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UK Freshman Noel Cleared To Play By NCAA

The NCAA explored everything from Nerlens Noel’s circle of advisors to his ability to pay for unofficial visits.  In the end, they found nothing on the big freshman who’s expected to replace Anthony Davis on this year’s Kentucky basketball team.

Wildcat coach John Calipari told ESPN’s “SportsCenter” audience: “He’s been cleared to practice and cleard to play games.  Everything’s good to go.”

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Davis Ankle Injury Shows How Fortunate UK Has Been

The number one pick in last week’s NBA draft — former Kentucky hoops star Anthony Davis — suffered a severely sprained ankle in a workout with his new pro team on Saturday and might have to miss the Olympics as a result.  That’s bad luck for the New Orleans Hornets and Team USA.  It also draws attention to the good fortune John Calipari has had as Kentucky’s coach.

Now before any blue-blooded Wildcat fan starts with the ugly emails and comments, wait for the explanation.  Has UK had good luck under Coach Cal?  So much so you’d think he was born in field of four-leaf clovers.  Does that mean luck sent the Cats to an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and then to a national title during Calipari’s first three seasons?  No.

To win, you’ve got to have some luck on your side.  The ball has to bounce your way on occasion (to use line that’s tossed out more than on occasion).  You have to have good team chemistry.  And you have to avoid major injuries.

For Kentucky, that’s been the case during their quick rise back to the top of the basketball mountain.  And it’s all happened as Calipari has invented a new kind of program — the kind built and sustained with a revolving door of one-and-doners.  Think about this for a second:


* Calipari has done a tremendous job of getting the top signees in America to play defense.  Getting freshmen to D up the way UK has is unusual, it’s remarkable and it’s a credit to the school’s coach.  But at some point, it’s likely that he’ll land some class that won’t be as defensive-minded as his first three.

* Perhaps more amazing is the fact that the superstar teenagers Calipari has brought to Lexington have all been willing to put team first.  These are the top prospects in America Kentucky signs.  They’re used to being fawned over and coddled.  They’re used to be going the go-to guy on the high school and AAU teams.  They’re used to being the show.  Yet Calipari has managed to sell each class on his team concept.  He’s been able to quickly determine which blue chippers have the attitude necessary to buy what he’s selling.  And, to an extent, he’s also been lucky that no one yet has damaged team chemistry by saying, “I need more shots.”  To date, no one player has squawked enough to create issues with the squad as a whole.  At some point, again, it’s probable that Calipari won’t be able to find a class of five selfless true freshmen and transfers.

* Finally, Kentucky has avoided major injuries during their rapid rise.  The fact that Davis left UK and almost immediately suffered a severely sprained ankle illuminates the fact that nothing like that happened while in Lexington.  No blown out knees.  No ankles that take the team’s top player — Davis, for example — out of the line-up for an extended stretch of games.  All championship caliber teams need some luck to stay healthy and UK has had that luck when it comes to their most important players.


None of this is to discredit in any way what Calipari or his Wildcats have done the last three years.  In fact, with six players just drafted and several more draftees likely next summer, all signs point to continued SEC and national dominance by the Cats.  Hell, when the coach himself says his next goal is coaching an undefeated season, you know your program’s on a roll.

But one of these years, some breaks won’t go Calipari’s way.  Eventually, he’ll sign a squad that won’t or can’t defend as well as he’d like.  One day he’ll bring in a kid who does want the spotlight and will scuttle team chemistry.  And at some point — like every other school out there — Kentucky will have one of its main stars go down to injury.  Those things are bound to happen.

The fact that we’re talking about everything coming together to slow the Kentucky train is telling in itself.  How many coaches and fans across the country and in the SEC in particular look forward to the year when everything comes together to help create a magical run?  In Lexington, that magic has been the norm and only the inevitable bad break or two will lead to a bust of a season.

Enjoy it Cat fans.  The coach, the players, and the breaks are all in Kentucky’s favor these days.

Just ask Anthony Davis and his bum ankle.

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SEC Headlines 6/19/2012

1. Can compromise be reached on a four-team playoff model?  ACC Commissioner John Swofford says yes. “Our preference is that the semifinals be incorporated into the bowl system, which seems to be in good shape,” Swofford said. “We’re comfortable with the championship game being bid out.”

2. Which new players will make an immediate impact at Auburn this fall?

3. “Go to Hell, Auburn” sticker sparks tension on a Southwest Airlines flight.

