When Nerlens Noel went down with a season-ending injury, it left Kentucky with little hope. That was multiplied when the Wildcats dropped their first game without Noel by 30 to Tennessee.
Since then, Kentucky has rallied off three straight, prompting point guard Ryan Harrow to proclaim that the Wildcats have turned a corner at the most important part of the season.
“I think we’ve kind of made a breakthrough and everybody is starting to click together,” Harrow told reporters on Friday.
Several weeks ago, Kentucky played dodgeball as a way to relax the team and it seems to have worked. However, John Calipari had previously tried a more strict tactic earlier in the season, ‘Camp Cal,’ which sparked a five-game winning streak before dropping two of the next four. So what’s different this time around? That urgency that Selection Sunday is near.
“It’s kind of like the end of the road now, so it really matters,” added Harrow. “Everything counts right now. We hold our destiny in our hands, as coaches say.”
Kentucky is tied with Alabama for second place in the SEC, only trailing Florida by a game. The Wildcats have their best chance to prove Harrow’s comments are valid when they travel to Little Rock to play a tough Arkansas team. UK follows that with another road game Thursday against Georgia, before a showdown in Lexington against Florida next Saturday.
Kentucky always had the talent. Have they turned the corner? That will be answered this week.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne
The latest arms race in the collegiate ranks centers around apparel deals, and UCLA has reportedly signed the largest in the history of amateur athletics.
Under Armour will pay the university $280 million over the next 15 years, according to ESPN.com, in exchange for their athletes to work as unpaid models, turning Pauley Pavilion and the Rose Bowl into a runway for the athletic apparel company to hawk their wares.
Here are the details from ESPN:
At those numbers, the deal would be the largest in college football history. In January, Ohio State said its 15-year deal with Nike was worth $252 million. Texas signed a 15-year deal with Nike worth $250 million in October, and Michigan signed an 11-year deal, with a four-year option, that could be worth up to $173.8 million.
Landing UCLA only furthers Under Armour’s presence on the west coast. Their most famous client is Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
The Big 12 and the SEC announced the matchups for the 2017 SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Tuesday, and the highlight is, of course, Kansas and Kentucky.
The two schools, who played an instant classic in Phog Allen Fieldhouse last season, will square off in Lexington this season. If that wasn’t enough, Kentucky and Kansas are currently sitting second and third, respectively, in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25.
So that should be fun.
The game will be played on January 28th along with the rest of the matchups in the series. Those matchups are:
Texas at Georgia
Texas A&M at West Virginia
Florida at Oklahoma
Baylor at Ole Miss
Iowa State at Vanderbilt
Kansas State at Tennessee
Arkansas at Oklahoma State
Auburn at TCU
LSU at Texas Tech
To be frank, the rest of that schedule is not all that enticing. West Virginia should be a top 25 team, and they host a Texas A&M team that is talented but young. Florida and Georgia are arguably the two best non-Kentucky teams in the league, but they face off with a rebuilding Oklahoma and a young Texas squad, neither of whom are guaranteed to make the tournament.
The problem here?
Both the SEC and the Big 12 are likely going to be down this season, which puts a damper on just how excited we can get about this challenge.
Purdue announced on Tuesday that forward Vince Edwards will be returning to school for his junior season.
Edwards declared for the NBA Draft without signing with an agent and went through the process to gauge his value at the next level.
“After getting the NBA experience and going through the evaluation process, I have talked with my family and Coach Painter and decided it is best for me to return for my junior year,” Edwards said in a statement. “Although the NBA is still a dream for me one day, I am coming back to Purdue to make next year a special one. Thank you to all the organizations who gave me the chance to not only showcase my talents, but also the chance to know me as a young man and not just an athlete.”
Edwards averaged 11.3 points and 5.4 boards last season.
Purdue now has to wait to hear from Caleb Swanigan, a rising sophomore that was a top 20 recruit in the Class of 2015. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is Wednesday.
As one of the top players in the Class of 2017, 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. has been on the receiving end of attention from many high-major programs. Monday night Porter, a native of Columbia, Missouri who’s ranked second in the class by Rivals.com, revealed his top five schools at this point in time.
The five schools that made the cut (in alphabetical order): Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.
Of the five schools on Porter’s list Missouri and Washington may be the most interesting given the family connections. Not only is Missouri the hometown school, but Porter’s older sisters Bri and Cierra are members of the women’s basketball team.
And one of the assistants on that coaching staff was Porter’s father, who earlier this spring joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington. The elder Porter isn’t the only Washington connection either, with Michael’s younger brother Jontay being a commit in the Class of 2018.
With the loss of all-conference forward Jalen Jones, Texas A&M was in a position where they could afford to add another front court body alongside the likes of Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos. Thursday afternoon head coach Billy Kennedy and his staff managed to do just that, as 6-foot-9 forward Eric Martinez Vila made his pledge to the SEC program.
News of Vila’s commitment was first reported by TexAgs.com, and the FC Barcelona Lassa (that’s the club’s basketball program) product took visits to Texas A&M, Missouri and Wake Forest earlier this spring. Vila’s viewed as more of a combo forward, with the ability to step away from the basket and hit perimeter shots, giving the Aggies some added versatility in the front court.
Vila has plenty of experience playing for both FC Barcelona’s B team (however he did appear with the A-team during the 2014-15 season), and he represented Spain in the 2014 FIBA U16 EuroBasket and 2015 FIBA U18 EuroBasket events. Vila is the fifth member of Texas A&M’s 2016 class, joining guards J.J. Caldwell and J.C. Hampton, wing DeShawn Corprew and forward Robert Williams.