January 18th, 2018

Five Things Kentucky Football Must Find Before Spring Practice

1. Two Assistant Coaches

And one of the will probably not be Ed Reed.  It would be a fantastic hire, but at this point adding Reed as UK’s tenth assistant is wishful thinking.  More importantly, Mark Stoops needs to find an excellent wide receivers coach to replace Lamar Thomas.  Who that might be remains a mystery, but the four receivers from the 2017 class have a ton of talent that cannot go to waste.

2. A Way to Keep Xavier Peters’ Commitment

Arguably the toughest task at hand, Vince Marrow has to find a way to prevent the All-American linebacker from falling in love on official visits.  He’ll be at Florida this weekend, Florida State next weekend and Miami the following weekend.  Marrow is the king of building bonds early in the recruiting process.  Hopefully his bond with Peters is too strong for Florida football powerhouses to break.

3. A Running Back

Bryant Koback’s sudden departure leaves just four players in the running back room this fall — Benny Snell, Sihiem King, A.J. Rose and incoming freshman Chris Rodriguez.  2018 will likely be King and Snell’s final season at Kentucky.  Stoops must add at least one player on National Signing Day.  Stoops hopes that one player is on campus this weekend, Kavosiey Smoke.

Smoke is a big badass and it’s not just because of his name (well, kind of).  The No. 29 running back in America is a bruiser who earned All-State honors in Alabama.  UK’s toughest competition is North Carolina and Auburn.  Stoops must get a running back and Smoke is his best remaining option.

4. Leadership

The only Team Captain that will return in 2018 is Mike Edwards.  The offense lost five starters and the defense lost just two starters, but two of those losses are big ones: Courtney Love and Stephen Johnson.  They brought a calming presence and called plays on the field.  Off the field they were an example for all of the underclassmen.

Becoming a leader is atypical; the best leaders have innate qualities that set them apart from the pack.  One person I expect to set the tone as he returns to the team is C.J. Conrad.  Benny Snell’s work ethic leads by example, but can he become a vocal leader on the offense?  The ideal defensive leader is the middle linebacker.  If Kash Daniel can speak to his teammates on the field as well as he can into a wrestling ring microphone, the defense should be in good hands.

5. Consistency

Stoops has “knocked down doors” through consecutive seven-win seasons.  The reason there wasn’t an eight or nine-win season is because of consistency.  You can’t be consistent in October unless you’re consistently doing your job the right way every single day in January and February.

For the Kentucky football program to knock down another door and take the next step as a program, they must transform offseason consistency onto the field this fall.


Selection Committee will unveil Top 16 teams on Feb. 11

For the second year in a row, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will unveil their top 16 teams one month before Selection Sunday.

The sneak peek will take place February 11 at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS prior to the Michigan/Wisconsin game. Selection committee chair and Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen will reveal the Top 16 alongside Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg, Seth Davis, and bracket expert Jerry Palm.

Last year, Kentucky was projected to be a three-seed in the sneak peek, but ended up earning the two-seed in the South Region. We all remember how that ended.


[CBS Sports]


Matt breaks down Governor Bevin’s budget proposal on Hey Kentucky

Tonight on Hey Kentucky, Matt breaks down Governor Bevin’s budget proposal, which is the talk of the Commonwealth. Check out his thoughts below:

To see the entire episode, which is cohosted by Kentucky legend Goose Givens, head on over to HeyKentucky.com.


7 Ways to Make College GameDay Better

On Saturday, College GameDay will be live from Rupp Arena for the seventh time. It will be Kentucky’s 15th appearance on the program, which, believe it or not, is embarking on its 14th season.

For Kentucky fans, GameDay hit its peak in the first year of the John Calipari Era when 22,144 fans filled up Rupp Arena, shattering the previous record of 8,159 held by Kansas State. After so many years, it’s only natural that the show’s gotten a little stale, so in honor of their seventh trip to Rupp, I came up with seven ways to jazz it up a bit.

1. Let Seth Greenberg and John Calipari debate one-and-done

Greenberg backed off his comments about Kentucky’s “spoiled” freshmen this morning on KSR, but obviously he has feelings on the topic or he never would have brought it up on SportsCenter this week. Greenberg and Cal are friends, so why not let them debate the matter live on the show with the rest of the panel? The one-and-done phenomenon has polarized the sport for years and there’s no bigger symbol of it than Calipari and Kentucky, so open it up for discussion. You know Cal will be game.

