By Maggie Davis on ©March 20th, 2019 @ 10:55pm
BBN, you can exhale. John Calipari isn’t going anywhere.
On Wednesday afternoon, rumors began circulating Coach Calipari showed “serious interest” in leaving UK to accept the UCLA head coaching job. Wednesday night, Calipari took to Twitter to respond to the speculation. He wrote:
“Before I go to bed, let me just say this: I’m coaching at the [University] of Kentucky. In my opinion, there is no better job in the world to coach basketball. My plan and my desire is to retire at Kentucky. I think the university feels the same as I do and we’ve talked openly about it.”
Whew. Rick Pitino, the Bruins’ job is all yours. In the mean time, the BBN should take Coach Cal’s advice:
Now let’s focus on this game tomorrow!
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 21, 2019
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 20th, 2019 @ 10:35pm
Go on and turn your television on right now. I assure you one of the major ESPN shows or other sports networks are talking about the Duke Blue Devils this very second. Whether it be one of Zion Williamson’s viral dunks, RJ Barrett refusing to pass the ball (again), or Coach Krzyzsfjhlksjdhfkas being compared to a Greek God in the college basketball world, the publicity is there, just like it has been since the season tipped off.
Now that March Madness is officially here, will the Blue Devils be able to live up to the hype in the East? Or will they fall Mercer-fully in one of the early rounds? Who else has a chance to come out of Washington D.C.?
Let’s take a look.
GAME TIMES/TV INFORMATION
First Four | Tuesday | Dayton, OH
No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 11 Temple (Belmont wins 81-70)
First Four | Wednesday | Dayton, OH
No. 16 NC Central vs. No. 16 North Dakota State | 6:40 p.m. ET | truTV
Thursday | Jacksonville, FL
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Yale | 12:30 p.m. ET | truTV
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Belmont | 3:00 p.m. ET | truTV
Thursday | Des Moines, IA
No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Minnesota | 12:00 p.m. ET | CBS
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Bradley | 2:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Thursday | San Jose, CA
No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Liberty | 7:15 p.m. ET | truTV
No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Saint Louis | 9:55 p.m. ET | truTV
Friday | Columbia, SC
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 North Dakota State | 7:00 p.m. ET | CBS
No. 8 VCU vs. No. 9 UCF | 9:30 p.m. ET | CBS
ONE THING TO KNOW ABOUT ALL SIXTEEN TEAMS IN THE REGION
1. Duke — RJ Barrett leads the team with 22.9 points per game, followed by Zion Williamson at 22.1 PPG. Cam Reddish is (allegedly) a three-point threat, Tre Jones is great at defense, and Marques Bolden still made the wrong college decision. The team still can’t shoot threes, which as we saw in 2010 with Kentucky, can be detrimental to teams in March.
16. North Dakota State — Only two players on the team, Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward, average more than ten points per game. They defeated NC Central tonight for the opportunity to get destroyed by Duke on Friday night.
8. VCU — The Rams finished with an impressive 25-7 record en route to an at-large bid in the A-10, their first in school history. Despite making the tournament in seven of the last eight years, they haven’t move on past the opening weekend since 2011. Shaka Smart ain’t walking through that door.
9. UCF — Tacko Fall vs. Zion Williamson in the Round of 32. The world needs it. Make it happen.
5. Mississippi State — With guard Quinndary Weatherspoon leading the way with 18.2 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 40 percent from three, Bulldogs finished with a record of 23-10 and the No. 6 spot in the SEC.
12. Liberty — Scottie James is the team’s leading scorer (13.1 PPG) and rebounder (8.8 RPG), followed by Caleb Homesley (12 PPG) and Lovell Cabbil Jr. (11.5 PPG) as double-digit scorers. Myo Baxter-Bell, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound meatball out of Cincinnati, OH, averages 4.9 points (50 percent shooting), 2.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists for the Flames. He might not be a huge star for Liberty, but I love him.
4. Virginia Tech — Led by head coach Buzz Williams, this is Virginia Tech’s highest NCAA Tournament seed ever. They finished the regular season with a record of 24-8 and a ranking of No. 16 overall. Four players on the team average 13 or more points overall.
