Ladies and gentlemen, Tennessee Hate Day is upon us. It’s essentially a KSR holiday at this point this year’s edition is the best yet. There will be laughs and there will be hate. It might just be more fun than Jorts Day. But before we get to all of that, we should first make a quick stop and discuss a group of Tennesseans making some college basketball news. It was announced Thursday that Kings of Leon would play the Final Four in Houston this spring and that their song, “The Immortals”, would be the official theme of March Madness. The NCAA folks were clearly excited, as were those hoping that there might be some sort of odd sequence during the Louisville game where an audio track would play “your sex is on fire”, but for me, not so much. They’re from Tennessee. And this is Tennessee Hate Day. So, Kings of Leon, you can suck it. You’re low-down. You’re dirty. You’re some snitches.
Now onto some UK notes…
– Well, the first news out of the gate on a relatively slow Thursday was that Tennessee held off to beat South Carolina in a mostly uninspired performance that could be an indication of how mentally exhausted they are. The Vols were up 17 on the Gamecocks at halftime before letting the lead slip away despite committing only two of their thirteen turnovers in the second half. They’ll need to catch a shot of Tigerblood before their game Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena, where they’re 3-4 in conference play, in order to beat a newly invigorated Kentucky team. They should send out an email to try to get people to come or something. Oh, they did? Well, I’ve got nothing else.
– Of course, the season finale again presents Kentucky with an opportunity to exorcise their road demons, which they’ve been unable to do during conference play. I am among those that feel that closing out Vandy and Florida when they were pushing back late in the game, despite it occurring at Rupp Arena, was what they needed to break the mental hex. We’ll get our answer, though, Sunday. Regardless, what this team is giving us the last three games of the season is an interesting case study of team psyche. Despite the steps I believe they’ve taken in the last two games, a loss in Knoxville could make them irrelevant. This team has been one that has come and gone with confidence and they seem loose and sporting a bit of swagger right now. If they win Sunday, you can consider them, along with Florida, the favorite in the SEC Tournament, no matter if it’s three games of four. If they lose, that confidence could be wiped away and they might be back to where they were after the Arkansas game last week. Oh, the beauties of a young team.
– Even with all of the steps the Cats seem to have taken forward both as a team and individually, the player who has seemed to go in the opposite direction is DeAndre Liggins. In the last two games, the junior wing has been mostly a non-factor on offense and hasn’t been the same defensive stopper that kept him playing significant minutes throughout the season. The lack of bench play will keep him on the court for a majority of the game, but he has to find his rhythm again to make them truly dangerous. He tied his career-high for points (19) and steals (5) in the teams’ last meeting and put together what is probably the best game of his career. This sets up nicely as a bounce-back game for him.
– If you’re looking at a matchup within the game to keep an eye on, it’s the Terrence Jones-Tobias Harris showdown inside. Harris is the type of player that Jones typically plays well against, being that he’s similarly sized and doesn’t hold an athletic advantage. In the last meeting, which brought tons of NBA scouts to watch, both players struggled. Both players finished with only 10 points, but Jones manhandled his fellow freshman on the boards, grabbing 11 to Harris’ 2. With both players eyeing an early departure to the NBA, you can count on both looking to this matchup as a chance to make a big statement. Fortunately for the Cats, Jones seems to be at an advantage.
– One of the more interesting reports of the day came from the Birmingham News, who noted that Kentucky lost $276,000 by playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl in January. According to the report, the school sold only 4,460 of the 10,000 tickets they were required to purchase to participate, leaving them to swallow the loss. The SEC has a policy in place to minimize the losses of schools in these situations and covered $150,000 of it. As absurd as it sounds, it’s a minimal loss when compared to UConn eating roughly $1.5 million and Auburn losing $600,ooo for winning the national championship. But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with the bowl system.
– Another interesting tidbit Thursday was the announcement that Reggie Miller will call the UK-UT game Sunday for CBS as the network begins prep work for a number of new analysts that will call games this March during their extended coverage. If there’s a drawback to every game being televised, it’s that CBS-TNT-TBS-TruTV will be using their NBA guys to help, which will, sadly, make a number of guys who do very well calling professional basketball look like goobers for not having the type of extensive knowledge that most college basketball fans crave.
– A day after UK coaches checked him out and he said the race was down to the Cats and Kentucky, it was reported that the Jayhawks will visited Braeden Anderson Thursday. I spoke with an oddsmaker late Thursday, who said that Anderson’s interaction with the Jayhawk staff automatically increases his chances of being arrested by 200%. I’m sure he’ll keep that in mind.
– Finall, don’t forget that Matthew Mitchell’s women’s basketball team will face LSU Friday in the first step of their quest for the SEC Tournament title. The game is at 3:30 and is available on FSN and ESPN3.com.
That’s it for now. Make sure you stick around all day for our annual Tennessee Hate Day. The entire KSR crew will be out in full force, including appearances by Drew Franklin (twice!), Turkey Hunter, Tomlin and Fake Gimel. If you have hate in your heart, let it out. Let it out now. Thompson-Boling, here we come.
See you in a few…