Today is Martin Luther King Day and while that would normally be enough to render him the top spot on the News and Views, he comes up short today thanks to the UK Cheerleading team’s 17th National Championship win. On Sunday, before an audience filled with perky people and the men who love them, the Cheerleading Cats took home their 17th national championship and showcased once again why Kentucky is the top collegiate cheerleading program in the land. The Cats beat out Alabama for first place and now continue their amazing run of national titles. If you consider cheerleading a sport (and after much brow-beating over the years by various girls, I now have consented), then UK’s cheerleading team is its most successful recent program and the title ensures yet another year of cheerleading royalty. The young men and women will be given their title at the UK-Auburn game on Wednesday night.
To the news…..
(1): The Cats picked up a big win in Athens on Sunday and remain in a tie for first place in the SEC. The Cats are still waiting to see if they will be ranked, but whether they end up in the Top 25 or not, they have shown that they are one of the top 20 or so teams in the nation. With the defense that Kentucky is able to play and arguably the best 1-2 duo in all of college basketball, Kentucky is now firmly back on the college basketball radar. And with the SEC down this year, Kentucky has a chance to put up a gaudy SEC record and potentially set themselves up to make noise in the NCAA Tournament. Think for a second if the Cats could finish out conference play at 14-2 or 13-3 (not an impossible task at all). The Cats would likely end up a 3-5 seed and have the potential to get a good draw and make March noise. It is crucial for Kentucky to continue to hold serve at home, and continue to steal games on the road. Either way, no one could have planned for a better start for the Cats, with an average margin of victory in SEC games of 17 points.
(2): There was not a lot of fallout from the game in Athens but after speaking with someone close to the program, I was told that Gillispie thinks this is the best performance of the year so far. His reasoning was likely the stellar defense played by the Cats (folks chirping about open three pointers, you might look at who was taking them and realize that it could be who UK wanted to have those shots) and the better ball movement on the offensive end. Specifically, Gillispie was most pleased with the passing of Jodie Meeks who did not focus entirely on his new-found scoring celebrity and instead helped get others involved. While the Cats still dont have the magical third scorer, Perry Stevenson showed more offensive flair and could end up being the closest thing UK has to a successor in that role.
(3): While watching the Georgia game, I couldnt help but remember the name Chris Barnes and UK’s recruiting battles for him. Barnes is a perfect example of how little most everyone that follows recruiting truly knows. I distinctly remember when Barnes was being recruited by Tubby Smith and the Cats had yet to hear a decision from Patrick Patterson. MANY folks on the message boards and a couple of recruiting gurus were suggesting that UK should just ditch the late-deciding Patterson and get Barnes, who clearly was interested at some points in coming to UK. But the Cats backed off, Georgia and Wichita State showed “more love” and he ended up being a Bulldog. When that decision was made, Smith was criticized for not getting the commitment and UK was risking too much in waiting on Patterson. In the end, it of course worked out, as Patterson is Patterson and Barnes is….well Barnes. A similar thought came to my mind when I saw Olek Czyz sitting the bench for Duke the other day and the scuttlebutt that he is a likely transfer. As Garth Brooks used to say, sometimes in recruiting, as in life, the best result is an unanswered prayer.
(4): On the football side of things, the Cats need for a running back may be on the road to fulfillment with the pending decision by Donald Russell from Florida. Russell has been a late riser on the recruiting scene and Rob reported earlier in the week that he is leaning heavily to Kentucky. TCP reports tonight that the other major school for his services is Southern Miss, but that the Cats are the likely leader due to the chance to play in the SEC and immediate playing time. The Cats DESPERATELY need help at the position and Russell is a key part of the projected class. Rob Gidel is going to be anchoring our football recruiting coverage from now until Signing Day, so stay tuned as he gives all the news that is fit to print.
It is a holiday, but we are still working it around here over the next 24 hours. We will look at what happened in the SEC, some famous basketball announcer anecdotes and more, so stay tuned……