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Ray Harper’s Tuesday News and Views

Harper

 

Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper improved to 8-0 in Sun Belt conference tournament games tonight with a 65-63 win over FIU in the championship round, earning an NCAA tournament berth for the second straight season. Last year, the former Kentucky Wesleyan coach took over the team midway through the season after Ken McDonald was fired. The Hilltoppers, who had started the season with a 5-11 record, went 11-8 with their new head coach last year and 7-1 after Harper’s interim tag was dropped to become the full-time head coach. This season was a struggle once again for the Hilltoppers in the regular season as they lost 15 games, but got hot at the right time once again to win four games in four days, winning the Sun Belt tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament.

Enjoy that confetti one more time, Big Red.

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Now on to the news and views from the day:

— Perhaps the highlight of John Calipari’s quotes on the SEC Teleconference today was his praise for the rest of the league’s coaches and a look back at his own performance as a coach this season. Cal took the blame for his team’s struggles: “If one guy’s done a crap job with his team, it’s me.” 

— Calipari also talked to Dan Patrick today about UK’s tournament chances, Nerlens Noel’s injury and more. I’ve provided the interview for you to watch right below.

— Speaking of Nerlens Noel, it was announced today that Noel is moving up his surgery to spring break with Dr. James Andrews so he doesn’t miss as much class. Here is Noel’s statement:

“After talking with my family, I decided to schedule my surgery over spring break so I wouldn’t miss as much class,” Noel said. “I wish all my teammates luck in the SEC Tournament and look forward to getting back to Lexington as soon as I can to begin my rehab and finish my school work.”

— Despite suffering a season-ending injury in mid-February, Noel still won First Team All-Freshman honors by the Sporting News AND was given a spot on the SEC Community Service team for over 100 hours of service, including time spent with local children, the elderly and athletes at Kentucky Special Olympics events.

— John Calipari wrote a blog post today, making sure you understand the difference between being a “players first” program and “player first”. It is supposed to be plural and there is an important difference, Cal writes.

— Braylon Heard, a sophomore running back at Nebraska, is transferring and it appears he is considering Kentucky.

From Mrs. Tyler’s post earlier today:

Heard is from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, the alma mater of both Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow, who was on Nebraska’s staff prior to leaving for UK. Coming out of high school, the four-star Heard was ranked the fifth best running back in the nation and the 57th overall player in the 2010 class. Last year, he averaged 6.69 yards per carry in 55 attempts and scored three touchdowns, but was unhappy with his reduced role in the Husker offense.

Heard will visit Kentucky in the coming weeks, along with West Virginia, Pitt, and potentially Louisville. He’s been granted an unconditional release by Nebraska, and will be available for the 2014 season as a redshirt junior.

— In the most unsurprising news of the day, Kentucky won its 8th straight national attendance title this season. It’s the school’s 25th overall and 17th over the last 18 seasons.

–I leave you with a rundown of teams who have clinched an NCAA berth:

Gonzaga WCC
Iona MAAC
James Madison Colonial
Davidson Southern
Western Kentucky Sun Belt
Harvard Ivy League
Belmont Ohio Valley
Florida Gulf Coast Atlantic Sun
Liberty Big South
Creighton Missouri Valley

 

— Fortunately for those on the bubble, only one expected at-large team (Middle Tennessee of the Sun Belt) has failed to win its conference tournament so far. Western Kentucky and Liberty are the biggest surprises, but the Hilltoppers winning the Sun Belt is the only tournament outcome that has taken away someone else’s at-large bid to this point. You don’t have to be mad at the Hilltoppers though. It was Richard Pitino’s FIU team that knocked off favorite Middle Tennessee (28-5, No. 28 RPI), so you can be mad at him (just kidding, Richard).

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on blogredmachine.com. Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

20 Comments for Ray Harper’s Tuesday News and Views



  1. BigBlueKnight
    10:54 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Good for them. I’ll actually be going there next year, I’m pumped that I’ll have some great basketball to watch. I can actually root for Western without throwing up. UL was gonna be tough to sell to myself…



  2. GoForIt
    10:54 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Where is the info about that if I drive to CA and take fun pics I can win?



  3. catsfan32
    10:54 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    I just want thia years team to knock off a 1-3 seed in the field of 68. If that happens this year will be considered a success in my eyes.



  4. Rae
    11:06 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    3. Agreed. It will be a waste that the talking heads spent all season talking up small schools and putting a ton of them in the tournament (LaSalle, really?) if they all choke.

    The Zags remind me a bit of one of Cal’s Memphis teams, with all the disdain around them.



  5. Ukbball4eva
    11:11 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    I love in cal’s interview when talkin about recruiting he said “and were not done yet”. Cal know something.



  6. Woooohoooo
    11:16 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    No fan happier in Big Red country than Eric “The Red” Mathews



  7. From the Horses Mouth
    11:19 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    5. He’s talking about Randle.



  8. Ukbball4eva
    11:25 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    #7 ur opinion? Or do u know something definite?



  9. WKYblue
    11:37 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Congrats to WKU and coach Harper. Harper coached Kentucky Wesleyan here in Owensboro and played in the same conference as Bruce Pearl. Pearl was his b#*ch. Go Cats and Toppers.



  10. From the Horses Mouth
    11:38 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Definite. Of the three left, Randle will be in blue n white. Can’t name source but you all will see 3/20!



  11. Catlogic15
    11:42 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    I thought Dan Patrick had Cal flustered.



  12. super stitious
    11:43 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    Shhh, don’t jinx it.



  13. Ukbball4eva
    11:44 pm March 11, 2013 Permalink

    #10 so r we out of it 4 wiggins???



  14. Honestly
    12:42 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    If we get randle that is enough.. I don’t know about wiggins. Would be awesome to have him but at this point it would be an overflow and chemistry issues would linger all season!



  15. masiello sux
    1:04 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    http://kentuckysportsradio.com/?p=78511
    Best ksr comment board….in the history of comment boards. Masiello is such a dbag, I’m just glad other from his time on campus remember it as clearly as me. The fact that pitino’s kid and masiello lost on the same night…..I’m toasting a bourbon right now. As Cube said, It Was a Good Day…errr, a good night.



  16. CatFan4444
    5:06 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    # and UL women lost in their conf tourney as well. So yes a not so good evening for anything with a UL connection.



  17. RealCatsFan
    6:39 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    Why is there some type of internal organ laying on the basketball court in that top picture?

    JK – good win for Western. I hope we have a good mix of state schools in the mix for the NCAA Tourney – including, of course, the Cats!



  18. Franks and Beans
    8:42 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    You didn’t mention that yes, WKU has lost 15 games but they were devastated by injuries with 3 starters and 2 key reserves missing much of the season. Now they are all healthy except for one reserve who is out for the year.



  19. buk
    10:14 am March 12, 2013 Permalink

    I hope WKU gets the 16 seed against Gonzaga. They would actually have a chance at pulling the upset.



  20. From the Horses Mouth
    12:37 pm March 12, 2013 Permalink

    13. Yeah, Wiggins is gone to FSU