Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: March 19, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Video: Tampa pod wrapup



Posted by Eric Angevine

Matt Jones was at the Tampa pod today, and he'll have more thoughts on how things played out, but it was an SEC-flavored day in the Sunshine State.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 6:27 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:53 am
 

Knight lifts Kentucky to close win

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Louisville and Kentucky losing on the same day in the round of 64? That couldn’t happen, right?

Brandon Knight wasn’t having it.

The freshman guard hit a tough layup with 2.0 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 59-57 win over Ivy champion Princeton.

Knight finished with just two points, but he came up big when it mattered.

On Wednesday, head coach John Calipari stated, "You can't count on freshmen." It seems Knight proved him wrong.

I'm sure Calipari will accept the trade-off.


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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 7:22 pm
 

Kentucky and Florida to the SEC tournament finals

The season began with a split amongst SEC media and coaches as to whether Florida or Kentucky should be considered the conference favorite. And after Saturday’s SEC tournament semifinals in Atlanta, both teams have one game and a conference title on the line to settle the debate once and for all.

Kentucky made the tournament finals after cruising to a 72-58 victory over Alabama. The Cats jumped on the Crimson Tide early and never looked back, thanks to their most complete and diverse offensive game of the season. With Kentucky’s two top players, Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, experiencing off nights, it was the Cats' lesser-known players who picked up the slack and put forth some of their best games of the season. 

Doron Lamb finished with 15 points, after scoring 10 of Kentucky’s first 14, through a deadly combination of three-point shooting and quick penetration to the basket. The veteran duo of Josh Harrellson and Deandre Liggins each scored 14, giving significant offensive output from what are normally unlikely sources within the Kentucky offense. John Calipari’s team was so efficient on the offensive end that he said afterwards, “we’d have smacked anybody the way we played.” 

The problem for Kentucky will be whether they have the manpower to have a repeat performance against Florida tomorrow. Even though Alabama was down by nearly 20 with just a couple of minutes to go, the Tide continued to apply pressure on defense. That led Calipari to leave in his starters until the very end, causing two freak plays in the final moments. As the clock wound down, both Lamb and Liggins fell on another player’s foot and each suffered a significant ankle sprain . Both had to be removed from the game, with Lamb having to be carried off by two of his teammates. Liggins is listed as probable for the Florida game, while Lamb's injury is more severe, causing him to be doubtful to see action. If Lamb does not play, it will leave Kentucky with only five players who regularly see significant minutes available for action.

In the game’s other semifinal, Florida battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat Vanderbilt 77-66 and advance to the conference championship. The Gators were led by their explosive backcourt duo of Kenny Boyton and Erving Walker, who combined to score 41 points against the Commodores. Billy Donovan’s pre-game goal of limiting Vanderbilt’s three-point shooting was executed perfectly throughout the game. The Commodores only shot 18% from behind the arc, finishing 6-33 and ending any chance they had at advancing to the school’s first SEC tournament final since 1951.

The championship game on Sunday will be the rubber match on the season between the Gators and Wildcats. Both teams won on their home courts earlier this season and in both games, the play of Florida’s Chandler Parsons was the deciding factor. When Parsons is able to get into the lane and grab offensive rebounds, the Gators become a tough team to beat. In Gainesville, Parsons twice scored on crucial late putback attempts thatwere the key points in giving the Gators the victory. But then in Lexington, Kentucky kept Parsons and the rest of the Gators shooting from behind the arc and off the offensive glass, leading to a comfortable 8 point win.

Both teams are fighting for a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and with similar resumes, the winner of Sunday’s game is likely to see an advantage later in the afternoon when the brackets are announced. Both teams have dominated the SEC over the last decade and they both have been the clear standouts of the conference throughout this season. If Kentucky is without Doron Lamb, it will be very difficult for the Wildcats to keep pace with Florida and I would expect to see the Gators pushing tempo and trying to create a shootout in Atlanta on Sunday. If the Gators are able to control tempo and get into Kentucky's bench, they have a strong chance of completing the regular season-conference tournament sweep and getting the highest seed of any SEC team heading into March Madness.


