Barring leprechaun magic, the Alabama Crimson Tide will win its second straight National Championship. The real winner? Tide QB A.J. McCarron. Not only did McCarron become the only quarterback in the BCS era to win back-to-back titles for his team, but he gets to go home with the lovely two ladies pictured above. As the game spiraled out of control, more and more of the talk was direction towards the women of A.J.’s life. Prior to the game, his mother stole the spotlight with her love of plunging satin gowns, but Monday night belonged to Katherine Webb, A.J.’s girlfriend. Webb, a former Miss Alabama and Auburn fan, mesmerized viewers and Brent Musburger alike, sending the latter into several long, creepy raves that still have me smdreads.
Congratulations, Alabama. You made Notre Dame look like Rudy without the comeback story and redeemed the SEC in the process. Manti TeÊ»o: Sorry, but hey…you’re from Hawaii. It can’t all be bad. To the millions of Tide and Irish fans across the nation, please take some Advil and drink a big glass of water before you pass out. You’ll thank me later.
But most of all, congratulations A.J. McCarron. You are officially the luckiest man in the world. Don’t rub it in by going to Disneyworld.
Now, on to the news of the day…
— The first SEC Coaches’ Teleconference of the season happened Monday morning, and I “participated” for the first time. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (would Frank Martin sound as “intense” on the phone? Yes.), but there were a few newsworthy items to pass along. Cal brushed off a question about the Vandy game being a rematch of the SEC Championship game, saying “the guys I’m coaching may not even know that game happened, to be honest with you.” Regardless, Cal said that all three games against Vandy last season were “wars” and the only thing he’s worrying about right now is being the “best team in the gym we’re playing in.”
— What about Alex Poythress? Cal said that by working him out individually, the staff is trying to get more exertion and more effort from Alex, who they hope will begin to push through his comfort levels. Echoing what he said during his press conference last week, Cal said that if Alex were a normal freshman at a normal university, these problems wouldn’t exist, but since he’s at Kentucky, “this stuff’s on warp speed and you’re held to a different standard as a player.” Even averaging almost a double-double isn’t good enough at Kentucky, because “it’s not his best.” I can imagine Cal in his office now, telling Poythress, “Alex, right now you’re pooping Kroger-brand vanilla bean. I know you’re Orange Leaf quality, baby.”
— Cal’s most interesting comments were about Ryan Harrow, who he said has earned the team’s trust in recent weeks: “He’s spending a lot of time around his teammates. In practice, he’s one of our hardest workers now. He’s got a great attitude.” Even when Harrow’s sessions with Cal and Archie are over, he will stay in the gym afterwards to cheer his teammates on. Judging by Cal’s comments, Harrow’s biggest problem was communicating with his teammates, which he has pushed through, becoming someone they can rely on: “They gotta know you’re for them. Then they’ll follow. Then you can lead.”
Cal said that Harrow had a great practice on Sunday and is finally at the point Cal expected him to be at the beginning of the season. Where does he go from here? “Why not try to be the best point guard in the country? Why not?”
— For his part, Kevin Stallings held it together and managed not to cry during his portion of the teleconference. Stallings said that while Kentucky isn’t the same team that won the National Championship last season, “they’re always good. It doesn’t matter who is in the uniforms.” Stallings called the Cats “a typical Kentucky team: long, athletic, fast.” And hopefully immune to Memorial Magic, or what’s left of it after Butler beat the ‘Dores at home back on December 29th.
— The rest of the coaches mainly dodged around the fact that the SEC is pretty terrible right now, with only two teams in the Top 25. Kevin Stallings called the SEC’s non-conference dip “cyclical,” while Frank Martin blamed the one-and-done system for teams not finding their footing so far this season (Martin made up for this by tossing out an awesome Joey Tribbiani-esque “How you doin'” to a reporter later on). Many coaches complained that the new 18-game SEC schedule wasn’t fair and Georgia’s Mark Fox proposed a 26-game schedule that would allow every team to play each other twice. After Jerry Tipton asked more about it, Fox quipped “your readers are never going to go for that. And I know John (Calipari) wouldn’t.” Because you’d really like to play Kentucky twice? Come on, Mark.
— Speaking of the good doctor, Cal asked “Jerry,” a caller on his call-in show Monday night if he was “Jerry or Not Jerry?”. NJT FTW.
— We also found out that Bobby Knight will be doing color commentary for Thursday night’s UK/Vandy game, so get your mute buttons ready. Or, have some fun and drink every time Bobby says the word “Kentucky.” I know he probably will.
