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SEC Headlines 7/7/2013

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1. Could Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin be the next college coach to jump to the NFL?  ”No one should expect the Sumlin rumors to go away.”

2. Any doubt who’s the most important player at South Carolina? “Clowney is far and away USC’s most talented and disruptive player.”

3. On the field and off, Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have distinguished themselves from their predecessors.

4. What kind of team has Mark Stoops inherited at Kentucky? “Simply put: a bad one.”

5. To be successful at Kentucky, Stoops needs to consistently beat four teams.  Three of them are in the SEC.

6. Pat Dooley has Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 5 in his preseason rankings.

7. Yet another offensive line ranking places Tennessee at the top of the conference.

8. Nick Saban sells an investment property in Georgia.

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9. Gold medal game today for Billy Donovan’s Junior National Team.

10. Will a renovated Rupp Arena become a wedge issue for Kentucky fans? The “skyboxification of American life.”

11. Vanderbilt rising junior Kedron Johnson is recovering from surgery on his shoulder.


12. Nearly 1,200 fans exchange their Aaron Hernandez jerseys yesterday.

13. NFL weighs not inviting  ineligible players from attending the Combine.

14. Arkansas released a video trailer for the 2013 season this past week.  ”We’re talking some serious scope here people. The universe is at stake.”

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If Wiltjer Leaves, UK’s Chances For Winning It All Decrease

Florida v KentuckyWith the greatest group of freshmen in the history of college basketball on its way to Rupp Arena — at least that’s what the pundits are calling Kentucky’s signing class — there’s probably not a lot of Wildcat fans wringing their hands over the possible departure of junior-to-be Kyle Wiltjer.  After all, if Wiltjer couldn’t crack the Cats’ starting lineup last year, how many minutes would he get this coming season?

Wiltjer — who it was learned yesterday is considering a transfer from UK – did average 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year.  He also averaged 23 minutes per contest.  That was good enough to win him the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

John Calipari made it clear on his website in announcing the news that while he will support Wiltjer in any way he can, “I still hope he ends up back with us.”

Kentucky fans should hope for the same.

Calipari has done a remarkable job of rebuilding an NBA-raided program year after year in the Commonwealth.  He had an Elite Eight run, a Final Four team, and a national champion before last year’s disappointing NIT finish.  That’s a pretty good batting average considering the degree of difficulty in starting from scratch every year.

Ah, but there’s the rub.

Two years ago — when Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans — Calipari only had to start from near scratch.  The 2011-12 team had sophomore Terrence Jones and senior Darius Miller among its six top contributors.  And Miller’s leadership was viewed by many as the glue that helped hold such a young team together.

During his final season, Miller averaged a Wiltjer-like 26 minutes with 9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.  Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but they were solid contributions on a team that featured a number of higher-profile stars.  And again, leadership can’t be quantified and listed on a stat sheet.

If Wiltjer does leave UK, does that mean the Wildcats can’t win it all in 2013-14?  Of course not.  There are no guarantees that he would provide for Kentucky’s next team what Miller provided for the 2011-12 Big Blue squad.

But we’d sure like Kentucky’s chances better if Wiltjer stuck around.

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WOW Headlines – 4/25/13

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema: “I don’t think a lot of people have their eyes on Arkansas right now and I think that’s a position we really, really like.”
With just 11 seniors on his roster this fall, Dan Mullen is looking for underclassmen to step up at Mississippi State
Florida OG Jesseman Dunker will transfer from Gainesville following a January arrest tied to a stolen motorscooter
Tennessee coach Butch Jones says suspended RB Marlin Lane is on a path to return to the team
Missouri QB James Franklin is atop the Tigers’ depth chart following spring practice
LSU has 14 player projected to be drafted in the NFL draft which begins Thursday night
Alabama will try to land four players in the NFL draft’s first round for the third consecutive year
Georgia assistant basketball coach Kwanza Johnson remains rumored to be heading to TCU
The city of Lexington is expected to take another step toward the renovation of Rupp Arena on Thursday, allocating $2.5 million for planning and design work on the $350 million project
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Renovation Of UK’s Rupp Arena Set To Take Another Step Forward

According to The Lexington Herald-Leader, that city’s Urban County Council is expected to give a thumbs-up to a pair of measures today that would allow Lexington to receive $2.5 million in state money to begin the planning and design phase of the current Rupp Arena complex.

Opened in 1976, Rupp lacks some of the modern amenities — meaning luxury suites — that more modern facilities enjoy.  Knowing the value of suites for Wildcat basketball, University of Kentucky officials had hoped for a new arena altogether.  Instead, the city has decided to go the renovation route which would improve the basketball arena, move part of the connected convention center, and improve entertainment and retail venues around the site.  All told the price could go as high as $350 million.




