Whose man is that????!!!
As you read these Friday News and Views, Cody Zeller should be somewhere on the side of I-74, walking back to Bloomington from Champagne, Illinois. Zeller made a bonehead move with less than a second left against Illinois that cost his No. 1 Indiana team the game. The Illini trailed by double-digits through most of the second half and needed a 13-2 run in the final three minutes to pull off the upset, but no one is talking about the late run. It’s all about Cody Zeller and the nap he took on the game’s final play.
With 0.9 seconds to go in the game and Illinois inbounding from the corner, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey set a screen and then slipped towards the basket, unbeknownst to Cody Zeller, for a wide open layup at the buzzer. Zeller and Christian Watford made no attempt to communicate on the play; no “SCREEN! SCREEN! SCREEN!” or “SWITCH!” was uttered as Griffey scored the easiest game-winner in basketball history. It’s like Illinois was playing 5-on-4. The paint was left WIDE open.
The worst part of the play, at least for Zeller, is that he once vowed to not have a “Tyler moment.” As our good buddy Rob Dauster at CollegeBasketballTalk wrote back in October, Zeller remembered his older brother Tyler’s poor defense on Austin Rivers for a game-winner last season and he promised to not let it happen to him during Indiana’s NCAA tournament game against VCU. Well, it didn’t happen against VCU, but it happened Thursday night against Illinois. And his was even worse.
Too bad Indiana fans are too caught up in Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater to even notice their own heartbreaking defeat. They’re still printing popcorn boxes and t-shirts from last season.
We’ll lead off with some news that has me very excited for NBA All-Star weekend for the first time since the Vince Carter days. It was announced Thursday evening that Eric Bledsoe will be a participant in the 2013 NBA Dunk Contest. The high-flying Bledsoe will be going up against defending champion and former Western Kentucky Hilltopper, Jeremy Evans; former Morehead State forward and 2011 Kentucky Sportsman of the Year, Kenneth Faried; Indiana Pacers’ Gerald Green; James White of the New York Knicks; and Terrence Ross, who almost convinced Terrence Jones to go to Washington because Calipari didn’t have a spot for him too. This year’s winner will be determined by fan vote, so Bledsoe is the early favorite to win the Sprite crown, thanks to you people in Big Blue Nation. Glad to see Bledsoe finally getting the attention he deserves.
Continuing with the NBA All-Star weekend theme, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley picked their squads for the Rising Stars game on Thursday. Anthony Davis went to Team Chuck with the second pick in the draft after Shaq selected Damian Lillard first overall. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Brandon Knight were picked back-to-back in the seventh spot for each team, therefore it’ll be Davis and Knight coached by Charles Barkley versus Kidd-Gilchrist coached by Shaq. Kenneth Faried will be in the paint with Davis for Team Chuck, which is sure to be a highly entertaining frontcourt. Tell your team to guard the lob, Shaq.
Knight will also compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge against Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets. I gotta be honest, I was pretty pissed off when I saw the list of competitors and I wasn’t included, but then I found out it’s for basketball skills, not Taco Bell skills.
We all had the pleasure of reading a new Pete Thamel article on Thursday, this time about one of our hopeful additions to Calipari’s roster, Andrew Wiggins. Thamel wrote a lengthy piece about the high school phenom — no word on whether or not he knocked on doors in Canada beforehand — and went as far as to say Wiggins is a Florida State lean because he wants a low key college experience. Many believe Wiggins is a Florida State lean, but hearing it from Pete Thamel gives hope to Kentucky fans because, well, Thamel is always wrong. We’re talking about the guy who got the ball rolling with the Manti Te’o love story here. He has the credibility of Rick Pitino leading a marriage counseling seminar.
Not long after Thamel’s story came out, Andrew Wiggins pulled out his Twitter device and tweeted, “Don’t believe everything you hear, don’t believe everything you read!!” But, apparently, that wasn’t enough to voice his frustration with Thamel’s work. He took it all out on the basketball court Thursday night when he went off for 57 points on 24-of-28 shooting. That’s called efficiency, folks.
Wiggins wasn’t the only one of our favorite high school players to have a big night, James Young also posted big numbers on Thursday. Young, fresh off his viral YouTube video, scored 43 points with 22 rebounds and seven assists in his team’s win over Rochester. Young had 23 points to Rochester’s 20 at halftime. He had 37 after three quarters.
UCLA is playing Washington at home right now and there can’t be more than 34 people in attendance. Enjoy that, Shabazz.
Boone’s Butcher Shop’s Fun College Basketball Fact Of The Night: Indiana is the fifth No. 1 team to lose in five weeks. No one can hang on to that top spot.
Missouri lost to Texas A&M in a close one. #SEC
Mark Stoops got some bad news on Thursday when Tevin Lawson canceled his official visit to Lexington this weekend to visit Louisiana Tech. Lawson seemed like a lock to be one of the late additions to Kentucky’s 2013 class, but now it looks like he’ll stick around Louisiana for college. That was the only concern with getting him to sign with UK; Mama wanted to keep him close to home. It looks like Mama is going to win this one.
Even with Lawson canceling his trip, Stoops and his staff still have a huge weekend ahead of them for 2014 recruiting. It’s Junior Day at Kentucky and the UK coaches have quite the lineup of recruits scheduled to visit. A lot of the guys they’re bringing in this week, and there are a lot of them, will end up being four and five star recruits when the complete rankings roll out. It makes you wonder if Vince Marrow meant business when he said, “We’ve already got some of the top 10 guys on board that want to come now. So it’s going to be a good thing.” Sounds like Kentucky is already off to a great start for next year’s class.
If you have a minute or two, you should read this article on Marquis Estill over at CoachCal.com. Estill is in his first season as an undergraduate student assistant on Calipari’s staff and he hasn’t been shy on the bench. I’m sure you’ve seen him celebrating on the sideline or pumping the team up in the Cat Walk, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did before every game last season. His energy and enthusiasm is great for this team that lacks energy and enthusiasm.
We have a big radio show planned for Friday morning as the 1978 National Championship team will join Matt on the air. Plus, we have a field political assignment for Drew The Employee. It’s going to be a good one.