4. Arkansas lineman Jason Peacock will spend 10 days in jail for stealing a debit card to buy gas.

5. Bobby Petrino takes a bath on his Fayetteville home.

6. Potential jurors in the Harvey Updyke trial will be quizzed about their knowledge of Toomer’s Corner. Pool includes seven people employed by Auburn. Lots of questions about Auburn ties.

7. Georgia-Georgia Tech may be an annual rivalry but only the 5th most important game on the Bulldogs schedule this fall.

8. Kentucky safety Dakotah Tyler will be back on the Wildcats team this fall.

9. When Tennessee and Alabama play on October 20th – Peyton Manning will be in attendance.

10. Projected win totals for all 124 FBS teams. Top 10 easiest non-conference schedules – three SEC teams make the list.

11. An Orlando bowl game gets rebranded.

12. Gary Parrish: “Despite the departures of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, nobody can match UK’s roster strictly in terms of talent.”

13. Ticket prices are going up for Kentucky basketball games. Cost of UK scholarships have nearly tripled since 2002. Kentucky football budget projected at $2 million less for 2012-2013.

14. Anthony Davis a darkhorse to make the USA basketball Olympic roster?

15. 22 points for Jarnell Stokes as Team USA moves to 3–0.

16. Tennessee’s Kenny Hall finally reemerges following a February suspension while Vol fans look for improvement from 6’9″ Yemi Makanjuola.

17. Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist work out for the Charlotte Bobcats.

18. Six newcomers mean more options for Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy.

19. The dumbest NCAA rules you’ve never heard of.

20. Nick Saban likes the new Pop Warner rules limiting contact.

21. Kevin Sumlin’s message to Aggie fans looking forward to travel in the SEC: “I bet you’ll have a different answer for me next year.”


22. Details of Urban Meyer’s contract at Ohio State are released.

23. The U.S. military spends millions of taxpayer dollars every year on sports sponsorships.  Should it be cut?

24.  Len Bias and 26 years ago today.

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UK’s Harrow Welcomes Signee Noel With A Fade

Nerlens Noel — the Kentucky basketball signee who’s expected to replace Anthony Davis next season — is already well known for his hoops skills… and his 80′s-style fade hairdo.  Well, his taste in haircuts is already inspring his new teammates to follow suit.

Yesterday, UK’s Ryan Harrow — a transfer to Lexington from NC State — made the internet rounds with his own “new Flat Top Gumby!!”  (At least that’s how Noel wrote it.)

Photo evidence is at left.  Click the headline for a closer look.  That’s Harrow at left, Noel at right.

Man, I dread the return of knit ties.

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Calipari Says Noel Is “Not A Finished Product”

Nerlens Noel is being viewed by many as the man who’ll step in at Kentucky and pick up right where Anthony Davis left off.  They forget, of course, that Billy Donovan called Davis one of the game’s “all-time” greats.  Those are big shoes to fill… even for Noel.

Commenting on his new signee, John Calipari compared Noel to Davis and another of this previous greats.  But he also points out the youngster has some work to do:


“I’ve been blessed three times in my career to have a player that can change the game without really scoring with Marcus Camby, Anthony Davis and now Nerlens Noel.  I will tell you that Nerlens, just like Anthony, is not a finished product. He’s got a lot of work to do, and we have a lot of work to do to get him to where I think he’s capable of being, but he is a special player who I am ecstatic to have an opportunity to work with.”


Wildcat fans would be wise to temper their expectations for Noel.  He may be a tremendous player.  But guys like Davis don’t come along too often.

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Anthony Davis Named SEC’s “Mr. Defense” By

On Wednesday, we handed out our honor for “Mr. Offense” in the SEC to Arkansas freshman guard BJ Young.  Studying the numbers for every player in the SEC who was on the floor for at least 300 minutes in 2011-12, we found that Young made more positive things happen on the offensive end for his club (points, assists and offensive rebounds per minute) than any other player in the league this season.  Kudos.

Now, we could do what everyone else does and just give it the eye test, but what fun is that?  Plus you wouldn’t have gotten to see a list of stats that you might not normally have viewed.

And we could have chosen a different method like plus/minus results or we could have factored in fouls and turnovers.  But if you’re on the court when Michael Jordan’s on the court, you’re plus/minus will be pretty good… and is a foul committed on the offensive end or the defensive end?

