Blogger Spotlight: A Sea of Blue talks Kentucky, Calipari and freshmen

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Few college basketball programs can rival Kentucky.

Whether it’s tradition, devoted fans or media attention, the Big Blue Nation lives and dies with its Wildcats. That’s why Kentucky basketball is now 24/7, making it ideal for a well-run blog.

And that’s certainly A Sea of Blue, SB Nation’s Kentucky blog. Fans flock to it for stories, analysis, rumors, stats and chatting about their beloved ‘Cats. So I chatted with its managing editor, Glenn Logan, about all things Kentucky in this week’s Blogger Spotlight.

Q: Did last year’s freshman crop spoil you for this season? Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are as good as any freshmen in the country and are actually putting up better stats than UK’s freshmen last year. Yet the team doesn’t have the panache of a year ago. Or are they just missing a Patrick Patterson?

A: The answer to this question is complex.  A lot of people in the Big Blue Nation have reservations about young, high-turnover-to-the-NBA teams.  Last year’s team wasn’t just a unique mix of talent, but also the way they played and they way they wore their hearts on their sleeves really enchanted Kentucky basketball fans.  Wildcat partisans still haven’t forgotten Wall’s megawatt smile, or Cousins surly toughness on court that so contrasted with his gentle goofiness off it.

It isn’t just the skills we miss.  It is the naked joy of the game that they showed so often on and off the court.  That’s movie-like, and it isn’t easy to get over.  UK fans do undoubtedly miss Patterson, but what they also miss all the personality that last year’s team had.

This year the young players are much more serious and less demonstrative about their play, which is arguably a reason for their better statistics.  Knight, Jones & Co. don’t scare opponents with either their sick athleticism a la Wall, their beastly size and take-no-prisoners demeanor a la Cousins, or the chiseled body of a Patterson.  This year’s Kentucky team is cerebral, sharper in execution and less reliant on athleticism to make up for mistakes, not to mention much, much better shooters from the perimeter.  The 2011 team, in other words, is “boring” by comparison, even if their numbers are actually better.  Fewer Kentucky fans are as highly invested emotionally, and so that’s why we see the buzz at lower levels around here.

Q: Is John Calipari the ideal coach for Kentucky? He’s media friendly, embraces the Big Blue Nation and wins a lot of games. What could be better

A: In many ways, Calipari is the ideal coach for Kentucky.  He gets the tradition, he gets the fan support, and he understands the need to feed that beast.  With that said, Calipari isn’t a guy who has been around the Kentucky program all his life, so there is a segment of the Big Blue Nation that sees him as an outsider, much as they saw Pitino. 

Championships will go a long way toward alleviating this provincial attitude, but as with Rick Pitino be will take a long time, if ever, before Calipari becomes “one of us” to every Kentucky fan.  Unlike Pitino, Calipari does not surround himself in the New England image and a constant reminder of his Catholicism by having a priest present on the bench at games, or constant appearances on TV and radio with other big city “goodfellas” from his youth that Pitino employed to remind Kentucky fans he wasn’t from here.  In retrospect, it was really a snobbish form of urbanity and a bit of a poke at the more rural Kentucky fans.  Calipari has no use for that sort of display.

Instead, Coach Cal has, at least externally, embraced the more pastoral nature of the Bluegrass and made an effort not only to integrate himself into the community and culture, but to constantly reach out to all regions of Kentucky, not just the population centers.  Pitino’s tendency was to confine himself to his comfort zones in Lexington and Louisville, while Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie disliked having to engage the fans any more than necessary.  This sincere effort has been a big part of why the Big Blue Nation has embraced Calipari — that, and winning basketball games.

Q: The player exodus after last season prompted critics to rip Calipari for bringing in so many one-and-done players. That’ll likely be true after this season and next, when another top-rated recruiting class arrives in Lexington. That overlooks the fact that talented freshmen usually result in a talented, entertaining team. So. What’s your ideal player mix for the ‘Cats?

A: Kentucky fans have reservations about the “one and done” culture that Calipari has brought to Kentucky, largely because our best teams, for decades, have been upperclasmen-dominated with a few talented youngsters sprinkled in.  The “new reality” of college basketball that Calipari embraced late in his Memphis tenure is very much alien to Kentucky fans, even though many are still vexed by Tubby Smith’s strategy to produce older teams that were grown in his system — a strategy that ultimately failed against the new reality that Calipari embraced, and brought with him to the Commonwealth.

Then there is the constant loathing from inside and outside the sports media.  For the press, there are two factors at work as far as Kentucky is concerned. One is a desire to see Calipari’s one-and-done strategy fail.  Many sports media professionals are invested in the idea that it’s better for young players to pass up millions in the draft to stay in college, even though studies have revealed the folly of this strategy.  This banality is often on display in the “inexperienced teams don’t win championships” platitude.  Whatever one thinks of the merits of that theory, it is largely untested at Kentucky’s level of talent.

