If you had one free, no-strings-attached wish in this world, what would it be? Many would ask for money or fame. The sweet genuine souls among us might ask for world peace or health for loved ones. Come April, 97% of the state of Kentucky would wish for an eighth National Championship. Not many people would ask to blow up a building. Seven-year-old Maxwell Hinton did just that. Hinton was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a cancer that forms in your nerve tissue, and his wish to blow up a building was fulfilled by the Make-a-Wish Foundation on Sunday. He says the Discovery television show “Mythbusters” inspired his wish, which just goes to show if you let your kids watch good television, they’ll come up with badass dreams. Take that, Hannah Montana.
The Make-a-Wish people found a grain silo in Erie County, Ohio that the ConAgra company was planning to demolish anyways, so they flew Hinton out to do the honor. And because it’s Ohio, where they will make a beer festival out of anything (looking at you, guy in the Viking horns at the 1:15 mark), almost 40,000 people showed up to watch the granary implode. Ready for the happy ending? Maxwell is cancer-free, and the fine people of Huron have a large plot of land for their new Super Target.
Let’s blow up some news and views.
— The Cats are now safely on the ground in Auburn, Alabama preparing for Wednesday night’s matchup against the Tigers, who, well, we’ll just say have seen better seasons. After their embarrassing 30-point beatdown from Vanderbilt on Saturday, head coach Tony Barbee almost seemed hopeless about his team’s chances against the Cats, calling his team “ineffective offensively” and “the softest team” he’s ever been around. Get ready for the Cal connection: Barbee actually played basketball under Calipari at UMass and then later was an assistant coach on his staff at Memphis (prepare to hear that factoid a million times Wednesday night). Auburn only managed to put up 35 points against Vanderbilt on 27% field goal shooting, a figure which surely has Anthony Davis salivating. On the go-go gadget arms of Davis, the Cats rank first in the nation in blocked shots per game with 9.3 and field goal percentage defense, holding teams to a paltry 35%. Even a spanking new basketball arena can’t save Auburn from that.
— Despite Auburn’s shellacking at the hands of John Jenkins in Nashville, Kentucky is only a 16-point favorite, due in part to this being the Cats’ first SEC road trip, and only their second trip to genuine enemy territory. It will be interesting to see how this young team responds on the road; granted, I don’t expect the environment in Auburn Arena to be nearly as hostile as Assembly Hall, but this team will only benefit from the experience. If you’ll remember, last year’s squad had a 2-6 road record in the SEC, the bumps and bruises from which probably helped them make their run in March. I’m most anxious to see how Marquis Teague handles the environment after a promising performance against South Carolina on Saturday. During time with the media on Tuesday, Cal said that Teague needs to learn how to take the crowd out of the game and be more consistent, both of which can be accomplished with a focused performance against Auburn’s inferior backcourt.
— This will be Kentucky’s first game in the aforementioned Auburn Arena, which opened in 2010. Despite Calipari’s assumptions, the game is not a sell-out, so if you hurry, you can be one of the lucky 5,000 people to get a free shaker and see the Alexandria Aces halftime show. Auburn may be one of the few schools to build an arena smaller than their previous one, with the official capacity topping off at 9,121. I just hope this place has better lighting than the last one.
— Sorry, I can’t hold it in anymore: bwahahahaha LOUISVILLE. If you couldn’t hear Rick Pitino’s sobs from your house (Karen Sypher’s dÃ©colletage does muffle it slightly), the dirty, dirty birds lost to PROVIDENCE 90-59 on Tuesday night. Yes, Providence. The Cards trailed almost the entire game, and by the end, even the announcers were mocking their pathetic performance. The loss is doubly cruel for Pitino, whose 1987 Providence squad was honored prior to the game. Unlike that group, this team simply quit on their coach, who returned the favor by refusing to face the media during the postgame radio show, sending his son Richard to explain the loss instead. After an unsuccessful stint with the Celtics, a decade at Louisville, and an off-court scandal that would make even Kim Khardashian blush, Pitino has finally come full circle, a shadow of the larger than life legend he once was. Part of me feels sorry for Pitino, which is offset by anger at his cowardice as of late; dare I say it, he almost makes me feel bad for Louisville fans. Almost.
