Late night confession, BBN: I was something of a nerd growing up. I loved reading more than anything else in the world, the type of kid who would get a dozen books at the library each week and have them all read within two days. At first, my parents loved it- after all, a kid who reads is kind of the jackpot as far as easy childcare goes- but then it started to get annoying. Like all the times I dropped books in the bathtub, or read crossing the street, or got in trouble for reading during class (yeah, I was THAT kid).
Well, ladies and gentlemen, you have LeVar Burton to thank/blame for my extensive vocabulary and overactive imagination. LeVar Burton is probably best known for his passionate portrayal of Kunta Kinte in the Roots miniseries, or maybe for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But to me and every other twenty-something out there, Burton will forever be the host of Reading Rainbow, a PBS series that ran for 23 seasons and inspired young minds everywhere to get lost in a book. Each show was based on a theme from children’s literature, expanding on it through various segments and offering book reviews for children, with Burton gently reminding us “but you don’t have to take my word for it.” The show won multiple awards over the years, including many Emmy’s for Outstanding Children’s Series and a Peabody Award. If you want a modern-day Reading Rainbow fix, you can download the smartphone app. No, really.
Honor LeVar Burton’s 56th birthday by READING these late night notes (see what I did there?). “I can go anywhere! Friends to know, and ways to grow. A Reading Rainbow…”
–Your Wildcats have opened as a 1.5 favorite over Tennessee tomorrow (game at 1 pm) in what is without a doubt THE most significant game of our season thus far. The Wildcats have had hurdles this season, yes, but they haven’t faced anything like playing an away game without the heart and soul of their team before. How the Wildcats respond with the first game of the “clean slate” season will tell us everything we need to know about the Wildcats’ mental toughness and heart.
-In his press conference today, Coach Cal was optimistic that his team could make up for Nerlens Noel’s offensive output but was (understandably) a little less confident about their defensive abilities without The Human Eraser. However, even with the task of defending without Noel, Calipari wasn’t ready to 100% commit to playing a zone against UT, saying “Maybe. We’re prepared for it. That’s not why we did all this time, but we’re absolutely prepared to play it and play it for long stretches if we want to.” Since the team has only had one practice since that fateful Florida game, Cal wants to wait and see how the game flows before making the decision to play zone.
-The basic game plan for tomorrow can be summed up as this: everyone does more. More rebounding, more hustling, more passing, everything it takes to compensate for Noel’s absence. It’s the ultimate test of brotherhood and putting the team first.
-Cal called Tennessee “a grind it, tough, physical defensive team” who will attack Kentucky in the post. Willie, Kyle, and Alex- you’ve been warned.
-Without Nerlens, the spotlight tomorrow will obviously shine on Willie Cauley-Stein. Although Willie admitted his conditioning isn’t yet up to playing 35 minutes a game, Calipari had encouraging words for the lone tower:
All I told him is ‘just be you. You know what you do well, be you, sub yourself when you’re ready to go. You’ll play every minute you can play. Stay on the floor. You’re not Nerlens (Noel), but Nerlens is not you. There’s things you do well that Nerlens didn’t do well. So, you just be you. You don’t have to be anything else.’
You do you, Willie. But do it well, please.
-Calipari also implied that Jon Hood may see more playing time tomorrow. Hood, a fellow ACL victim, competed well in practice yesterday, but Calipari still needs to see that mental toughness translate in games.
-Calipari will especially be on the guards tomorrow after a dismal Florida outing (save Jarrod Polson). Cal wants the players to call each other out when they see that a teammate is tired or not competing so that Calipari can sub him accordingly. Sounds embarrassing- but only if the player in question if focused on his individual play rather than the welfare of the team.I have a feeling this is what we’ve seen happening with Archie at times- much like the toddlers I babysit who get grumpy and yell “I DON’T NEED A NAP!” when they’re tired, Archie tries to prove he’s NOT fatigued by doing too much. Archie, we won’t judge you if you need a break. Just sit for a second. Ain’t no thang.
-Let’s take a brief moment to catch up with The Boy Who Learned to Stretch, Jarnell Stokes. He’s had double-doubles in each of his past six games. In his first game against the Cats this season, Stokes only played sixteen minutes and scored a mere four points and five rebounds. The Cats would have had their hands full with Stokes even with a healthy Noel, but without Nerlens it becomes absolutely ESSENTIAL that the Wildcats don’t allow Stokes to run over them with his size 16 feet.
