Uh oh. Can you feel it? It’s a day of celebration around here, my sweet KSR family, and it’s not just because this is the 200th anniversary of the French defeating British and keeping them from taking control of Grand Port. Nope, that party smell is because we’re all getting geared up for Matthew Harper Jones’ birthday tomorrow. Our fluffy haired leader is turning 32, which makes him twice the age of most of his Facebook friends and old enough to stop using “Magloire” in his email address. Whether you’ve been coming to this site for years or for just a few months, you’ve most certainly fallen in love with the face at the top of the page and, much to the frustration of your employer, spent far too much time wondering what a lawyer from Duke has to say about the Cats. Through Tubby, Gillispie and now Calipari, our good buddy has provided you with the best information that money can’t buy and dished it out with at least three to four buttons on his shirt open. What started as a little blog run by a lawyer and his buddies has turned into an internet force run by an ex-lawyer and a lot of people whose names he can’t pronounce properly. And, while most of that success is due to your support, let’s give a salute to El Capitan Jones on this beautiful Friday for all that he does (except for poking your girlfriend on Facebook). Matt, you’re a good dude and there’s no one I’d rather let rise to the top of the media world off of my hard work than you. Happy birthday, my friend (and blame BTI for not having a star-studded roast this year). May God have mercy on whoever sweeps the floor at Molly Malones. That place is going to be littered with Jones and Bruce business cards Sunday morning.
Now, onto some UK news…
(1) The big news of the day was the much anticipated release of the men’s basketball schedule for year two under John Calipari. Though it didn’t come with its own television special like last season, it included all the goodies that Cats fans were hoping for. Basically, it included the games. Here are some of the highlights (the entire thing is below).
– Without a doubt, the most intriguing scheduling decision was the placement of the rivalry game with Louisville on New Year’s Eve. The game, which will be UK’s first appearance in Tim Sypher and Rick Pitino’s house of conspiring, will have a noon start time and give fans a chance to watch the ball drop over and over and over again before getting home and toasting farewell to what has been an outstanding year in UK basketball.
– The schedule also gave reason to believe that the Cats will be on the national conscience early and often as they play six of their first nine games against major programs. The Cats will get a chance to make a move up the polls as they face nationally televised games against Oklahoma, likely Washington and Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Indiana in the season’s first four weeks. If you’re keeping track at home, that means the Cats have a chance to beat prominent teams from the nation’s five premier conferences by the second week of December. That’s a nice early statement to make.
– One of those non-high profile early games will be against Mississippi Valley State and their head coach Sean Woods, a former Wildcat. Unfortunatley for Woods, much like his last game as a Cat, there will likely be some stomping going on.
– Though already known to be an opponent thanks to the Big East-SEC matchup agreement, the Notre Dame game at Freedom Hall was announced to be taking place on December 8 at the late Freedom Hall. The Fighting Irish probably won’t be all that great this season, but you have to still be pumped about a game against a team that used to be a traditional rival and one that brought three early-season confidence boosting games in the early 2000s. I’ll miss watching Cliff Hawkins force Chris Thomas into horrible shooting, but it’s still a nice game on the schedule.
– What might end up being the toughest part of the schedule is the mid-season conference run that will see the Cats play on the road at Florida and Vandy and at home againt Tennessee in a seven-day period. After starting the conference with 5 games against conference bottom-feeders and two games against Georgia, UK is going to be tested by the three teams expected to give them a run for conference supremacy.
– You will get your chance to bid adieu to Jorts on Tuesday March 1 on UK senior night against Vanderbilt. I expect a triple double and a return of the denim uniforms in his honor.
– For the first time in maybe a decade (we need an intern to look this up) the Cats will not finish the year against Florida. This season’s final game will be on the road in Knoxville, officially signaling what the rest of the SEC has known for a few years now – Bruce Pearl and Tennessee have passed Billy Donovan and Florida as the conference’s other high-profile team. It will be senior night for Brian Williams and his new physique (brought to you by Hell’s Trainer) and Coach Pearl’s son, Stephen. Sounds like grounds for a slumber party at Thompson-Boling.
(2) We’ve mentioned this several times already, but given the significance and the remarkable change from this point last year, it’s only fair to again give props to Joker Phillips and his staff on their recruiting so far. His 2011 class is now 18 players (actually, 19, but more on that later) strong and it earned him some love from ESPN on Thursday, who now ranks UK’s 2011 class as the 25th best in the nation. Their still ranked 8th in the SEC, but the fact that they are not only making their presence felt with solid recruits, but also getting commits, proves again that Joker’s emphasis on recruiting and hiring coaches who are experienced in that area is paing off. Plus, it got his pretty little mug on ESPN’s recruiting site.
(3) Another sign of UK making working themselves into the national conversation came Thursday when ESPN’s Mel Kiper said that UK quarterback wide receiver kick returner football player Randall Cobb was one of the best players in the country. Because of his versatility (which Kiper also highlighted) and the way he moves all over the field, he’ll likely never put up the type of numbers that make your jaw drop. However, his value to his team is on par with any player in the country. And, in typical Cobb fashion, he celebrated on Twitter by sending Kiper a message that read “Thanks for the love. Humbled.”
(4) As far as the actual football on the field goes, the Cats again took to the practice field on Thursday, with one special guest on hand. Former coach Rich Brooks stopped by practice to watch and meet with the team, who he wished good luck and told them that they have a chance to be a part of history. According to Joker, Brooks told the team to “take it to the next level”. I take that to mean that 11 wins are doable this season. Also, Qua Huzzie, DeQuin Evans and the star of my Playstation dynasty, LaRod King, returned to practice from injuries.
(5) In case you missed it earlier, the Cats got more good news when it was reported that three-star linebacker Tim Patterson would grayshirt and report to the team in January. Patterson won his appeal with the NCAA regarding his eligibility and will have four years remaining when he makes his way to campus. Besides the obvious improvement the team will get from his addition, getting Patterson in uniform can only help Joker and his staff as they try to continue to dominate the Jefferson County recruiting. It’s an area where the battle is going to be nasty in the coming years between the Cats and Charlie Strong and getting Patterson on the field and producing can only help UK continue to own the area.
(6) Finally, a shoutout is in order to former Cat and current Packer Tim Masthay, who booted his only punt 45 yards (and 5 seconds of hang time) against the Colts. Colts returner Brandon James bobbled it at the 8-yard line and the Packers recovered it for a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead. The Packers, thanks to the Masthay momentum and nothing else, would go on to win 59-24. With one kick, Masthay has likely taken the lead in his battle with Australian Chris Bryan. In other NFL news, Keenan Burton had 4 catches for 27 yards in the Rams win over the Patriots. Myron Pryor had four tackles for the losing team.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned to KSR throughout the day for all of the ridiculous UK basketball and football news your big blue brain can handle. In the meantime, check out the Kentucky Sports Radio podcasts below featuring Chip Cosby talking football and Andy Katz declaring Murray State the second-best basketball team in the state. It’s going to be a fun day. Make sure you stick around. See you in a few…