According to plans developed by an architect in 2011, the upper arena would be: “renovated almost in total, including replacement of all the bench seats with chair seats.  The concourse becomes the location for suites and loge seating.”

The trick for UK is to add enough suites to make huge coin — and the school would definitely do that — without taking away too many “everyman” seats that are currently filled by a rabid Kentucky hoops fanbase.

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Wow Headlines 2/22/2012

SEC Saturday Basketball
Alabama at LSU…Vanderbilt at Mississippi State…South Carolina at Georgia…
Tennessee at Texas A&M…Auburn at Ole Miss…Arkansas at Florida
ESPN Gameday on hand for Missouri-Kentucky Saturday night at Rupp Arena
$425 million renovation of Texas A&M’s Kyle Field will begin in November…stadium capacity could eclipse Neyland Stadium
Auburn not raising ticket prices for season-ticket holders…Missouri not raising prices for vast majority of season-ticket holders
Former Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel who could be first overall selection of NFL draft: “SEC defensive lines are the best in the country”
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ESPN’s Basketball Version Of “GameDay” Will Head To Rupp Arena

ESPN released the schedule for its “College GameDay” basketball show today and only SEC school will get a visit from Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and crew — Kentucky.  And the game ESPN tabbed for its all-day coverage should be a good one — Missouri’s first visit to Rupp Arena as a member of the Southeastern Conference.

The Tigers will visit the Wildcats on February 23rd in what could be a showdown for the SEC’s regular-season crown.

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UK Announces Hoops Schedule, Home Slate Straight From The Bakery

John Calipari says he’s now running a non-traditional program.  He wasn’t during his first three seasons in Lexington, but now he is.  And part of being a non-traditional program means playing more big games in major arenas in neutral cities… and fewer home-and-home series that lead to games being played in good opponents’ gyms.

We’ll not have anyone say we’re questioning the overall toughness of Calipari’s schedule.  We’re not.  He plays as many tough teams as anyone.  He just doesn’t want to play them in their home arenas anymore.  And, as we wrote a couple months back when Coach Cal launched his “non-traditional program” idea, that decision will result in fewer good games being played at Rupp Arena in front of the ticket-buying, Lexington faithful.

The release of the nonconference portion of the Wildcast 2012-13 schedule bears this out:


Maryland (Barclays Center, Brooklyn)

Duke (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

Lafayette College (Home)

Morehead State (Home)

Long Island University (Home)

Notre Dame (Road… due to SEC/Big East Challenge)

Baylor (Home)

Samford (Home)

Portland (Home)

Lipscomb (Home)

Marshall (Home)

Louisville (Road)

Eastern Michigan (Home)


So basically, Cat fans will get to see Baylor in Rupp Arena along with nine assorted creampuffs and cupcakes.  It’s a bakery-made home schedule, for sure, but UK fans still basking in the glory of an NCAA Tournament championship might not give a single hoot.  Not now anyway.

Ah, but will Kentucky fans who buy tickets and pay to park and pay for popcorns and Cokes eventually grow weary of seeing just one or two marquee nonconference home games per season when most of the biggies are played in some dome several states away?  We shall see.

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NBA Scout: Calipari’s System Hides Flaws In UK Players

Longtime Kentucky sportswriter Larry Vaught recently chatted up an NBA scout and learned something interesting — Wildcat players tend to be overrated as they enter the NBA.  According to, the scout said:


“The interesting thing, and its not a knock, but there is this Kentucky mystique that (John) Calipari has done a great job creating and perpetuating.  The best part about Kentucky’s system is that can hide so many flaws at first glance…

MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) is a good defensive player, but he isn’t as good as people believe.  Having (Anthony) Davis camped around the rim allowed players to play defense in a way which minimized their weaknesses…

The threat of the lob made (Marquis) Teague out to be a better point guard than he really is…

In reality, the Kentucky system is smoke and mirrors.  I remember being out in Vegas for a Summer League and I was sitting and watching games with a long-time director of scouting in the league.  He said he was stunned at how unprepared Kentucky players were for the NBA, and he had drafted one of them.”


First, so what?  A good college basketball system is one that hides players’ flaws and accentuates their strengths.  According to the NBA scout in question, it sounds like Calipari’s system does just that.  (And that fresh new banner hanging in the rafters at Rupp Arena seems to back him up.)

Second, it’s hard to imagine many Kentucky players being well-prepared for the pro game since most of them are one-and-doners.  Such players are drafted as much on potential as anything else.  The league raised its entrance age requirement — and created the one-and-done system — in an effort to curtail the number of high school players who came into the league, learned the game for three years on the team that drafted them, and then headed straight to free agency.  With one-and-doners, their development is only one year better than those kids who were jumping straight to the NBA from high school.  And the Kobe Bryants and LeBron Jameses who had an immediate impact at the pro level are rare.

