Today’s birthday honoree is a former professional boxer and a Lightweight Heavyweight Champion of the world during the 1980s. However Mancini’s career and life will always be overshadowed by the tragedy that occurred during his bout in 1982 with Duk Koo Kim. On CBS live on a Sunday afternoon, Mancini had a vicious fight with Kim, going 14 rounds before being stopped by the referee. Kim was badly wounded by the fight and died of brain injuries sustained in the fight five days later. His death set off a series of tragedies, with Kim’s mother later committing suicide along with the referee for the fight, who soon after took his life from guilt stemming from the event. Mancini was also guilt-stricken and never came back the same fighter, cutting short his career and taking few fights in his last years. Mancini will always be linked with Kim and the famous fight in 1982, a legacy that Mancini has admitted makes it tough for him in his everyday life. However Ray should be glad to know that for me, Ray is known for something else…..his role as color announcer for “Celebrity Boxing” on Fox. In that role, he famously previewed the Vanilla Ice-Todd Bridges fight by picking Bridges because, “he has met Muhammad Ali.” So there you go folks, if I am ever slated to fight a Russian weightlifter, take me….because I met Ali.
To the news….
(1) BUBBLE TALK: Now is the time of the year when something odd happens that is truly unique to college basketball….thoughts of all the major blabbers on the sport focus on the teams ranked 60-70 to determine who is in and who is out of the Big Dance. What is new is that for the first time in a while, Kentucky is in that conversation. In Joe Lunardi’s new projection (the best at being accurate in the final analysis), the Cats are one of the “Last Four Teams Out”, with the last four in including Maryland, Florida, New Mexico and Virginia Tech. Leave aside the worthiness of those teams being ahead of Kentucky, what is clear is that the Cats are still set up well. Lunardi said today that if Kentucky wins its two games “they are definitely in.” This opinion is generally shared by all onlookers and most of the basketball community. Some who argue with this point would have a hard time however picking teams to replace the Cats. Lunardi’s last four our include Western Kentucky, Syracuse and UMASS, all teams with major resume holes. While I know two wins get them in, I have begun to wonder if one win and a win or two in the SEC Tournament would do the trick….but that is for later. For now, Lunardi makes clear that the Cats control their own destiny and could climb up as far as a 9-10 seed.
(2) SCOTTY HOPSON — Besides the final score of the game on Sunday, one lasting ramification of the UT game could be the Scotty Hopson decision. I am sure Scotty was watching closely the action in Knoxville as he has been reported to have been there for the game. What he took from the festivities is anyone’s guess. The optimist might say that he saw Kentucky is improving, what Gillispie can do for his players and his potential role on next year’s team. The pessimist might say that Scotty (who has expressed a desire for fast-paced play) may not like the style used and may have picked the winning team as his favorite. Regardless, what is becoming clear is just what a player UT is on his decision. Hopson could end up at a number of schools, but everything I hear supports the belief that UT will ultimately be the last hurdle UK needs to overcome to take Scotty. He loves the Vols style, the location close to home and Pearl himself. Brucie is getting it done and this may not be the last recruiting battle between he and Billy in the near future….
(3) VERDELL JONES — The heat may turn on for the recruitment of Point Guard prospect Verdell Jones. He did not attend the game in Knoxville on Sunday and UT may be out of the race, now that they took a commitment from point guard David West of the 2008 class. Jones then could be down to Minnesota and Kentucky, quite a pair considering the two coaches at play. However fans need to bring down their expectations a bit of Jones. While happy about his last name, having seen Jones play once before, I question whether he is an immediate answer for UK’s point guard issues. Those who have seen Jones play more than me concur, with one scout telling me recently that Jones “will be a good BCS conference player in about 2 years, but not immediately.” Jones plays up UK’s interest in him (especially in a TCP interview yesterday), but I am also hearing that the question of a firm offer is still not totally certain. Either way, UK wants to get him on campus and that should clear whatever questions are left soon. Jones would be a good get if the Cats sign him…but he wont be of immediate impact like a JC guy could provide.
(4) BLUE (or White) OUT — There is talk tonight that UK may have a “Blue Out” (apparently Tom Leach said White Out) on Sunday for the Florida game. That would mean that in addition to the hair color, the old folks down low would be asked to wear Blue Shirts over their bedazzled sweaters, a prospect some may not entertain. I was reminded that the crowd for the UF game may be sparce in the student section due to the beginning of Spring Break, which is a shame considering what a big game it is. But I am unsure if a “Blue Out” will work in Rupp. I like the idea in principle (and thought UL pulled it off nice, white linen suit for Pitino and all), but I dont know if the folks down low will participate. Either way, the UK crowd needs to step up on Sunday….it is a BIG day.
More throughout the day, including some notes on Kevin Galloway and what to expect in Columbia on Wednesday night. I will be in Charlottesville, Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday, so we gotta get our big predicitions out of the way soon. For those of you in Lexington, I will be doing the Sunday Pregame Show on 1300 AM from 9-11 this Sunday. This will be our first entrance into the Lexington (rather than Louisville) radio market, so I hope you will check it out. And remember, only 9 days until the return of the SEC Tournament Blog…..