2. Let Jay Bilas work the Rupp ice cream machines

Twice this season, Bilas has raved about — and, in turn, received — Rupp Arena ice cream. Why not invite him into the Borden ice cream booth to try his hand at making the perfect swirl?

3. Rupp ice cream eating contest

Take it one step further by bringing those cones down for an eating contest. Which fan can survive the brain freeze?

4. More shoutouts from former players

Last year, John Wall sent in a video in which he picked Kentucky to beat Kansas by taking off a hoodie to unveil his old jersey. With so many Cats in the league now, this should be an obvious and relatively easy bit. The All-Star Game is coming up next month, so the show could dedicate an entire segment to the Cats in the league.

5. Guest picker: John Short

If only to see the panel’s reaction when he predicts “Kentucky by 35 biggins.”

6. More crowd interaction

Aside from the halfcourt shot to win $18,000 and showing off all the signs, there typically isn’t a lot of fan interaction at GameDay, which can make it a pretty boring event to attend. Kentucky fans are the most knowledgable in the sport, so put them to the test with some trivia. A “Pick Your Favorite Florida Villain” bit would be perfect. (The answer is always Joakim Noah.)

7. Let Ryan Lemond give a pep talk

Want to really get the crowd riled up? Unleash Ryan Lemond on them. I guarantee you no one will yawn, check their phone, or read a book during his pep talk. Just don’t let him say “squirt to the ceiling” again. …Actually, do. It’ll be the most interesting thing to happen on GameDay in years.


Skyline Chili coming to Lexington

In news that makes Matt Jones very happy, Skyline Chili is expanding to Lexington.

According to the Herald-Leader, a new outpost of the Cincinnati-based chili restaurant is coming to 2850 Richmond Road, close to the New Circle Road exit. Skyline prides itself on Cincinnati-style chili, which includes cinnamon, chocolate, allspice, and Worcestershire sauce and is served atop a bed of noodles with an absurd amount of shredded cheese. Personally, I’m not a fan, but I know many of you are, so rock on.

No word on when it will open, but I’m sure Matt will first in line.

[Herald-Leader]


Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins named NBA All-Star Game starters

Photo: Copyright 2017 NBAE

At the very least, two former Cats will take part in next month’s NBA All-Star Game. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were just named NBA All-Star Game starters, which were chosen by a combination of votes from fans (50%), players (25%), and media (25%).

The reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, will be unveiled Tuesday, January 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. Four-time NBA All-Star John Wall will surely be among them and Karl Towns, snubbed from last year’s game, also has an excellent shot.

Here are the rest of the starting lineups.

NBA East All-Star starters:

  • LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (Captain)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
  • DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

NBA West All-Star starters:

  • Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (Captain)
  • James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans

This year’s All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, February 18 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (8 p.m., TNT).


JoJo Kemp has a Coaching Job

JoJo Kemp’s got a brand new gig.

The former Kentucky running back will return to the football field as a coach.  This fall Kemp will coach running backs for Wes Johnson at Dunbar High School.  JoJo will join another Wildcat on the staff, former UK wide receiver Alex Montgomery.

In four years at Kentucky, the Deland, Florida product rushed for 19 touchdowns and 1,709 yards (5.05 yards per carry), good enough to crack the Top 15 of Kentucky’s all-time rushing list.  The statistical mark he left on the program is incomparable to the moment he created after the Cats upset Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks in 2014.

How could you not want to play for that guy?


The Ironmen of Kentucky Football

Kentucky is projected to return 16 or 17 starters depending on which depth chart is used as a baseline. The Cats featured nine players that started all 13 games in 2017.

Let’s take a look the Wildcat Ironmen.

 

QB | Stephen Johnson

As could be heard on Kentucky Sports Radio, Johnson played through injuries during the 2017 season and could be considered as the Ultimate Ironman. Injuries incurred during his two-year career as the Wildcat starting quarterback will require three surgeries. Stephen Johnson was Eddie Gran’s offensive compass and will be difficult to replace. Gunnar Hoak, Terry Wilson, Danny Clark, or Walker Wood will try to feel the leadership void created upon Johnson’s departure. With key surrounding pieces returning, the 2018 QB competition will garner headlines and will be under constant scrutiny.

RB | Benny Snell

With an early departure to the NFL as a possibility, the SEC’s regular season rushing leader will return to Kroger Field for what could perhaps be his last collegiate season. The rising junior is practically rewriting the program’s record book and is becoming the standard for which all future UK running backs will be judged. An offseason development will involve developing and/or recruiting a running back to lessen the load for the star runner. I’ve learned to not doubt Benny Snell. 2018 could be another special season for the All-SEC performer. He should be on All-American and postseason honors watch lists.