Posted by MATT JONES



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Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:52 pm
 

SEC Afternoon Roundup: Alabama punches ticket

After a series of dreadful games on Thursday, the SEC Tournament kicked off on Friday with what was essentially a play-in game for the NCAA tournament. Alabama defeated Georgia 65-59 in overtime after an improbable comeback that saw the two teams' fortunes take a dramatic shift based on one fortuitous decision to call a timeout. With 7 minutes to go, Georgia was up 14 and seemingly ready to not only punch its NCAA dance ticket, but potentially avoid the first four in Dayton, Ohio in the process. But in the game's final minutes, the Tide came roaring back with some timely late shooting, finishing regulation on a 19-5 run that sent the contest into extra time.
 
But as painful as losing the lead had to be for the Bulldogs, the finish to regulation may even have a longer impact. With the game tied at 53 and just 4 seconds remaining, Georgia inbounded the ball to Dustin Ware, who dribbled through a number of Tide defenders until he could launch a desperation heave with just over a second to go. The high-arching shot went off the backboard and through the net, sending the few Georgia fans in attendance into celebratory mode. However before any Georgia player could even pump his fist, the referee waved off the basket thanks to Mark Fox's decision to call timeout prior to the shot's release. The decision may have been a sound one strategically, but it had the effect of overruling the game-winning basket, and potentially Georgia's NCAA Tournament hopes in the process.


In overtime, Alabama's Tony Mitchell hit an important deep three with 1:35 remaining that gave Alabama a lead it would never relinquish. But the difference in the extra session, and the game as a whole, was JaMychal Green, who finished with a monster performance, 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals. Georgia had no answer for Green in overtime and his ability to get two key blocks down the stretch helped the Tide ride its late momentum to the victory.

For the Bulldogs, Selection Sunday now becomes a very long wait. With two straight losses to fellow bubblemate Alabama, there is no scenario one can envision in which the NCAA would pick the Bulldogs over the Tide. That means that Georgia has to hope the SEC gets six teams in and the selection committee overlooks Georgia's lack of quality out of conference victories.

As for Alabama, preparation now turns to Saturday's semifinals as most in the Tide locker room felt confident that they had done enough to ensure selection into the NCAA tournament. In that game, they will play Kentucky, which defeated Ole Miss 75-66 in the afternoon's second semifinal. It was by no means the prettiest performance of the season for the Wildcats, as two of the team's best young freshman each had one of their worst performances of the season. Terrence Jones was awful, scoring only 7 points on 3-11 shooting and spending most of the game in foul trouble. His 24 minutes played were a season low and throughout most of the game, he seemed to be source of constant expressed frustration from coach John Calipari. 

Brandon Knight also struggled early, but came through in the clutch, overcoming a 3-14 shooting night to hit a key jumper with 2 minutes to go. The basket gave Kentucky a 4 point lead it would never relinquish and confirmed Knight's standing as the clutch playmaker for Kentucky down the stretch. After being ice cold for most of the game's first 35 minutes, Knight took over the game on both ends of the court. When Ole Miss's Chris Warren made a three to cut the Wildcat lead to two, Knight responded by not only hitting his crucial jumper, but then contesting the next two missed Ole Miss three-point tries, to help seal the victory.

For Kentucky, the win keeps the team's dream of a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament alive for another day. Even without production from Jones, the Wildcats had four players score in double digits and were able to win their second consecutive close game, a feat that they had struggled with throughout the conference season. They now move on to play Alabama, a team that won their only meeting in Tuscaloosa back in January.
Posted by Matt Jones
Posted on: March 8, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Projecting the first-round destinations

Posted by MATT JONES

I am a dork. Let’s get that out of the way right up front, because otherwise what I am attempting to do below will make no sense. While everyone else on the internet is giving their latest Bracketology projections and attempting to define the bottom half of the field of 68, I have a completely different goal. I want to try and get in the tournament committee’s minds and figure out exactly where the top seeds in the NCAA tournament will play their first round games .