— Louisville’s loss and Pitino’s woes are especially sweet in light of the former coach’s backhanded dig at Calipari and the Cats earlier in the day when speaking about current #1 Syracuse: “I’d say right now they are the premier team in the country and the rest of us are trying to get to that level.” Hush, Pitino.
— Okay, back to teams that actually exist. John Calipari was his usual coach-speakin’ candid self with the media on Tuesday, predicting a “25-30 point loss” to Vanderbilt if the Commodores play the Cats as well as they did Auburn on Saturday. Now, no disrespect to the fighting Bill Dauterives and their opera house of a gym, but I just can’t see Kentucky losing to ANYONE by thirty points, no matter how poorly they play. And yes, I know Coach Cal takes to hyperbole like sprinkles on Orange Leaf, but excuse me while I roll my eyes. February 11th’s game against Vandy in Nashville will be Kentucky’s toughest challenge in SEC play by far, and history tells us the Cats will most likely fall victim to their perfect storm of a road environment, but 30 points? Come on, we’re not Louisville.
— Bwhahaha, Louisville.
— Another day, another mid-season accolade. On Tuesday, Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News named Michael Kidd-Gilchrist First Team All-American, calling him possibly “the most complete college player” in the game right now, which is saying something, considering he’s only 16 games in to his freshman year. DeCourcy also named Anthony Davis Third Team All-American, pointing out that while Davis will almost certainly be the number one pick in the NBA draft, Kidd-Gilchrist has done more for the Cats thus far. MKG and Davis have been raking in the fake awards so far this season, but it is refreshing to see a member of the national media fully recognize Kidd-Gilchrist’s impact on this team.
— One player that the Cats may turn to on the road to steady the ship is senior Darius Miller, who Calipari said on Tuesday is just playing “fine.” On a team full of superstars, Miller has found himself fading into the shadows at times this season, but he is capable of being a game changer, evidenced by his MVP performance in the SEC Tournament last season. When Miller is playing well, his aggression is contagious; heading in to a two-game road trip, “Reapperius” would be a welcome sight.
— Speaking of Miller, someone needs to fill him in on what happened on “The Game” tonight:
We at Auburn.. They don’t have BET in this hotel..
— Darius Miller (@uknum1) January 11, 2012
— Have you ever wondered how much it would cost to sponsor a UK game? Apparently $17,500. The Sierra Club, an environmental group who promotes renewable forms of energy in lieu of coal, will sponsor the Kentucky/Arkansas game on January 17th. The sponsorship is an about-face for the athletic department, which has also seen three events so far this season sponsored by Friends of Coal, not to mention the ongoing construction of the Wildcat Coal Lodge. The Sierra Club promises that their message will be “positive and not anti-coal,” but it is sure to stoke the controversy over coal the continues on campus and across the state.
— Congrats to Larry Vaught, who was named the 2011 National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association for the sixth year in a row. Larry is one of the most respected and lovable figures in UK sports media, and although some may poke fun at him from time to to time for his affinity for the Verizon Droid, he is one of the best in the business. In fact, ole Larry has gotten downright sassy on Twitter as of late, and his recent exclusive interview with Megan Dills just proves that he’s still got game. Larry, next time I’m in town, Burke’s Bakery doughnut on me.
We’ll be back bright and early to entertain you the only way we know how. Matt and company take the airwaves at 10 a.m. to preview the Auburn game, 2012 recruiting, and—oh, I give up, they’ll talk about Pitino and Louisville losing.
Until then, enjoy this video of Mike Bibby telling a young reporter that Josh Harrellson is the smelliest and worst-dressed player on the Knicks.
(H/T to Anthony Wireman)