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Za’Darius Smith drove 14 hours to tell his mother she doesn’t have to work anymore

Za’Darius Smith drove 14 hours to tell his mother she doesn’t have to work anymore

On Tuesday morning, former Kentucky pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith broke the bank with a lucrative four-year, $66 million deal with the Green Bay Packers.

But before news broke that the deal was done, he wanted to make sure his mother was the first person to know that their family’s life would be changed forever.

According to Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com, the former Wildcat drove 14 hours in his car to tell his mother face-to-face that she’d never have to work another day in her life.

“I said, Ma, you ready to quit working? She said, ‘My bag is already packed,’” Smith said.

When asked about his mother’s financial/life situation, the former Wildcat said that she has been working at a jail in Alabama for over two decades.

Now, her days in a tough working environment are over. She’s set for life.

“She works at the Butler County (Alabama) correctional facility,” he said, via Hodkiewicz. “She’s been there for like 22 years, and she worked with a lot of inmates, so sometimes that can be a headache. To go there and see her, bags packed, it was a wonderful feeling to tell mom she can quit working.”

Sheesh… Did someone start cutting onions in here?

Well done, Big Z. Well done.


(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: It’s decision week for Keion Brooks Jr.

(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

It’s officially decision week for one of Kentucky’s final remaining targets in the class of 2019, five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr.

After months of back-and-forth between Indiana and Kentucky, along with some other schools making pushes along the way, we’ll finally know where the 6-foot-8 forward out of Fort Wayne, IN will be attending college.

Let’s take a look at the latest:

Keion Brooks Jr.

Keion Brooks
Forward | 6-8 | 185 lbs.
Fort Wayne, IN | North Side
AAU: Spiece Indy Heat
ESPN No. 30 | 9 PF Top247 No. 16 | 5 SF
Rivals No. 35 | 13 PF 247 Comp. No. 22 | 6 SF

For starters, it’s surprising just how quiet things have been on Brooks’ front since he announced his decision date. Usually things are quiet for a few days, but as we inch closer to the big day, we hear leaks, momentum changes, and/or runaway favorites.

This this decision, however, there has been little-to-no public buzz, which I find pretty interesting. On first glance, it shows that the family has decided to keep (mostly) everything internal and they’re finally getting into the serious discussions of the decision.

Now, it’s a waiting game to see what (if anything) slips through cracks over the next three days.

When we look at the big picture in terms of momentum right now, national analysts, Kentucky insiders, and Indiana insiders all believe he’s slightly leaning Kentucky. I have posted on the insider notes over the last two weeks that I felt strongly in my UK prediction, and I still feel that way.

One thing I keep going back to, however, is the James Blackmon Jr. recruitment back in 2013. If you’ll remember, Kentucky was rumored to be the favorite over Indiana for several weeks leading up to his announcement. In the final week or so, things went quiet, and the former five-star guard ended up going with the hometown Hoosiers over his father’s Wildcats.

There are obvious differences in these recruitments (Devin Booker committed to Kentucky the week before Blackmon Jr. made his decision, UK has a more of a need at forward right now compared to their need at guard at the time, etc.), but I still find it interesting nonetheless.

Let me clarify that I’m not hedging my prediction at all. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I’m okay with that.

Looking at the facts, though, Kentucky is the only school he’s visited since November, and ever since then, every pick in the 247 Sports Crystal Ball has been in favor of the Wildcats. That includes the likes of Jerry Meyer, Andrew Slater, Mike Peegram (Indiana insider), and Kevin Ryan (247 Sports’ National Recruiting Manager).

While recruiting expert Evan Daniels hasn’t officially put in a Crystal Ball prediction, he did say he’s leaning toward Kentucky.

“The truth is, I don’t know where Brooks is going,” he said. “If I was forced to make a guess, I would lean towards Kentucky, but Brooks and his family have done a good job of keeping their choice close to the vest. While there are more than three finalists, the only three that I think have an inkling of a shot are Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan State.”

As I mentioned last week, Brooks’ inner circle is now favoring Kentucky, while Brooks himself sees the decision as a toss-up, with a very slight edge likely going to Indiana. That being said, he has a very strong relationship with those close to him, specifically his parents, so if he likes both schools equally (or close to it), he would absolutely be okay with choosing the Cats.