To be fair (or perhaps, even more unfair depending on your viewpoint), the sports media gets this perception more or less honestly.  Sportswriters are constantly inundated with the “academics first” argument by educators and administrators in colleges.  These smart people, even after years of worldly experience, still look down on “jocks” as inferiors both intellectually and in value to society.  They tut-tut a player’s desire to play professional sports as an unworthy career goal, as if a four year degree in accountancy or even pre-law would ever earn more money or provide a person with more opportunity to make a difference in society. 

Calipari plays the role of Lucifer in this narrative, unabashedly tempting gifted players quickly through the NCAA system and out to the pros.  The NCAA itself has become such remarkable study in hubris and condescension on this point that it has, perhaps as much as the seemingly inconsistent player eligibility rulings coming down from on high in Indianapolis, soured many sports fans on the organization.  I think that’s a shame, and I really do wish the NCAA would recognize that athletics is as valuable a profession as any academic pursuit, and it’s way past time we stop applauding geniuses for leaving college early to found Microsoft or Facebook while shaking our heads in faux disdain when gifted athletes do the same thing for the same reasons — namely, filthy lucre.

The second is an unfortunate, echo chamber-driven perception that Calipari is guilty of NCAA rules wrongdoing prior to and during his tenure at Kentucky.  There is no factual support for this myopia, and in truth the facts are antithetical to it.   However, there is enough smoke surrounding Calipari that a lot of folks seem completely comfortable in their conviction that he is an NCAA scofflaw regardless of any factual evidence to the contrary.  I guess, ultimately, that falls under the rubric of life not being fair, but many of us at Kentucky can hardly wait until we win an NCAA championship with Coach Cal at the helm.  The mere thought of the hand-wringing and emotional suffering of his critics when that happens is irresistible schadenfreude.

Mainly, however, what the Big Blue Nation wants is good basketball and frequent shots at the national championship.  Calipari seems to be delivering on those two things, and in the end, that’s what makes Kentucky fans happy.

Q: Given how much more focused these freshmen are, is it surprising to see them stumble during SEC games? While conference games are always tough, the other SEC teams have more than their share of issues. Perhaps my expectations of them and their talents are too high, but losing to Alabama? Yeesh.

A: Is it surprising to see them stumble?  Not really.  First of all, the SEC looks considerably better to me this year than last, and I think the ease of some of the earlier victories had led them to believe they didn’t need to bring 100 percent focus every game.  Hopefully, the bloom is off that rose and they understand that there are no easy games in conference outside of maybe Auburn and LSU this year.

Alabama has, as a strength, what is potentially Kentucky’s biggest weakness — size and inside presence. This Kentucky team is just now learning the kind of physicality that this league is capable of this year, and that it means a loss when you don’t play with the same level of physicality and intensity.  Kentucky really hasn’t faced teams like this — big, strong, and aggressive — all year until recently.  The non-conference schedule was filled with skill teams, not big, strong, aggressive teams.

Q: That said, who’s the team you fear most in the SEC?

A: None of them.  But the team most likely to beat Kentucky on a given night is Tennessee. 

Florida’s defense is lousy, and Kentucky has really learned to play the pick and roll this year, which is all Donovan runs.  They’ll beat a lot of teams that don’t play good defense, but Kentucky is not one of them.

Tennessee is talented and experienced at every position except the four, and they have a great skill player there in Tobias Harris.  They are capable of terrific defense and have the size, strength, and depth to really bother this Kentucky team.

Q: Your take on Bruce Pearl. How does he still have a job?

A: Tennessee figures that they simply cannot find a better coach, and are willing to take him warts and all.  I wonder what will happen if the NCAA insists on a “show cause” sanction against Pearl, similar to what they did to Kelvin Sampson (see this Andy Katz piece for more on that). 

That would almost force the Vols to fire Pearl, or literally appear before the committee for almost anything recruiting related.  It would hamstring Pearl’s greatest value to Tennessee, which is ability to recruit at the highest level.  I think this is a real possibility.

So if I were the Volunteers, I would get used to the idea of having to decide whether to retain a Bruce Pearl who cannot be involved with recruiting for as many as five years (but it most likely wouldn’t be that long), or to let him go.  Tennessee, and NCAA Commissioner Mike Slive on their behalf, has done everything they can to keep him. However the NCAA is likely to hit him with a much bigger hammer, and could possibly make him unemployable in college for the near future.

Q: Does Kentucky reach the Elite Eight again this season? Or better?

A:  I really don’t know.  This team has some issues against bigger, stronger teams due to a lack of size, toughness, and has a thin bench.  Worse, the bench players simply aren’t coming along at an acceptable rate.  That makes them vulnerable.

A lot depends on their draw, and how much Kentucky improves its execution between now and the NCAA tournament.  If they can get into the Sweet Sixteen, I’d say they have a chance to win it all just because they have one thing that really makes a difference during tournament time — good guards.  We keep hoping Eloy Vargas will develop into a serviceable big man, but to this point, he is one giant, negative Roland Rating.  Jon Hood is getting better, but he is still tentative and lacks the aggressiveness we need from him.

