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Batten Down The Hatches; Knight Returning To Rupp For ESPN

bobby-knightBobby Knight hates Kentucky.  For several years he wouldn’t say the name of the school while doing his ESPN job.  And he’s no fan of John Calipari, either, having said in 2009: “We’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching.  I really don’t understand that.”

So we suspect you’ll have an easier time understanding why it’s a big deal for Knight to serve as color analyst for tonight’s ESPN broadcast of Arkansas’ visit to Rupp Arena.  UK fans aren’t likely to roll out the blue carpet for the irascible, lippy ex-Indiana coach.

Rece Davis — who will call the game with Knight — says the whole thing has been “manufactured.”


“I don’t see it being anything more than a manufactured issue… I just think to manufacture something out of comments from several years ago, I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.  I don’t see where it’s really that pertinent anymore…

There could be a vocal minority of people that might yell and boo and scream.  But he has without fail in our SEC travels treated people with tremendous graciousness and has been accommodating for pictures and autographs… People are sometimes surprised when they meet him how gracious and how funny he can be.”


Well, sure they’re surprised.  He spent decades being a jerk on and off the court.  This one’s definitely not safe for work, but if you watch these outtakes from a Knight-hosted golf show during his days at IU, you’ll see what a gracious and accommodating fella he can be.


Bobby Knight Golf Outtakes


As The Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Clay wrote yesterday: “I am sure the Big Blue Nation will treat ESPN color analyst Bob Knight with dignity and respect when the legendary Indiana coach visits for Thursday night’s Kentucky-Arkansas game.  After all, hasn’t Knight always treated people the way he would want to be treated?”

Exactly, like the last rant in the clip above.

ESPN had to put out a statement supporting its decision to assign Knight to a Kentucky game:  ”We expect Bob Knight to provide fans with expert and informative analysis as he has done on other game assignments.”

Look, typically we’re not supportive of booing and jeering, but if Wildcat fans let Knight have it for his insults over the years and his once childish refusal to say “Kentucky” on the air, well, so be it.  He’s earned it.

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Calipari, UK Throw Hat In The Ring For Chicken Of The Week

For a league that talks a tough game — and has the hardware to back up its bravado — it sure seems that the Southeastern Conference is being run by sissies and scaredy-cats this week.


* LSU’s Les Miles and Joe Alleva have said they have no problem with playing Florida in football every year… they just don’t think it’s fair that they have to play Florida in football every year.  Nevermind that Florida and LSU have won a combined four BCS titles since 2003 while playing each other.

* Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork — like Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin a couple of months ago — has admitted that he doesn’t want the league to go to nine conference games because his school would have a tougher path toward bowl eligibility.  Better to go 2-6 in the SEC and eek out four wins over non-conference flops than try to actually improve to the point that 6-6 isn’t the darned goal.

* Steve Spurrier proposed that non-division games not even count in the SEC standings, despite the fact that any win over a division foe already gives the winner of that game what amounts to a two-game lead in the standings.  Rather than worrying about beating a so-so Auburn at home — which the Gamecocks couldn’t do last year — Spurrier favored changing the rules so that game against Auburn wouldn’t even count.

* And now Kentucky has been thrown under the bus by folks at the Indiana University for not even meeting the Hoosiers half way when it came to keeping their decades-old hoops rivalry alive.


Over the past month, Indiana and Kentucky have gone back and forth over their basketball series.  Indiana and coach Tom Crean wanted the yearly games to be played in Lexington and Bloomington.  John Calipari wanted the games to be played at neutral sites like Louisville and Indianapolis.

Both parties failed to compromise earlier this month and both got a little egg on their faces for calling a halt to their classic rivalry.  As it turns out, UK deserved the egg to the face, not IU.

The Bloomington Herald Times released yesterday a letter sent from IU athletic director Fred Glass to Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart on May 10th.  In it, Glass proposed what we at proposed at the time — a compromise that would move the game through Lexington, Indianapolis (for two years), and Bloomington over a four-year period.  Win-win.

Only Barnhart responded in the negative to the compromise.

According to Glass, “we were back to Kentucky’s take it or leave it demand that we play on a neutral court with no opportunities to play on our campuses in front of our students and other season ticket-holders.”

IU has the letter showing that the Hoosiers offered a compromise.  No compromise was struck.  Therefore it seems pretty obvious that Calipari, Barnhart and UK did indeed stick to their take it or leave it demand, just as Glass suggested.  (Though Barnhart claims there were other factors at play.)