I’m told that the Kentucky coaching staff has remained in strong contact with the elite prospect and they still feel strongly about their chances. They firmly believe their “Kentucky isn’t for everybody” pitch resonated well with both Brooks and his family, as they enjoy the idea of a challenging experience to develop among NBA talent before making the jump to the big leagues. They’re watching UK’s season closely and the development the team has experienced from November to right now. It’s intriguing.

On the flip side, Brooks’ best friend, Trayce Jackson-Davis, is also committed to Indiana and has been telling reporters over the last week or so that he still thinks Brooks ultimately stays home and teams up with him in Bloomington. While his very close inner circle may favor the Cats, there are still folks at home wanting him to stay in Indiana.

Outside of Kentucky and Indiana, as mentioned last week, I genuinely don’t think anyone else has a chance when it’s all said and done.

After a bit of off-and-on Michigan State buzz, I did hear from someone on MSU’s side of things over the last few days that they’re no longer expecting to be the choice. Last week, I told you guys that Tom Izzo was still telling people that he thought Brooks was coming, but that’s no longer the case. With the addition of 6-foot-8 power forward Julius Marble on Sunday, they effectively took themselves out of consideration from a pure numbers standpoint.

That same night, Tipton Edits (a well-informed insider with direct contact with many top recruits) released a graphic with Brooks wearing three different uniforms: Indiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

At one point this weekend, however, Brooks also posted images of Michigan State and North Carolina on his Instagram story:

Though it comes off as a bit confusing, I’m told this is a similar situation to Anthony Edwards during the home stretch of his recruitment several weeks back. Despite all of the buzz surrounding one school at the time (Georgia), the former UK target built up the hype of his announcement by posting pictures of him on different visits wearing a variety of uniforms.

In the end, the choice came down to what everyone assumed to be true the entire time, which I believe will be the case with Brooks.

North Carolina felt they were out of the race over two weeks ago, and Michigan State felt the same over the last week.

That leaves the main two schools we’ve felt were the strongest contenders all along, Kentucky and Indiana.

I’ll keep you guys updated if anything else leaks out over the next few days, but for now, I have no reason to go away from my Kentucky prediction.

NBA Decisions

I hinted at this on my “Takeaways” post from Saturday night, but after a few more conversations I’ve had over the last week or so, I strongly believe Kentucky guard Tyler Herro will be entering the NBA Draft after this season.

There are numerous people on social media that believe he’s not ready for the NBA and needs more time to develop, but everything I’ve heard indicates Herro will absolutely be a first-round pick when the draft rolls around this summer.

The Kentucky freshman has almost zero holes in his game, exceeding all expectations in his game outside of shooting and scoring. Scouts love him, and they want him now, not later. Above all else, Herro believes he’s ready to go, as well, and that’s ultimately what it comes down to in the end.

As great as it’d be for him to return for a sophomore season, I just don’t see it happening. If I were a betting man, I’d say we’ve seen Herro for the last time in Rupp Arena.

With Ashton Hagans, things are a bit more foggy than they were a few months ago. When the Kentucky point guard went through his stretch of elite play from the North Carolina game on December 22 through the Kansas game on January 26, there was serious talk that he was going to work his way into first-round contention.

As the regular season closed out, however, he reverted a bit back to the norm as a solid college starting point guard.

I’d put Hagans at 50-50 right now, with his postseason play being the key to his decision. If he stays on his current path, I think there’s a solid chance we see him back in a Kentucky uniform next season. If we see what we saw from December to January, he’ll absolutely go.

Make no mistake about it, Hagans came to Kentucky hoping to be a one-and-done, and if he thinks he’s ready, he’ll make the jump.

Beyond those two, PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson are still expected to leave, while EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, and Jemarl Baker are all expected to return.


We still have more time to discuss NBA decisions as we roll right into postseason play.

With Brooks, though, we’re just three days away before we find out whether or not Kentucky is adding yet another five-star high school All-American talent.


John Calipari and Kentucky are still looking for a true challenger at the SEC Tournament

There’s no hiding from the fact that Kentucky runs the Southeastern Conference on the hardwood. The Wildcats own 49 regular season conference titles and the next closest school is LSU with 11. Take out Kentucky and the current SEC schools have won or shared 53 conference titles. This is a run of domination for nearly a century. However, it does not match the absolute ownership Kentucky has over the SEC Tournament.