But good perimeter shooting teams are usually a handful in the tournament, and Kentucky is that.

Q: The Big Blue Nation is passionate. The Nation is large. The Nation is knowledgeable. But you don’t want to anger BBN. So, for those who think it’s either crazed Wildcats fans or Ashley Judd, describe the Kentucky fan base.

A: The Kentucky fan base is extremely culturally diverse, and that’s perhaps it’s greatest weakness as well as it’s most remarkable characteristic.  Most large fan bases tend to be highly urbanized, but the reverse is true for Kentucky.  Kentucky is a small state with a population of maybe 4.5 million souls, but the tradition of the flagship university of the Commonwealth and it’s basketball prowess have been handed down from father to son and mother to daughter for generations all over the state.  Even in Louisville, where I live, you would expect Cardinal fans to vastly outnumber Kentucky fans, but it’s closer to an even split.  Around the rest of the state, it’s probably 50-1 Kentucky.

Kentucky has a lot of rural areas that often seem like they are living in the America of 30 years ago, and many Kentucky fans tend to be working-class people who inherited their fandom like a genetic trait.  The Internet has helped many of the Big Blue faithful from remote regions of the state join into the conversation, and those long-time fan gaining access to more sophisticated on-line communities produces some peculiar and sometimes lamentable commentary, as does the predictable occasionally irrational blather of younger fans.  For the most part, these two groups account for much of the rage produced when somebody is perceived to have dissed the Blue and White.

An ongoing problem is a bit of paranoia among our fans that stems from provocative media members who misunderstand the Commonwealth, which they too often deride as a backwater filled with a bunch of ignorant hayseeds.  Kentucky fans may not all be urbane by the definition of big city fan bases, but they are well-meaning and friendly for the most part.

The Big Blue Nation is especially sensitive to implications of racial bigotry that has become a frequent touchstone of Kentucky critics, mostly in the form of 20/20 hindsight and the almost irresistible temptation for any author commenting on the state of race relations to use the Commonwealth as a negative example.  Even the fact that the Kentucky they so roundly criticize no longer actually exists does not seem to dissuade them much.  One would think that the hiring of multiple minority head coaches would serve to head this commentary off at the pass, but it hasn’t so far.

It’s also frustrating for the fans to have to listen to critics of Calipari attack him so continuously and with such venom.  Big Blue fans are not used to having a coach who is this big a target, and it feeds the notion that the whole world is ganging up on what is arguably the most beloved institution in the state.  It is one thing to have to react to the likes of traditional rivals like Louisville and Indiana, but it is quite another to have people unaffiliated with those worthies constantly attacking Coach Cal and, by imputation, the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky fans are far less homogeneous than almost any large fan base in the United States, particularly culturally.  It makes the Big Blue Nation an always-interesting place.

Q: This is like asking you to choose your favorite child, but who’s your favorite Kentucky team of all time? And the player?

A: Actually, this one is easy for me — the Suffocats, as the 2002-03 team was known, were my favorite Kentucky team of all time, with the 1977-78 National Champions a fairly close second.

The Suffocats were the greatest defensive and interior passing Kentucky team I have witnessed in my lifetime, although I can’t speak for others like Rupp’s Runts in 1966, which were before my time as a UK fan.  The 2002-03 team started out the season with a one point victory over Athletes in Action in the first exhibition game and a loss to Team Nike in the second.  That’s about as inauspicious a start as any successful Kentucky team has ever had.

On January 14th in Memorial Gym in Nashville, the Wildcats went into the locker room the Timid Cats, down eight points to an unranked Vandy team that was beating them senseless.  They came out the Suffocats, and emasculated the Commodores in front of their home crowd, turning them over 13 times in the second half alone, 12 of which were steals, and holding them to 4-17 shooting in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the 74-52 beat-down indicated.

They went on to finish the season undefeated (and unchallenged) in the SEC while hanging manhood-crushing thumpings on Vanderbilt in Rupp (106-44) and then No. 1 Florida (70-55), and I contend only the high ankle sprain Keith Bogans suffered against Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen kept Kentucky from winning the national championship, although Dwyane Wade certainly may have been able to go crazy even on a healthy Bogans.  Unfortunately, we will never know.  In any case, Marquette defeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight to end that magical season.

Q: How did you get into blogging? How much longer do you envision doing it?

A: By accident, really.  I stumbled on blog called Bogan’s Heroes back in 2005.  I made a few comments there, and eventually the owner of the blog was offered a gig for SBNation’s new Kentucky blog, A Sea of Blue.  I followed him over there, and eventually he made me a co-blogger.  After a while, he decided to start a family and the blog became too much for him, so he asked me to take it over, which I did.  I’ve been doing it ever since along with my co-blogger, Ken Howlett.

I will do this pretty much as long as SBNation will have me, I guess.  I love it dearly, and right now can’t imagine life without it.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.