Big Blue Links: Chris Webber knocks Willie Cauley-Stein

grantwillieblock

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

Kentucky players recognize importance of sharpening motivation, reports Jerry Tipton of Herald-Leader. “When you get this close to the Final Four, everyone’s motivated,” Aaron Harrison said Tuesday. “But I think that we do have a chip on our shoulder. We have a lot to prove.”

Chris Webber continues his criticism of Willie Cauley-Stein, reports ESPN. The former Michigan star has been critical of Cauley-Stein’s offensive game. He also called out the “haters” on Twitter.

Richard Pitino is on Alabama’s radar, reports Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Alabama has expressed interest in Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, sources with knowledge of the situation told the Star Tribune. Crimson Tide athletic director Bill Battle fired coach Anthony Grant on March 15 after six seasons with the program. According to multiple reports, Alabama is pursuing Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall as its first choice. Those reports say Battle traveled to Wichita, Kan., on Monday to meet with Marshall, but no announcement has been made.”

Isaiah Briscoe’s confidence is rarely in short supply, reports Ben Roberts of Herald-Leader. “It’s not about who’s going, who’s staying,” Briscoe told the Herald-Leader. “It’s about me. It’s about Isaiah Briscoe. I feel as though my competitive edge will get me over the hump. If I have to go there and compete, that’s what I love to do. So that’s to my advantage. I don’t want anything given to me. I want to take everything.”

Continue reading

Posted in College basketball, UK basketball | Comments

Three-spot from Kentucky’s Final Four preview opp

Three quick things from Kentucky basketball’s media opp Tuesday previewing this weekend’s Final Four.

1. Not just happy to be there. Both Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison said that last year, Kentucky was just happy to be in the Final Four. The Cats were a No. 8 seed. No one expected them to be there. They had beaten previously unbeaten Wichita State in an epic round of 32 game, Louisville in the Sweet 16 and Michigan in the Elite Eight, the last two thanks to late heroics.

Different year, different story. Kentucky has been ranked No. 1 from pre-season to the start of the post-season. The Cats are 38-0. They are two wins away from not just 40-0 but the school’s ninth national title. Being in Indianapolis is not enough. As Aaron Harrison said Tuesday, the Cats are not satisfied this time.

2. Wisconsin is not like Notre Dame. The players disagreed with the notion that Wisconsin is a lot like Notre Dame, the team Kentucky edged 68-66 in a thrilling Midwest Region final on Saturday. Notre Dame was ranked third in offensive efficiency heading into that game. Wisconsin is ranked first in offensive efficiency going into Saturday’s game.

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Tagged , , | Comments

Kentucky’s history with Final Four officials

sirmonsdoug581

The NCAA has announced the officials for this weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

Here’s the news release:

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has approved 10 game officials recommended by John W. Adams, the national coordinator of officiating, to work Saturday’s two national semifinal games and Monday’s national championship game.

A three-man crew will work each Final Four game, and one official will be the standby official for all three contests. The NCAA has notified these 10 individuals selected to work the 2015 Final Four, which will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis:

Continue reading

Posted in College basketball | Comments

Big Blue Links: Indiana’s 1976 undefeated champs would welcome Kentucky into the club

ncb_aqbuck88_cr_576

Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

Indiana’s 1976 undefeated champs would welcome Kentucky into the club, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. “As such, the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers view the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats with refreshing perspective. They are not the 1972 Miami Dolphins, popping champagne when the final loss column is filled every year. They are not back-in-my-day blowhards, carping about how much tougher the competition was back then. They are not jealous or nervous or petty. The Hoosiers remain secure in their place in history, proud of their success but still charitable toward Kentucky’s accomplishment.”

Jaylen Brown lauds UK basketball program, but decision may hinge on academic offerings, reports Ben Roberts of Herald-Leader. “Kentucky, man. Kentucky is probably the best basketball program right now in America,” Brown said. “I took a lot of visits. Nobody’s basketball program was as good as Kentucky. And … basketball is what I’m going to do with my life. Kentucky — I have so much respect for that program.”

Tennessee rushing to hire Rick Barnes makes sense, writes Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Barnes, 60, was forced out at Texas after 17 seasons Sunday. His introduction as Donnie Tyndall’s successor at Tennessee is believed to be imminent. But what’s the hurry to hire an AARP constituent who was essentially chased off by his previous employer? The dire state of Tennessee basketball, that’s what.”

Andrew and Aaron Harrison are twins in life and in the clutch, writes Jerry Tipton of Herald-Leader. “I’m proud of him,” Aaron said before musing, “It’s probably tougher to hit free throws than a game-winning three because you’ve got to sit there and think about it.”

Continue reading

Posted in College basketball, SEC, UK basketball, UK football | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments

Kentucky carries defensive excellence to Final Four

lylesblockndame

There’s no secret what phase of the game has staked Kentucky to a 38-0 record and a berth in this weekend’s Final Four when John Calipari’s Cats take on Wisconsin in a national semifinal.

UK ranks first nationally in defensive efficiency, and that hasn’t changed much in the NCAA Tournament. Through Sunday’s games, Kentucky has posted three of the best seven defensive-efficiency numbers in the entire tournament, including the top two.

The Cats held West Virginia to a meager 0.619 points per possession — or 61.9 points per 100 possessions — the lowest number in any of the 60 tournament games played to date. UK doubled up the poor Mountaineers, 78-39, in that Midwest Region semifinal.

No. 2 on the list is the 0.747 that Kentucky held Hampton to in the Cats’ opening game of the tournament, a 79-56 UK romp at the Yum Center.