Beginning on Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the SEC will hold its 6oth conference tournament and Kentucky currently owns the title for 31 of those meetings. UK has won 52.5 percent of the tournaments all-time. It originated with Catlanta and now we’ve seen the Big Blue Nation take over the biggest city in Tennessee since it became the primary home of the postseason tournament this decade. However, we’ve never seen a coach dominate this tournament like John Calipari.

Kentucky’s 10th year head coach is 22-3 overall in SEC Tournament and has reached the finals eight times in nine tries. In those championship games, Coach Cal is 6-2 and his only loss outside of Championship Sunday occurred with the 2013 NIT team. This has been flat out domination.

No other coach in the league owns an SEC Tournament title and only two have a career winning record in the event. There are only three current coaches who have even made it to the championship game.

Avery Johnson5-3
Rick Barnes4-3
Bryce Drew 2-2
Bruce Pearl9-10
Mike Anderson6-7
Frank Martin5-6
Ben Howland2-3
Billy Kennedy3-6
Cuonzo Martin2-4
Mike White1-3

It’s been an impressive run, but there have been a few teams that have perked up and attempted to challenge Kentucky.

Avery Johnson excels at the SEC Tournament

The former San Antonio Spurs point guard and NBA head coach took over the basketball program in Tuscaloosa from Anthony Grant in 2015-2016 and for the most part the Crimson Tide have been disappointing. Johnson has reeled in two top 25 recruiting classes, but has just one NCAA Tournament appearance and four sub-50 KenPom finishes.

It’s been a rough run and some in Alabama would like the coach put on the hot seat. Bama is about to find itself in the NIT for the third time in four years under Johnson without a big win in Nashville this weekend. Most everywhere he has disappointed except in the SEC Tournament.

Under Johnson, the Tide have won a game in every SEC Tournament they’ve participated in and have twice made it to the semifinals as a 5-seed or worse. Each year, however, their run has been ended by Kentucky.

In 2017, a win over the Wildcats likely would’ve gotten Bama into the NCAA Tournament. Somehow, someway these two clubs keep meeting in March.

Alabama has six tournament titles and this ranks No. 2 overall in the SEC. However, Alabama has not brought home the hardware since 1991 when Tennessee’s Allan Houston was named the MVP in a losing effort. It was former Alabama head coach Wimp Sanderson’s fourth SEC Tournament title and was one UK did not participate in due to NCAA probation.

These two programs have met an astounding 18 times in this tournament and it could very well happen again on Friday night.

History with Tennessee

Tennessee is fresh off a record year where they collected 27 victories in the regular season and saw junior forward Grant Williams receive All-America honors. The Vols have spent the entire season in the top 10 and those around the program feel that this is the squad to break the program’s somewhat embarrassing Final Four drought.

The Vols have had a lot of great regular seasons, but have historically fallen short in March. This group will look to see if they can buck that trend. Under Rick Barnes, it has been hit or miss in the SEC Tournament.

In his first season, the Vols pulled off a huge upset against Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon before falling to LSU in the quarterfinals the following the day. The next year would see the Vols go one-and-done before making a run in 2018.

Last season, Tennessee claimed their first regular season SEC title since 2008 and they made it to the SEC title game for the first time since 2009. There the Vols were knocked off by Kentucky and left program searching for their fifth SEC Tournament crown and first since 1979. However, it appears that this could be the program to most likely challenge Kentucky.

Everyone will know what is on the line if the programs meet in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon. Both Kentucky and Tennessee could be playing for the right to a No. 1 seed in the Louisville regional which would turn into a pseudo home regional for both squads. It would kickoff a monster day in college hoops with the ACC, Big East, and Big XII all having their conference title games airing that night. It would be the biggest semifinal game in SEC Tournament history.

Rick Barnes has had some previous success in conference tournaments at his previous stops. The 64-year-old head coach won a conference tournament at Providence in the old Big East in 1994. However, he could never bring one home at Clemson and went 0-5 in Big XII championship games at Texas.

We’ll see if the Vols and the Wildcats can meet in the postseason for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1949-1950.