G | Logan Stenberg

The former Freshman All-SEC Guard will be a junior in 2018. He served as Stephen Johnson’s primary care taker and is developing into an upper-level SEC offensive lineman. John Schlarman’s interior offensive line made late strides in 2017. Center Drake Jackson and fellow guard Bunchy Stallings will join Stenberg to comprise a veteran and stable OL nucleus.

WR | Garrett Johnson

“Juice” departs as the program’s 5th all-time leading pass catcher and 4th in receiving yards. His rise up statistical record books wasn’t properly discussed throughout the season. Johnson’s experience and uncanny ability to move the chains on 3rd down will be missed.

DE | TJ Carter

Losing Alvonte Bell in the preseason created an opening for the rising junior to become a full-time starter at defensive end. Carter finished 2017 with 18 Tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 QB sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 1 pass breakup. An area of defensive concern is its low number of tackles for loss (63). TJ Carter will be tasked to increase that statistical category and pass rush from his defensive end position.

DT | Adrian Middleton

Middleton will be a senior. He’s been a surprising stabilizer along the defensive front. The Bowling Green native racked up 25 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 QB sack in 2017. His total tackle number dropped from 35 in 2016. See above TJ Carter statement. Middleton will be asked to increase the team’s tackle for loss total next season as well as enhancing its organic front three’s pass rush.

OLB | Josh Allen

The All-SEC and Midseason All-American declined an early NFL entry to stay in Lexington for a senior campaign. Consistent production next fall could catapult Allen into a high-round pick. He racked up 65 tackles, 7 QB sacks, 9.5 TFL’s, 1 INT, forced 2 fumbles, 3 pass breakups, and 4 QB hurries in 17. Increased interior defensive line pressure will prevent opposing offenses from sliding protection to counter Josh Allen’s edge rush. However, I’d expect opponents to continue game planning in order to slow him in certain passing downs.

MLB | Courtney Love

What a man. What a leader. Much like Stephen Johnson; Courtney Love will be difficult to replace both on and off the field. 2017 numbers: 92 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, 1 QB sack, 2 recovered fumbles, and 2 pass breakups. Love maintained a constant presence in the middle of the Wildcat defense for two seasons. His total tackle number raised from 76 in 2016 to 92 in 2017. He finished his senior season as the SEC’s 11th leading tackler.

S | Mike Edwards

Surprisingly, Mike Edwards joined Josh Allen in deciding to return to Kentucky and not enter the NFL Draft. The All SEC selection is one of the league’s most productive defenders: 97 tackles, 4 INT’s, 1 QB sack, 4 TFL’s (SEC-2nd), 1 QB hurry, and 6 pass breakups. The SEC’s 9th leading tackler’s diverse skill set will be in demand from the professional league. But, a return for a senior season will provide experience and an elite talent for the Wildcat secondary.

 

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to start every game during a season. Injuries and at times performance can limit the number of starts for most football players. The “Grind” you hear and read about is legitimate. However, these nine maintained that status throughout the regular season as well as in the Music City Bowl. Courtney Love and Stephen Johnson will be missed and difficult to replace. Mark Stoops will have a veteran laden squad in 2018. Next season should also present an extraordinarily high number of NFL Draft picks.


Throwback Thursday: College GameDay at Rupp Arena

On Saturday, College GameDay will be live from Rupp Arena for the seventh time. In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, let’s look back at some of the best GameDay memories at Rupp over the years.

2010: The year we filled up Rupp

Kentucky’s first College GameDay appearance of the John Calipari Era was by far the best, with a record 22,144 fans coming out for the morning taping. The energy in the building reflected the excitement around the program at the time and watching the video still gives me chills.

The cast back then? Rece Davis, Jay Bilas (who still had some hair), Digger Phelps, and Hubert Davis. You have to love Davis’ face when the crowd boos a segment about Rick Pitino:

It was so fun Digger Phelps even danced!


2013: The Harlem Shake/NIT Year

Remember the Harlem Shake? College GameDay capitalized on the fad for their trip to Rupp in 2013:

The Harlem Shake is still dumb.

