Category Archives: UK basketball

Brad Calipari Made Some Three Pointers In Canton, Cocks Shotgun

Back in June, John Calipari’s son Brad, announced that he would be leaving Lexington Christian Academy (not to be confused with Lexington Catholic) to attend prep school.  Brad was “reclassified” to the class of 2016 and is attending something called the MacDuffie School in Granby, Massachusetts.  I guess these days, you can just pick what grade you want to be in and go to high school wherever you like, as long as it helps your basketball career.

A few nights ago Brad made some threes.

The “cocking the shotgun” and three goggles are all the rage in the bluegrass these days.  Brad is copying the “shotgun” from Devin Booker, who is copying the Golden State Warriors.  I chuckle as I ponder who the first  writer would be to criticize a University of Cincinnati player or a University of Louisville player for pretending to cock a gun during a game.  I can read the article now without it ever being written: “In a day and age when school shootings and gun violence…”.

I don’t have a problem with celebrations but the NCAA does.  Acts that can get you a 15 yard penalty in football include these:

No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
(a)  Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat.
(b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally.
(c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition.
(d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).
(e) An unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent’s goal line or diving into the end zone.
(f) A player removing his helmet after the ball is dead and before he is in the team area (Exceptions: Team, media or injury timeouts; equipment adjustment; through play; between periods; and during a measurement for a first down).
(g) Punching one’s own chest or crossing one’s arms in front of the chest while standing over a prone player.
(h) Going into the stands to interact with spectators, or bowing at the waist after a good play.
(i) Intentionally removing the helmet while the ball is alive.

There seems to be quite the double standard.  Back in October, officials basically took away a win from the Oregon Ducks when they penalized the Ducks for an excessive celebration after a key sack against Arizona. 2015-01-30 07-47-49That excessive celebration involved a bow.  Also, Ole Miss was warned by an official during the game to stop doing their stupid “Land Shark” celebration.   I don’t think the NCAA will ignore the “shotgun” much longer.  How can they?  To be honest, I’m surprised that Cal hasn’t put the kibosh on the celebrations.

John Feinstein Is A Duke Alum And Its All A Big Conspiracy Against UK

Not long ago I wrote about why Kentucky deserved all of the first place votes and slightly ridiculed sports writers and then tried to offer an explanation about why someone would not vote UK first place.   In that rambling blog I even wrote this:

 “The facts are these; you would have to stretch some pretty obscure statistics to find any objective evidence that would suggest that Virginia should get a first place vote over Kentucky at this point in the season. “

That sentence above was not enough praise for some of #bbn.  It seems any critical thinking about the University of Kentucky basketball team irritates a segment of the fan base to no end.

Well, end the end, we learn that it is John Feinstein who is clinging to the remaining first place vote.   We also learn that he is stretching some “pretty obscure statistics” or completely disregarding statistics altogether.   He responded to requests from Kentucky writers about why he was  voting for Virginia.  You can read his response from below:

“Hey, Rick – Someone just sent me your Kentucky-UVa column. I’m honestly not sure why anyone in Kentucky CARES that I’ve voted UVA #1 the last three weeks, except I guess that it’s me and I’m evil incarnate.

“I’m guessing if the kid in Indy (Zach Osterman of the Indy Star) had voted UVA #1 this week instead of me it would have barely been noticed. I gotta say your five points are pretty much EXACTLY why I’ve voted for UVA!

“1. Everybody’s Super Bowl. If that’s the criteria, then Duke has to be #1 every week since 1992 regardless of record…

“2. McDonald’s All Americans. Really? Who cares? I admire teams that win without McD AA’s, who are often determined by who they sign with — as in Kentucky, Duke, UNC. JOEY BEARD was a McDonald’s All American. Joe Smith was not. There are a hundred like examples…

“3. NBA draft picks? How in the world is that relevant to THIS season? And, again I love teams that win with great college players. No one did that better than (former Indiana coach Bob) Knight. How many future NBA All-Stars played for U-Conn last year? But they WON…

“4. Recruiting battles? (UK coach John) Calipari recruits one-and-dones who are passing through Kentucky not going to school there. I feel the same way, BTW, about the one-and-dones at Duke (Feinstein is a Duke grad). Please don’t tell me that Kyrie Irving is a “Duke alumnus.” Most of Bennett’s players will stay 3 or 4 years and graduate. I prefer his style but both apparently work….