Now this may seem like a silly enterprise, as on the surface it seems impossible to predict. If the process was random, with 68 teams and 8 different locales, projecting any team to any first round destination would be complete folly. But the process isn’t random and there is some logical basis to the assignments. In fact, if you understand two rules, projecting the assignments of some top teams can come rather easily:

1. The committee will try to put teams seeded in the top 4  teams in their region close to home.

2.  Duke will play in the state of North Carolina

Those two rules if not officially set in stone, are nearly always followed and thus give us some logical basis to begin a projection. At this point, our resident bracketologist Jerry Palm has these teams as the top 4 seeds:

  1. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
  2. Duke, Syracuse, Purdue, San Diego State
  3. North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida
  4. Louisville, Kentucky, St. Johns, BYU

While the order of those teams may change a bit and a couple of teams could crash the group (Vanderbilt, West Virginia, UCONN), it is likely that the vast majority of these teams will represent the 16 top seeds. For this year’s tournament, there are eight cities hosting first round games:

Cleveland
Chicago
Denver
Tucson

Washington DC

Tampa
Tulsa
Charlotte

Each city will be the host site of two of the top 16 seeds. So using our two rules above, we can begin projecting teams to particular sites based upon location. Cleveland is just a hop, skip and a jump from two No.1 seeds, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Tulsa is the closest to Kansas and Chicago is virtually an extension of Notre Dame. So after placing the top seeds, the list looks like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame
Denver:
Tucson:
Washington DC:

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas

Charlotte

Duke is a 2 seed and Charlotte is in North Carolina, thus making the Blue Devils a lock for the banking capital of America due to Rule No. 2. Purdue is within a quick drive to Chicago and Tucson is the only host city anywhere close to San Diego State. Syracuse would probably prefer to be in Cleveland, but because that locale is full, Washington DC becomes the most likely destination.

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse

Tampa

Tulsa:
Kansas
Charlotte:
Duke

North Carolina is apparently still located in North Carolina and thus placing the Tar Heels in Charlotte ensures a packed house for each session. Tulsa is the location closest to Texas, making the Longhorns a likely candidate for that beautiful city. Tampa is in Florida and has a huge arena to fill, potentially enticing the fickle Gators fans to make the short drive. Wisconsin has no obvious destination, as nothing left is very close to Madison. But with Denver in that same general part of America and only one other western team, the Badgers seem likely headed for the Rockies:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin
Tucson:
San Diego State
Washington DC:
Syracuse
Tampa:
Florida
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

This is when it starts to get tricky. BYU is the farthest west and can’t play on Sunday, meaning that Tucson is the likely home for the Cougars. St. John’s is in New York, which likes to think of DC as its dorky extension, thus sending the Red Storm to the nation’s capital. Louisville and Kentucky are both not close to either remaining destination, but the Cardinals are slightly farther west, sending them to Denver and Kentucky to Tampa. That makes the final split look like this:

Cleveland: Pittsburgh, Ohio State
Chicago:
Notre Dame, Purdue
Denver:
Wisconsin, Louisville
Tucson: San Diego State, BYU
Tampa:
Florida, Kentucky
Washington DC:
Syracuse, St. Johns
Tulsa:
Kansas, Texas
Charlotte:
Duke, North Carolina

Of course it is just as likely that the committee follows none of these parameters and just does what it wants. But if logic is used, you can book your travel destinations now.

Posted on: March 6, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 3:08 pm
 

UK picks right time to end road woes

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Prior to Sunday’s game at Tennessee, it was unclear whether Kentucky was capable of winning a close game away from home – or a road game in general.

The Wildcats were just 1-6 in SEC play on the road, with the losses coming by a grand total of 18 points.

