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Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: January 8, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2011 7:32 pm
 

Life on the road isn't easy, even for good teams

A Saturday schedule with just one game between ranked schools seemed boring on the surface.

That's why I stayed home this weekend.

If only No. 9 Missouri, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 17 Kansas State, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 19 UCF and No. 22 Vanderbilt could've done the same. Maybe then they wouldn't be six ranked teams that just endured losses to unranked teams in hostile environments. Yes, it was one of those days in college basketball. Every time I flipped the channel some ranked team was going down on the road. The result was an afternoon of court-stormings, and Sunday night's Top 25 (and one) is sure to be a shuffled mess.

For those who missed it, here you go:
  • Colorado 89, No. 9 Missouri 76
  • Georgia 77, No. 10 Kentucky 70
  • Oklahoma State 76, No. 17 Kansas State 62
  • Penn State 66, No. 18 Michigan State 62
  • Houston 76, No. 19 UCF 71
  • South Carolina 83, No. 22 Vanderbilt 75 (OT)
Georgia is the only unranked team of that bunch that'll likely break into the updated rankings, so let's not pretend this is the day that validates Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Houston or South Carolina. Yes, Colorado (12-4) and Oklahoma State (13-2) are both solid. But Saturday's results say less about them than they say about how difficult it is, even for nationally ranked teams, to go on the road and win in conference play.

(Worth noting: No. 4 Syracuse nearly lost Saturday at Seton Hall, and Seton Hall is 7-9.)

No. 6 San Diego State, No. 13 Georgetown and No. 20 Illinois are among the ranked teams on the road against unranked teams next Saturday. My advice: Don't be shocked -- or even mildly surprised -- if some of them (or all of them) experience the same fate that Missouri, UK, KSU, Michigan State, UCF and Vandy experienced this Saturday. If it happens, it won't necessarily mean they were overrated. It'll just mean they had to travel.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 3:45 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 3:52 pm
 

UK can shoot its way to Final Four

Kentucky doesn't have five first-round picks on this team.

Three, probably.

But definitely not five.

So by that measuring stick this season's Kentucky team isn't nearly as talented as last season's Kentucky team, and yet I won't be surprised if this season's Kentucky team goes farther than last season's Kentucky team, which is to say all the way to the Final Four. They're young, sure, but they play with a unique level of maturity. Also:
  1. They're really athletic.
  2. They can really guard.
  3. They can really shoot.
(I like No. 3 the most.)

John Calipari has had four teams earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

They were:
  • UMass (1995-96)
  • Memphis (2005-06)
  • Memphis (2007-08)
  • Kentucky (2009-10)
Two of those teams made the Final Four (although both appearances were later vacated) and two did not, and the two that didn't lost in similar fashion, i.e., as favorites who couldn't make a gosh darn jumpshot. The 2005-06 Tigers shot 35 percent from 3-point range on the season and lost 50-45 to UCLA in the Elite Eight because they finished 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. The 2009-10 Wildcats shot 33 percent from 3-point range on the season and lost 73-66 to West Virginia in the Elite Eight because they finished 4-of-32 from beyond the arc. In other words, Calipari's two No. 1 seeds that lost in the Elite Eight lost because they shot just 12 percent on 3-pointers in Elite Eight games, which is both an astounding statistic and something I can't see happening to his latest dynamic team that looked great in Friday's 78-63 win at Louisville.

The Wildcats aren't the nation's best 3-point shooting team.

But they're in the top 20.

Kentucky is shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range as a team and has two guards -- Doron Lamb (54.9 percent) and Darius Miller (47.4 percent) -- making about 50 percent of their 3-point attempts; Brandon Knight (38.3 percent) and DeAndre Liggins (36.1 percent) provide two more capable shotmakers. So is this the type of team that's going to miss 88 percent of its 3-point attempts in an important game? No, I don't think it is. And that's why it might be wise to call the Wildcats the SEC favorite and add them to the list of serious Final Four candidates.

They won't have five first first-round draft picks like last season's team.

I assure you of that.

