Anyone who knows me knows that tonight was one of my favorite moments of the year. Even at the ripe old age of 28, I still get WAYYY too excited for the announcement of the brackets every year. Inevitably the moment the brackets come out finds me on the way home from the SEC Tournament, where I either stop at a local restaurant or tune my radio into a station (occasionally having to tolerate Doug Gottlieb) to hear the elusive 5-12 matchups. The luckiest man when this year’s announcement was made may have been Stan Heath of Arkansas, who entered the SEC Tournament with his coaching seat officially hot, and left it in the NCAA Tournament (surprisingly) and with a draw that could see a potential Sweet 16 run. Look I love the SEC as much as the next guy, but Arkansas’ record did not make them tournament worthy. Syracuse, Drexel and Florida St (who seems to be the last team out every year) are all more respectable and the Hogs should thank their lucky pig sooey for this opportunity.
Now onto the news….
(1) I like the matchup that Kentucky received versus Villanova. Kentucky is strong where Villanova is strong, at the guard position, and the Cats are not a team that scores bucket loads of points, which always makes things difficult for this team. There are two traits that every team that gives UK fits has…..they have to shoot threes well and have super athletes who can punish people off the dribble. Nova certainly has the first but is not loaded at the second. Plus, they really have no answer for Randolph Morris, as their tallest starter is 6’8″. Reynolds is a great Freshman point guard and you gotta love little Mike the shooter, but Curtis Sumpter’s injury has always hindered this team and left them a bit behind where they should be. To me, this game comes down to Morris and whether he can (a) stay in the game and (b) punish the Nova team’s inside weakness. While I am not ready to predict a victory yet, I like the matchup. As for Kansas in the second round…..eh, not so much….but we have the week for that. We will be previewing EVERY first round matchup here this week, so watch for it.
(2) When I look through the brackets, I must say that there are some early upsets that jump out. I like the possibility of Oral Roberts over a vastly overrated Washington State team and while I wont predict a victory, watch out for Texas A&M CC over Wisconsin. Both of these games feature slow down teams playing teams that can really put points on the board. If the underdogs can get out early, they may be able to ride their explosiveness to mis-matched victories. I will pick the former, but just remember the latter.
And as for local rivals, I like Indiana over Gonzaga in the first round, but then losing to UCLA (is this last year’s bracket all over again?) Tennessee has the opportunity to make a run if they get past a similar Long Beach State team. Bruce Pearl has to like this matchup as the West Coast team does not have the patience often needed to take out the Vols. With an overrated Virginia team waiting after that and a potential matchup with Ohio State in the Sweet 16, Tenn is a team to be watched. As for the Cards, the Ville got no favors with the early matchup. Size bothers UL and the Lopez twins are AMAZING, especially Brook. But in the second round, to get to play Texas A&M in Lexington…..well Pitino must have been a good church attender in recent years.
(3) Ok, how about some recruiting? Well lets begin with Jai Lucas who I briefly spoke with this evening. He told me that rumors that he has decided against UK are incorrect and that the Cats are still right there. But he did say that he is paying attention to the Tubby talk. “Its all over the media now, so you cant help but listen to it,” Lucas said. Jai said that he was waiting until he knows for sure Tubby’s status before he makes a decision. “If he comes back, nothing with Kentucky has changed. If he doesnt, then it has changes completely,” said Lucas. Bottom line from my viewpoint. Jai’s status is tied with Tubby’s. If Smith returns, I think Lucas is likely a Cat. If he doesnt, or Jai believes his status is too fragile, he goes elsewhere (maybe Oklahoma?).
(4) Lots of good vibes coming from Huntington on Patrick Patterson. Tubby was there last week to watch Patrick play in a playoff game and most of the chatter has been that the family really wants to see Pat at Kentucky. There are a lot of different things playing into this recruitment, and like with Lucas, it hinges on Tubby being in Lexington next year. The Pattersons have been told Tubby is coming back, but like with Jai, everyone is waiting to see for sure. I still think Patrick leans towards the Gators, but the family is a big UK lean. What will happen? This one is going down the stretch folks…..Patrick will wait and see the makeup of both programs before making a decision. Folks asked me at the SEC often what I thought of this one and I will say the same thing I told everyone there…..I honestly have no idea…..and I am not sure anyone else does either.
(5) It was a great time at the SEC Tournament and I thank all the fans who came up and said hello during the week. We met some great people and folks said nice things about this blog. I sensed a lot of Tubby discontent, but also a lot of support…..emblematic of the split in the fanbase. I think the internet tends to be a little more anti-Tubby than the fanbase at the tournament, but that is an admittedly unscientific poll. As we get ready for the best weekend in sports, it is time to play the KENTUCKY SPORTS RADIO BRACKET CHALLENGE. To play, click on the link below and you can go against the whole KSR crew, and the winner will get tickets to a UK home game next year courtesy of Qdoba. Fill out your brackets before Thursday by clicking on the link below….
The name of the league is “Kentucky Sports Radio” and the password is “Tomlin”…..sign up now….
Look for more tomorrow as we officially break some brackets!