For year’s now, Ashley Judd has been one of Big Blue Nation’s sweethearts. Besides making movies with Morgan Freeman, she has made no secret about her love for Kentucky basketball. A slight shift has taken place when it comes to the “famous person we associate ourselves with as a fan base.” Josh Hopkins of Cougartown, who is an avid reader of KSR and has even become a contributor to the blog at times, has taken some of the “star fan” spotlight from Judd. In fact, I would say that over 50% of the things Josh Hopkins tweets about are UK-related. Between Judd, Hopkins and a host of others who have come on the scene since Calipari’s arrival, such as Jay-Z and Drake, one Hollywood actor Kentucky fan often gets overlooked. Steve Zahn has been in a number of movies over the years, yet he calls Kentucky his home. Not only is Zahn a regular at the big events such as the Final Four, but he’s also the rare exception when it comes to famous names associated with the program. Zahn is not only a Kentucky basketball fan, but he is known to be a Kentucky football season ticket holder.
Zahn celebrates his 44th birthday today/tomorrow (depending on when you read this). For my personal taste, my favorite Zahn movie of all time was “That Thing You Do.” Even though they probably performed that song about 4 too many times in that movie, I still find myself flipping through the channels and always stopping on that movie if it’s being played. My second favorite Steve Zahn movie was “Joy Ride.” The movie itself was 50 shades of awful, but hearing the creepy truck driver say “Candddddyyyy Caaaaane” over the CB radio can still literally send chills down my spine to this day. Not to mention Paul Walker also starred in that movie. If you are a female KSR reader, I needn’t say more.
And now on to the news of the day…
– There’s nothing earth shattering to report on the UK football coaching search. “I’m sorrrrrrrry”- Simon Birch voice. 7 points if you have any idea what I’m talking about. Bonus points if you know which familiar actress was in that movie.
– Other than the continued stream of commentary on the UK football coaching search, the biggest news of the day revolved around Kentucky’s starting point guard, Ryan Harrow. Harrow was hampered by what was thought to be the flu in Kentucky’s first game against Maryland on Friday night. Harrow was limited to 10 minutes and had an underwhelming performance on the night. After a few days passed, Harrow’s energy still hasn’t returned. An update came from Calipari today that Harrow was unlikely to practice with the team today, and if that was the case– he would not be making the trip to Atlanta with the team for the Duke game tomorrow night. Dick Vitale then broke the bad news that Harrow will not be playing tomorrow against Duke.
– Harrow’s absence adds some intrigue to tomorrow’s line-up. Smart money would be on Archie Goodwin to slide over to the starting point guard role, likely making Julius Mays a starter in the shooting guard spot. After Jarrod Polson’s performance on Friday, he has made himself more than a viable option to play some at the point as well. It will be interesting to see if Calipari decides to give Polson the nod, or simply moves Goodwin to the point, at least for the start. It’s probably safe to assume that following Friday’s efforts, Polson will see playing time against Duke tomorrow night. Calipari also made it clear earlier today when Harrow’s status was still up in the air, that Jon Hood and Twany Beckham could both see more playing time as well.
– Speaking of Julius Mays and his potential move into the starting line-up, Mays started the day looking like a potential “no-go” for the Duke game as well. As the day has gone on, it seems more likely that Mays will be able to play tomorrow night. Many noticed the addition of a band-aid to Mays’ eye during the Maryland game. Apparently today the eye was swollen almost completely shut.
– Kentucky enters tomorrow night’s game as a 2-point underdog to the Blue Devils. Calipari spoke about this two-game stretch to start the season and predicted that his very young team stood a distinct chance at walking away 0-2 to start the season. Polson’s heroics against Maryland on Friday night assured that at worst, Kentucky would come out of the tough opening line-up 1-1. For a game with Duke, a team with more than a few memorable wins and losses with Kentucky through the years– a team many Kentucky fans tend to despise, the pressure and magnitude of the game seems rather downplayed. A general sense of excitement appears to be the frame of mind for most Kentucky fans. I don’t sense a desperation among the fan base that this is a do-or-die game, and that’s probably because quite frankly it isn’t. The game is so early in the season, and Kentucky is still working out the kinks. Kentucky will be playing without the services of starting point guard Ryan Harrow. And honestly, even Duke is a bit of an unknown heading into the game.
– Here’s what we do know about Duke heading into the game: Duke is ranked #9 in the AP Poll and #8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke opened the season with a 74-55 win over Georgia State. Duke’s best returnee, Mason Plumlee, finished that game with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton were the other two Blue Devils to reach double figures, with 15 and 13 points respectively. In what is generally considered to be a strength of most Duke teams, the Blue Devils finished fairly well from behind the arc. They were 11-24 from three point range in the game against Georgia State. Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton are all deep threats for Duke.
