Yes, we’re getting a little bit of a late start here. That’s what happens when you get hit with a hurricane of TV excellence. I promise we’ll make quick work of this. But before we do, let’s stop and give a salute to piano-playing siren Vanessa Carlton. Yes, Vanessa Carlton. When I was in Gainesville this weekend, I had a chance to hang out with some of my college buddies and a number of good solid Cats fans. I also had the chance to meet a guy who wanted to show me about 50 pictures on his cell phone – none of them particularly interesting and most of them fairly embarrassing. Throughout his digital slideshow of irrelevance, this young gentleman requested several times that I “finally” (as if people have been waiting for it) dedicate the News and Views to Vanessa Carlton. So, for that guy, there is this. He strikes me as the kind of kid who often wakes up after a night of drinking and recounts a handful of things he would rather forget. Hopefully, he can have one of those moments this morning too.
Now onto a few UK notes…
– Besides soaking in the sweet scent of victory, Wednesday also brought us a new contract for Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart. The new deal gives adds three years to Barnhart’s existing agreement and increases his salary by about 26%. Not a bad deal. Outgoing UK president Lee Todd acknowledged the odd timing by saying it was something that he’s been meaning to get around to and said that it was deserved due to Barnhart’s “exemplary performance”. There’s no question that the program as a whole has improved during his tenure and he did pretty well in making up for the Gillispie blunder in hiring John Calipari. But, his legacy (and maybe even Todd’s) will now likely be tied to the improvements of the basketball and football facilities. In his press conference, he talked a bit about making some improvements to Commonwealth Stadium. The Rupp Arena battle will soon follow. Lee Todd put his faith in him and his sweater vests Wednesday. Don’t screw it up, Mitch. (If you’re reading this, I kid because I love.)
– One night after John Wall’s appearance at Rupp left his Twitter account impressed (we won’t talk about his pro-Duke and UNC Tweet Wednesday), Shabazz Muhammad was apparently visited by Coach Cal Wednesday night. Muhammad, who was visited by Cal two weeks ago, remains one of the top targets for 2012 and one of the players that the Cats feel like they’re sitting very nicely with. And that about sums it up. Pretty interesting, huh?
– The official word will come down Thursday, but it looks as if all four members of UK’s 2011 class will be McDonald’s All-Americans. As Calipari continues to have enormous success on the recruiting trail, we can often become a little desensitized to some of the historical significance of these moments. For perspective, the appearance of Davis-Gilchrist-Teague-Wiltjer in the game means that Kentucky will have eight players in the game in Cal’s first three classes (without Wall, Bledsoe or Orton playing in it). The Cats had six total in the previous ten years. Incredible.
– In an SEC East race that seems to still be open to just about anyone, the Cats have a conceivable chance of creeping back into a first place tie with Florida, but it will likely all start with Saturday. If the Cats can go into the odd environment that is Vandy and win and Tennessee can pull of a victory in Gainesville, the schedule will be set up for a battle between the Cats and Gators in Rupp February 26 that would allow UK to climb back to the top. Those are a lot of ifs, but after Tuesday’s victory over the Vols, it certainly seems possible. And, yes, it does require for you to pull for Tennessee this weekend.
– If you spent your evening watching Duke and North Carolina, you were treated to a pretty fine college basketball game and a number of crowd shots of a pretty fine mother (is it bad to request more Curry brothers?). But it also means that you missed Justified and, for that, I cannot forgive you. What started out as a slow season premiere picked up steam as the creepiest old lady since The Goonies debuted and a certain US Marshal made his presence felt in Harlan. It was a performance so solid, I thought about waking up my wife and conceiving a child, just so I could name it Raylan.
That’s it for now. Make sure you stick around throughout the day as we get you all set for Kentucky’s climb back to the top of the SEC East and the start of road redemption in Nashville. As usual, Matt and Zach will get the fun going on Kentucky Sports Radio at 10am on Talk Radio 1080. Make sure you check it out. In the meantime, try to figure out why Duke’s Director of Basketball Operations Chris Spatola got so hyped in the closing seconds of the Blue Devils victory (and after the game too).
See you in a few…