It can be hard to keep up with all the changing trends in Kentucky sports these days. Therefore, in order to keep you informed on the latest happenings in the Big Blue Nation, I chart the trends of the week, from basketball to football to every ridiculous little thing in between. Keep up with what’s hot and what’s not with KSR’s Trend Watch!
Rising faster than Kevin Stallings’ cholesterol count
Kyle Wiltjer — Since Cal called him out for his lackadaisical play after the Vandy game, Kyle has truly been an animal. He has diversified his game, driving the lane more to score or create opportunities for his teammates, and has seized the role of team leader. The best example of Kyle’s aggressive new attitude? His dunk against Ole Miss, only the fourth in his career. Cal challenged the Cats to get mad and “talk back” when things got salty; Kyle accepted that challenge with such enthusiasm that ESPN’s censors still have their fingers on the bleep button.
Beast Mode — Saturday was Alex Poythress’ coming out party. Alex posted his first career double-double, scoring 20 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Even more, he followed it up with a 15-point performance on the road at Ole Miss, including a Hutcherson that still has the rim shaking. A few weeks ago, Cal invited Alex’s father to come up and talk to his son after practice, a meeting that seems to have had a big impact. Watching Alex dunk and run along the sidelines roaring to his teammates may have been the most heartening thing I’ve seen all season.
UK’s NCAA Tournament chances — We’re not out of the woods yet, but the Cats finally got a marquee win for their NCAA Tournament resume. Now, a loss at Texas A&M would negate all of the progress they made, but seeing Kentucky withstand an Ole Miss run in a hostile environment has to make you feel good about their chances in College Station, Elston Turner and all. If the Cats can pull off a convincing win tomorrow, it would move the Cats off the bubble and we can stop making doomsday plans for the NIT and start worrying about seeding. And I’ll say it for the one millionth time this week: I would NOT want to be a high seed facing this Kentucky team in March.
John Robic — Robic and his glossy locks may have saved Kentucky’s season on Saturday. Late in the game with LSU threatening to take the lead, six Cats took the court after a timeout. John Robic noticed at the last minute and yanked Nerlens Noel off, saving the team from a technical foul that would have given LSU two free throws, the ball, and most likely the win. If that doesn’t inspire you to buy some Sun-In in his honor, I don’t know what will.
Bob knight is the worst commentator n the biggest hater
— Andrew Harrison (@DrewRoc5) February 1, 2013
Kentucky Football — I’d apologize for being redundant, but at this point, I don’t care. With five days left til signing day and two commitments expected tonight, Kentucky football is on the rise. Sure, it’s not final until ink hits paper, but the amount of excitement in the fan base right now is staggering. Someone even complained in the comments section that we were talking too much about UK’s win over Ole Miss and not enough about football recruiting. Where are we? Is this the Twilight Zone? With Ole Miss’ football program possibly pulling in the top three recruits in the nation and one of the best recruiting classes in its history, someone might need to explain to me why we can’t do the same in a few years. Yes, Mississippi has better in-state talent, but with the inroads Stoops and company are making in Ohio and Florida (not to mention Trinity), will it even matter by that point?
Willie Cauley-Stein’s knee — Willie’s knee improved to the point that Cal felt comfortable enough to let him travel to Oxford, but decided to hold him out at least one more game. We’ll hear more from Cal in a few hours, but it’s expected that Cauley-Stein will play tomorrow.
KSR’s guest hosts — Ryan Lemond might need to watch his back. Adam Lefkoe, Jared Lorenzen, and Steve Romines, KSR’s guest hosts this week while Ryan’s on vacation, have been killing it. Plus, they say “big butt” less often. (Sorry Ryan. I do love you!)
Flatter than a Flat Top (No change)
Rick Pitino’s credibility — On Monday, Pitino told reporters earlier this week that “Kevin Ware isn’t coming back anytime soon.” Today? “Kevin Ware will probably play Sunday.” Death, taxes, and Pitino lying through his teeth. Some things never change.
Falling like snow on cedars
The Yum Center’s profits — Denis Frankenberger, a Louisville businessman, released a 38-page report on what a “financial albatross” the Yum Center has become. He says that the arena costs $92,000 per day to operate, and unless the Louisville Arena Authority renegotiates its lease with the University of Louisville, things will get even worse. Like KY-taxpayers-bailing-the-Yum-Center-out worse. Jurich and UofL have themselves a pretty deal, but for the better good, they need to renegotiate the lease to entice an NBA team come to Louisville.
Marshall Henderson — The gif seen ’round the world might as well be an artifact now. Marshall “I’m Slim Shady, Yes I’m the real Shady” Henderson had the whole nation watching him on Tuesday night against the Cats, and what did he do? Choked like a drunk girl trying to chug a Coors Light. Even worse, USA Today reported that Henderson tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol a year ago, throwing more dirt on his already soiled reputation. A passionate player trying to make a comeback is one thing; a cocky punk who endangers his team’s chances by taking way too many terrible shots is another.
That Mississippi reporter’s eyesight — After Nerlens Noel’s monster performance against Ole Miss (more on that later), the media room was buzzing. When Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer walked in to do postgame interviews, a Mississippi reporter mistook Alex for Nerlens and asked him about his shot blocking. Now, the guy might have been nervous and he was certainly embarrassed afterwards, but how do you confuse Alex Poythress with Nerlens Noel? Noel is a good five inches taller if you include his hair, which should be a big enough clue. Regardless, it gave everyone in the room a good laugh, including Kyle Wiltjer, who told Alex “Good job, Nerlens” on the way out.
My vacation planning skills — Months ago, my husband and I planned a trip to the Dominican Republic, choosing the weekend so we would miss as little basketball as possible. Little did we know (or even if we did, care) at the time, but the day we leave is also National Signing Day. Now, I’m scrambling to see if the plane we’re on has wi-fi and saving money for our bar tab at the Miami airport.
TREND OF THE WEEK: Nerlens Noel
You know it, I know it, and now the nation knows it: Nerlens Noel is extraordinary. Nerlens broke the single game shot blocking record at Ole Miss with 12 powerful swats, many of which took place while Nerlens had four fouls. Noel has been the talk of college basketball since and was named to the Wayne Tisdale Midseason Watch List, honoring the best freshman in the game, and may have played his way into contention for the #1 pick in the NBA Draft in June. Comparisons between him and Anthony Davis run rampant, and at this point, it looks like Nerlens may be an even more powerful force on defense than Anthony. Calipari has a reputation for turning out elite point guards, but at this rate, he’s giving the league their top defenders as well.