GameDay was an emotional one that year, as it took place only a few weeks after Nerlens Noel tore his ACL. Kentucky desperately needed a win over Missouri to stay in NCAA Tournament contention and they got it, but losses to Arkansas and Georgia and a quarterfinal loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament sealed their NIT fate. Watching the recap of GameDay is still depressing:


2014: Digger’s last year

I can’t find anything interesting about the 2014 GameDay at Rupp other than it was Digger Phelps’ final year on the panel. Kentucky lost to Florida that year 69-59.


2017: John Wall makes an appearance

Last year, GameDay came to Rupp for the Kansas game, which both Jay Williams and special guest John Wall picked Kentucky to win. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.


2018: ?

We’ll find out Saturday. If you’re interested in going, the show starts at 11 a.m. Admission is free and doors open at 9 a.m. Get in there.


Why changing the transfer rules would be one of the worst things to ever happen to college sports

I’ll be the first to admit that at times, us media folk (myself certainly included) can be a little bit prone to hyperbole. We exaggerate everything, turning games into “battles” and coaching decisions into life or death decisions. Even if for the most part they are inconsequential. Therefore, when I say that there’s a new rule that could be coming which might “change college sports forever” I know what most of you are probably thinking: Sure, Torres. Sounds like a whole bunch of hyperbole to me.

Only it isn’t, and here me out.

That rule has been a much-discussed alteration to the current transfer rules in major college football and basketball. As all of you know, the current rule states that if a player decides to transfer from one school to another, they must (unless they’ve already graduated) sit out for at least a year. It’s a rule that’s designed to protect both the school and coach, but also players from making any rash, emotional, poorly-thought out decisions.

Or at least that was the rule, as it’s looking more and more like things are about to change in college sports, and football and basketball players will now be allowed to transfer from one school and play right away at the next. It’s something that’s been reported for months, but really picked up steam on Wednesday when ESPN’s Matt Schick tweeted that he’d heard from an NCAA source that it’s “95 percent certain” to pass. A different source told me something similar, and that the change could go into effect as early as February.

And ultimately while I hate to use hyperbole, what I said above is correct: This is a rule which could alter college sports forever. It could also be one of the worst thing that has ever happened to major college football and basketball, and create way more problems than it helps.

(more…)


Coming soon to the Super Bowl: Benny Snell in the snow

The Kentucky football program will have another spot in this year’s Super Bowl, and thanks to its Instagram account, we now have a pretty good idea of how it will look.

Benny Snell in the snow:

We’ll see the finished product on Sunday, February 4 when the Minnesota Vikings host the Jacksonville Jaguars.

By the looks of the #WeGetUp hashtag, I think we’re in for a nod to the Music City Bowl controversy.


ESPN’s new Bracketology is a nightmare for Kentucky

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi updated his projected NCAA tournament bracket today and he has Kentucky as the No. 5 seed in a Region of Death.

Down one spot from a No. 4 seed a week ago, the Wildcats are in the West Region with Duke as the No. 1 seed. Kentucky would get New Mexico State in the opening game; then would have to get past Arizona to reach the second weekend, where Texas/Texas A&M or Duke would be the Sweet 16 opponent.

If Kentucky reached the Elite Eight, it would likely see Trae Young and Oklahoma for a shot in the Final Four.

Throw this thing away right now.

See the entire bracket here.


New app to bring light show to Rupp Arena intros

Fans can now be a part of the Kentucky basketball intros in Rupp Arena before each game, beginning this Saturday when the Gators come to town and throughout the remainder of the season.

Here’s how:

(1) Download the BBN FX app in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

(2) Open the app immediately after the national anthem.

(3) Hold your phone in the air during the intro video.

That’s it. Simple enough, right? Do those three steps and the app will then sync all of the participating mobile devices to the music to create a light show across the arena.

I have no further instructions.

Go Cats.


Seth Greenberg explains “unwarranted arrogance” comments

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg ruffled some feathers with his comments about the “unwarranted arrogance” of Kentucky’s freshmen.

“These guys are spoiled by the process by the time they turn 13 years old,” Greenberg said during his rant on Wednesday morning’s edition of SportsCenter. “They’re clueless in understanding how hard you have to play and what type of teammate you need to be. They’re not a good team because they are not connected, and you can say it’s because they are freshmen, and that sounds great, but they aren’t connected because they are all about themselves instead of the good of the group.”

“It’s not about Kentucky,” he added. “It’s about how quick can I get to the league. It’s all about me, me, me. They don’t know how to play hard. They’re not competitive. They can’t maintain an intensity. And quite honestly, John Calipari coaches his teams really hard, but they’re more concerned about themselves than the good of the group.”

