Blogger Spotlight: Kentucky’s ridiculous talent and eyebrows

Leave a comment

source: Getty Images

Kentucky fans crave information about their Wildcats. Whether it’s TV, radio, print, online, there’s a 24/7 news cycle regarding John Calipari’s team, whether it’s Lexington, the state or beyond.

That’s where Kentucky Sports Radio comes in.

The incredibly popular website does a little bit of everything when it comes to Kentucky hoops. Video, radio and an onslaught of posts fills with news snippets, short analysis and plenty of snark. Maybe that’s why one of its main personalities, Matt Jones, has become so damn popular. (Seriously? 33,000 Twitter followers?)

Matt doesn’t write as often as some of the other KSR stalwarts such as Thomas Beisner or Drew Franklin, but that’s partly because Jones is busy wrapping up his law career (he was prepping for his final case while we talked) and focuses on the radio and TV.

But hey, the guy knows his Kentucky hoops. He’s understandably amped about this season, as is Big Blue Nation.

Click here for more Blogger Spotlight

Q: For a 10-point win over No. 12 Kansas on Tuesday night, that game sure felt like a blowout.

A: I actually thought both of those games were like that. Duke [beat Michigan State] by five and should’ve won by 20. Kentucky fans wanted a coming out party. They remember two years ago when John Wall had his coming out party against Connecticut at Madison Square Garden . They didn’t get one of those, but they kinda had one with Anthony Davis.

More than anything, they’d been looking forward to this team for 16 months probably. Ever since Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague committed.

Q: Then compare this season’s team to John Calipari’s first two teams. They’re just as talented, perhaps more so, but is there more excitement and higher expectations?

A: There certainly have been higher expectations. People ask me all time: “Are you disappointed if they don’t win the title?” That depends. They could lose to North Carolina and I think people would understand. But .. the West Virginia loss two years ago still stinks heavy on people.

Part of that is that team, though. In my time being as a fan, there was not a more exciting team than that one.

Q: Why is that?

A: A couple of things came together for that. But, let me say this.

Kentucky has the most connected fan base in the country. But I would go even farther than that. It might be the most Internet-connected fan base in sports. The amount of fans on twitter, on blogs, I don’t think there’s another team like it. I mean, I have 33,000 Twitter followers. John Clay has like 10,000. I have not found another beat reporter from another team, and only a couple pro teams that has more followers. Nobody craves that information like Kentucky fans. They’re just wired in as anyplace in America.

And now that they can be obsessive about everything, it amplifies it even more.

Q: But what was it about that team that people loved so much? Was it because that was the team that ended the slide? Or was it more because that team was so damn good?

A: Look, there’s never gonna be anyone more popular than John Wall in Kentucky.

For a long time, Jamal Mashburn was revered like that. People saw him as the reason the team got good after probation. But they love Wall because for the first time Kentucky had the coolest player in college basketball.

They’re had good players, but not the coolest, Rex Chapman was close. I mean, Tony Delk is not cool. He was a great player, but that doesn’t make you cool. Kentucky’s never had a guy like Wall. We were the stuffy team of white guys with short shorts. But Wall tapped into this craving for cool.

Q: Bigger surprise: Anthony Davis leads the team in scoring or Darius Miller averaging fewer points than Kyle Wiltjer?

A: The latter. By the end of the year that won’t be the case, but the would be the bigger surprise. Most people figured this is the year Miller averaged 12 or 13 points a game and he may still. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Davis doesn’t surprise me at all.

Davis will score huge amounts of points against bad teams when he just overmatches everyone down low because he’s such a freak physically.

source: APQ: OK then, let’s talk about the unibrow. Is that just Davis’ brilliant method of fooling people into thinking he’s a goof?

A: I can’t understand why he keeps it. He’s an interesting kid and he’s really funny and has a sarcastic sense of humor. Everyone says he’s the funniest guy on the team. But I can’t understand it.

He clearly knows that he has a unibrow. When he first came on campus, he shaved it. Now it’s grown back. I’ve been calling him unibrow for a while and people were like “That’s so mean,” but I always said “If you think it’s bad now, wait until he has first game on national TV.” And that’s what happened last night. I tweeted “BrowDown” and it took off.

But he obviously doesn’t care. Maybe it’s becoming his thing. BrowDown may take off.

Q: This is the new “Jorts” for nicknames, right? People will love it.

A: [DeMarcus] Cousins did that by taking the nickname Boogie and messing with those buddy holly glasses. Fans love that.

Q: And besides, he’s unreal. He was swatting shots like mad against Kansas and just overmatched everyone. I felt bad for Thomas Robinson.

A: I don’t know how you score on him. I’ll be interested to see whichever guy Carolina puts on him. I’ve never seen a player like him before. He’s like Kevin Durant if you gave him three more inches on his wingspan.

Q: Davis is amazing. But is it wrong I like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist more? He plays hard, there’s no ego on him and he’s clearly talented.

A: I think Kentucky fans favor him too. [Speaking to a group of about 300 people] I asked “Who’s your favorite player?” by applause. He was first. First by a lot. I think he’s the fan favorite.

Q: How fast is Marquis Teague? Faster than John Wall?

A: He’s faster than Wall, but Wall’s faster with the ball. Wall had the unbelievable ability to dribble the ball and not break stride. He’d run the same 100 time and not break his stride. But Teague is really fast. He’s also the key. How he plays dictates everything. Like last night – in the second half he plays well and they run Kansas off the court.

In fact, this whole team is fast. When they get a rebound or steal, they don’t have to find a guard. You know that half a second when you grab a rebound or a steal and look for a guard? They don’t do that.

They just take off.

Q: Has this season been a slight shock for Terrence Jones? Or is the late-night mess more to blame for that?

A: I’d wanna see another three or four games. It might be a sample size thing. [Against Kansas] he did not play great, but that might be the best guy he’s gonna face all year. Robinson’s tough.

But they cannot beat North Carolina unless he plays really well. Last year in both games he didn’t play well. He was bad in Chapel Hill and he wasn’t great in the NCAA tournament. To me, I wanna see how he plays against them.

Q: That game’s about two weeks away. Is “jacked” a strong enough term for that game? I can’t imagine what Lexington will be like.

A: That game will be ridiculous. There are like 13 guys between the two teams that’ll play in the NBA. I can’t remember a ranked season game had that kind of talent. So yeah, Lexington’s stoked about. I think it’ll be a great thing for college basketball.

But what I’m most excited for is that big environment.

When it’s a big game, is Rupp Arena is the best environment in college basketball. That never happens in the SEC. The one time it happens is when Florida’s good, but that hasn’t happened in years. When Joakim Noah was there, people got pumped about it.

I just I wish [Kentucky-Carolina] wasn’t at noon. If it was primetime it’d be great for the sport.

Q: Got a prediction?

A: I actually think Carolina’s gonna win.

What’s you’ll see if that Kentucky is not yet mature enough to beat Carolina. They are against everybody else. But I don’t think they’re there yet.

You can find more of Matt’s work at Kentucky Sports Radio and follow him on Twitter @KySportsRadio.

Related posts:

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
3 Comments

Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter

Duke officially adds Marvin Bagley III

Leave a comment

Duke made one of the biggest recruiting moves of the year official Tuesday.

The Blue Devils announced that Marvin Bagley has formally reclassified from 2018 to 2017 and will join Duke for the upcoming season.

“Marvin is a special basketball talent and a tremendous young man,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He is completely dedicated to his improvement as both a player and student and, given his family’s deep history in this area, he is fully aware of what it means to be part of Duke University. We’re thrilled to add Marvin to our program.”

Bagley’s history in the area comes from his father, who is a Durham native and played football collegiately at North Carolina A&T.

Duke’s official announcement comes just a day after Bagley committed to the Blue Devils and said he planned to enroll in the fall semester.

Bagley, who was the top-ranked player in 2018 and is considered by many now the top 2017 prospect and potential No. 1 NBA draft pick next summer,  makes Duke the presumptive No. 1 preseason team as he joins a highly-touted recruiting class for Coach K that was previously headlined by Wendell Carter, Jr., Trevon Duval and Gary Trent, Jr.

The 6-foot-11 Bagley averaged 25.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game while playing in the EYBL this summer.

Duke now the odds-on favorite to win NCAA title, according to oddsmakers

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

With Marvin Bagley III now in the fold, Duke has jumped up to become the favorite to win the national title in 2017-18, according to the Westgate Superbook.

MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25

Prior to Bagley’s commitment, both Kentucky and Duke were sitting at 7/1 odds to win the title, but the addition of Bagley not only dropped Kentucky’s chances, it made betting on Duke silly. The Blue Devils are the preseason No. 1 team in the country, but they are anything but a lock to win the title. As we discussed on this podcast, there are still some major flaws with this team. They are not that much better than the field that they deserve to had those odds.

If you’re looking to place a wager on a team to win the title, the bets I really like are USC and Wichita State at 30/1 odds and Miami at 60/1. Those are three top ten teams with the horses to make a deep run in March.

Anyway, here is the full list of odds from the Westgate.

TEAM OPEN CURRENT
Duke 12/1 3/1
Kentucky 10/1 8/1
Michigan State 20/1 10/1
Kansas 12/1 12/1
Arizona 20/1 12/1
Louisville 12/1 15/1
UCLA 40/1 25/1
USC 60/1 30/1
Wichita State 20/1 30/1
Texas 300/1 30/1
North Carolina 12/1 30/1
Villanova 12/1 30/1
Florida 20/1 30/1
Missouri 300/1 40/1
Michigan 20/1 50/1
Alabama 80/1 50/1
Oregon 60/1 50/1
Gonzaga 12/1 60/1
Butler 20/1 60/1
West Virginia 30/1 60/1
Virginia 30/1 60/1
Miami 50/1 60/1
Notre Dame 80/1 60/1
Xavier 80/1 60/1
Baylor 50/1 80/1
Wisconsin 60/1 80/1
Iowa State 80/1 80/1
Oklahoma 30/1 100/1
Florida State 40/1 100/1
Saint Mary’s 40/1 100/1
Seton Hall 60/1 100/1
Purdue 60/1 100/1
Indiana 20/1 100/1
Creighton 80/1 100/1
Vanderbilt 80/1 100/1
SMU 80/1 100/1
Cincinnati 80/1 100/1
UConn 100/1 100/1
Syracuse 100/1 100/1
Maryland 100/1 100/1
Minnesota 100/1 100/1
Northwestern 100/1 100/1
Illinois 100/1 100/1
Arkansas 100/1 100/1
South Carolina 100/1 100/1
Texas A&M 100/1 100/1
Nevada 100/1 100/1
Utah 100/1 100/1
TCU 300/1 100/1
Auburn 300/1 100/1
UNLV 1000/1 100/1
VCU 100/1 200/1
Virginia Tech 100/1 200/1
Marquette 100/1 200/1
San Diego State 100/1 200/1
Providence 200/1 200/1
Georgetown 200/1 200/1
Georgia 200/1 200/1
Oklahoma State 300/1 300/1
Kansas State 300/1 300/1
Texas Tech 300/1 300/1
Dayton 300/1 300/1
Rhode Island 300/1 300/1
Wake Forest 300/1 300/1
Clemson 300/1 300/1
St. John’s 300/1 300/1
Iowa 300/1 300/1
Ohio State 300/1 300/1
Penn State 300/1 300/1
Nebraska 300/1 300/1
Ole Miss 300/1 300/1
Tennessee 300/1 300/1
Mississippi State 300/1 300/1
BYU 300/1 300/1
California 300/1 300/1
Colorado 300/1 300/1
Arizona State 300/1 300/1
Stanford 300/1 300/1
Illinois State 300/1 500/1
Houston 500/1 500/1
UCF 500/1 500/1
Memphis 500/1 500/1
Richmond 500/1 500/1
La Salle 500/1 500/1
Davidson 500/1 500/1
Georgia Tech 500/1 500/1
Pittsburgh 500/1 500/1
NC State 500/1 500/1
Middle Tennessee 500/1 500/1
LSU 500/1 500/1
Colorado State 500/1 500/1
Boise State 500/1 500/1
Fresno State 500/1 500/1
Oregon State 500/1 500/1
Wyoming 500/1 1000/1
Vermont 1000/1 1000/1
St. Bonaventure 1000/1 1000/1
George Washington 1000/1 1000/1
George Mason 1000/1 1000/1
Saint Louis 1000/1 1000/1
UNC Wilmington 1000/1 1000/1
Charleston 1000/1 1000/1
Old Dominion 1000/1 1000/1
Princeton 1000/1 1/1
Harvard 1000/1 1000/1
Yale 1000/1 1000/1
Texas Arlington 1000/1 1000/1
Georgia State 1000/1 1000/1
Arkansas State 1000/1 1000/1
Oakland 1000/1 1000/1
Valparaiso 1000/1 1000/1
Northern Iowa 1000/1 1000/1
Belmont 1000/1 1000/1
Akron 1000/1 1000/1
Ohio 1000/1 1000/1
Buffalo 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico 1000/1 1000/1
Utah State 1000/1 1000/1
Washington State 1000/1 1000/1
East Tennessee State 1000/1 1000/1
Chattanooga 1000/1 1000/1
New Mexico State 1000/1 1000/1
Grand Canyon 1000/1 1000/1
Boston College 1000/1 1000/1
Florida Gulf Coast 2000/1 2000/1
Louisiana Tech 2000/1 2000/1
Monmouth 2000/1 2000/1
Troy 2000/1 2000/1
Pennsylvania 2000/1 3000/1
Western Kentucky 1000/1 3000/1
NC Central 2000/1 3000/1
Bucknell 2000/1 3000/1
Washington 2000/1 3000/1
Louisiana-Lafayette 2000/1 3000/1
UTEP 5000/1 5000/1
Mount St. Mary’s 5000/1 5000/1
San Francisco 5000/1 5000/1
Wright State 5000/1 5000/1
Jacksonville State 5000/1 5000/1
UNC Greensboro 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota 5000/1 5000/1
North Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
Fort Wayne 5000/1 5000/1
South Dakota State 5000/1 5000/1
IUPUI 5000/1 5000/1
Cal State Bakersfield 5000/1 5000/1
Texas State 5000/1 5000/1
Coastal Carolina 5000/1 5000/1
Albany 5000/1 5000/1
FIELD (All others) 300/1 300/1