13. Saint Louis — Former Kentucky guard Travis Ford, who played under Rick Pitino from 1991-1994, has been the head coach at Saint Louis since 2016. The Madisonville native has also coached at Campbellsville, Eastern Kentucky, UMass, and Oklahoma State since graduating from UK. The Billikens won the A-10 Tournament to punch their ticket to the big dance.
6. Maryland — Maryland finished with a record of 22-10 to earn an at-large bid out of the Big Ten. As a side note, do you know Dragan Bender of the Phoenix Suns? His older brother, Ivan, is a redshirt senior for the Terrapins. In case you were curious.
11. Belmont — Led by legendary head coach Rick Byrd, who has accumulated 712 wins at Belmont and 804 overall, the Bruins are considered one of the major sleeper teams out of the East. Three-point specialist Dylan Windler shoots 42.5 percent from deep and averages 20.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.
3. LSU — The scandal-filled LSU Tigers have taken over the bad boy role in the college basketball world. With head coach Will Wade being caught on FBI wiretap discussing a payment for a player, almost certainly guard Javonte Smart, the Tigers are putting their middle fingers in the air by allowing Smart to play the remainder of the season. It is the school’s first tournament appearance since 2015.
14. Yale — The team’s leading scorer (17.6 PPG) and assister (3.5 APG) also has the coolest name, Miye Oni. Four players on their roster average over ten points per game.
7. Louisville — Led by rookie head coach Chris Mack, the Cardinals put together a solid 20-13 season to get back into the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year. Forward Jordan Nwora is the team’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, followed by Dwayne Sutton at 10.2 PPG and Christian Cunningham at 9.8 PPG. After starting the year 17-6 and finding themselves ranked in the top 25 for a brief period of time, Louisville ended the season losing seven of the team’s final ten games. Also, hookers.
10. Minnesota — Led by Richard Pitino (not the hooker one), the Golden Gophers are making just their second tournament appearance in six years and third of their last nine. Guard Amir Coffey is the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, followed by forward Jordan Murphy (14.8 PPG) and Daniel Oturu (10.8 PPG). Guard Isaiah Washington is also known for inventing the viral “Jelly” layup move.
2. Michigan State — Once again under head coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans are rolling at the perfect time, but it might have come at a cost. After finishing the season on a five-game winning streak, including a victory in the Big Ten title game over Michigan, MSU actually jumped Kentucky for a chance to be Duke’s two seed. They also somehow lost to Indiana twice this season and Louisville once, so maybe they deserved it.
15. Bradley — The Bradley Braves, who are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years, made headlines following their decision to restrict media access to veteran reporter Dave Reynolds for being too negative in his coverage of the team. In non-controversial news, they have six players from foreign countries (Australia, Canada, Cameroon, England, Netherlands, and South Sudan).
BETTING ODDS TO WIN THE REGION
|North Dakota State||+20000|
No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Maryland is absolutely the game to watch out for. Last night, the Bruins defeated the Temple Owls with ease, and star forward Dylan Windler only managed five points on 2-7 shooting and 1-5 from three. Last time he finished in single digits? He followed it up with a 33-point outing the very next game.
With losses to teams such as Seton Hall, Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, Maryland is no stranger to disappointing finishes this season.
Windler will come back hot and knock off the Terrapins for the upset.
PICK TO WIN IT
Michigan State is a genuine threat and teams like LSU and Virginia Tech can certainly make a push, but the Blue Devils don’t really have any significant mismatches in their road to the Final Four. As mentioned earlier, they’ve proven to be vulnerable if they go cold from the outside, but it’d be silly to bet against Duke to come out of the region.
More than anything, the Blue Devils coming out of the East allows for a rematch with Kentucky in the national championship game. I can see the “they opened the season, now they’re going to close it” headlines already.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 20th, 2019 @ 3:05pm
According to John Calipari, PJ Washington sprained his foot during the Tennessee game but Kentucky expects him to be able to play in the NCAA Tournament.
“PJ sprained his foot in the Tennessee game. We had him in the boot for a while. X-rays, everything was negative, MRIs, but we sent him to a specialist, again [as a] precaution. He wants to play. If you know me, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s go get one more level of this.’ So, we expect him — he is not here with us now, he’ll be here in an hour or so, but we sent him to a specialist to make sure that he can’t harm himself but we expect him to play.”
