that we’ve had, since I’ve coached. I mean, the best floor general.” ~ John Calipari, November 11, 2015

8.) Calipari will not accept anything short of 100 percent effort from Poythress.

It’s time we realize Alex Poythress is what he is. One moment he will sky over five people for a rebound, then he will turn around and get beat for a 50/50 ball he should’ve won. The fans hoping Poythress turns into an unstoppable force inside should realize that day is unlikely to come. Poythress can still be good, and I believe he will be, but it’s all about the effort he puts forth and that doesn’t always seem to be 100 percent.

Now, part of that is his recovery from the injury. Being hesitant is expected right now and completely normal for anyone returning from a torn ACL. But John Calipari is not going to stop screaming at him until he is grabbing every rebound and dunking every time he touches the ball. It even seems a little unfair at times, but that’s the way Cal is going to coach him. Cal is all over him and holding him accountable whenever he holds back. Cal wants him to make the most of that elite athleticism he has been gifted with, and use it to his advantage.

9.) Turnovers aren’t a huge problem but they’re somewhat concerning.

John Calipari was disappointed in how his team turned the ball over, more so in the Albany game when Kentucky gave it up 20 times. He wants that number to get closer to 10 or 11, but he also knows that is a lofty goal for a team with so much youth playing at such a fast pace.

In Saturday night’s press conference, he said, “DeWayne (Peevy) reminded me, my first year we were getting like 23, 24, 25 turnovers a game. Now I’m trying to get them to 10 or 11 and they’re all freshmen in their first year.”

10.) It’s going to be another fun year.

We’re so spoiled. Calipari has assembled yet another Final Four caliber team for us to enjoy in 2015-16. Will they make it that far? We’ll find out in March. Until then, the 30+ games leading up to the tournament run will make for some very exciting and entertaining basketball. There will be hiccups along the way, but the good will more than outweigh the bad, no doubt.

Get ready for another incredible ride as a Kentucky basketball fan.


Now let’s go beat the hell out of Duke. They are past due.