Western Kentucky v Mississippi Valley State

Sean Woods might not have many friends in return to Lexington

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Sean Woods is somewhat of a legendary figure in Lexington, Kentucky.

He was a member of “The Unforgettables” at Kentucky, a group of seniors that had stayed with the program through harsh NCAA punishment following the tenure of Eddie Sutton that resulted in several severe sanctions including an NCAA Tournament ban. Woods and other players such as Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Duke on the legendary Christian Laettner shot.

Well, Woods made his way up the coaching ranks, taking Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA Tournament last season — a nearly impossible feat if you look at the conditions of the athletic programs at the Itta Bena school. He’s now in his first season at Morehead State and he brings the Eagles down Interstate 64 to play the Wildcats.

After some of his comments in his pregame press conference, Woods might not get the reception he would like when the two teams tip-off on Thursday.

The question was posed by a reporter in the teleconference about how current Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said he knew nothing about Laettner’s shot in 1992. From there, well, I’ll just let Woods tell it.

“Kids now-a-days, they play too many video games,” Woods said. “I mean, [just] being honest with you. They don’t get it. They play basketball, but they don’t know what basketball really is…I walked into a deal the other day when they had that telethon [for Hurricane Sandy relief] at WKYT, and I didn’t like the vibe, I’m just going to be honest with you, of those guys.

“It’s just, it’s totally different now. And it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way society is now. And you know, I think my generation…my [graduating] class to maybe four, five years after that, you know what I’m saying, these kids don’t know anything. And I bet you any type of money, besides the kids that are from Kentucky that’s on UK’s team, they couldn’t tell you anything about not one player in the history of Kentucky basketball.”

This is some pretty serious chatter from such a simple question, but if you listen to the audio, Woods seems to go off on a tangent that he probably has been thinking about personally for some time.

Earlier in the press conference, Woods started by prefacing what he meant. Pointing out that he never saw players like Earl Monroe and Wilt Chamberlain play, but knew all about them.

The comments look worse in print/online than they actually are. Woods seemed to be wanting to point out that the history of Kentucky basketball and how kids today don’t seem to know much about it, but took it a little too far.

He has a point. But history itself fades to some degree in everything. Our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor like it was yesterday (not that I’m comparing the two, just using it as a basis for a significant event) but for the 70s and 80s babies, it’s an historic holiday, but nothing that really gets to our hearts.

In sports parlance, it’s the same way for Kentucky basketball. I was way too young to remember “The Shot” itself, but I remember a lot of stories about it. Though I’m from the area, so it was unavoidable. Recruits of today outside the state aren’t necessarily devoid of history, they just have more current events and issues and moments to remember, not ones that happened before they were born (which makes me feel old as well).

Woods has since backtracked a bit via his Twitter account in a series of tweets.

In no way were my comments meant to offend or insult the current players at UK. Simply an observation of today’s youth everywhere….I greatly admire Coach Cal and what he has done for the University of Kentucky and college basketball….I will always be proud to have worn a Kentucky Wildcat uniform and to be the head coach at Morehead State University.

So there. It wasn’t the smartest of moves for Woods to say what he said at that length, but he did and he owned up to it (somewhat). He’s a great person and coach, and in dealing with him in several interviews and games, he’s a very honest and engaging person. Sometimes that’s a gift and a curse.

Regardless, Woods will probably have a few less fans when he enters Rupp Arena on Thanksgiving.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.