– In a bit of news that flew under the radar this weekend, Aaron Gordon was in Lexington to visit Kentucky. Gordon’s AAU coach says he still expects him to wait until this spring to make a decision, but that’s always subject to change. Gordon has now taken official visits to Washington (yawn), Arizona (meh), Oregon (uniforms!!!!), Kansas (the visit went well, but Self feels like they ran out of time) and Kentucky. Gordon saved Kentucky for his final visit, but according to his father, things went very well and they were impressed. “We could see ourselves at Kentucky,” Gordon’s father told CatsPause.com
– A new “Top 25 +1” poll came out this morning from CBSSports.com and Kentucky checked in at #2, trailing only the Louisville Cardinals. Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse, Arizona, North Carolina, Missouri and UNLV rounded out the top 10. Duke found themselves in the 13 spot, while fellow SEC team Florida fell just outside of the top 10 in the #11 spot.
– Doug Gottlieb of CBSSports.com wrote an article this morning in which he talked about “Four Impressions” he got from college hoops over the weekend. Of course, he included Kentucky’s game against Maryland. Gottlieb seemed a bit underwhelmed by the Cats’ performance and echoed a sentiment by many: not to compare this year’s team to last year’s team. Okay, we get it. Still, his take is interesting and he brings up a few good points.
“Kentucky held off Maryland, but a couple of truths were exposed. First, this will be the first year since John Calipari’s first five years at Memphis that he doesn’t have a “pro” at the point. Last year, Marquis Teague was the biggest question mark as the frosh struggled to run his team during the first two months of the season. But Teague improved steadily, and he was surrounded by an amazing amount of talent and maturity, as well as quality ballhandlers at power forward and center in Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis. In my opinion, Teague was over-drafted, although he improved significantly as the season progressed. He was terrific in the first half of the national championship game. Ryan Harrow never has been a true point, is in his third year of college (transferred from NC State) and is still trying to learn how to run a team. To be fair, the first big game back after transferring is always difficult, and he had the flu, but his decision-making needs improvement. Kentucky is not as talented as last year. Nor do the Wildcats have a Darius Miller-type veteran — without a scoring ego — to lead them. Jarrod Polson saved the day and Kentucky will improve, but if you think this version of Big Blue is going to run through college hoops like last year’s team, you will be disappointed. It’s not going to happen.”
– In what seems to be almost a side story in the news while trying to share the spotlight with the coaching search, Kentucky does have a home football game on Saturday against Samford. With a coach already on the way out, no hopes for a bowl or even a respectable record for the season…the motivation left for the players is to send the seniors out on a high note, as well as Joker Phillips. Regardless of how the fans feel/have felt about Phillips as a head coach, the players have a lot of love for that man. In Phillips’ press conference today he spoke about a text message he received from WR Gene McCaskill. In the text message, following the announcement of Phillips’ firing, McCaskill simply said, “Thanks for saving my life.” We all know that Joker Phillips failed to get the necessary results on the football field. But by all accounts, he did not fail these players in trying to help them become quality young men.
–Boone’s Butcher Shop Injury Report: LB Jabari Johnson is day-to-day, and S Martavius Neloms (hamstring) is expected to be back to practice this week.
– Other important football tidbit on the day: One of the standout freshman who showed sparks of great things to come throughout the season will likely not be playing for the remainder of the season. DeMarcus Sweat was not listed on the depth chart this morning which immediately began to sound alarms as to whether or not he was still with the program. Phillips quickly reassured everyone that Sweat was still in fact with the team, but just needed to spend time focusing on academics at the moment. Phillips said that he was looking out for Sweat’s future, as well as the future of the program. Hopefully this means that Sweat is taking care of business in the classroom now so that he will be ready to go for next season. The news is unfortunate though for fans that enjoyed watching Sweat make a few dazzling plays throughout the year, including on special teams.
– There’s no doubt that the atmosphere will be a bit strange on Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium. The vibe was notably odd in the press conference today with Phillips who has agreed to coach the final 2 games for his players. Even with the strange situation and state of flux with the football program, a movement has taken stage to #PackCommonwealth for the game on Saturday in honor of the seniors.
– In a game that hasn’t received nearly the amount of attention and publicity as it should, don’t forget that tomorrow is essentially a television double-header for UK men’s and women’s basketball. The UK Hoops team has a HUGE game against #1 ranked/defending national champion Baylor. Kentucky will be kicking off the women’s basketball season regular season against the best player in the women’s game, Brittney Griner (John Short disagrees). You can make a night of it between the 2 games. The #6/#7 ranked UK women square off at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. “We’re really, really excited for tomorrow and for our university,” Mitchell said today. Following the game, flip over to ESPN at 9:30 for the men’s game with Duke.
– Congratulations to the UK men’s soccer team for earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. UK was picked to host the first-round NCAA tourney game Thursday against Xavier at 7 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex. This is the Wildcats’ first tournament appearance since 2003. They are in their first year under head coach Johan Cedergren. For more information on the season and how the team transformed so fast under Cedergren in just one year, click here.
– And last but not least, don’t forget to join the KSR gang at STATS tomorrow morning if you are in Atlanta. The show will be broadcasting live and you don’t want to miss it if you’re in town for the game. Side note: STATS will be staying open until 1 a.m. following the Duke/Kentucky game for Kentucky fans to mingle. KSR College writer Kristen Geil will be there folks, and she’s single. Karaoke a duet with her and her heart will be yours forever.
Good night, Big Blue Nation. Slap a floor, catch some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow.