BBL: Florida avoids sweep with win over UK baseball

Big Blue Links for Monday:

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SEC: Howland, Newman changing culture at MSU

SEC links for Monday:

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BBL: Kentucky baseball shuts out Florida

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Kentucky baseball hands Florida its first shutout of season, reports Gainesville Sun.

Cats past, present and future collide in Lexington, reports Ben Roberts of Herald-Leader.

Herald-Leader photo gallery from EYBL Event in Lexington.

Kentucky target Azubuike demonstrates his rim-rattling skills, reports Roberts.

Billy Donovan the betting favorite to get Thunder job, reports Oklahoman.

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BBL: Kentucky basketball looking forward

Big Blue Links for Friday:

With Alex Poythress coming back and Marcus Lee stepping up, John Calipari likes where his Cats will be next season, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. Calipari accepted the Rupp Cup on Thursday. “We have three guys in the warmup line right now,” he said. “And someone said they picked us No. 1 in the country. We don’t even have a team and we’re No. 1?! It comes back to what Coach (Adolph) Rupp started here. It’s expected here.”

Former Harrison County standout Camryn Whitaker is joining Matthew Mitchell’s staff with UK women’s basketball, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. Whitaker was at Dayton the past three years. It was Dayton that knocked the UK women out of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Ben Roberts of NextCats has a ton of information on the Nike EBYL event this weekend at the Kentucky Basketball Academy. Several of Kentucky’s top targets for 2016 are expected to participate.

Despite reports otherwise, Jamal Murray is not visiting UK this weekend, reports Roberts.

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RIP Rena Vicini

When I was starting out in this business, covering Kentucky women’s basketball, Rena Vicini was a huge help to me as a supporter, a critic and, most of all, a friend.

The former University of Kentucky assistant athletic director passed away Wednesday in her new home of Arizona. She also was the author of the best-selling book Fatal Seduction about the 1986 murder of Michael Turpin. The proud native of Lynch was a force of nature who could make you feel as if you were her favorite even if she made everyone else feel the same way.

I remember being on the same plane with her one time on some road trip and when she saw me she nearly exclaimed, “I just saw a movie that I know you would love! You’ve got to see it!” She was talking about Almost Famous and she was right.

Rena was one of a kind. She will be missed.

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BBL: Two big days coming for Bud Dupree

Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

Bud Dupree focused on more than the NFL Draft, reports the H-L. “Kentucky’s Bud Dupree, projected to be a first-round NFL Draft pick, will achieve a longtime goal when his name is called in Chicago later this month. But he told USA Today that he’s just as proud of another achievement that will come less than two weeks afterward, when he graduates from college.”

Chandler Shepherd returns to Lexington, reports Mark Maloney of the Herald-Leader. The former Kentucky pitcher is with the Greenville Drive, which opened a three-game series Monday night against the Lexington Legends.

John Calipari to visit Jayson Tatum, reports NextCats. “UK Coach John Calipari will be in St. Louis on Tuesday to meet with top recruit Jayson Tatum, who was the first player from his class to receive a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.”

Coach says UK got a steal in 2016 commit, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. Gunner Hoak, a three-start quarterback from Ohio, committed to Kentucky on Sunday.

Kansas, Kentucky among latest suitors for Ebuka Izundu, reports Langston Wertz of Charlotte Observer. “Arkansas coach Mike Anderson visited Victory Monday and McCain said Kentucky has also begun to show interest in Inzundu, who was given a release from his scholarship by the Charlotte 49ers last week. Izundu was recruited by former Charlotte coach Alan Major and assistant Desmond Oliver, who now is at Tennessee. Izundu wanted to re-open his recruiting process since he wasn’t familiar with new 49ers coach Mark Price, whom he hopes to get to know better.”

Cheick Diallo getting close to decision, reports Zagsblog. “After meeting with Kentucky coach John Calipari Sunday night, Cheick Diallo appears to have finished his in-home visits and should be approaching a decision soon although no announcement date has been made public. As of this writing, Calipari is the last coach to meet with the 6-foot-9 Diallo, who is also being courted by Kentucky-bound big man and fellow French speaker Skal Labissiere, among others.”

Pelicans get close, but can’t topple Warriors, reports John Reid of the Times-Picayune. ”We just missed shots towards the end, and they made shots,” said Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis, who scored a team-high 26 points. ”I mean, we were right there, gave ourselves a chance. That’s all we’ve been talking about is winning a game on the road. It’s tough when you are battling like that, but at the same time we want to win.”