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Comments

Emailbag: Harrison haters admit their mistake

harrisontwins

Got a couple of emails in the inbox from readers who admit they were wrong about the Harrison twins.

The is from Audrey:

      Last regular season, I was so frustrated with the Cats that I put most of the blame of poor play on the Harrison twins.  The selfish drives to the basket with Andrew getting charge calls.  The miss after miss outside by Aaron.  I was really confused why these twins were touted such great recruits.  I didn’t see anything really special about them besides their size and being twins.  It seemed that the team didn’t play with heart and the end result were losses. Big Blue Nation just haven’t been accustomed to many losses the past few years with Coach Cal.

Once the NCAA tourney began, I was just really hoping that we would get through at least 2 rounds of the tourney.  Especially after seeing the insurmountable draw we had been given.  Then I saw the team I dreamed of playing team basketball, hard defense, and of course a few miracle shots!  I truly had the most fun NCAA tourney as a devout Wildcat fan than I had ever had in my life.  It was an amazing journey that the team took BBN on.  My heart softened for the twins and I was cheering them and started talking how amazing they were.  It wasn’t the unbelievable play of the Harrisons during the  tournament that turned me into the biggest Harrison fan ever. It was something more.

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Tagged , | Comments

Big Blue Links: Perfection pursuit moves on to Indianapolis

ukfirecelebration

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Kentucky coulda/shoulda lost, but didn’t, says Mark Bradley of the AJC. “It won because Willie Cauley-Stein blocked Jerian Grant’s 3-point try with 34 seconds remaining and ran downcourt with the fleet guard to induce an air ball on the game’s final shot. It won because Andrew Harrison, Aaron’s twin, drove into the Notre Dame defense and got fouled and made the winning free throws with six seconds left. It won, somehow, won on a night when losing seemed the more likely outcome.”

Kentucky climbs last major hurdle, writes Ian O’Connor of espn.com. “Liberated by this near-death experience, Kentucky can go ahead and reach past Wisconsin in the semis and past Duke or someone else in the final and complete the perfect season. The Badgers are a terrific team with NBA talent on their front line, and Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will test this Kentucky team every bit as much as they tested Kentucky at the Final Four last season, when Aaron Harrison stole the game on his dagger of a 3.”

Undefeated Kentucky withstands Notre Dame, writes Chuck Culpepper of the Washington Post. “Yet as Kentucky’s still-unbeaten players rushed furiously to center court for a hopping, leaping victory scrum after their 68-66 escape, it was clear Notre Dame’s tip-top mien had done something else: It had ladled an extra layer of flattery upon Kentucky. If the team that aims to become a cog in college basketball history could withstand a Notre Dame that proficient, then it will earn its decades of plaudits. If it could play the last five minutes of a two-hour palpitation with a telltale 12-5 binge, then it must be made of rare material.”

Desperation fueled Kentucky’s thrilling comeback, says my column. “This time, both twins played hero. Aaron hit a three with 3:14 left to give UK a 64-63 lead. Then it was Andrew who played hero, driving the ball to the basket and picking up a blocking foul from Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson with exactly six seconds remaining and the game tied at 66. The sophomore point guard coolly sank both free throws to give Kentucky the lead.”

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Comments

Running some numbers on UK’s win over Notre Dame

willietrophy

CLEVELAND — Running some numbers on Kentucky’s Midwest Regional final win over Notre Dame:

– As you might expect, considering Notre Dame is the third most efficient team on offense in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy, Notre Dame’s points per possession were the highest against Kentucky all season. Notre Dame averaged 1.175 points per possession, topping Ole Miss’ 1.110 from that overtime game on Jan. 6.

– It was just the seventh time this year that the Kentucky defense allowed more than a point per possession this season. This came after UK allowed just 0.619 points per possession against West Virginia on Thursday night.

– Kentucky averaged 1.183 points per possession after averaging 1.215 points per possession against West Virginia.

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Comments

John Calipari: ‘Andrew and Aaron still drive this team’

townskentuckynd

CLEVELAND — Transcript from Kentucky’s press conference after win over Notre Dame.

MODERATOR: We’ll let Coach Calipari open with a statement.

COACH CALIPARI: I’m really proud of the guys. All we did, we were just scratching to stay in the game. I don’t know if our breakdowns, until I watch the tape, were us or Notre Dame being that good offensively. And I’ll tell you the thing on the side pick and roll and the empty side pick and roll, that’s on me as a coach. We never figured it out, we tried doing some different things and they just kept scoring on that, and Mike did what he should have, just kept going back at it. It was nice to see Aaron do what Aaron does, just a huge 3. It was great to see Andrew play an okay game, but make the plays down the stretch. It was great to see in the second half, us able to throw at Karl Towns, and they either were scoring or you got to leave somebody. And then Tyler makes that 3 in the corner. But we were just fighting to stay in the game, to be honest with you, and it was nice to see how it finished for these kids.

Continue reading

Posted in UK basketball | Comments

Mike Brey: ‘The size does get to you over 40 minutes’

notredamekentucky

CLEVELAND — Transcript from Notre Dame press conference after loss to Kentucky.

MODERATOR: Welcome Coach Brey, let him open with an opening statement and then we’ll take questions.

COACH BREY: What a great college game. It was thrilling to be part of it. It lived up to the hype. We’re extremely disappointed. We really thought we had a great chance of beating them, and I thought we displayed that, but I think you’ve got to give them credit, they made some big plays, they made some timely three-point shots at key times. And we got a little stagnant offensively, but it’s easy to get stagnant against that length. It takes its toll on you at times, but I’m proud of our group, man. We emptied the tank tonight, and that’s all I asked them to do before the game.

Continue reading

Posted in College basketball | Tagged | Comments