Why?  Because Calipari’s next stated goal is to put together an undefeated season.  For all the bluster about UK being a new kind of “non-traditional” program that’s built for big neutral site games, the Cats’ coach has been around long enough to know that it’s a helluva lot easier to win at home or on a neutral court than it is to win on someone else’s home floor.  You might recall that one of Kentucky’s two losses this past season came… where?  Ah, yes, at Indiana.  In Bloomington.

Calipari wants an undefeated season.  The clearest path to an unbeaten season will feature as few tough, true road games as possible.  So even though Indiana was willing to give a little to get a little, UK’s coach and athletic director refused to give an inch.

Some Cat fans will call that bold leadership.

We call it chicken.  Which is something Calipari and Kentucky have proven over the past three years that they have no reason to be.  Calipari has restored Kentucky basketball to its rightful throne.  Too bad he is no longer willing to play “anyone, anywhere” as he’s so often claimed.


(UPDATE — Let’s make something very clear here as people are already taking what we’ve written and twisting it.  This site has repeatedly praised Calipari for being willing to schedule name teams.  He still is.  But he’s trying to schedule the vast majority of them away from home courts.  That is the issue.  The “anyone” part of Calipari’s mantra is still intact.  The “anywhere” part?  Not so much.)

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UK-Indiana Battle For The Future Of Their Hoops Series

Last season, John Calipari said Kentucky might need to drop one or two of its traditional rivals to make way for an expanded SEC hoops schedule.  Louisville and North Carolina were kicked around as possibilities.  But it’s the Wildcats’ rivalry with Indiana that’s in the most danger of going bye-bye.

Calipari — if the series is to be continued — wants to see it played at neutral sites.  Long a fan of getting his programs into new areas for publicity and recruiting purposes, UK’s coach believes the schools should square off in Louisville or Indianapolis each year.  And that’s exactly how the rivalry survived from 1991 through 2006.

But prior to ’91 and since ’06, the two basketball Goliaths have waged their wars on campus.  And that is the route IU coach Tom Crean favors moving forward.

Both coaches have their own best interests at heart, of course.  Crean knows that Kentucky under Calipari will likely remain an NBA-lite type of program.  Better to face them with a homecourt advantage every other year.

Calipari knows that putting the games on neutral courts will drive up television interest in the game… not that the Cats are short on exposure as things currently stand.  Also, if you’ve got the heavyweight program, why go into the other guy’s gym at all?  Remember, UK had two losses last season.  One came in the finals of the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt.  The other came in December at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.  Not only did the 73-72 last-second loss sting, but some IU fans were so rowdy storming the court afterward that the school’s athletic director actually apologized for the behavior that left at least one person injured.  

For now, the two coaches continue to their back and forth via ESPN’s Andy Katz.  Calipari told him, “We can do it in Louisville, Lucas Oil (Stadium in Indianapolis), both teams benefit.”  Crean responded by saying, “It’s got to be a two-way street and taking it off campus isn’t anything that people here are excited about or behind.”

Okay, we’ll take a shot at playing King Solomon here.  Why don’t both programs and coaches give a bit on this one?  Just marry the two desires.

Over a four-year span, the UK-IU series could be played at Lexington, then Bloomington, then Louisville, and then in Indianapolis.  Then the rotation could begin anew.  It’s not rocket science here, folks.

If Kentucky and Indiana and their respective coaches are truly interested in continuing their annual bloodletting, then both parties should give some ground in order to make that happen.  If they won’t, then it becomes obvious that either Indiana is scared to play the Wildcats on a neutral site every single year… or Kentucky is scared to face the Hoosiers on the road every other year.

Yeah, that’s right, Coaches.  We called ya scared.  Now compromise already and keep a good thing going.



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Meyer “Expects” Addazio Back

Gotta love the silly season of SEC football.  Rumors, rumors everywhere and not a fact to find.

Yesterday, reports began to connect Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio to the head coaching vacancy at Indiana.  (Today, reports have the IU job going to Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.)

Most Gator fans danced for joy at the prospects of Addazio hittin’ the road. 

Then came reports that Urban Meyer and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen were already engaged in talks that would bring the Cowboys’ coach to Gainesville.

By yesterday afternoon, Florida radio host (and CSS analyst) Brady Ackerman tweeted that he’d spoken to Holgorsen and that Holgorsen had said he’d had no talks with Meyer about coming to Florida.

