Big Blue Links and notes for Friday:
– Jerry Tipton writes on Julius Randle, saying the UK forward is well-armed for double duty vs. Louisville. Kenny Walker compares Randle to Tim Duncan.
The mentioning of Duncan should evoke vivid memories for UK fans of a certain age. Duncan posed the biggest threat, literally and figuratively, to Kentucky’s hopes of winning the 1996 NCAA Tournament. In the 1996 Midwest Region finals, then-UK Coach Rick Pitino (the guy wearing the red tie on Saturday) ordered special defensive attention on Duncan. The double-teaming worked remarkably well. Duncan took only three first-half shots and made none.
– Dick Vitale picks UK to come out on top.
It is getting to be nervous time 4 BBN – SAT vs Cards really big 4 UK-@ Rupp Cats will dig in says VBDI & bring joy to BBN-UK 74-Cards 70!
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) December 27, 2013
– Mike Rutherford of Card Chronicle writes that the season starts Saturday.
Louisville has played one team thus far who will likely find entry into the NCAA tournament field, and to all of our surprise, the Birds took it on the chin. The Cardinals have cakewalked through the first half of the 2013 season, and aside from the Tarheel matchup, have done a good job of looking interested, playing hard and winning convincingly. Rupp Arena, Calipari and an underperforming, disjointed band of kitty cats provide only the second true test of the season and Cardinal Nation waits with true excitement, mixed with increasing nervous enthusiasm.
– The Courier-Journal goes behind the masks with the mascots at Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky.
Take Shane Milburn, one of seven WKU students who portray the Hilltoppers’ nationally known and androgynous mascot, Big Red. Sure there are perks: traveling with the team, attending sporting events for free, and at least a partial scholarship. But that’s not what drives Milburn, 22, a senior.
– Glenn Logan of A Sea of Blue writes that UK-U of L is unusually important this year.
This is perhaps the most important Kentucky-Louisville matchup since the Final Four back in 2012. I don’t think it’s possible to argue that any game between U of L and Kentucky could be more important than that one, other than perhaps the very first meeting between the two teams back in the Mideast Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 1983. That game had probably the highest drama value of any game in my memory.
– ESPN’s Jay Bilas doesn’t think it’s hard to figure the key to Saturday’s game.
“Julius Randle and Russ Smith. I don’t think Kentucky will win unless Randle is engaged and fully involved in the offense. Kentucky cannot just put its head down and drive Louisville. Randle has got to get the ball, and he has to want the ball in the right spots and play before he gets the ball,” Bilas said. “Smith is capable of taking over the game and getting 35. He is an incredible college player.”
– Guy Ramsey of Cat Scratches writes about Artose Pinner, the former star Kentucky running back who kept his promise and returned to UK to get his degree. Pinner was one of the big reasons Kentucky went 7-5 under Guy Morriss in 2002.
With that support system in place, Pinner completed his coursework this fall and graduated in December. “It’s an overwhelming feeling,” Pinner said. “It’s a humbling experience because I knew realistically I couldn’t do it all by myself. This is not only for me, but also the people who helped me get to this point.”
– Tyler Thompson does a notes roundup for KSR which includes a picture of students already camping out for eRupption Zone tickets.
– The Chicago Bulls have sent Marquis Teague to the D-League. It’s been an up-and-down NBA career so far for the former Kentucky guard. He’s averaging just 2.4 points and 1.5 assists for the Bulls, who have been without Derek Rose at the point.
– Meanwhile, Terrence Jones continues to rock for the Rockets. After a Christmas Day double-double, Jones scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in Houston’s 100-92 win over Memphis last night.
– John Calipari and his Cats made a recent visit to the Waffle House. That reminds me of words of wisdom once given to me by the great Mike Leach, who said, “You can always find a sweat tea and a juke box at Waffle House.”
– James Pennington of KyForward writes that UK gave away some of its prep time for Louisville.
And that’s where the scheduling of this game comes in. It’s on Dec. 28, this Saturday. You likely well know that by this point (even if only because it’s already been mentioned in this story twice before this paragraph). But that means it’s the first game after Christmas. The Wildcats beat Belmont 93-80 on Dec. 21, and after the game, the players went home for a few days. It’s the first time this season that the team has gone home for a holiday (scheduling prevented such over Thanksgiving).
– Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Nation writes that UK and U of L have taken different scheduling paths this year.
You would think that the defending champion 11-1 Cardinals should be considered the better team heading into Saturday’s game against the 9-3 Wildcats, but this may not be the case. CBS Sport’s Jerry Palm actually has given UK a RPI of 26 and Louisville a RPI of 34 and the schedule has a big part of that. According to Palm, Kentucky has the 18th toughest schedule and UK’s opponents have a winning percentage of .6196. Louisville has a SOS of 149th and their opponents are right at .500 for the season. besides UNC.
– Seth Emerson of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer writes that Mark Richt isn’t saying much about Georgia’s suspensions for the Bulldogs’ bowl game against Nebraska. Suspensions are nothing new for Richt and the Bulldogs.
– Kurt Roper takes over from Brent Pease as offensive coordinator at Florida and Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley says it’s time to get out of Mr. Roper’s way.
– Happy Birthday to Frank Broyles, the legendary former Arkansas coach and AD who turned 89 yesterday.
– Missouri basketball has an interesting game Saturday as the Tigers travel to North Carolina State.
– UK target Matt Elam earned All-America honors from USA Today.
– And if you missed it, UK has scheduled a media opp for 10 a.m. this morning. We’ll have notes and videos immediately following right here on the blog.
Photo of Louisville’s Russ Smith by AP