Good morning, my friends. It is upon us. In just a few hours, our beloved Kentucky Wildcats will lace ’em up and do battle with the champions in the Ivy League and kick off the thirteenth season of our favorite television program, “The Quest For Eight”. Thanks to a six-game flurry to end the season, optimism seems to be abundant and the big names are getting on board. Just this week, Stewart Mandel, Bob Ryan, Josh Hopkins and Tracy McGrady all threw their support behind the Cats. A new name entered the mix Wednesday, though, as Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez stopped by UK’s practice. Rodriguez’s appearance was a surprise to Coach Cal, who Tweeted out afterward that he didn’t know he was there and didn’t get to speak with him. The man who ruined baseball (my words, not Cal’s) is famously known as a Duke fan, so his stop at Kentucky’s practice seemed a bit strange. But, if you’ve seen pictures of his ex-wife, you know all too well why he was there. He has a crush on Jarrod Polson. It’s not really my style and it may not be yours, but he’s another big name to associate with the ever-expanding brand of Kentucky basketball and, for that alone, we’ll give him a shoutout this morning. Here’s to you, Alex Rodriguez. May your fanhood finally come around to the good side and may your baseball club suffer immeasurable misery this season. And may you leave our sweet little Jarrod alone.
Now onto a few UK notes…
– As Kentucky gets set to kick off their quest for a national championship, the frustration with where they were seeded seems to be subsiding. If you listen to the team, though, it was never really an issue. Darius Miller said Wednesday that the Cats got over it the same day and that they weren’t concerned with where they were seeded, only beating the teams that they’ll face. It sounded like an echo to the sentiment that Coach Cal shared earlier in the week and reiterated in Tampa. Privately, though, you have to believe that the Cats are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder and, to be honest, that’s not necessarily anything new. Kentucky has displayed a bit of a mean streak in the last six games and rose from looking at an SEC Tournament bye from the outside to a convincing winner of the conference tournament. The seeding might not be the reason for them to play hungry and angry, but it’s very likely another reason to do so. Coach Cal has been successful at his previous stops in playing up the “underdog” card and the opportunity to do that at a program like Kentucky will likely be few and far between. This is one such instance. They can say all the right things publicly, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t challenging them to show how wrong the committee was for disrespecting them.
– There was a little bit of good news Wednesday night for those of you who were still concerned a bit about Doron Lamb’s ankle. Lamb said he’s 90-95% and should be ready to play against Princeton Thursday. Though you wouldn’t know it from the open practice, where I spent more time running in the stands after Baby Boogie than any of the players did on the court, Lamb said he can jump and make moves with no problem and practiced without even having it wrapped. Get your goggles ready.
– One interesting note from Coach Cal’s time with the media Wednesday morning was his acknowledgement that the team has not watched any film on Princeton. That’s the normal routine for the Cats, who will see some video during the pre-game meal, and Cal has mentioned it before, but it’s still an interesting approach. The Cats don’t even get a scouting report. Instead of film, the players go over a few sets in practice, but spend the majority of the time focusing on practicing what Calipari wants them to be doing in the games. According to the coach, he’s only worried about his team. It’s an approach that seems to work, but does offer the somewhat amusing responses of “I haven’t got to see too much of them, so I don’t know” (Darius Miller) and “I really don’t know much about them, but they’ve got to be pretty good to win their league and be in the NCAA Tournament” (Josh Harrellson).
– In case you missed it earlier, the world was shocked by the news that Enes Kanter cries sometimes. In his defense, it’s only when the Cats play, which is understandable considering the circumstances (I cry when I think about it too). Look at what you’ve done, Mark Emmert. I hope you’re happy.
– With all of the fun getting going in Tampa, the exact opposite seems to be going down in Knoxville where Bruce Pearl now appears to be on the way out after Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he didn’t know if Pearl would be the coach next year and that the decision would be made after the season ends. He hinted that the school might not wait until they go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in June. The apparent 180 on Pearl’s situation seems to imply the worst is a very real possibility for the current Tennessee coach and, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Pearl said he was caught off guard by Hamilton’s comments but did not want to discuss it. BRING BILLY GILLISPIE TO TENNESSEE!
– Or not. Months of rumors regardin Clyde possibly heading to Lubbock took a step toward becoming a reality Wednesday when Texas Tech officials confirmed that Gillispie and Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt met in Florida to discuss the job. Reports say that the meeting went very well and most expect Clyde to get the nod. No official announcement will be made until next week.
That’s it for now. Make sure you stick around all day as we finish your cram session for Princeton and then Live Blog at 2:15. This is the start of something very beautiful. Let’s do it together. See you in a few…