But yesterday morning — at about the time all those other rumors started to swirl — those who were listening in on an Outback Bowl teleconference heard Meyer once again say that Addazio would likely be back in Gainesville next season.

“I am expecting that to happen,” Meyer said.  “I’ll have further updates as we get closer to the bowl game.  Everybody’s out recruiting and doing their business.  At this time, I can’t make any statements because there’s so much going on with the profession right now.”

So Meyer “expects” Addazio to return but he’s not willing to guarantee it.  At least not now.

Perhaps that was because Addazio was still in the running for the Indiana job.

Or perhaps Meyer stopped short of a guarantee for other reasons…

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Kentucky Basketball: Bouncing Back & Looking Forward

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The Kentucky Wildcats have bounce-back-ability.

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The Kentucky Wildcats have bounce-back-ability.

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Bouncing Back

Young teams.  One never knows the psychological strength of a team, especially a young team, until they have been tested, and sometimes beaten.  Although this UK team is full of high school All-Americas, indicating it should be a team full of confident young men, the accumulation of talent John Calipari has put together had not lost at the collegiate level until the thorough, Maui-style dismantling courtesy of Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies.

And by using the word “dismantling,” I’m being kind, because UK was beaten every which way but loose by the Huskies.  Which is an experience most of UK’s current crop of freshman consider a foreign concept.  Add in the fact that at this point, the players are in search of leadership within their ranks, and the very real possibility of a precipitous drop in confidence and performance could have effected the way the team prepared for, and played against the Boston U Terriers.

Furthermore, with Calipari complaining loudly about what he perceives as selfish play of the team in Hawaii, fans were left to wonder if the youthful ‘Cats would respond to – a) a bad loss, and b) their coach rightfully berating them for their selfishness and lack of interior defense – with a solid performance against a team they should soundly beat.

What we learned Tuesday night is that these ‘Cats, like last year’s team, is capable of the big-time bounce back.  It’s not that they beat BU that was so impressive (on the contrary, it was expected), it’s how they beat BU — 59.3% field goal shooting (32-54); 62.5% long-range shooting (10-16); 21 assists on 32 made baskets (an assist on 67% of made baskets); and a 30-14 advantage in points in the paint.  Defensively, the ‘Cats held the Terriers to only 28.5% from the field, and eight assists.  Compare those numbers to the UConn game — 36.7% field goal shooting (22-60); 8-22 three-point shooting (36.4%); nine assists on 22 made baskets (an assist on 45% of made baskets); and a 42-24 points in the paint annihilation.  Against UConn, defending was obviously optional; the Huskies shot 57.7% from the floor (30-52), and 58.3% from beyond the arc (7-12), and lived in the lane all night … shooting layups.

Brandon Knight, who struggled (and looked noticeably uncomfortable) with turnovers and running the offense in Maui, bounced back in a major way against Boston U, scoring 23 points on 8-12 shooting (4-6 3′s), grabbing six rebounds, dishing out six assists, and committing four turnovers in 34 minutes of play.  Knight, like John Wall and Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose before him, is learning the dribble-drive as he goes, so naturally there will be peaks and valleys along the way (both Rose and Evans struggled early in their freshman seasons).  But, it was nice (and confidence-building) to see the Fort Lauderdale freshman respond to such an incredibly sub-par game, with his best effort yet as a ‘Cat.

Now, we should all realize BU is not UConn, but, Tuesday night all but the most cynical Kentucky fans clearly saw a team more cohesive, more in-tune to each other’s place on the floor, and actually interested in playing some sort of interior defense.  And UK’s big men (not named Terrence), in addition to their improved defense, responded with perhaps their most complete offensive game of the year: In 40 combined minutes, Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas scored 16 points, on 6-9 field goals, corralled 15 rebounds (six offensive), and committed only one turnover.  

All positive signs.  But, not as positive as this loudly blinking neon sign: Over the last two games, as a team, UK is shooting 72.7% from the free throw line (32-44).  A considerable improvement over the less-than-sixty-percent-from-the-charity-stripe they were averaging entering the UConn game.

So, with all signs pointing in a positive direction, let’s take a quick look at the block of three games awaiting the ‘Cats over the next two weeks.