Bruce Pearl’s Time

It’s been somewhat of a strange season on The Plains for the former Tennessee head coach with Tigers entering the year with Final Four aspirations and finishing just 22-9 despite a No. 14 overall ranking in KenPom. Auburn has lost a ton of close games this season, but after winning four consecutive games by two possessions or less to end the season, they are back in the top 25 and may have found some mojo to carry into postseason play.

Auburn will be playing from the 5-hole starting on Thursday afternoon and it appears the Tigers have a very generous draw. After facing the winner of Georgia/Mizzou in the first game, Auburn would then get a 16-15 South Carolina team on Friday. Get by them and it’s either an LSU squad without their head coach or a bubble team in Florida or Arkansas in the semifinals. The road is there for Auburn to reach the SEC title game for the first time since 2000.

Overall, Bruce Pearl has a losing record in the SEC Tournament but he also has the most wins outside of John Calipari per the current coaching roster in the conference. Pearl went one-and-done out of the top spot last season, but also won three games in three days as the 12-seed in 2015. You never really know what you’re going to get from Pearl’s teams in this tournament, but sooner or later you have to think they are going to breakthrough.

Get us to Lower Broadway.

 

 


Upgrade your SEC Tournament experience with a KSR Top Shelf Lounge pass

Upgrade your SEC Tournament experience with a KSR Top Shelf Lounge pass

Already have tickets to the SEC Tournament but want to upgrade your experience? KSR is partnering with Bridgestone Arena to offer the KSR Top Shelf Lounge, an all-inclusive area for fans to mingle before, during, and in between games.

In the KSR Top Shelf Lounge, you’ll have access to unlimited food, beer, and wine throughout the tournament. Liquor will also be available for purchase. Unless you have a suite or club level ticket*, this will be the only area in Bridgestone Arena where you can drink alcohol during games. Large projector screens and televisions will show the games in the arena and across the country so you don’t miss a second of the action. Pass holders will also be allowed to stay in the lounge in between sessions.

To purchase your pass for the KSR Top Shelf Lounge, click the link below and use the promo code 19SECKSR or call 615-770-7888. Space is limited, so hurry!

SEC Tournament KSR Top Shelf Lounge Pass

*Please note the suite level and club level are only accessible with a suite or club level ticket for each session, a change from past years. Alcohol cannot be taken out of these spaces at any time during the tournament.

*The Top Shelf Lounge will not be open Wednesday night. 


Flexibility and Versatility will determine the success of UK’s front seven

Flexibility and Versatility will determine the success of UK’s front seven

The first week of spring practice has come and gone and we are starting to learn just a little bit about Kentucky’s 2019 football team. Eddie Gran confirming that he was offered the Georgia offensive coordinator gig got most of the attention, but it’s not the biggest thing to know after the first week of March football.

New defensive coordinator Brad White has officially taken over for Matt House, but his biggest task right now is to rebuild the Jack and Sam linebacker spots. Josh Allen is off to the NFL with his career 42 tackles for loss and 31.5 sacks. Outside of Boogie Watson, no UK OLB has received major playing time and rebuilding this position is one of the staff’s biggest current jobs.

Not only was Allen lost, the Cats lost Kengera Daniel to a grad transfer immediately after the season. The senior was going to bring a veteran presence to the Jack position and would’ve entered the season as the starter. Then this past week we learned that redshirt sophomore Chris Whittaker has entered the transfer portal. The former three-star recruit out of Hollywood, Florida had yet to play a game for UK.

This past week, Brad White and Boogie Watson have both admitted that that the Sam backer has been cross-training at Jack. The DMV product is entering his redshirt junior year fresh off a season where he produced five sacks in sidekick role to the superstar on the other side. However, his playing experience and some added weight may make him a likely candidate to fill the enormous shoes left behind by Josh Allen.

Watson has put on nine lbs. in the offseason and is up to 242 pounds according to the 2019 spring roster released earlier this week. That is solid size for that position and he could be able to take on the physicality that is needed when playing near the line of scrimmage on a full-time basis. Who replaces Watson on the other side could be the biggest issue.

At his opening day press conference, Mark Stoops announced that junior college transfer Marquez Bembry would be out for the entirety of spring practice. Therefore, that meant true freshman Jared Casey was going to get plenty of run during the next 15 practices.

