Big Blue Links and morning notes for a Tuesday:
- On tap for today: Kentucky canceled the men’s basketball media opp scheduled for today. There will be no media availability until Thursday in Newark. Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips is holding a press conference today to preview the start of spring practice.
- The Kentucky women are knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round by North Carolina. It’s a disappointing finish for Matthew Mitchell’s team, which reached the Elite Eight last year before bowing out to Oklahoma. The loss of point guard Amber Smith for the season with a knee injury turned out to be too much for a team that had hoped to reach the Final Four.
Jen Smith of the H-L reports from Albuquerque, “Victoria Dunlap’s Kentucky career didn’t end in tears as she gleefully cut down the championship nets in Indianapolis. It ended with a stoic face and a long embrace with her head coach after the No. 17 Cats fell to No. 14 North Carolina 86-74 in The Pit on Monday night. . . . Behind its senior leader, UK fought back from a 15-point deficit in the second half and cut it to two points three separate times, but each time Carolina had an answer.”
Chandler Howard of the Kentucky Kernel was also in Albuquerque. He has this Mitchell quote: “”It was one of the most disappointing performances I’ve ever seen from our team here at Kentucky. I just feel terrible that somehow I couldn’t get us more inspired to play in the NCAA Tournament, I feel really bad about that.”
- Bruce Pearl got his pink slip yesterday. Apparently the tide turned late inside the UT administration as far as Pearl was concerned. On March 6, athletic director Mike Hamilton told a key recruit that Pearl would be Tennessee’s coach next season. Last week, in an interview with a Knoxville radio station, Hamilton all but said Pearl would be gone. Then Monday, Hamilton lowered the boom on his embattled head coach.
Mike Griffith of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports, “On Feb. 23, Tennessee learned the men’s program faced allegations of 10 major violations when the NCAA Enforcement Staff delivered its Notice of Allegations. The only infraction among the 10 violations that had not been previously disclosed was a so-called “bump violation,” which allegedly occurred on Sept. 14 at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy. According to the enforcement staff, Pearl’s unintentional contact with high school junior Jordan Adams went beyond the acceptable length for happenstance meetings. Two sources have said UT will appeal the violation.”
Andy Katz of espn.com reports that a pass-list violation for the Kentucky game in Knoxville got Pearl in more hot water. As well, he reports that Brian Williams didn’t really miss the regular season’s final two games because of a bad back.
John Adams of the News-Sentinel writes that Pearl didn’t just embrace the Tennessee fan base, he became a part of it.
Pearl carried too much baggage to stay in Knoxville, writes David Climer of the Tennessean.
Oh, the irony in Tennessee, says John Pennington of Mr. SEC.
Still, the situation is an absolute mess. Who’s going to want the Tennessee job knowing that sanctions are coming. And it appears likely that Pearl will receive a show-case ruling by the NCAA, meaning the man with the orange blazer is going to be out of coaching for awhile.
- Focus shifts for Kentucky and Ohio State. The Buckeyes turn their attention to the Cats after dismantling both Texas San-Antonio and George Mason in Cleveland. Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch writes, “Ohio State’s opponent Friday night is Kentucky, as much a blue blood in college basketball as the Buckeyes are in football. The Wildcats’ fans are just as rabid – at least – as Ohio State’s in football. Expect to see more blue than scarlet and gray in the Prudential Center. If Ohio State wins, it’ll play Sunday against the winner of the North Carolina-Marquette game. . . . Ohio State’s tournament journey a year ago ended in a regional semifinal. Tennessee beat Ohio State in what was regarded as a mild upset.”
The big strategic question for John Calipari is how you defend the Buckeyes. Do you double Jared Sullinger and leave the three-point shooters open? Or do you take away the three — a la what UK did in beating Vanderbilt in Lexington — and leave Sullinger one-on-one in the post?
- BTW, made the mistake of making a little joke and referring to the old “Mistake by the Lake” nickname for Cleveland in my Monday column. Boy, have I heard about that. Plenty of e-mails. Some lines you should just keep to yourself.
- Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes that Kentucky is surrounded by Cat-killers in the East Region.
- Jerry Tipton of the H-L writes on DeAndre Liggins, who relishes his role of defensive stopper.
- On the Kentucky football front, the Cats were hoping to get Brandon Maye, the Clemson linebacker from Tee Martin’s hometown who wanted to use the NCAA rule allowing a graduated player to play another season by attending grad school at another institution. Now, turns out, Maye will transfer to Mississippi State.
- Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal tries to defend the 11-bid conference. But most aren’t having any of it. If you get 11 teams into the tournament, and only two make it to the regional semifinals, criticism is going to follow. I agree with Charles Barkley in that the league was very competitive, with good teams, but it doesn’t have elite talent. Kemba Walker, and that’s about it. In the tournament, elite talent is usually a must.
Nate Silver of the fivethirtyeight blog writes that the Big East showing is upsetting, but not a failure.
- Joe Posnanski of SI.com is tired of all the TV talk about officiating.
- David Whitley, now of the Sporting News, on Josh Harrellson, “First, he’s a senior. They are rarer than three-legged thoroughbreds in Kentucky.”
- Marquette coach Buzz Williams, “As you go through life, make sure you keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.”
Syracuse shot 55.3 percent to Marquette and lost on Sunday.
This is Marquette’s first Sweet 16 team since 2003. Tom Crean was the coach then. Dwayne Wade was his star. And Marquette knocked Kentucky out in the regional final that year. UK was playing with a hobbled Keith Bogans, who had sprained his ankle two nights before in a win over Wisconsin.
- Nate Allen of the Baxter Bulletin reports that Arkansas hopes of getting Mike Anderson may be fading. He writes, “It could change in an instant, of course, but as each day passes whatever is or isn’t happening between Mike Anderson and Arkansas, indicates a decreasing likelihood that the Missouri Tigers basketball coach will become the Razorbacks basketball coach and that Arkansas attention could soon turn to Marquette coach Buzz Williams or Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Missouri is reported as increasing its financial package in an effort to retain Anderson, the logical first choice as a former 17-year assistant to Nolan Richardson on the Razorbacks’ wish list to replace recently fired fourth-year Arkansas coach John Pelphrey.”
- Florida State’s Michael Snaer on his team’s defense, “We just have to score 60 because you’re not going to score 60 against us.” Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles led the nation in field-goal percentage defense.
- Tubby Smith will be a guest commentator on the Big Ten Network this week.