— On Sunday night, Cal wrote a post on his website asking fans to temper their expectations for the 2013 recruiting class. Many have called the class “the best ever,” including Dave Telep, who said on Monday that it’s time to “talk about it in the same breath as Michigan’s vaunted Fab Five.” Cal urged fans to ignore the hype surrounding the class, which he says is meaningless without dedication and teamwork. Whatever, just Cal being Cal, right? Wrong, says ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, who took major issue with Cal’s comments:
Calipari can’t have it both ways. The hype is an inherent component in the culture of college basketball in the 21st Century. Kentucky knows that. Calipari knows that.
He knew that when he pursued multiple kids who are projected lottery picks in 2014.
Pressure should be expected. Labels such as “greatest ever” speak to the anticipation that’s sparked whenever a college basketball program attracts multiple five-star talents. It’s the norm for Calipari.
His essay on his next class, however, conveys a foolish sense of naivety about the origins of the buzz, and it shifts blame.
I see both sides. Medcalf is right: Cal knows how the system works by now. He’s mastered it. But part of mastering it is managing the fan base, which is uniquely irrational when it comes to expectations. Because this season’s squad has been slower to come together than most, Cal is learning a lot about the psyches of his players and the fans. He not being hypocritical about the process, but rather protective of the guys he’s bringing into the fishbowl lifestyle. Kentucky isn’t for everyone, something we’ve only come to truly understand recently.
— About that epic recruiting class (sorry Cal, I can’t help it): Andrew Wiggins’ head coach Rob Fulford said that those rumors that Wiggins was favoring Florida State are “pure speculation” and that Andrew’s not talking to anyone about his decision. I still like you, Evan Daniels.
— UK Football received two doses of bad news on Monday. First, 4-star JuCo DT Ben Bradley committed to Auburn over Kentucky. Bradley was set to announce his decision via Twitter at 11 a.m. Monday, but delayed his decision several hours before settling on the Tigers. Bradley’s decision was disappointing, but the fact that Stoops and staff were able to swoop in at the last minute and make Kentucky a legitimate contender bodes well for future recruiting battles.
— More unfortunate news came Monday afternoon, when we learned the UK freshman offensive tackle TJ Jones was arrested over the weekend for an incident over Christmas break in Myrtle Beach, his hometown. He is facing charges for carrying a gun on school property. The details are shady, but the “possible incident that occurred in the locker room” wasn’t reported until three days after it allegedly happened. Mark Stoops is currently in Nashville attending the AFCA coaching convention and will deal with the matter once he returns to Lexington later this week. As of now, Jones is still on the team.
— Bad news comes in threes, right? Josh Harrellson was waived by the Miami Heat on Monday as the defending NBA champs look to shake up their roster. Jorts was seldom used by the Heat this season, but has flourished in Miami, undergoing what he calls a “total transformation,” shedding 32 pounds and eight percent body fat. All is not lost for Jorts: the Heat can sign Harrellson (or fellow waived player Terrel Harris) to two 10-day contracts without having to make a season-long commitment. It would be a shame for Josh to have to put all those jorts into storage if he had to move to a colder climate…
— If you chose to watch the Celtics/Knicks game Monday night over the BCS National Championship Game (and “The Bachelor”) and wondered why you didn’t see Rajon Rondo, it’s because he was suspended one game for bumping an official Saturday against the Hawks and failing to cooperate with a league investigation. This is the second time in his career he’s been suspended for bumping an official, with the first incident coming against the Hawks last May. On a happier Rondo note, he now has 25 career triple-doubles (h/t @arcphoto).
— Are you coming to the Kentucky/Vandy game in Nashville on Thursday? If so, would you like a place to congregate with fellow Cats fans? The Nashville UK Alumni Association is hosting a pregame happy hour and watch party at CORNER PUB MIDTOWN (2000 Broadway) starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday. It will be the place to get ready for the game and hopefully, celebrate afterwards. In addition to great drink specials ($2.50 domestic drafts, 1/2 price wells and $2 Dodo Bird shots, whatever those are), Corner Pub will also be giving away two seats to the game at 7:00 p.m. CT for those who arrive early and get a raffle ticket. Last year’s UK/Vandy game in Nashville gave us Helmet Guy…how do we top that?
— Finally, “Justified” starts back up Tuesday night, so if you’re not caught up yet, call in sick. What would Raylan do? (If you answered “shoot somebody,” “drink” or “womanize,” advance two spaces.)
See you in the morning…