Kentucky erased those demons against the Volunteers, though, finishing the game on a 13-6 run to get a 64-58 win. The Wildcats overcame a double-digit lead in the first half, and seemed in control for much of the second stanza. Brandon Knight continued his development into an elite point guard, scoring 19 points, while Terrence Jones finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds despite struggling from the field. Darius Miller also had his sixth consecutive double-figure scoring game, going for 15 points.

The key down the stretch was Kentucky’s absolute dominance on the offensive glass. The Wildcats picked up six offensive rebounds in the final 5:35, as Tennessee constantly failed to box out on missed shots. In fact, Kentucky had seven points in that last stretch on possessions in which it grabbed an offensive board.

Up by three, Miller missed a contested jumper, but no one boxed out Josh Harrellson, with Tennessee needing to knock it out of bounds to prevent a wide-open put-back by Harrellson.

Kentucky is a team that most of the country has been on the fence about over the past few weeks. The Wildcats have as much talent in their starting five as anyone, but they lack depth and never proved they could win away from home.  This win gives them a bye in the SEC Tournament and could be a momentum-builder heading into the postseason.

The Wildcats now know they can go into a hostile environment and come out with a close win against a quality opponent. Moreover, given the way Big Blue Nation travels, they might not face a more difficult fan base the rest of the season.

For such a young team, momentum and confidence might be the most important factors. Kentucky now has both.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 8:52 am
 

Sunday Preview: bids and seeds go flying



Posted by Eric Angevine

Plenty of games on today, but I'm going to focus on a handful. Starting with:

Kentucky @ Tennessee, 12:00 p.m. ET, CBS: Uh-oh, one last road game for the Wildcats before the SEC tournament begins. See above.

Indiana State @ Missouri State, 2:05 p.m., CBS: Another NCAA bid goes out today. Will it belong to Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri State Bears, who are celebrating their first-ever MVC regular-season championship? Or will Larry Bird's alma mater get back to the Dance for the first time since 2001? Either way, there will be one less bid up for grabs at the end of this one. Matt Jones will be live on site. | MVC title game preview

Wisconsin @ Ohio State, 4:00 p.m., CBS: Purdue's baffling loss to Iowa yesterday took some drama out of this one, as it handed the Big Ten title to the Buckeyes outright. Still, this should be a dynamite battle between two top-ten teams, with OSU looking to stay firmly on top, and Wisconsin trying to grab a season sweep that could dramatically improve their Big Dance seeding. | Video Preview

I'll be at the CAA semifinals, where multiple bids appear to be solidly in play. Should be another exciting day of college hoops!

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Kentucky All-Access: Part 2



Posted by Matt Jones


On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky defeated Florida 76-68 in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. In the 24 hours leading up to the game, CBSSports.com was given an all-access look at the team and its preparation for a big SEC home game. Over three parts, Matt Jones will detail the team’s activities, beginning with practice the day before through Saturday's game. Preparation varies from team to team, but Kentucky's process is similar to many other programs. Part one ran over the weekend. This is part two. Part three is coming later this week.

Last Friday and Saturday, before during and after Kentucky's game against Florida in Rupp Arena, CBSSports.com was given access to UK's preparations. Matt Jones followed the team for the 24 hours prior to the game in Lexington. Part I of the series ran on Monday and Part II focuses on the game day preparation prior to tip-off: Most college basketball teams follow a similar routine on the morning of a game. Virtually every team has some form of a shootaround, usually followed by a pre-game meal before heading to the arena.

The schedule varies based on start time and whether the game is home or away, but game day for teams in college basketball looks relatively similar everywhere. For Kentucky's game against Florida, start time is at 4 p.m., meaning the morning shootaround begins at 10:30 a.m. By 10 a.m., a number of the players are on the court getting in early work.

Brandon Knight is shooting three pointers in the corner, Darius Miller is working on his mid-range game and Josh Harrellson is balancing a mixture of post play and commenting on everything in sight. The atmosphere is loose considering the stakes of the battle taking place in only a few hours. With Kentucky at 19-8, 7-6 in the SEC, the game against Florida isn’t must-win to get in the NCAA Tournament, but it is crucial for seeding purposes. Kentucky is still in contention for a bye in the conference tournament and hopes to still find a way to get a top-four seed for the NCAA tournament.

