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.
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.
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.
- Calipari’s season-long goal? Developing nasty defense
- Too early to get psyched for Kentucky-Louisville?
- Kentucky’s gunning for that No. 1 recruiting class (again)
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.