No formula is perfect, but the one listed above was the one we used to determine Mr. Offense.  To find Mr. Defense, we once again examined the stats of all the SEC players with more than 300 minutes of floortime this season.  We tallied defensive rebounds, steals and blocks.  Then we compared the number of positive defensive plays made to the number of minutes played.

It’s no surprise then that Kentucky freshman big man Anthony Davis wins the “Mr. Defense” honor from for 2011-12.  For the season he averaged 9.8 rebounds (total rebound, not just defensive) and 4.7 blocks per outing.  He blocked shots at a record pace.

Below are the SEC’s top 20 players in terms of defensive production by minute.  The comparison should show you just how much more impressive Davis was than any other league performer this season.  Just eye-popping.  Mind-boggling.  And any other exclamation ending in i-n-g.

Here’s the full top 20 for defensive production:

Player Minutes Def. Rebounds Blocks Steals Total Positive Plays Per Minute
1. A. Davis (UK) 969 213 146 44 403 .415
2.  R. Buckner (UM) 774 144 64 20 228 .294
3.  H. Mickelson (Ark) 511 67 69 14 150 .293
4.  J. Stokes (UT) 347 70 17 14 101 .291
5.  K. Gabriel (Aub) 962 172 69 35 276 .286
6.  S. Warren (LSU) 573 97 23 29 149 .260
7.  T. Jones (UK) 821 121 56 36 213 .259
8.  F. Ezeli (VU) 481 70 45 8 123 .255
9.  W. Yeguete (UF) 569 103 10 31 144 .253
10.  M. Holloway (UM) 848 160 15 38 213 .251
11.  T. Mitchell (Ala) 684 118 31 22 171 .250
12.  D. Harris (USC) 776 95 70 29 194 .250
13.  L. Goulbourne (VU) 881 148 24 47 219 .248
14.  A. Moultrie (MSU) 985 195 22 25 242 .245
15.  J. Green (Ala) 661 110 33 17 160 .242
16.  R. Sidney (MSU) 623 107 20 22 149 .239
17.  M. Kidd-Gilchrist (UK) 966 160 33 37 230 .238
18.  J. O’Bryant (LSU) 531 93 20 13 126 .237
19.  M. Waithe (Ark) 467 64 26 20 110 .235
20.  J. Maymon (UT) 861 156 10 32 198 .229

As usual, the stats have been double- and triple-checked, but it’s always possible that a digit might have gotten flipped in transcribing the info from Excel to our site.  If you see a typo, let us know.

But congrats again to UK’s Davis.  What phenomenal production on the defensive end of the floor.

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Calipari And Cats Dominate SEC Coaches’ Awards

In the end, an undefeated conference season was pretty hard to ignore.
The SEC announced yesterday that its coaches had named Kentucky’s John Calipari Coach of the Year and his dominant, freshman protege Anthony Davis as the league’s Player of the Year.  For good measure, they also awarded Davis Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors.

Kentucky also had the Sixth Man of the Year in senior Darius Miller.

Florida Patric Young somehow managed to sneak away with the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award before someone in blue and white made off with that, too.

We aren’t schocked by the multiple awards for Davis or the recognition for Miller.  Both are deserved.

So is the Coach of the Year award for Calipari, but that we are mildly surprised that he won it.  In past years, the AP has been the group that hands its award to the guy with the best record while the SEC’s coaches have been known to — as we wrote the other day — vote for the “best story.”  We expected Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin to grab at least a share of the coaches’ award.  That didn’t happen this time around.

What Calipari and UK accomplished this season was truly historic.  Only three times since the 50s has a team gone unbeaten through the SEC, including this year’s run.  Kentucky is also just a buzzer-beating loss to Indiana away from being undefeated overall.

For those who say, “Calipari just took the preseason favorite to the title, so what,” you miss the bigger picture.  UK’s coach didn’t just win the league title, he crushed the SEC and grabbed the grown a full six games ahead of anyone else.