The linebacker prospect was the highest rated player in UK’s class of 2019 and a huge recruiting win for Vince Marrow in the city of Louisville. Casey has the ability to play inside or outside and his height (6-foot-1) would make it appear that he would be better suited on the inside. However, UK is on record for saying that he will begin his college career on the edge and he’s already receiving glowing reviews from his upperclassmen teammates. There’s a chance he could enter fall camp as the starter at Sam.

However, the numbers are thin outside of Boogie Watson and Jared Casey. Seldom used redshirt sophomore Alex King appears to be the top backup at Jack. UK gets Marquez Bembry back in the fall at Sam in addition to freshmen K.D. McDaniel and J.J. Weaver. Both project at the Jack spot, but Weaver seems better suited to be a full-time hand-in-the dirt defensive end.

It’s clear that the depth of Brad White’s position group is going to get tested. With some very solid players inside with limited snaps available, there could be a scenario at some point where Jamin Davis or Chris Oats could get some run at Sam backer. Or UK could just lean heavily on an experienced defensive line.

Outside of Adrian Middleton and reserve Tymere Dubose, Kentucky returns their entire defensive line from last season and each player has received big game reps. The most talented of the group will be entering his first full season along the defensive front.

Joshua Paschal is back on the practice field full-time following missing most of last season with melanoma and the former top-300 recruit brings a whole lot of talent to that defensive line. In a limited sample size, Paschal has shown very good short area quickness in addition to the size and strength needed to take on SEC offensive tackles in isolation situations. He has a chance to be a dominant run stuffer.

Next to Paschal will be redshirt senior Calvin Taylor Jr. who has emerged into a really quality player for the Wildcats. The afterthought recruit from Georgia has been one of the better development stories of the Mark Stoops era. The 6-foot-9 senior had six tackles for loss last season and was second on the team with 9.5 run stuffs.

He can play inside, but is at his best at end. T.J. Carter will also be used at end and the senior has started a ton of games for Kentucky the past two seasons. UK’s best option may be to use Paschal and Taylor as bookends on the defensive line with Carter as a rotational piece off the bench.

On the interior, Quinton Bohanna returns at nose and the junior from the Memphis area has been very productive when he is healthy. His primary backup this season will be Marquan McCall who looked very promising during his true freshman season. Over at tackle, UK returns senior Phil Hoskins and redshirt junior Kordell Looney. That’s a lot playing time and experience at UK’s disposal on the line of scrimmage.

After his first season at the helm, Mark Stoops decided to switch from a base 4-3 to a base 3-4 defense. It appeared that the idea was that it was going to be easier for UK to find and develop outside linebacker prospects rather than fight tooth and nail for top notch defensive line prospects that the entire world of college football needs. After a few years, you cannot say that it wasn’t a good decision.

It gave time for UK to build a defensive line by development and gaining playing time experience. It allowed UK to mold two outside linebackers (Josh Allen and Bud Dupree) into first round picks. But now the script has flipped a bit. The Wildcats now find themselves thin at outside linebacker and with plenty of options along the defensive line. We hear all the time about coaches wanting to be “multiple” and this year they must prove that is true.

Kentucky’s best 11 cannot be on the field unless the Wildcats are playing Quinton Bohanna, Joshua Paschal, and Calvin Taylor Jr. When you consider that Taylor’s best suited at a defensive end spot it would make sense to get Phil Hoskins or Kordell Looney in the lineup as much as possible. Then you add in the inexperience at the outside linebacker spots. Boogie Watson is a proven piece, but after that there are a lot of questions. Jared Casey and Jordan Wright are both two youngsters with a lot of talent, but they still have a lot to prove. It would be very valuable if you could lean on your experienced defensive line as you bring along your inexperienced edge players.

In today’s football, you’re going to spend most of your time in subpackages. Kentucky is going to need five defensive backs on the field, but at the end of the day the SEC is a line of scrimmage league. To win games you have to establish the run on offense and stop the run on defense. To do that, UK needs to lean on its defensive line. After multiple years of the front being a weakness, in 2019 the defensive line needs to set the tone.

 


How can the Cats “assist” themselves in a tournament run?

How can the Cats “assist” themselves in a tournament run?

With the Cats beating Florida 66-57 yesterday, the regular season is in the rearview. On the horizon is the SEC Tournament, and on Friday, March 15, Kentucky will square off with the winner of Alabama versus Ole Miss. That’s really the only thing that’s certain right now, as Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament seed won’t be official until next Sunday.

