There are two still two subjects for which I am unabashedly a total mark …pro wrestling and the people that I liked as a kid. When it comes to wrestling, I can sit and talk (as those of you who listened to the radio show last Friday can attest) about wrestling with anyone at any time (usually it is only men who are interested) and when it comes to my childhood heroes, I will take up for them to anyone at any time. Thus I will freely admit that I am a huge fan of Dick Vitale in every regard. Yes, he can be over the top. Yes, he loves Duke and Coach K a little too much. Yes, it can be annoying that he will talk incessantly about other teams and topics while doing a game with your team playing. But he is the greatest ambassador college basketball has ever had and is the biggest star in the sport. This was only made even clearer for me on Saturday as I watched Vitale work the crowd in Rupp Arena. For nearly a half hour before the game. Vitale went to the student section, took pictures with the fans, jumped on top of the big guy in the front row with the fro and beard and patiently and politely stood and interacted with a hustle of fans who simply wanted to shake his hand. I talked to Vitale for about 20 seconds and he told me he read the site and hated BTI (well maybe not the last part), and he then proceeded to have similar conversations with everyone else that approached, seeking to have some common ground with each. It is clear that in person he is as generous as he is off the court, where his ability to raise money for various charities is legendary. I know he can make you want to hit the mute button on your remote, but the reality is that college basketball is better because of Dickie V and his ability to help lead it to prominence on ESPN. And if you ever meet him, tell him you are a UK fan…he will hug you, say he loves Calipari and probably mention Richie Farmer.
To the news…..
— While most of the weekend revolved around basketball, football took center stage just before the game on Saturday. When Larry Vaught tweeted out that sources were telling him Randy Shannon would become the UK Defensive Coordinator, a buzz went through Rupp Arena. Many people came up to me to ask what I had heard and there was a notion that UK football could get some positive momentum. But then folks from around the program quickly made a lot of us aware that it was untrue and the hiring of Rick Minter became accepted. Unfortunately for Joker Phillips, the incorrect information on Shannon got a lot of people in Big Blue Nation’s hopes up and the Minter news was then seen as a huge let down. Then after today’s news that Guy Malzahan, Auburn’s great OC, has been hired (and paid well) by Vandy, the malaise around the football program became worse. None of us know what kind of Defensive Coordinator Rick Nuclear Minter will be, but unfortunately the hire got off to a bad start with the original release of the “buzzworthy” Shannon name on Thursday and then the premature celebration that began on Saturday.
— The decision to suspend Hartline was the right one. The public intoxication charge should carry a one-game suspension and unfortunately for Mike, there is only one game left in his career. He cant travel with the team and now has the opportunity to practice with the guys, but not be there for his last game. MY hope is that Mike tries to make a positive out of a negative and sticks with the team over the next month. It is a little thing, but would have a positive effect on his legacy, which unfortunately took a hit on Friday night.
— As far as basketball, the IU game was closer than we wanted, but still showed some positive signs. It may have been the most complete game we have seen from Brandon Knight, who played well on both ends, only had one turnover and made the smart pass on many occasions. With Terrence Jones out of commission on the floor (he should have DOMINATED that Indiana front line), Knight made sure that the Cats could still win, something that hadnt happened against a good team when either he or Jones played poorly. His most impressive statistic may have been his 10-10 from the line, as with his driving style, he will go to the line a great deal. Finishing just those Free Throws can have a dramatic effect on the game for his team.
— Jorts got it done once again, this time with 14 points and 12 rebounds that added up to potentially his best game as a Cat. Everything Josh does is better…he is in MUCH better shape and I kidded with him before the game and asked if he gotten “the anorexic” to get so skinny. He finished well around the rim, had his first free throws of the year and most importantly, generally stayed out of foul trouble. If Jorts plays like that, he turns a negative position into a positive one. And for those who debate whether he should be called Jorts, I asked Harrellson before the game if he still liked it and he said yes, adding that he hoped the students wear denim for Senior Day…get it done folks.
— Finally, Deandre Daniels was on campus and had a good visit. The 2011 5 star was there for the IU game and in town with the team on Friday night. His dad raved about his visit tonight, but the question on everyone’s mind is whether Daniels might enroll early and join a team in January. According to the rules, Daniels could commit to a team now, be eligible second semester and play for any school right away. He has expressed an interest in joining a team early and enrolling in January, but it isnt clear if he will play for a team if he does that. I am told that he really likes Kansas and a couple of other schools, but that if UK ends up the pick, he will seriously consider playing THIS year. It is still a longshot, but one cant help but be giddy at the notion that a kid could add such depth to a team that desperately needs it at this point. IF (and its a big IF), he is going to come to UK AND play this year, we will probably know within the next few days.
— On Enes, I dont know when it will happen. We were told 14 days or so….and that was nine days ago. Maybe by Friday?
We will have more all day….Mark Krebs does the double-duty tomorrow by appearing on radio with me in the morning and breaking down the games on tv that night. Check it out and stay tuned for more later…