As for the league’s All-SEC teams, here ya go:


First Team All-SEC
Bradley Beal, Florida – G, 6-3, 207, Fr., St. Louis, Mo.
Kenny Boynton, Florida – G, 6-2, 189, Jr., Pompano Beach, Fla.
Anthony Davis, Kentucky – F, 6-10, 220, Fr., Chicago, Ill.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – F, 6-7, 232, Fr., Somerdale, N.J.
Dee Bost, Mississippi State – G, 6-2, 176, Sr., Concord, N.C.
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State – F, 6-11, 249, Jr., Memphis, Tenn.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt – G, 6-4, 215, Jr., Hendersonville, Tenn.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt – F, 6-7, 225, Sr., Norkopping, Sweden

Second Team All-SEC
JaMychal Green, Alabama – F, 6-8, 228, Sr., Montgomery, Ala.
Trevor Releford, Alabama – G, 6-1, 180, So., Kansas City, Mo.
BJ Young, Arkansas – G, 6-3, 175, Fr., St. Louis, Mo.
Erving Walker, Florida – G, 5-8, 177, Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky – F, 6-9, 252, So., Portland, Ore.
Doron Lamb, Kentucky – G, 6-4, 210, So., Queens, N.Y.
Justin Hamilton, LSU – C, 7-0, 260, Jr., Alpine, Utah
Terrance Henry, Ole Miss – F, 6-9, 210, Sr., Monroe, La.
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee – F, 6-7, 265, Jr., Madison, Wis.

SEC All-Freshman Team
BJ Young, Arkansas – G, 6-3, 175, Fr., St. Louis, Mo.
Bradley Beal, Florida – G, 6-3, 207, Fr., St. Louis, Mo.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia – G, 6-5, 200, Fr., Greenville, Ga.
Anthony Davis, Kentucky – F, 6-10, 220, Fr., Chicago, Ill.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – F, 6-7, 232, Fr., Somerdale, N.J.
Anthony Hickey, LSU – G, 5-11, 182, Fr., Hopkinsville, Ky.
Rodney Hood, Mississippi State – G, 6-8, 204, Fr., Meridian, Miss.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee – F, 6-8, 250, Fr., Memphis, Tenn.

SEC All-Defensive Team
Anthony Davis, Kentucky – F, 6-10, 220, Fr., Chicago, Ill.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – F, 6-7, 232, Fr., Somerdale, N.J.
Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss – F, 6-9, 225, Jr., Memphis, Tenn.
Damontre Harris, South Carolina – F, 6-9, 214, So., Fayetteville, N.C.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt – F, 6-7, Sr., 225, Norrkoping, Sweden

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UF’s Donovan Calls UK’s Davis “One Of The Best Of All Time”

If anyone was feeling that Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis needed even further praise for his tremendous, record-setting season, Florida’s Billy Donovan has provided it:

“I think he’s definitely one of the best of all time.  When you start talking about Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and guys like that, I mean, I can’t probably go that far back.  But certainly here in recent time, the last 20-25 years, he’s as good as anybody.”

Davis has 139 blocked shots on the season.  Only five other D-I players have more than 100.  And Davis’ total is greater than 306 D-I teams.  Defensively, he simply changes games by his lonesome.

But offensively he’s become a weapon as well.  Davis is currently averaging 14.3 points per game (and 17.8 points per game over his last eight contests).

In addition, he’s averaging 9.8 rebounds per game.  All from a true freshman.

An all-time great?  For one year’s work it’s hard to argue with Donovan.

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Home Teams (Cats, Hogs) Win Again

Following last night’s wins by Kentucky and Arkansas in their home arenas, SEC home teams are now 30-11 on the young season.  That’s a 73% winning percentage and four of those road wins have come from Kentucky.

Lesson: If you’re not Kentucky, your odds of winning on the road are awfully long.

Kentucky 69, Tennessee 44

What do you get when a team with few scoring options ventures into the “we never lose here” arena of a team with sensational defenders?  A beatdown.  Kentucky let it be known with an early scuffle that they would not be out-toughed by the Vols in Rupp last night.  They also happened to knock down their first 11 shots of the game en route to the 25-point win.

Anthony Davis had a ridiculous seven blocked shots bringing his NCAA-best total to 108 or the season.

Arkansas 82, Vanderbilt 74

Mike Anderson needs to figure out a way to play all of the Razorbacks’ games at home.  The Hogs remained perfect at home with an upset Vanderbilt, a team that came in having won 11 of 12 games.  Vandy played well and actually held a three-point second half lead before Arkansas got red hot.

The Hogs hit six out of seven three-pointers in a single stretch as they turned a 40-37 deficit into a 59-46 lead.  You have to wonder just how good Arkansas would have been this year had Marshawn Powell not been sidelined before the season with an injury.

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BBL: Cobb’s jersey to be retired; Cats ready for trip

Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Big Blue Links for Thursday:


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