Looking Forward

North Carolina Tar Heels: At Chapel Hill, Saturday @ 12:30 EST on CBS — Roy Williams’ Tar Heels have struggled so far this year.  With a 4-3 record, and losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, and #21 Illinois (an ugly, ugly defeat), UNC is searching for an identity.  The No. 1 high school player in the nation last year, 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes, has performed, well, like a freshman.  He’s averaging a respectable 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, but his shooting and ball handling have been in a word, streaky.  Tyler Zeller (7-0 forward/center), UNC’s big man in the middle, has played solidly, leading the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game, to go along with 7.3 rebounds per contest.  Zeller possesses and array of moves around the basket, and will be a tough man to handle for UK’s Harrellson and Vargas.  Six-ten forward John Henson is averaging 11.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game. 

Henson and Zeller will be the first two opposing players of their size to legitimately challenge UK’s trio of bigs (note to Harrellson and Vargas – The UNC game will be an opportune time to make everyone forget the UConn fiasco).  And that battle might very well determine the winner of this “Clash of the Titans.”

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: At Freedom Hall, December 8 @ 9:30 EST on ESPN– The Irish, sittin’ fat and happy at 8-0, own wins over Georgia, Cal, and Wisconsin.  Led by 6-3 guard (and brother of Tyler), Ben Hansbrough (15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists per game) Mike Brey’s team so far has bounced back in their own right, playing for the first time in four years without All-America Luke Harangody, who took his 21.3 points and 9.1 rebounds to the NBA. 

Helping out Hansbrough is 6-8 forward Tim Abromaitis, who’s averaging 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game — The big man can also serve it up; Abromaitis is averaging 2.9 assists per contest.  The other Irish forward is 6-8 Tyrone Nash.  Nash, hotly recruited out of high school, is averaging 12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game — That’s 6.1 assists per game Brey is getting out of his two starting forwards. 

This game is looking tougher now, than when the schedule was first released.  But, Freedom Hall has historically been very good to the ‘Cats.

Indiana Hoosiers: At Rupp Arena, December 11th @ 5:15 EST on ESPN – Tom Crean’s third year in Bloomington is (at least) starting out much better than his first two efforts.  Being saddled with a lack of scholarship players his first year, and last season losing point Maurice Creek before the start of Big 10 play, hamstrung the former Marquette head man’s ability to re-establish the Hoosiers as one of the nations elite squads.  But a quick 6-1 start to the 2010-2011 season has hoop’s hopes and expectations on the rise at IU. 

Led by superb sophomore, 6-9 forward Christian Watford (17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds per game), the Hoosiers are finally showing signs of life.  Also playing well during the early going is 6-5 guard Verdell Jones (a junior, which makes him the old man of the group), who is putting up 14.2 points per game.  And last year’s casualty of war, Maurice Creek, has rebounded from his season-ending injury to average 11.3 points per contest this season.  Another sophomore, Jordan Hulls, is playing exceptionally well at the present, averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. 

Although the Hoosiers have yet to beat anybody of note (with the possible exception of Evansville, who earlier in the year bested Butler), they are winning by an (impressive) average margin of 21.8 points – IU’s lone loss of the year was to Boston College. 

Even though the Hoosiers seem to be much better than last year, UK should have their way with them, especially with the game being played in what will be a comfortably hostile Rupp Arena. 

Kentucky’s next three games are one of the reasons it’s great to be a UK fan.  Great rivalries, great coaches, great players.  A large time should be had by all … well, by the good guys at least.

Thanks for reading and Go ‘Cats!

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Big Blue Linkapalooza: Boston Terriers Edition

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After a rough five days in the Bluegrass, it’s time to return to battle again tonight. 

As Wildcat fans continue to bemoan our 26th straight loss to Tennessee Volunteers in football (we don’t dare call them a rival), and an embarrassing blowout by the Connecticut Huskies in Maui, the Boston U. Terriers invade Rupp Arena tonight in hopes of dealing this young Kentucky team another setback.

Today’s links:

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Now Indiana has a “Free Enes” eligibility issue

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Indiana announced today that 7-foot junior college basketball transfer Guy-Marc Michel is having his eligibility questioned by the NCAA.

IU coach Tom Crean released the following statement:

“Prior to attending North Idaho Community College, Guy participated in club basketball in France, where he finished high school and enrolled in some college courses. In three years with the French club, Guy participated as a member of an amateur team. In his third year, he was ‘called up’ for limited participation with a team that included professional players.

“Given the experiences of other international student-athletes who have participated in European basketball systems, we anticipated some extended review of Guy’s status.”

It will be interesting to see if the ruling on this case will go back to the NCAA’s new rule which was supposed to make it easier for European players, who played on club teams that included professionals, to play college basketball in the U.S.

(Hat tip to Inside the Hall.)


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