-If you’re a BBN ex-pat like myself looking to watch the game and support a worthy cause, look no further. The alumni clubs in Atlanta and New York will be hosting watch parties to benefit DanceBlue at East Andrews Upstairs and Jack Demsey’s, respectively. Check out the full details here.
-Earlier today, Jeff Goodman wrote a post summarizing a conversation he had with Nerlens’ brother, Rodman Noel. Rodman told Goodman that he thinks Nerlens will go to the pros next year as a top-five pick. The elder Noel also said his brother was “devastated” at not being able to finish the college season and play in his first (only?) NCAA tournament. Samesies, Nerlens. Samesies.
-Interestingly, however, Goodman argued that the Cats will enjoy more success even without Nerlens. I know, I’m confused too. Basically, Goodman thinks Willie Cauley-Stein is more than capable of at least partially filling Noel’s shoes, and he’s also optimistic that this will “light a fire” under Alex Poythress and Ryan Harrow. Here’s hoping he’s right.
–While Joe Lunardi had the Cats as a ten-seed in today’s Bracketology, the Cats didn’t fare as well in the media’s NCAA mock selection committee. The Cats were the last team out in this hypothetical scenario, losing out to Villanova for a spot in the Big Dance. The Cats’ futile flaw was no marquee wins on their resume. Good news? There are still two chances left on Kentucky’s schedule to obtain such wins with Florida and Mizzou. Bad news? It’s highly unlikely. Good news again? It was a mock bracket selection. NOT REAL. Let’s focus on the tangible results, starting tomorrow at 1 pm.
-All this bracket talk sparked a query in my mind: would you rather have the Cats technically “in” the NCAA tournament as a play-in game, but lose that game- OR- have the Cats win the NIT? Discuss in the comments, and I’ll post about it this weekend.
-Looking ahead? Tickets for the first session of the SEC Tournament go on sale Monday. Get all the necessary details here, and I’ll see y’all on Broadway.
-Let’s move on from men’s basketball to… the next generation of men’s basketball. ESPN named their Top 25 high school players regardless of class today, and it bodes well for the Cats’ future:
1. Andrew Wiggins (UK recruit)
3. Julius Randle (UK recruit)
4. Aaron Gordon (UK recruit)
5. Andrew Harrison (UK commit)
7. James Young (UK commit)
9. Aaron Harrison (UK commit)
13. Trey Lyles (UK recruit)
15. Karl Towns Jr. (UK commit)
22. Dakari Johnson (UK commit)
I’ll take those numbers.
-Speaking of recruiting, Coach O watched 2013 point guard Emmanuel Owootoah play last night. Owootoah scored 15 points to go with 10 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals in a blowout win, as well as 439 KG points for having an awesome name. Owootoah is viewed as a player who could stick with the Cats for more than one year (read: after the Harrisons one-and-done us); however, UCLA is currently his favorite school. Game on.
-If you’re anything like Wilder Treadway, you’ll be excited to know that the UK Hoops’ Senior Day against Tennessee is a sellout for Memorial Coliseum. The UK Hoops squad has experienced tremendous success this season and is incredibly fun to watch, so keep an eye out for any tickets that pop up for Senior Day between now and March 3rd at 3:30 pm. The seniors are A’dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson. Come out and support next weekend.
kicked off tipped off batted off? Pitched off? Whatever. The Kentucky baseball team had their first game of the season today, and it was a 9-2 win over UNC-Asheville. Read Dean Bowling’s recap here.
-As I write this, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Brandon Knight are competing in the BBVA Rising Stars game as part of NBA All-Star festivities. I haven’t been able to keep up with the game- cable’s out at the house I’m babysitting at- but I’m seeing lots of exclamation points on Twitter surrounding Davis and MKG’s names especially. Here’s a nice little photo of Davis shooting over his old teammate:
If I close my eyes and imagine, I’m transported back to this time a year ago…
-Finally, a happy happy birthday to Tod the Bod Lanter. Although the team was traveling to Knoxville today, never fear- Tod got his brownies before they left. Phew.
That was a long one, folks. Let’s end it as we began, by quoting LeVar Burton: “I’ll see you next time.”
(Tomorrow night, guys. I’ll see you tomorrow night).