Because when I think Kentucky, I think steel.
One of the coolest parts about looking at the bracket each year, for me at least, is thinking about the random connections between different programs. When people thought that Kentucky might draw an 8 seeded Louisville in their region, the idea of another ‘dream game’ was born. Now with Kentucky running into Texas, another team that held the number one spot in a short stay, the storylines of fallen talent vs rising talent come into play. Regardless of who Kentucky actually goes up against each other, it’s always interesting to think about how teams match up outside the lines almost as much as they do on the court. I’m going to attempt to list the teams that have Kentucky connections here, and therefore give you a reason to root for/against them, but I’m sure I will miss out on some. Either way, here we go.
Rules of the game: The team must have a current head coach who either coached or played at Kentucky, a player who either played or committed to Kentucky (or was heavily recruited,) or have an outstanding circumstance.
-And I’m breaking the rules with the first team. As far as I see it, there is no true connection to Kansas, aside from the constant rivalry that has been brewed by this season. And the fact that Bill Self is reportedly great friends with ex-HC Billy Gillispie. Also of note, they are now the number two team in all time wins. Missed Connection: According to the comments section, apparently one of our older coaches came from there or something. Name was Rupp? Something like that. Sorry I missed it!
-One Derrick Jasper. After leaving Kentucky and sitting out last year, Jasper is back in the tournament averaging 7 points and 3 assists per game. We loved Jasper in Kentucky, and it’s regrettable that his stay was so short. We wish him the best at UNLV.
-Aside from obvious SEC connections, UT has to be included due to the Kentucky ties that inconsistent 2 guard Scotty Hopson has. He wasn’t heavily recruited by UK, though many wish he had been. Still, Scotty is from Hopkinsville Kentucky, so it is worth noting.
-One of the most bizarrely related-to-Kentucky teams, OK State is coached by former wildcat Travis Ford, who took over after another former wildcat Sean Sutton. They also utilize the services of Matt Pilgrim, who averages a little over 8 points and a little under 7 boards a game. Beast.
-Ohio State’s biggest Kentucky connection is the fact that Ohio the state is actually connected to Kentucky. Still, they are home to the Best-Player-In-America-Outside-Of-Kentucky in Evan Turner, as well as the Best-Bench-Warmer-In-America-Outside-Of-Kentucky Mark Titus.
-I have actually gone against the grain in my brackets, and picked Murray State to lose to Vanderbilt in their first game. Still, being from Paducah, I know for a fact that Murray State is located in Kentucky. While I don’t think they will be able to contain the terror that is Ogilvy, I would love to be wrong and watch the Racers finally make it to round two.
-It is somewhat of a shame that Tubby’s new team is located in the exact opposite quadrant of the bracket as Kentucky, because it would have been interesting to see the former Coach try and find a way to slow down a freshman Kentucky pointguard, after we watched him do such a masterful job against Rondo. Still, I rooted for him in the Big 10 tournament, and I will continue to root for the man that brought us number 7.
-Billy Donovan, the prodigal son. A former UK Assistant coach, twice in the past four years I could have sworn he would be our head coach. The first time he spurned us, I was disappointed. The second, I was relieved. This is Billy’s first trip back to the NCAA’s after his failed stint as an NBA coach, and unlike his last two trips, don’t expect him to make it past the first weekend.
-Coached by Rick “I have no interest in the Kentucky job, and they have no interest in me” Barnes, this Texas team is one that people thought would actually be good at the start of the season. The potential match up has the allure of a game we all wanted to see a few months ago, but in reality, could be a bit of a dud. Still, Jai Lucas plays for them, and if there is anything we know here at KSR, it’s Jai Lucas. I hear he’s a UCSB lean.
-Again, unless I’m mistaken, no super solid connection here. However, it was almost a year ago today that Konner Tucker committed to Kentucky to play point guard. Before the tournament was up, he had reopened his recruitment and ultimately landed at Wake Forrest where he averaged 2.2 points over 6 games, and transferred after his seventh.
-Matt’s favorite player Mark Coury, and Matt’s favorite joke Mark “everyday is senior day” Coury, both play for the Carnelian and White this season. The Coury Flurry’s averages are surprisingly similar to those he had last year, with 2.2 points and 2 boards per game. He is also a key reason to why Jay Bilas picked Cornell to upset Kentucky in the third round. Boogie says shame on you, Mr. Bilas.
-The connection to Duke goes without saying, so I’m not even going to bother. Except for this. Vote Matt Jones – Beat Duke.
-The most unsurprising Kentucky connection comes in at the 9 seed in the West Region. Louisville famously stole Kentucky’s former head coach, and continued to hold onto him while he aborted his chances to ever seem sane again. UL is one of the more difficult teams to predict, as some days they can look decent, while others they can look completely awful. In many ways, they are a true mirror of both their Head Coach Pitino, and their Point Guard Sosa.
-The connection is more of a one sided deal with A&M, as we stole their most recent head coach, but the connection is there all the same. Especially since he allegedly wanted to go back only days after realizing what he had gotten himself into at Kentucky (a story I’ve heard repeated many times, but the validity of which remains uncertain. Which means it’s probably not true.)
I have given the bracket a once over, and these are the connections that stuck out to me. Am I missing any glaring ones? Let me know in the comment section.