Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein key as Kentucky outlasts Vanderbilt, was a team dodgeball game to thank?

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The torn ACL of star freshman Nerlens Noel made Kentucky a team destined for the NIT in the minds of many. That may still be the case, but Wednesday night in a close 74-70 win over Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena, they found an interior presence late that helped them to a win.

Willie Cauley-Stein had blocks on consecutive possessions in the final minute, looking every bit as capable as Noel around the rim to stop two Vanderbilt possessions and preserve a victory. Cauley-Stein finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three big blocks on a night that Kentucky needed some things to go right to fend off a Vanderbilt team that they had trouble with earlier in the season even when Noel was in the lineup.

In addition to Cauley-Stein having his biggest game of the season, guards Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow both played well. They both scored in double figures and looked to have done a complete 180-degree pivot since going scoreless in his last two games. He had 12 points and four assists, but perhaps most importantly no turnovers.

Part of that is a credit to the fact that Kentucky did not look as tentative and tense as it did in its first game without Noel, a blowout loss to Tennessee. Coach John Calipari said that the team played dodgeball to lighten the mood on Tuesday after a team walk-through. Was it part of the solution? [Here’s video of the dodgeball game]

There still remain areas of concern, though.

Kentucky played well in the first half, leading by eight at the break. The problem was, that energy in the first half made for a team that struggled to keep up for much of the second. The defense has to continue to adapt

But I’m still not sold on Kentucky falling on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. The struggles they saw tonight at home likely won’t make for a win against Missouri, or on the road against Arkansas, or at home against Florida without Noel. Without a true signature win, John Calipari and the Wildcats could be NIT-bound.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Nevada coach to honor his father, Flip Saunders with unique warmup routine

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Nevada will be honoring Flip Saunders and Bill Musselman with a pregame warm-up routine they’ve been practicing for the past couple of weeks.

Bill is the father of Eric Musselman, Nevada’s head coach. He was coaching the Minnesota Golden Gophers that included Flip as a player when they used this warmup routine in the 1970s.

“We start almost every practice with this pregame routine,” Eric Musselman said. “It takes some time to get it down and we will perform it live for the first time before the Portland State home game at Lawlor Events Center on Nov. 25.”

The routine, which Eric found in a diagram after his father passed away, is similar to something you’d see the Harlem Globetrotters do.

CBT PODCAST: Indiana, UCLA, Ben Simmons and Thanksgiving sides

Ben Simmons
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New podcast!

In today’s episode, we talk quite a bit about Ben Simmons. How good of a prospect is he? Why do people insist on calling him overrated? Does LSU actually have a shot at missing the NCAA tournament?

[MORE: Why scouts are down on Simmons]

[MORE: Will Simmons be relevant in March?]

We also talk about Indiana’s disappointing showing in Maui, just how good Vanderbilt and Kansas have looked, Marquette’s ability to bounce back and whether or not we should be concerned about North Carolina and Maryland.

Oh, and Thanksgiving sides.

Do people really call stuffing ‘dressing’?

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here.