UK has won the last four SEC Tournaments, but this year the SEC is arguably as strong as its been in quite some time. So how can the Cats keep up their winning ways — throughout the conference tourney and beyond?

I’ve heard it said that the best predictor for future behavior is past behavior. How does that apply to Kentucky’s situation, where UK experiences rapid roster turnover every offseason? Does the post-season play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyler Ulis or John Wall hint at what might be to come for the current Kentucky squad?

Maybe, but not in the manner one might think. After researching the point guard’s postseason production in each of Cal’s years at UK, a trend emerged — one that has shown itself on teams that made deep runs in March, and one that was absent on teams that had early exits. Those that have upped their assist average in the postseason have earned SEC titles, Final Four berths and, in one case, a National Championship. While many of Cal’s squads have been led by prolific scorers playing point guard, only one team that finished its postseason with a point guard averaging 15 or more points has made it past the Elite 8. Let’s examine some numbers and see what history suggests Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley must do in order for the current Cats team to reach its highest postseason potential.

All these numbers were found by separating a player’s regular season and postseason statistics (SEC + NCAA/NIT Tournaments) and averaging the two. Let’s start at the beginning:

SEC Tournament: Champions     NCAA Tournament: Elite 8

It’s unfortunate this is the first example because it’s a bit of an anomaly. Wall averaged 1.5 more assists in the postseason, and his team battled until it was knocked out by West Virginia in the Elite 8. The first superstar point guard of Cal’s UK tenure, Wall’s play was incredibly consistent throughout both tournaments. However, even though his assist mark improved, this squad didn’t experience as deep a tournament run as others.

SEC Tournament: Champions     NCAA Tournament: Final Four

Despite scoring nearly two points less per game in the postseason, Knight led this UK team to the national semifinal. This split is the first example of how a point guard under Cal averaging more postseason assists translated to tournament runs. Knight posted one more assist than he did in the regular season and almost gave the school its first title since 1998. It’s also important to note he had two games in the NCAA Tournament where he scored single digits (and hit game-winners): Princeton in the Round of 64 and Ohio State in the Sweet 16. Maybe this shows it’s not how much you score, it’s when you score.

SEC Tournament: Runner-Up      NCAA Tournament: Champions

When I think about point guards at Kentucky, Marquis Teague isn’t the first to come to mind. He didn’t put up crazy numbers under Cal, nor did he blossom into an NBA star. But he can claim something the likes of Wall, Knight, De’Aaron Fox and any other UK point guard under Cal can’t: a National Title. Teague had pedestrian regular season numbers, and the argument could be made his postseason marks were nothing more than average, but look at the improvement between the two. He averaged a point more in the postseason and nearly one and a half more assists. Teague’s play was on another level, and that benefited the entire team.

SEC Tournament: First round loss  NIT: First round loss

This season wasn’t pleasant to watch and certainly wasn’t pleasant to revisit. Going from reigning champion to the first team out of the NIT was demoralizing. But what can the worst season under Cal teach us? A point guard who can’t make others better can’t win many games, especially in the postseason. While Goodwin scored well, he didn’t do nearly enough to make the team better. His regular season assist average was poor, but only averaging 0.5 in postseason play is abysmal. Granted, this team only played two postseason games, but the truth remains: For a UK team to make a run in the tournament, its point guard must be a facilitator first. Goodwin wasn’t that.

SEC Tournament: Runner-Up      NCAA Tournament: Runner-Up

Harrison’s freshman year was full of ups and downs, but he peaked during postseason play. Look at that split — he averaged nearly two more assists in the postseason than in the regular season. His passing ability led the Cats back to the title game, where they ultimately fell to UCONN. But the point still stands: This was a season with great tournament success in which the team’s point guard saw his assist numbers increase (à la Teague/Knight).

 

SEC Tournament: Champions      NCAA Tournament: Final Four

It felt necessary to include both the White and Blue platoon point guards in this discussion. Harrison’s assists dropped in the postseason, and Ulis’ stayed pretty consistent. I think this year could be chalked up as an anomaly of sorts, too, seeing as how many talented players were on the roster. I think it would be unfair to say the March Madness run was hindered because Harrison’s assists dropped, especially because I’ve been considering a Final Four appearance the mark of a successful season, but that notion does align with the trend we’ve seen.