Lastly, let’s see what the numbers actually show for those first-rounders drafted out of Kentucky and Calipari’s system the past two years:


John Wall (true freshman) — #1 overall pick in 2010 to Washington Wizards

First year: 16.4 points per game, 8.3 assists per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 37.8 minutes per game (NBA All-Rookie 1st Team)

Second year: 16.3 points per game, 8.0 assists per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 36.2 minutes per game


DeMarcus Cousins (true freshman) — #5 overall pick in 2010 to Sacramento Kings

First year: 14.1 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 28.5 minutes per game

Second year: 18.1 points per game, 1.6 assists per game, 11.0 rebounds per game, 30.5 minutes per game


Patrick Patterson (junior) — #14 overall pick in 2010 to Houston Rockets

First year: 6.3 points per game, 0.8 assists per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 16.7 minutes per game

Second year: 7.7 points per game, 0.8 assists per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 23.2 minutes per game


Eric Bledsoe (true freshman) — #18 overall pick in 2010 to Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to Los Angeles Clippers)

First year: 6.7 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 22.7 minutes per game

Second year: 3.3 points per game, 1.6 assists per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, 11.6 minutes per game


Daniel Orton (true freshman) — #29 overall pick in 2010 to Orlando Magic

First year: Spent in NBA Developmental League

Second year: 2.8 points per game, 0.3 assists per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 11.7 minutes per game


Enes Kanter (true freshman, didn’t play) — #3 overall pick in 2011 to Utah Jazz

First year: 4.6 points per game, 0.1 assists per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 13.2 minutes per game


Brandon Knight (true freshman) — #8 overall pick in 2011 to Detroit Pistons

First year: 12.8 points per game, 3.8 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 32.3 minutes per game


So what does that tell us?  Only that like most NBA players, the higher a Calipari Cat is drafted the more likely he’ll contribute right away.  Wall, Cousins and Knight — all top 10 picks — had productive rookie seasons.  Kanter was the exception to the rule, but he spent his time in Lexington watching, not playing due to an NCAA ruling.

Once you get outside the first 10 draft picks, any NBA fan can tell you that early performance is a crapshoot.

This isn’t to refute the scout’s take on things… after all, he’s the one getting an NBA paycheck every two weeks.  But just from looking at the results and following the NBA, it doesn’t appear to this writer that Calipari’s players are any more or less risky than any other coaches’ draft picks.

Might UK players be a bit overvalued thanks to the “mystique” their coach has helped foster?  Sure.  But that’s really on the scouts and GMs who are assigning those values, isn’t it?

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Nine SEC Schools In Top 50 For Hoops Attendance

The NCAA has released the attendance figures for the 2011-12 basketball season and the football-first SEC is well-represented.  Not surprisingly, national champion Kentucky led the nation in per-game attendance with 23,821 blue-clad crazies spinning the turnstiles at Rupp Arena for each home outing.

Below is the national Top 10 followed by the rest of the SEC’s squads:


1.  Kentucky — 23,721

2.  Syracuse — 23,618

3.  Louisville — 21,503

4.  North Carolina — 20,159

5.  Wisconsin — 17,181

6.  Creighton — 16,655 (Yes, Creighton.)

7.  Tennessee — 16,543

8.  Ohio State — 16,511

9.  Indiana — 16,462

10.  Kansas — 16,445

18.  Vanderbilt — 13,698

23.  Arkansas — 13,096

27.  Alabama — 12,484

32.  Missouri — 11.830

37.  Florida — 10,434

45.  South Carolina — 8,868

50.  LSU — 8,661

60.  Mississippi State — 8,019

71.  Texas A&M — 7,383

74.  Georgia — 7,079

81.  Auburn — 6,502

91.  Ole Miss — 5,770


By conference, SEC teams averaged 11,513 fans per game, second only to the Big Ten (12,868).  The Big 12 (11,057), Big East (10,881) and ACC (9,876) lagged behind the SEC.

Football may come first in the Dixie, but SEC fans turn out in big numbers to watch hoops as well.  In total, SEC schools sold more than 2.4 million tickets to home basketball games last season.

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Kentucky’s 8th Title Banner Is Up In Practice Facility

Cat fans, another banner is up.

Tomorrow the University of Kentucky basketball team will travel to the White House for the traditional handshake-and-howdy with the President as the reigning NCAA basketball champions.  But back in Lexington, photographs of UK’s eighth national championship banner are starting to make the rounds.

Last month, after capturing yet another title, Kentucky fans roared during a Rupp Arena celebration in which Banner #8 was officially raised.  But another eighth banner is now up in UK’s practice facility, the Joe Craft Center.  (Photo at left, click the story headline for a closer look.)

Alongside the banners from 1948, 1948, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, and 1998… the latest banner from 2012 now dangles.

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