The Cats haven't lost a home game in two years under John Calipari, but Florida is likely to win the SEC and a slight confidence crisis set in after a loss to Arkansas on Wednesday. Calipari says he's not concerned about fan-base confidence -- "it comes with the territory," he says -- but is concerned about his unit's spirits. He begins the shootaround by saying, "Guys, we can do this. They have won some close games and we have lost some close games. But I believe in us. One way or another today, up or down, I still believe we can hit our goals and get it done."

As the team breaks the huddle, Calipari walks to the side of the court to talk to a couple of Kentucky staffers. Perched atop the UK practice court is a viewing area filled with a group of 20-25 fans decked in blue, observing the shootaround. No one in the gym is exactly sure who these people are and with such an important game, they represent a needless distraction.

Frustrated, Calipari asks a UK staffer, "How can we have all of these people up top on a day like today?" The onlookers remain for the rest of the 40-minute session. While most of the previous day's practice was spent working on defending Florida's scorers, Calipari spends the early part of the shootaround working on Kentucky's offense.

The Cats focus on breaking the press quickly in order to create open three-point shots. The blue team (the starters) breaks the press easily on the first three possessions, but misses open shots each time in transition. Calipari begins pacing quickly and blows his whistle in disgust. He walks towards the latest bricklayer, Doron Lamb, and screams, "Start making shots. We aren't going through this and breaking the press to get good looks just to have you all miss these easy shots. What are we going to do at 4 o’clock on national television? MAKE A SHOT!"

Immediately after making his point, Brandon Knight hits an open three on the next possession and Calipari seems to forget the three prior plays saying, "See, if they give us open threes, they are nuts. We will make them all." That contrast between aggressive coaching, followed by quick affirmation is a microcosm of Calipari and this team. "You can’t treat this group like the last few I have had," Calipari says later. "They feed off of me and I have to tell them ‘We are going to win and I believe in you,' or else they will not play to their potential." The team continues to move through its offensive sets, but Calipari wants more enthusiasm and communication on the court. He screams, "I want NOISE....AAAARGGHHHH! The sound of victory is noise. The sound of defeat is silence." The players start to clap and talk on the next possession, but the energy quickly fades.

Regardless of what Calipari tries, this is a reserved group and communication on the court remains less than optimum. The final half of the shootaround is focused on going over Florida’s basic offense, its simple inbound plays and each individual player's tendencies. As with the day before, the focus is on forward Chandler Parsons. Calipari makes clear how he wants Kentucky to play the senior. "What do we want Parsons to do? We want him to shoot. You remember that free throw he took that went like that (Calipari throws the ball off the side of the rim). We want him to shoot. But we can't let him shoot inside, because he can make layups."

Assistant coach John Robic works with the players on a particular inbound play that he says Florida is "certain to run." He tells Lamb to watch for Parsons cutting through the lane, as the play is designed for an open layup. Lamb shakes his head and says he understands, but the final time the play is run, he is once again a step slow on the rotation, leading to a wide open layup. The session ends with Calipari harnessing his inner Tony Robbins once again: "I believe we’ve got the better team. I believe we’ve got the better players. Today we prove it." The team breaks the huddle and practice in the same way that it finishes every pregame shootaround. Beginning with the assistant coaches, all associated with the team take a half-court shot and the group is dismissed when one is made. Robic, who describes himself as the master of the shot, goes first after having made 10 so far this season. When his shot goes off the back iron, he falls on the floor in mock disgust.

The other coaches all take their attempts with varying success and most of the players miss their heaves as well. It is not until nearly everyone has gone that a shot finally goes through. The successful marksman is walk-on Jarrod Polson, who looks so young that his teammates call him "Bieber." His teammates congratulate him by circling around and collectively messing up his teen idol hair before exiting for their pre-game meal. As Calipari leaves, he notes concerns he has about this team going into the end of the season.