By Nick Roush on ©March 19th, 2019 @ 11:01pm
Over the last 24 hours rumors have been flying around the Bluegrass that P.J. Washington injured his foot in Kentucky’s SEC Tournament semifinal loss to Tennessee.
Once they first surfaced, KSR checked the tape and scoured social to see the alleged injury. The research produced nothing, but this afternoon we discovered Washington is in fact wearing a boot.
UK officials tell KSR the sophomore forward has been wearing a walking boot since Sunday for “precautionary reasons.”
As of now, there’s no reason to panic. The severity of the injury is unknown. The team is currently on their way to Jacksonville. John Calipari will have an update on Washington’s status tomorrow afternoon.
Kentucky is scheduled to take the Veterans Memorial Arena court in Jacksonville for an open practice tomorrow afternoon at 3:25 p.m. ET.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 19th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Ah, the South Region, aka, the region Kentucky should be in but Tennessee had to go and lose to Auburn in the SEC Championship and ruin our chances. Another reason to hate the Vols, amirite?
Sadly, Kentucky won’t get to take advantage of what would have been a ridiculous home court advantage in Louisville, but there’s still plenty on intrigue in this part of the bracket. Is this Virginia’s year or will it be another early exit? Is there another team that can challenge them outside of Tennessee? Let’s break it down.
GAME TIMES/TV INFORMATION
|7:20 PM||(6) Villanova||(11) St. Mary’s||TBS||Hartford, CT|
|9:50 PM||(3) Purdue||(14) Old Dominion||TBS||Hartford, CT|
|12:15 PM||(7) Cincinnati||(10) Iowa||CBS||Columbus, OH|
|12:40 PM||(8) Ole Miss||(9) Oklahoma||truTV||Columbia, SC|
|2:00 PM||(4) Kansas State||(13) UC Irvine||TBS||San Jose, CA|
|2:45 PM||(2) Tennessee||(15) Colgate||CBS||Columbus, OH|
|3:10 PM||(1) Virginia||(16) Gardner Webb||truTV||Columbia, SC|
|4:30 PM||(5) Wisconsin||(12) Oregon||TBS||San Jose, CA|
ONE THING TO KNOW ABOUT ALL 16 TEAMS IN THE REGION
1. Virginia – The Cavaliers are first in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.1 points per game and second in the country in offensive efficiency, scoring 123.6 points per 100 possessions, per KenPom. That’s actually two things.
2. Tennessee – By now, you know all about the Volunteers, who have the nation’s top flopper in Grant Williams. Right, Calipari?
3. Purdue – Carsen Edwards is one of the nation’s best scorers, averaging 23.5 points per game; however, Minnesota proved that if you shut down Edwards, you can stop Purdue. In the Boilermakers’ two losses to the Golden Gophers in recent weeks, Edwards was 11-48 from the field.
4. Kansas State – I’m still annoyed by the Purple Wildcats after last year, specifically goofy Bruce Weber. Kansas State has underachieved this season and their tournament chances look especially grim now that Dean Wade is doubtful to play with a foot injury.
5. Wisconsin – I’ll forever be annoyed by Wisconsin, and this group seems to be just Ethan Happ and a bunch of dudes.
6. Villanova – My, how the mighty have fallen. Last year’s defending champ is a shadow of its former self after losing four players to the NBA, but Jay Wright should save them from a first-round exit.
7. Cincinnati – Per usual, Mick Cronin’s squad is physical, holding opponents to an average of 62.2 points per game. Assuming both teams advance to the second round, Cincinnati vs. Tennessee will be a game to watch, especially since it takes place in Columbus.
8. Ole Miss – Kermit Davis has done a great job with the Rebel Black Bear Landsharks this season, but they’ve lost five of their last seven, so don’t look for them to go farther than the second round. Also, this is dumb:
9. Oklahoma – Trae Young is gone, but the Sooners are dancing thanks to wins over Kansas, Wofford, and Florida.
10. Iowa – The Hawkeyes won three games by two points or fewer this season. That’s seriously the only interesting thing about them.
11. Saint Mary’s – You probably remember the Gaels from their win over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Championship. They also lost to LSU by four back in December.
12. Oregon – Despite losing Bol Bol to a foot injury in January, the Ducks managed to make the tournament thanks to a win over Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. They could give a fading Wisconsin team a battle Friday afternoon.