But the less-talented Wildcats might be good enough to play for a national title, regardless.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 2:19 pm
 

Finally, a good event to start the season on tap

I've been asking -- begging is probably more accurate -- for an interesting event to start the college basketball season for a while now. Something different than, you know, Pittsburgh vs. Rhode Island, which is what we got this year. Nothing against Pittsburgh (or Rhode Island, for that matter). It's just that casual sports fans won't turn their attention to the start of the college basketball season for Panthers-Rams.

But they'll turn their attention for this (via ESPN.com's Andy Katz):
Four of the sport's top programs -- Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky -- have committed to create the Champions Classic, an early season marquee event debuting in 2011 and televised by ESPN. The first Champions Classic is set for Madison Square Garden in New York, with Duke facing Michigan State and Kentucky meeting Kansas on Nov. 15, 2011. Year 2 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will see Michigan State vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kentucky on Nov. 13, 2012. The third event, Nov. 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, will have Michigan State playing Kentucky and Kansas playing Duke.
Yes, yes, yes!

And finally!

For too long this sport's season has started with a whimper, and most people never knew when or where it began, or with whom. Now everybody will know. ESPN has secured commitments from four of America's top programs, and the four schools will tip the next three seasons under one roof. Two will play each other, then the other two will play in a double-header format not unlike what I witnessed Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Each team will switch opponents each year for three years. So by the time this is over we will have experienced every possible combination of Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky, and that the games will happen in the context of a high-profile event should only make them more special.

So kudos to ESPN for making this happen. And hats off to Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari for letting it happen. I haven't been this excited since Delta started adding Wifi on domestic flights. The Champions Classic is going to be epic. It's an event that's decades overdue, obviously. But as I type these words, it's less than a year away.

Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 1:29 pm
 

The Poll Attacks

Somebody ranked Florida 16th after a loss to UCF. Same somebody didn't even rank undefeated UCF. And that voter from the Daily Progress isn't progressing well at all. That's too bad for him. But it's great for the Poll Attacks.

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com.)

Associated Press poll: Florida returned five starters from a roster that made the NCAA tournament, and the Gators added a McDonald's All-American to the bunch. So ranking them high in the preseason made some sense. I even did it myself. But now the season has started, and the Gators are 6-2. Their losses are a lopsided loss at home to Ohio State that didn't really bother me and a surprising loss on the road to UCF that bothered me quite a bit.

But you know who wasn't bothered by it?

Scott Mansch from the Great Falls Tribune in Montana.

It didn't bother him at all.

Dude had the Gators 16th last week and 16th again this week.

(Worth noting: Florida didn't make the Top 25 (and one) or actual AP poll.)

Needless to say, this was startling. So I decided to further examine Scott's AP ballots from last week and this week and compare the two. Here's what I found: He dropped Missouri five spots for losing in overtime to No. 9 Georgetown, dropped Michigan State two spots for losing by five points on the road to No. 1 Duke. (More on this below.) But Florida? Scott kept the Gators right where they were last week on his ballot after the loss at UCF. And what makes it even sillier is that Scott didn't rank undefeated UCF at all. So he apparently believes losses to teams he and everybody else has ranked are worse than losses to unranked teams. That's all I can figure.

(Moving on …)

Does anybody know Whitelaw Reid from the Daily Progress in Virginia?

We have to sit this guy down, ASAP.

I busted him up in last week's Poll Attacks, and I thought he might listen and adjust. Alas, he did not. My man still has Villanova ranked No. 8 and Tennessee unranked despite the fact that Tennessee is undefeated with a neutral court win over Villanova. He still has Connecticut behind Michigan State, Kentucky and Washington despite the fact that Connecticut is undefeated with wins over Michigan State and Kentucky, both of which beat Washington. And he still has Missouri ahead of Georgetown despite the fact that Georgetown is undefeated with a win over -- you'll never guess -- Missouri.

That last game, a thriller, happened last Tuesday.

Do you think Whitelaw heard about it?

Do you think Whitelaw even knows the season is underway?

Coaches poll: There are lots of things I hate about how people vote in polls -- that's sort of how I stumbled into doing this every Monday -- but there's nothing I hate more than when teams drop for losing competitive games to higher-ranked teams, especially on the road. By definition, a team ranked No. 1 is supposed to beat a team ranked No. 6, particularly when the game is on the top-ranked team's home court. So it should've surprised nobody when No. 1 Duke beat No. 6 Michigan State 84-79 last week at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What's surprising is that the Spartans dropped from No. 6 to No. 8 in the coaches poll because of the loss.