 

SEC Tournament: Champions    NCAA Tournament: Round of 32

Ulis had an incredible sophomore season, but the lack of tournament success plays into our established narrative. Kentucky makes longer runs in March when its point guard scores lower numbers and dishes out a higher average of assists than in the regular season. We see here that Ulis hovered around the same assist mark, but exploded to average nearly 22 points. Yet, the Cats were bounced by the Hoosiers during the tourney’s opening weekend.

SEC Tournament: Champions     NCAA Tournament: Elite 8

Fox’s tournament scoring surge was phenomenal. He scored 28 against Alabama in the SEC Tourney semifinal and turned around to drop 39 on UCLA in the Sweet 16. However, his assist average was cut in half. Does the scoring surge make up for the lack of assists? I would be more inclined to say yes if I wasn’t aware of the trend we’ve discussed. Cats teams that have been led by prolific scoring point guards have yet to make a national championship game, and Fox’s year is a prime example of that.

SEC Tournament: Champions     NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16

Gilgeous-Alexander had an outstanding postseason; one so strong it helped him become a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Seeing a split like this, where both Gilgeous-Alexander’s points and assists increased mightily, could show that sometimes even the best performances don’t dictate postseason success. It is March, after all. We can try our best to know the future, and the past isn’t necessarily the worst place to start, but no one really can ever figure out March Madness.

SEC Tournament: TBD                   NCAA Tournament: TBD

So, that brings us to this season. I don’t think Hagans nor Quickley could be called prolific scorers, and they certainly are not yet on the same level as John Wall or De’Aaron Fox. Regardless, they have tons of potential this postseason. We’ve seen the numbers. Cal’s point guards that have been leading scorers have yet to lead one of his UK teams to the national title. What’s gotten a Kentucky team there is a point guard who looks for others first (Teague/Harrison), and values shot selection over shot quantity (Knight). Can that be Hagans or Quickley this year? If you ask me, they are set up to follow a similar path; it just comes down to execution.

We’ve seen the recipe for postseason success, and though I’ve made it seem that this is the only way to reach a Final Four, it isn’t. Maybe Hagans will average 15 points in the SEC Tournament. Maybe Quickley catches on fire and puts up 12 points per game throughout an NCAA Tourney run. The Cats will probably be dancing for a while if that’s the case, but we’ve seen similar performances fall short (Fox/Ulis).

The name of the championship game, at least for Cal’s Kentucky teams, has been a point guard upping his assist average. It’s up to Hagans and Quickley to deliver.


@ty_schadt


Trinity Wins the 2019 KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen

Trinity Wins the 2019 KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen

Ladies and Gentleman, your 2019 Whitaker Bank KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen Champions are the Trinity Shamrocks. They beat Scott County in a fantastic State final 50-40.

With the game tied at halftime, we were in store for a State championship classic. Trinity opened up the third quarter on a 7-0 run within the first two minutes, but their hot streak was short lived. After the 7-0 run, the Shamrocks went scoreless for the next eight minutes allowing Scott County to grab the momentum and jump out to a 33-29 lead in the fourth. After David Johnson hit a fadeaway to end Trinity’s cold spell, the Shamrocks turned this game on its head. Stan Turnier hit two three’s back to back to give Trinity a two-point lead, and from there Trinity took over.

David Johnson would hit a three right after this, followed by a Stan Turnier and-one that gave Trinity an eight-point lead to put this one to bed.

David Johnson was the man for Trinity. He pitched in a 22 point-12 rebound double-double and was five of seven from behind the arc, including this buzzer beater to tie the game at 22 to end the half.

He also had this NASTY block.


David Johnson was named MVP. It’s a shame to see him lose to Kentucky the next four years when he puts on the Louisville Cardinal uniform next year.

After Trinity was able to hold Scott County’s Michael Moreno to zero points in the first quarter, and just four points in the second, Moreno ended up going for a 12-point 12 rebound double-double in his final game as a Scott County Cardinal.

Glenn Covington, Michael Moreno, and Diablo Stewart of Scott County were selected to the all-tournament team. For Trinity, Jamil Stweart and Stan Turnier got the honor. As I mentioned earlier, David Johnson was MVP. (more…)