13. UC Irvine – Their mascot is the Peter the Anteater, who got a makeover from Conan O’Brien back in 2015:
14. Old Dominion – The Monarchs are led by senior guard B.J. Stith, who is playing for the same coach, Jeff Jones, that his father did at Virginia 30 years ago. B.J. wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps at UVA, but after playing in only 13 games as a freshman, transferred to Old Dominion to play for Jones and his dad, who’s an assistant.
15. Colgate – The Raiders are not a toothpaste and are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996.
16. Gardner-Webb – The team that will always remind us things could be much, much worse.
(12) Oregon over (5) Wisconsin
Not only because I’ll always hate Wisconsin but because Oregon is the exact type of team that can give the Badgers trouble. Junior point guard Peyton Pritchard can be a matchup nightmare and freshman Louis King is averaging 19 points over the last three games. Plus, Wisconsin’s star, Ethan Happ, is hitting only 46.8 percent of his free throws. Hack-a-Happ!
According to Bovada, Wisconsin’s only a 1.5-point favorite right now, making this the most likely 5/12 upset in the eyes of the oddsmakers.
BETTING ODDS TO WIN THE REGION
|Kansas State (4)||+1000|
|St Mary’s (11)||+4000|
|Cal Irvine (13)||+8000|
|Old Dominion (14)||+9000|
|Gardner Webb (16)||_20000|
PICK TO WIN IT
I’m chalking Sunday’s 20-point loss to Auburn up to fatigue and disinterest (although, come on Vols, have some pride). The Vols looked very impressive on Saturday, responding to every punch Kentucky had with one of their own (even if they got an assist from the refs). A smart, experienced squad that’s capable of lighting it up from the outside, Tennessee could knock Virginia out in the Elite Eight…or they could choke in the second round. I’m betting on the former simply for the possibility of a rematch with Kentucky in the Final Four, because that was some incredible basketball.
Randall Cobb will wear blue once again.
After eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, the former Kentucky wide receiver has agreed to a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, according to NFL Insider Jay Glazer. Cobb will the fill the Cowboys’ vacancy in the slot following Cole Beasley’s departure. Adam Schefter reports the deal is worth $5 million for one year.
Cobb’s best season came in 2014 when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. It’s his only season over 1,00 yards or ten touchdowns, thanks to nagging injuries.
The former Wildcat entered the NFL with a bang. In his debut he tied an NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown. It was also the first NFL touchdown by a player born in the 90s.
I guess there’s only one thing to say: How bout them Cowboys?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 19th, 2019 @ 9:00am
Remember “Inside the Madness: Kentucky Basketball,” Facebook’s behind-the-scenes series on last year’s team? Turns out John Calipari made $1 million from it and gave it all to charity.
USA Today discovered the income through its annual survey of college basketball coaches’ salaries, and when they asked Kentucky about it, Cal said he told his players before they voted on whether or not to participate in the series that if they said yes, he’d be donating his profits from it to charity.
“In a perfect world, some of the money we made from the Facebook series would have been distributed to our players,” Calipari said in the statement to USA Today. “Our rules simply won’t allow it. Instead, I’m proud of how they chose to allow themselves to be part of doing something that would make a difference in the lives of so many other people through charitable donations.”
More than $600,000 went to eight nonprofits, including the Jimmy V Foundation and the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County, with an additional $141,000 towards debt relief for 19 students in Kentucky’s College of Education. Cal also placed $100,000 in an educational fund to relieve debts for staff, managers and former players at UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky.
Another interesting note: the producers of “Inside the Madness” initially wanted to air the show on Showtime, but Kentucky declined. They reconsidered closer to the start of the 2017-18 season when it was pitched for Facebook because they thought it could reach more people.
“We felt like we were getting a lot of stuff about people being disconnected from our team because of the changeover in roster,” DeWayne Peevy said. “So really we thought it was a vehicle for people to be able to get to know our kids.”
Reading this story, I was reminded of something Calipari said during his preseason roundtable with reporters last fall.