Seriously, why?

What did anybody see in that loss at Duke to make them think MSU wasn't worthy of its ranking?

How many teams would've or even could've won that game in that building on that night?

So stupid.

If you want to rank Michigan State eighth, that's fine. Or put the Spartans 12th. I don't care. My point is only that there isn't a single thing that happened over the past week that should've diminished anybody's opinion of Michigan State. So wherever a voter had the Spartans last week is, at worst, where that voter should've had them this week.

For instance, I had Michigan State No. 5 last week.

Same thing this week.

Because a five-point loss on the road to the No. 1 team is no reason to drop them.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 7:26 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2010 9:30 am
 

Newton case gives UK new angle with Kanter

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Kentucky officials have asked the NCAA for an opportunity to submit additional information regarding the eligibility of freshman Enes Kanter, the school and NCAA announced Friday via a joint statement. A source told CBSSports.com that the decision is a reaction to this week's ruling on Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton, who was cleared to play without conditions in Saturday's SEC Championship Game because the NCAA could not prove he ever knew his father shopped him to Mississippi State before he ultimately enrolled at Auburn.

Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible on Nov. 11 when the NCAA announced he received "benefits above actual and necessary expenses while playing for a club basketball team in Turkey," and UK agreed with the NCAA that the amount received was $33,033. But the ruling on Newton prompted the school to argue that Kanter wasn't aware of how much money the Turkish club was paying him because his parents handled all finances, point being that his case is similar to Newton's case in that the NCAA violations that occurred happened at the parental level.

Kanter, like Newton, simply wasn't aware of his parent's dealings.

That's essentially what Kentucky will argue.

The case could start moving as soon as next week.

Kentucky plays here at North Carolina on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 on CBS.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 3, 2010 3:35 am
 

Cameron and Allen in consecutive nights is fun

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You can tell by the timestamps on my last two posts that this road trip I'm currently enjoying has really disrupted my sleeping habits. And by disrupted my sleeping habits, I mean I'm not really sleeping anymore.

That's not fun.

But I'd still put my past two nights up against anybody's.

I was at Michigan State-Duke Wednesday night and UCLA-Kansas Thursday night.

So in a span of 24 hours I sat courtside in what I consider to be the two neatest college basketball arenas in the country (Cameron Indoor Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse) and watched four possible Hall of Fame coaches (Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Ben Howland and Bill Self) compete in two high-level games. Duke's Kyrie Irving was the story late Wednesday, a questionable call was the story late Thursday. And now I'm just anxious to see what the story will be early Saturday, because I'm getting ready to fly back to North Carolina for this weekend's showdown between Kentucky and North Carolina.

I'll be inside the Dean Smith Center for tipoff.

I won't mind seeing another freshman dominate and be a star.

What I would mind seeing is another referee ruin a good competition.
Posted on: November 25, 2010 1:22 am
Edited on: November 25, 2010 1:40 am
 

Now UConn is the nation's best story, of course

How often do you actually write?

That's a question I'm often asked when I speak to classes, meet readers at games, sit in bars later than I should. I get a variation of it every few days, and I always answer by telling the curious soul that in the offseason I try to write three or four columns a week, and that during the season there's rarely a day -- Christmas, perhaps -- when I'm not typing words about college basketball. That exchange almost always leads to a follow-up question.

How do you find something to write about EVERY day?

It's at this point that I go into a speech about how there are hundreds of teams playing and that stories just constantly and consistently develop. You can't always predict when and where, I tell them, but you can safely assume stories will emerge because stories always emerge.

Which brings me to Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies.

They are a perfect example.

UConn won the Maui Invitational late Wednesday.

The eight-team event featured the schools ranked No. 2 (Michigan State), No. 8 (Kentucky) and No. 13 (Washington) in the latest Associated Press poll, and yet the unranked Huskies -- the same unranked Huskies who were projected 10th in the Big East, according to a preseason vote of league coaches -- are the ones returning to the mainland still undefeated thanks to wins over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky.

The second of those wins (over Michigan State) was the biggest surprise.