See Greenberg’s entire rant here:

Greenberg joined Kentucky Sports Radio on Thursday to explain his position.

First, he said his comments were meant to be more about college basketball in general, and not specific to Kentucky. He wishes the media and fans would talk more about the good teams like Virginia, Purdue and Villanova.

“We need to appreciate some of these other teams because they’ve earned it,” he said. “They’re playing at a high level. Now they don’t have the sexiness of a Kentucky or a Duke or maybe a Kansas, but they’re good basketball teams that have won games and are playing good basketball and they’re further along, and they should be further along.”

“I wasn’t singling out Kentucky. I was singling out the culture of our game. I was also singling out that there are other teams out there that deserved to be mentioned because they are playing at a high level. Plain and simple.”

But let’s get to his Kentucky-specific comments, which is why he was on the show, and why you’re still reading this.

Greenberg said, “Look, I love the Kentucky kids. I’ve spent time with them. They’re great kids. But you know what, they have to learn how to play hard all the time. They have to learn how to play harder, longer. They have to learn to trust each other. They have to learn to allow themselves to be coached. That’s a process. They’re being told ‘no’ for the first time.”

When asked about saying Kentucky players only care about getting to the league, Greenberg noted that it isn’t always the case because every team is a different; and this current team, “has not gotten to the point where they’re going to dig down and play for the good of the group.”

“This group has to learn how to play hard all of the time. Those teams were more competitive… Every group is different, but this group has not been as tough, as emotional, and they don’t have that one guy that says ‘lets go.'”

And lastly, Greenberg said some of the current Wildcats are not allowing Calipari to do what he does best because they aren’t accepting his coaching.

“Look, Cal is the best at getting guys to be the best version of themselves and giving up a little bit of themselves for the good of the group. But along that process there is a fight, and how certain kids see themselves and who they need to be to be winning players, sometimes is two different things. When Cal is not in their ear coaching them — when Cal says, ‘you know what, some guys aren’t allowing me to coach them’ or ‘they’re going and doing they’re own thing’ — that means they’re not allowing themselves to be coached. No one is better at doing it than he is, but you can’t coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached.”

“I think they’re good kids but I don’t think they’re as competitive as they need to be and I don’t think they’re as tough as they need to be.”

Hear the entire interview:


BBNBA: MKG leads Hornets to a blow out win

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t had the easiest time in the NBA getting his offensive game to click. An elite defender, Kidd-Gilchrist has found himself keeping a starting job for the Charlotte Hornets due to his ability to do the little things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. However, last night was just the opposite for the former Cat.

Kidd-Gilchrist led the Hornets in scoring last night on their way to a big win over John Wall, Jodie Meeks, and the rest of the Washington Wizards. MKG finished with 21 points on 8-11 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. Charlotte beat Washington by the score of 133-109.

Numbers:

 

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist133-109 win over Wizards218-11 (0-0)42301+2623
Malik Monk133-109 win over Wizards31-5 (1-3)11100+04
John Wall133-109 loss to Hornets125-11 (2-2)29023-2024
Jodie Meeks133-109 loss to Hornets72-3 (1-2)50002-1020
DeMarcus Cousins94-93 loss to Hawks196-17 (1-3)147125-135
Anthony Davis94-93 loss to Hawks82-8 (0-0)73120-138
Darius Miller94-93 loss to Hawks177-9 (3-4)31102+630
Rajon Rondo94-93 loss to Hawks31-4 (1-2)16002+017
Enes Kanter105-99 loss to Grizzlies207-11 (0-0)90013-1327
Andrew Harrison105-99 win over Knicks31-5 (0-2)21011-323
Willie Cauley-Stein120-105 loss to Jazz2611-18 (0-1)102113-837
De'Aaron Fox120-105 loss to Jazz61-6 (0-1)14113-836
Julius Randle114-90 loss to Thunder168-11 (0-2)13013-2423
Patrick Patterson114-90 win over Lakers31-4 (1-3)32110+020
Trey Lyles109-104 loss to Clippers114-11 (1-4)51011+525
Eric Bledsoe106-101 loss to Heat112-13 (0-6)35102-930
Bam Adebayo106-101 win over Bucks42-6 (0-0)75102-219

 

 

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, 7pm ET on TNT
  • Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7pm ET
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns) at Houston Rockets, 9:30pm ET on TNT
  • Indiana Pacers (Alex Poythress) at Portland Trail Blazers, 10pm ET

@BrettBibbinsKSR