“Being here, seeing the other side of it, which is, you have what you need, and your focus becomes what you’re doing within the program, or you have more time to be involved in charity work. I’m doing more of that, ten times more than I’ve ever did when I was younger. I would say my wife and I always try to give back and be charitable, but not to the level of what we do here, which means I’m probably spending twice the time doing that than I’ve ever spent in my entire life.”
I like my coach.
By Nick Roush on ©March 18th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
John Calipari’s transformation to Swaggy Cal is complete. Tonight he used the word, “Tweak.”
After almost an hour of conversation on the John Calipari Show, Kentucky’s head coach revealed that his team is still growing as they enter the NCAA Tournament, just like a few of his previous teams.
“We’ve done some tweaking over the years where we tweaked a little bit of offense and it totally changed who we became as a team,” said Coach Cal. “Now we’ve done that and I’ve done that with this team throughout the year, and I hate to tell you, we’re not done yet.”
The changes were made as recently as this afternoon. The only problem is, Calipari forgot the one rule about Kentucky Basketball Tweaks — they must remain a secret. The Cat’s already out of the bag this time.
“I even did some things today that changed up stuff. We had Nick and E.J. in together. I said, ‘Let’s put these two together and let’s play like this.'”
I’ll let you enjoy the rest of his comment because it ended with a jab at the officiating from Saturday’s game, something he did throughout the entire call-in show.
“That’s the exciting thing about coaching these teams the way we have, which is a new team every year. You are coaching them the entire season. It’s not the same lesson plan, it’s different every year. What you’re trying to do is different. We’ve never had this many post-up players, and I’ll be honest with you, this is a terrific three-point shooting team too. We don’t take as many because you know what, we’re able to get to the basket and get to the foul line more than any team…until last game.”
There’s one thing you should have picked up from Calipari’s last two days in front of a microphone: he likes his team.
“We’re good. I’m not trading my team for anybody. I know we’re young,” he said, “but I wouldn’t trade the team for anybody. Let’s go. We’re throwing it up. The talking is done. Now everybody has to step in the ring.”
By Nick Roush on ©March 18th, 2019 @ 7:31pm
C.J. Conrad is BACK.
The Kentucky tight end hit a speed bump on his way to the NFL. Luckily, tests proved it was just a small hurdle.
At the NFL Combine doctors discovered an abnormality in Conrad’s heart. He was immediately sent home and sidelined from football activities until further tests could be completed. After receiving a second opinion, C.J. had some good news to share.
Thank you GOD ?? pic.twitter.com/L8TdGKy8Ba
— CJ Conrad (@cjconrad1) March 18, 2019
Conrad will have a few weeks to train before he competes with Mike Edwards at UK’s second Pro Day.
We’re all grateful C.J.’s time on the football field is not yet finished. A special thanks to all of the Kentucky fans who saw him on tour with Josh Allen last week. When life dealt him a bad hand, the BBN had his back.
Your University of Kentucky Wildcats earned the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region of this year’s tournament, playing its opening round games in sunny Jacksonville, Florida, before moving on to Kansas City, Missouri, should the Cats prevail in Rounds 1 and 2. It’s not the South Region fans had hoped for (the loss to Tennessee cost us that one), but it is a fair tournament path on the complete opposite side of the bracket from the mighty Duke Blue Devils.
GAME TIMES/TV INFORMATION
Thursday | Salt Lake City, UT
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 New Mexico State | 1:30 p.m. ET | TNT
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Northeastern | 4:00 p.m. ET | TNT
Thursday | Jacksonville, FL
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Abilene Christian | 7:10 p.m. ET | CBS
No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 10 Seton Hall | 9:40 p.m. ET | CBS
Friday | Columbus, OH
No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 Washington | 6:50 p.m. ET | TNT
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Iona | 9:20 p.m. ET | TNT
Friday | Tulsa, OK
No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Georgia State | 7:20 p.m. ET | TBS
No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Ohio State | 9:50 p.m. ET | TBS
ONE THING TO KNOW ABOUT ALL SIXTEEN TEAMS IN THE REGION
1. North Carolina — UNC is a No. 1 seed for the 17th time, extending its record for the most in history.
16. Iona — The Gaels began the year with a 2-9 record, but turned things around to win the MAAC’s regular season crown and again in the MAAC tournament, ending the year on a 10-game win streak. This will be the fourth straight NCAA appearance for the Iona program.