“5. Scoring 80 points or more? Bennett’s style is 100 percent opposite that. It may not be pretty–Kentucky this year ain’t exactly pretty either–but it works and HAS worked for years.”

What do you think of Feinstein’s argument?

Should the Kentucky Wildcats be the unanimous No. 1 in both major polls in your eyes as we approach the month of February?

Who Are The Players? And Is #Playersfirst Good For The University Of Kentucky?

So Coach Cal (or a very underpaid minion) is very active on twitter these days:

Can the above Tweet be reconciled with the below and if so, how? 

The 1991-92 team is one of the most fondly remembered in UK’s long basketball history. The Wildcats were coming off a two-year postseason ban due to major recruiting violations committed during the tenure of Pitino’s predecessor Eddie Sutton, although the NCAA found Sutton was not personally liable. The violations mainly centered on alleged cheating by former player Eric Manuel on the ACT college entrance exam and cash payments to the guardian of another former player, Chris Mills.

The team’s four seniors, three of whom were Kentucky natives, had remained loyal to the program throughout its probation, and would enter Kentucky basketball history as “The Unforgettables”. They were:
Richie Farmer, a 6’0″ shooting guard from Manchester, a small town in the state’s eastern coal fields.
Deron Feldhaus, a 6’7″ forward from Maysville, a small Ohio River town in the Bluegrass region, about an hour’s drive upriver from Cincinnati.
John Pelphrey, a 6’8″ forward from another eastern coal town, Paintsville.
Sean Woods, the only non-Kentuckian, a 6’2″ point guard from Indianapolis.

Any thoughts?

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Do The Wildcats Deserve To Be The Unanimous Number 1?

The University of Kentucky is two votes shy of being the unanimous number 1 in the NCAA men’s basketball AP poll.  Is there a case to be made for Virginia, the team who is clinging on to the remaining two votes?  Or is it just a couple rogue sports writers who fancy themselves as knowing better than the rest?  It may be the latter. No one writes about sports because they have the answers to any real issues.  Sports journalism is entertainment.  It attracts no more the insightful thinker than does Hollywood.

I’ll take a stab at answering the needless questions posed above.

First, let’s look at strength of schedule. Opponents of the University of Virginia are a combined 183 -105, for a 63.5 winning percentage.  Virginia’s future opposition has a combined record of 120 -60, for a 66.7% winning percentage.  Even the most oblivious basketball fan would agree that the ACC is a competitive conference and things are about to get tougher for Virginia.

Kentucky has faced opposition with a combined record of 187-97 (65.8%) and the remaining opponents on the Wildcat’s schedule are 103-62 (62.4%).  I would be reluctant to automatically give Kentucky the advantage here in the strength of schedule category, if I didn’t already know how they were doing in scoring  margin.   Even though I am disappointed that Kentucky did not play Indiana, they made up for it with a pretty strong non-conference schedule.

Despite the recent close games the Wildcats have had to fight to the end to win, they still lead the country in scoring margin at 24.7.  However, Virginia is third at 19.4.  There isn’t another SEC team in the top 30 in scoring margin; but Louisville and North Carolina are in the top 17.  Kentucky has played and beaten both.  Gonzaga is number two, if you were wondering.  Advantage to Kentucky.

On the offensive side of the ball, Kentucky is ranked 31st in scoring at 75.5 points per game.  Virginia is ranked 125th at 70 points per game.  Right there, you could say, is the 5 point differential in scoring margin.  But a closer look shows that Kentucky has created more possessions for themselves than Virginia has been able to muster.  However, Virginia is shooting over 48% from the field and Kentucky is shooting a decent 45.7%.  That is still a sizeable gap in shooting percentage especially when you consider the dominance that Kentucky has over every opponent down low.