The third (over Kentucky) was the most impressive.

UConn dominated UK and won 84-67 thanks to a 29-point effort from Walker, who has been nothing short of spectacular through five games. He scored 60 points in UConn's first two contests this season, 90 in Maui. I don't need a calculator to realize that's an average of 30 points per game, and I don't know where this came from, exactly, but I'm certainly thrilled it's here.

How do you find something to write about EVERY day?

Like I said, stories just constantly and consistently develop. Oftentimes, they're precisely where most anticipated. But every once in a while they come out of nowhere, and this week has been one of those weeks thanks to Kemba Walker and his soon-to-be-ranked Huskies.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 24, 2010 2:10 am
Edited on: November 24, 2010 2:22 am
 

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

Tuesday marked the first real day of great college basketball games, and it was terrific. Here are five thoughts from a night that saw No. 1 Duke remain undefeated, No. 4 Kansas State take its first loss, Kemba Walker lead UConn past No. 2 Michigan State, and No. 8 Kentucky get by No. 13 Washington thanks to another stellar effort from yet another terrific John Calipari-coached freshman:

1. Duke is seriously talented, elite, all that and more

The Blue Devils were the nation's consensus preseason No. 1 team, and the nation saw why during their 82-68 win over Kansas State. You could reasonably argue -- I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, just saying it could be reasonably argued -- that Duke has college basketball's best player at three different positions, and that freshman Kyrie Irving is already the team's top player despite the fact that he joined a roster featuring seven guys with national title rings. This team was easy to love on paper, and it's even easier to love after watching it on the court. They won't lose when they play well. To top them, somebody will have to be really good on the same day they're a little off.

2. Jacob Pullen will probably be OK, I think

Jacob Pullen struggled against Duke, missed 11 of the 12 shots he attempted. So if you want to question him, you can. And I won't blame you. But I would like to remind you that he's had awful nights before and recovered nicely. The All-American candidate posted back-to-back 2-of-15 games last January and still went on to put 34 on BYU and 28 on Xavier during the NCAA tournament. Granted, it's unclear if Pullen can be that same type of player without Denis Clemente in the backcourt beside him, and, I know, Pullen hasn't looked great this season regardless of the opponent. But he's still undeniably the best player on a team that already owns wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, and that's worth remembering in the spirit of perspective.

3. Kemba Walker is turning into a star

New York-area basketball enthusiasts have wanted Kemba Walker to be a star since the moment he enrolled at UConn, but it didn't happen that quickly for a variety of reasons. It's happening now, though. Walker recorded at least 30 points for the third straight game and led the unranked (for the moment) Huskies to a 70-67 victory over Michigan State. He's driving and scoring and, perhaps most impressively, leading. And though I can't imagine Walker keeps it up and really averages around 30 points per game, if he's anywhere close to this good consistently then my prediction that UConn will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year will be wrong in a major way.

4. Michigan State, as usual, will be a work in progress

As sure as Tom Izzo is spelled with two Zs, Michigan State will be there in the end. To think otherwise would be stupid. But it must be concerning for Spartan fans that Kalin Lucas was awful in the loss to UConn. While Walker had the type of game that enhances (and in many cases inflates) reputations, Lucas had one that damages them. He recorded four field goals and five turnovers in the loss, and an elite point guard shouldn't have games like that in his senior year even when he's coming off of an injury.

5. Terrence Jones is way better than I anticipated

I knew Terrence Jones would be good because he's big and skilled and naturally gifted, but what he's done through four games is ridiculous. The 6-foot-8 freshman is averaging 20.1 points and 11.8 rebounds after geting 16 points and 17 rebounds in UK's 74-67 win over Washington, and he's the main reason why the Wildcats are still overwhelming opponents despite losing five first-round picks from last season's team. Jones' waffling between Washington and Kentucky for two weeks last May -- specifically the way he toyed with fans via Twitter -- before ultimately signing with the Wildcats was a major turnoff in my eyes, but I don't care about that anymore. Kid is performing like a monster. Just tremendous. He'll never play college basketball next to permanently ineligible Turkish star Enes Kanter (barring a successful appeal to the NCAA). But, my lord, can you imagine how scary Kentucky would be with those two?
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com