8. Utah State — The only school representing the state of Utah in the tournament this year, Utah State is back for the first time since 2011 and looking to snap a seven-game losing streak in the tournament and win its first tournament game in 18 years.
9. Washington — Like Utah State, its first-round opponent, Washington is back in the tournament for the first time since 2011. Washington lost the Pac 12 title game, 68-48, to Oregon.
5. Auburn — Fresh off its first SEC Tournament championship since 1985, Auburn is a very dangerous No. 5 seed. Just ask Tennessee how hot Auburn is playing right now. The Vols lost to the Tigers in the SEC title game by 20 points on Sunday.
12. New Mexico State — New Mexico State hasn’t lost a game since January 3. That’s 19 straight wins for the Aggies.
4. Kansas — Bill Self’s team isn’t a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed for the first time since 2006.
13. Northeastern — Northeastern is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country with four players shooting over 40 percent from three-point range, including Vasa Pusica, a Serbian guard averaging 18 points per game over his last two seasons.
6. Iowa State — The Cyclones lost six of eight games to close out the regular season, yet still went on to win its fourth Big 12 Tournament title in the last six years, beating Kansas in the championship.
11. Ohio State — Remember when Ohio State was the No. 1 team in the first ever NET rankings earlier in the season? Fast forward to present day and the Buckeyes barely made the tournament with a 19-14 record and an eighth-place finish in the Big Ten.
3. Houston — Houston is one of eight national title contenders in the field, according to KenPom’s 20/20 rule.
14. Georgia State — Back for a second straight season after winning the Sun Belt tournament again, Georgia State hopes to recreate some of its March magic of 2015, when it advanced to the second weekend as a No. 14-seed. Remember RJ Hunter’s game-winner from deep that knocked his coach/dad off his stool?
7. Wofford — With 502 career three-pointers, Wofford’s Fletcher Magee is only two away from the all-time record in college basketball.
10. Seton Hall — Myles Powell is a bad, bad man.
2. Kentucky — Tyler Herro leads the country in free throw shooting percentage at 94.0 percent from the stripe this year. He has missed only five of his 84 attempts. Get him the ball.
15. Abilene Christian — This is only Abilene Chrisitian’s sixth season in Division I and its first appearance in the Big Dance. Last year it lost to Drake (the school, not the rapper) in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT).
BETTING ODDS TO WIN THE REGION
|New Mexico State||+7000|
PICK TO WIN IT
The wait is finally over, as we now know No. 2 Kentucky will face No. 15 Abilene Christian University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We’ll have plenty of pre-tournament coverage over the next few days, and we have plenty of time to analyze every possible future matchup before the real action even begins: the Cats won’t play until Thursday evening (check out the full list of TV times here). Of course, we’ll start with Kentucky’s first round – let’s get to know Abilene Christian University.
Abilene Christian University is located in Abilene, Texas – the 27th most-populous city in the state – and was founded in 1906. Their colors are purple and white and their mascot, like Kentucky’s, is the Wildcat. The main difference? ACU’s mascot is nicknamed Willie.
It’s a private college affiliated with the Churches of Christ. ACU is one of the few remaining colleges that requires daily chapel time for students: for 30 minutes each day, every full-time undergraduate student takes some time away from classes and meetings to gather for “praise and worship.” During this time, students also hear from guest speakers and are able to make campus-wide announcements. The school currently has around 4,500 total students.
Despite its relatively-small size, ACU has produced a handful of very successful alumni, including:
Ronnie Dunn – An American country music singer-songwriter and record executive. He’s best known, of course, for being half of legendary country duo Brooks & Dunn. The Boot Scootin’ Boogie boys became the best-selling duo in country music history, thanks to 30 million albums sold and more than 80 industry awards earned. Dunn studied Psychology at ACU; unfortunately, the school didn’t like that he was performing in bars, so Dunn left the University to pursue music. I think it worked out for him.
John Layfield – A retired professional wrestler and current color commentator in the WWE. He works as part of the broadcast team on Raw, Main Event and Pay-Per-View events under his wrestler name John “Bradshaw” Layfield, or JBL. He brought home one WWE Championship during his prime, but he was also an All-American football player during his time at ACU.