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Report: Kyle Wiltjer returning to Gonzaga

Jim Meehan of the Spokesman Review reports that Kyle Wiltjer will return to Gonzaga for his senior season.

The former Kentucky forward, who had a terrific first season for Gonzaga this past season after transferring to the Zags, was reported to be giving up his senior season to put his name in the NBA Draft.

Wiltjer averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Zags, who reached the South Region final of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual national champ Duke. Wiltjer shot 46.6 percent from the three-point line. Wiltjer scored a career-high 45 points against Pacific, the highest-scoring game by a Gonzaga player in 54 years.

By returning, he should be a pre-season All-America selection next season.

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LSU adds to recruiting class — and pressure

The pressure will be on LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones next season now that the Tigers have added another top-50 prospect to an already loaded 2015 recruiting class.

Brandon Sampson, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Baton Rouge who had originally committed to St. John’s, pledged to the Tigers on Monday. Sampson is ranked as the No. 41 prospect in the class of 2015 by Rivals.

Sampson joins a recruiting class that already includes Ben Simmons, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation, and Antonio Blakeney, a talented shooting guard from Orlando who at one time was committed to Louisville. In mid-December, the Tigers will welcome Craig Victor, a 6-9 transfer from Arizona. Victor also is a former top 50 recruit.

LSU finished 22-11 last season, losing to North Carolina State, 66-65, in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64. Despite having a frontcourt tandem of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, both of whom opted for the NBA Draft, the Tigers stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games.

In February, the Tigers came within a missed three-pointer by Keith Hornsby at the buzzer of beating Kentucky. A 16-0 run, partly fueled by a technical foul on Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns for doing a chin-up on the rim, gave LSU a 66-60 lead with 7:29 remaining, but the home team couldn’t hold on, losing 71-69.

Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Josh Gray all return for Jones, who is 61-37 in three years as the LSU coach, including 29-25 in the SEC. Considering the strength of the Tigers’ recruiting class, the Tigers could very well be a pre-season top-10 choice.

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BBL: Anthony Davis ready for another shot at Warriors

davispelicans

Big Blue Links for Monday:

Kentucky football gets a commitment from a three-star quarterback, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Three-star quarterback Gunnar Hoak committed to the University of Kentucky during a visit to the school Sunday afternoon. Hoak — a 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect from Dublin, Ohio — received a scholarship offer from UK during his first campus visit last weekend.”

Kentucky’s cost-of-attendance payments not as large as some competitors, reports Jennifer Smith of Herald-Leader. “The new money available for athletes — between $3,330 annually for in-state students and $3,598 for students from outside Kentucky — is similar to what already comes as part of academic scholarships and loans that other students on campus receive.”

Anthony Davis more comfortable going into Game 2, reports Antonio Gonzalez of Associated Press. “This is the same place where another big man, Bill Russell, won consecutive NCAA Tournament titles in 1955 and 1956 before forming a dynasty with the Boston Celtics. Davis, who won a national championship in his one season at Kentucky, has been hyped as a player who could reach Russell-like status in his generation.”

Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd is happy to share the load, writes David Climer of the Tennessean. “It’s a growing trend, particularly in the SEC. Last season, Arkansas had two running backs go for more than 1,000 yards — Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Nick Chubb was getting plenty of carries for Georgia even before Todd Gurley was first suspended, then injured. At Alabama, (T.J.) Yeldon had only 25 more rushing attempts than (Derrick) Henry.”

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BBL: Cheick Diallo takes top honors at Jordan Brand

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Eight ex-Cats are in play as the NBA playoffs get started Saturday, reports ExCats.

Arizona State may now have a shot at Thon Maker, reports NextCats. Bobby Hurley has added an assistant in Tempe who has ties to Maker.

Baseball Cats clinch series with Tennessee, reports Mark Maloney of the Herald-Leader. The Cats got a strong start from Dustin Beggs, who pitched into the ninth.

Cheick Diallo won MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic, reports College Basketball Talk. The uncommitted Diallo scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Diallo is to meet with St. John’s coach Chris Mullin on Saturday, reports Newsday.

UK defensive end Kengera Daniel once gave up football for basketball, reports Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated. The Cats are glad he returned to football.

Jon Hale of the Cats Pause looks at how the UK offensive line came out of spring drills.

Reggie Bonnafon had a strong showing in Louisville football’s spring game, reports Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal.

Rick Bozich of WDRB has some takeaways from the Louisville spring game.

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