It was a sad day in UK land today with the passing of two UK legends, Ralph Beard and Tommy Kron. Both men were members of the most beloved UK teams of all time and both men left an indelible imprint on the Kentucky basketball program. Some have said that Ralph Beard began the tradition of Kentucky basketball as he was the first star player on the first widely known college basketball team. Bobby Knight once said that Ralph Beard was “the Michael Jordan of his day” and his resume showcases that fact. First team All American three times, two NCAA titles, one NIT title and an Olympic gold medal. Simply put, he was one of the best to ever put on a UK uniform. And Tommy Kron played for one of the most important teams in UK history, the 1966 Rupps’ Runts. He was a great shooter and ball handler and will be remembered for his fiery role on that legendary team. Both men passed away here in Louisville, leaving their mark on Kentucky basketball program forever. One of the great things about UK basketball is the way it honors its tradition. I hope all UK fans take a minute today to learn more about these two men and celebrate their lives. Kentucky basketball is special because of guys like Beard and Kron. They will be missed.
To the news…..
(1) This weekend marks the beginning of “Find out what this UK basketball team is made of time in the state. The Cats play #2 ranked UNC and if a random sampling of the fanbase that I took today is any indication, most folks think the Cats are headed for a blowout loss. But if you talk to the players, you get a different indication. Patrick Patterson spoke about how the players have been looking to this game since the schedule came out as a chance to prove a point and to see what type of team they have. Ramel Bradley has talked about how he has lost to UNC three times and wants to get a victory before he leaves the school. For the Cats to have any chance to win, both of these young men need to play great and Patterson especially must stay out of foul trouble. Along with Crawford, these three guys must have great games to make it close. For a victory to occur, someone else on the roster, be it Legion, Porter, Stewart, Stevenson, Harris, etc, must step up and be the magical 4th guy that Jay Bilas talks about being crucial to defeating a great team. I think the game Saturday is closer than folks believe and I hope the Cats put a lot of early season criticism behind them and shock the world.
(2) Speaking of criticism, it has come in bulk in the last few days for Billy Clyde. Some of the criticism is valid (such as why the team looks lost on offense against anything but a man-to-man defense) but much is a bit out of control. So many folks are still engaging in the Tubby Smith vs Billy Clyde debate that it is coloring all views on what this team has and will accomplish. Whether the struggles this season are a result of a depleted roster or not, the fanbase must MOVE ON from the Tubby era and quit bringing him into every discussion. This is Billy Clyde’s team plain and simple and just as he rightly takes responsibility for all that happens, the fans should leave it at that as well. I continue to believe that Billy Clyde will win and win big at Kentucky…..but this year (and possibly next) will be bumpy. The fans should be unified in watching the program grow, not rehashing debates over coaches that long ago split the group. Anyway, I cant look at Tubby in that Minnesota color (whatever it is)…..only Tennessee has a worse color pattern.
(3) The night in Louisville was bizarre tonight. First the Cards surprisingly draw a good crowd for their last home game, a great gesture from the fanbase for a number of seniors like Douglas and Brohm who are great players and even better kids. Then, everyone at the game gets up and leaves, literally leaving the stadium with about 8,000 people for the end of the game. So what does Louisville do? They come back and win and then those left storm the field!…..for a victory over a mediocre Rutgers team. Odd night to say the least but I am happy for Douglas and Brohm. They deserved better than this year.
(4) If you miss Gregg Doyel’s weekly appearances on the radio show, they are truly epic. He gets great line and after line on college basketball. Three from this week:
1. On Louisville: “How can I root for a team where every player is unlikeable. Who likes Caracter, Williams or Earl Clark? The most likeable guy is Edgar Sosa and I dont like him. So how can anybody cheer for them?”
2. On Kelvin Sampson: “He is a good coach but a bad guy. Look he cheated, got caught and then had the audacity to cheat again and get caught again. How stupid can one person be?”
3. On Matt Jones: “Look you just dont like it that we argue and I am right. Who told you that Rich Brooks was an old man? Who told you that OJ Mayo would kill that USC team? And I am telling you right now Missouri is an entertaining team and you can put that on your blog and smoke it.”
More tomorrow….UNC is coming…..