Bonnie Curtis – Maybe not the most recognizable name on this list, but definitely a successful one. Curtis is a film producer whose credits include Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Minority Report and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In 1998, she graduated from ACU with a journalism degree; in 2005, she was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
Randall Cobb – Nope, not that one. But a former professional boxer named Randall Cobb did briefly attend ACU.
Ah, what we’re here for – the game itself.
Abilene Christian competes in the Southland Conference, alongside teams including the New Orleans Privateers, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
This year’s tournament will be ACU’s first NCAA appearance in school history, but it’s only their second chance at the big dance. The Wildcats recently transitioned from Division II to Division I, which came with a four-year probationary period that made them ineligible for NCAA postseason play. They were eligible for the first time last year but did not qualify.
Regardless, their come-up over the past several years has been notable. Six years ago, ACU finished 2-12 in their conference; this season, the Wildcats won the Southland Conference Title as a No. 2 seed. They finished with a 14-4 conference record and a 25-6 overall record.
Three of the team’s players made the Southland Conference All-Tournament Team: forward Jaren Lewis, guard Jaylen Franklin and guard Payten Ricks. Their successful end to the season didn’t come without some adversity: two of the Wildcats’ starters were dismissed from the team in late February. Jalone Friday and B.J. Maxwell were dismissed for “violating university policies and behavior inconsistent with the values of the university,” according to a press release from the school.
The Wildcats are led by head coach Joe Golding, who was recently named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year. Golding, who played for ACU from 1994-98, led his alma mater to their first 20-win season since jumping to the Division I level this season, and the team’s 25 victories are the most regular season wins in program history.
The Battle of the Wildcats is set to tip-off Thursday at 7:10 on CBS.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 17th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
After his team drew the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region opposite North Carolina, John Calipari was a relatively jolly man on ESPN’s Bracketology show. Unlike years past, Cal did not rant about his team’s path, but did point out that their first round opponent, Abilene Christian, could present some problems.
“Let’s try to win six. I’m telling you, what we’re trying to do is beat Abilene right now. Abilene Christian shoots 40 percent from the three-point line. Figured we’d have somebody like that that’s launching threes. Now all of a sudden you’re going to have to play and you’re going to have to guard threes which means long rebounds, which gives them second chance opportunities. We gotta play that one. The next games, I’m not worried about. It’s about keeping these guys in the moment.”
In fact, Cal said he’s advising his team to block out the noise and not watch the games. I bet you can guess what he suggested they watch instead.
“I told them, you don’t watch the games. Teams you’re worried about get beat. Why did you spend any time or anxiety on anyone in this tournament? Don’t watch the games. I watch Alaska: Last Frontier, Living Off The Grid, Life Below Zero and you don’t have to worry about any of the basketball. I tell my wife, Seth, I can do that. She laughs at me, like you could never.”
That was the perfect cue for Seth Greenberg and the gang to give Cal grief over his wife’s Instagram account, which she uses to razz him for not doing household chores (like hanging those All-Star jerseys).
“What’s wrong with her?” Cal quipped. “Ellen just wants to smack me around. I’m like, what are you doing? I don’t look at the stuff. [Seth: You’re a roommate] Yeah, I’m a roommate. What are you talking about, roommate. Now we sleep in different bedrooms. What’s the problem? I mean, I don’t know what the problem is.”
Lots of laughter. Cal is feeling good, which makes me feel good.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 17th, 2019 @ 6:47pm
The complete 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket has been released.
Take a look:
And the top-four seeds from each region:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 17th, 2019 @ 6:27pm
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has spoken.
Kentucky has been given a two seed in the Midwest region and will take on Abilene Christian in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville on Thursday.
If the Cats win their first two games and move on to the Sweet Sixteen, their regional location will be Kansas City. UK’s one seed in the Midwest? North Carolina.
With a win over Abilene Christian, Kentucky will take on the winner of (7) Wofford and (10) Seton Hall, allowing for a potential rematch with the Pirates in the Round of 32.
Here is the entire Midwest region:
In other news, Duke earned the No. 1 overall seed in the East, while Tennessee stole Kentucky’s spot in the Louisville regional as a two-seed following the SEC Tournament semifinal result yesterday afternoon.
The four No. 1 seeds? Duke (East), (Virginia), North Carolina (Midwest), and Gonzaga (West).