“We never got a swagger with this group," Calipari said. "We actually execute better than last year’s team but we don’t have that instinct to go get a rebound and be tough to win the game. The other teams are playing out of desperation to beat us and we don’t have that aggression to give back to them." When asked his 0-6 record in games decided by less than five points and his lack of an obvious go-to player in the game’s closing moments, Calipari is philosophical: "I hope that guy is Brandon (Knight). But too many of our players are saying ‘we are going to win, and I hope one of our guys does it.’ They all want to win, but they are all hoping it is the other guy who does what it takes." Still, Calipari remains confident. "We are what our record says we are, but we are close to being a lot better.

That game we lost at Ole Miss is the worst one of my teams has played in six years. And it still took a 26-footer to beat us. We are close man, we are very close." After a quick change of clothes, the team arrives in Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge for its pre-game meal. The Lodge is the housing quarters of the college basketball team and students who hit the jackpot in the UK housing chase. The team meal includes steak, chicken, various forms of sandwich meat, pasta, numerous vegetables, salad and virtually any type of water/energy drink imaginable. It is the same general pregame meal that Calipari has utilized since his days at UMass, but I am told that at Kentucky, "it is a little bit more extensive." Most of the players actually eat very little of the food, with the meat far outclassing the vegetables in popularity.

The coaches and staff chow down extensively, proving that no matter the salary, everyone likes a free meal. After the players finish, Robic stands up before the team for the final Florida overview. On a small overhead television, he shows film to the team of 15-20 Florida plays from the SEC season. This represents the extent of Kentucky's "film work" for the game. Unlike a number of teams, who spend a great deal of time watching film and exploring team's tendencies, Calipari believes the players learn best on the court. Robic later says, "We know their attention spans are short and we think they learn more by doing than watching." Robic shows the team how Parsons is crucial to everything Florida tries to do offensively. He tells the group, "Parsons has been the X factor in every one of their games.

Darius, you got him and remember the biggest thing you can do is keep him off the glass and make him shoot from outside." As Robic goes over the film, the players vary in their level of attentiveness. Some are glued to the television, while others’ eyes wander off to distractions around the room. Like a mischievous third grader, one player pokes a teammate in the rib every time Robic turns toward the television, to the obvious annoyance of the receiver. Robic then presents a player by player breakdown of the contributors on Florida’s roster, with bullet points of their strengths and weaknesses. Most of them are familiar to Kentucky’s players as the two rivals know each other well.

When Robic speaks about guard Kenny Boynton, he tells Knight (who grew up playing in high school and AAU against the Florida star), "You know him better than I do. He is going to score but you know what you can do against him. He is yours to handle." Robic goes through the roster before finishing his gameday thoughts with the exact message communicated by Calipari at the end of Friday’s practice. He looks at Darius Miller, a talented junior forward who has struggled with inconsistency, and says, "Darius this game is all about you. They can't guard you off the dribble. No matter who they put on you, they can’t guard you.

You can be the difference." Miller shakes his head in agreement. The coach dismisses the team before the 2 p.m. bus trip to Rupp Arena. Some players meet with a team chaplain, while others head to their rooms to kill the remaining hour. Nothing is said about the importance of the game and if one didn't know better, he could easily believe that this was the end of a normal lunch hour at a summer camp, not game day in a big-time college basketball program. Before I leave to head to the arena, I hear one player say to another, "You know I am right. You sweat her, don’t lie." A realization then hits me. Even though 24,000-plus fans in the arena and an entire state outside the arena are nervously awaiting the crucial conference game to come, the players are giving each other a hard time about college girls they both know.

Even though some will be NBA millionaires in only a few months and all carry a certain amount of pressure by playing basketball at Kentucky, at the end of the day, they are typical college kids leaving a very atypical college life.

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Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky
 
 
 
 
 
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