Virginia has been the better 3-point shooting team, making 98 of 249 (39.4%).  Kentucky has made 111 of 310 attempts (35.8%).  Kentucky has forced 284 turnovers while Virginia has forced 167.  The Wildcats defensive style leads to many more fouls (303) than Virginia (254).  But the games that Kentucky has played down to the wire, has required them to shoot and make more free throws than their opponents.

The facts are these; you would have to stretch some pretty obscure statistics to find any objective evidence that would suggest that Virginia should get a first place vote over Kentucky at this point in the season.  Kentucky should not lose to any of their remaining opponents.  It would not be out of the question for Virginia to lose a game two, as they are facing the tougher part of their schedule However, it is also not a stretch to say that Kentucky is not playing their best basketball of the season.  They were clearly further along than anyone they faced early on; including Louisville, North Carolina, and Kansas.

Maybe what the writers see is a team that is not progressing as expected.  A team that looked so invincible early in the season, is now playing close games with just about everyone. Maybe the Wildcats are actually not improving. While the schedule has gotten seemingly easier, the scoring margin has dropped from 29 to the 24 point range. It has taken some clutch free throws and streaky 3-point shooting to bail them out a few times here of late.  Is the media waiting for the other shoe to drop?

The $800K coach Cal spent in the Bahamas this past August sure had his team firing on all cylinders when the season opened.  But now that we are in the midst of the conference grind, with 13 games left on the regular season schedule, can you say that the Cats are playing championship basketball?

We are about to find out what Virginia is made of; their next five games are: Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, Duke, at Louisville, and NC State.  Four of the Wildcats next six games are on the road.  Are the Wildcats saving something or are they stuck in neutral?  This is why they play the games.  No one is going to hand them 40 and 0. The Wildcats deserve each and every first place votes until they lose.

UK Basketball: What’s Left To Say

“Failure is good. It’s fertilizer. Everything I’ve learned about coaching, I’ve learned from making mistakes.” ~ Rick Pitino

I will start off a post with a good Pitino fertilizing quote if I feel like it.  Its my post and you can’t stop me.  However, I have my boundaries.  I’m not going to come on here and take the cheap way out and tell you that Pitino “failed” all over that waitress or how good “failure” feels.  I will not make references like “it can take a lifetime to succeed; but a man only needs a few seconds to fail.”  I just won’t do it. You will have to go to TMZ for stuff like that.

While there are a million UK basketball or Big Blue Nation blogs and websites for your review that have already handed the trophy to the 2014/2015 Wildcats, I wanted to, instead, consider the alternative.

Let’s start with the remaining schedule: Through January 2nd, the Wildcats remaining opponents had a record of 100-50. That is good enough for the 72nd best winning  percentage out of the possible 351 possible teams. To give you a little perspective on that number, the opponents for each ACC team range from 145 wins to 124 wins.

Kentucky’s past opposition have won a combined 100 games for a .685 winning percentage (6th best).  If you are buying-in to early season victories, then clearly, the Wildcats have already completed the most difficult part of their schedule.  The smell test confirms that is in fact the case.  Only the opponents of VCU, McNeese St., Kansas, Grambling, and Long Beach St. have better winning percentages thus far in the season.

Kentucky leads the country in blocked shots with 107, Texas is second with 104.  Which is a big reason Kentucky also leads in team field goal percentage defense (29%), scoring margin (27.5) (Duke is 2nd, 24.7), and team scoring defense (47.8 per game).  Outside of those statistics, the Wildcats are not near the top in very many other categories.  They are 40th in points per game (75.3), 46th in field goal percentage (47.2%), 15th in assist turnover ratio, 227th in 3-point percentage, 238th in free throw percentage (66.2%), and tied for 83rd in fewest fouls.

In the 2013-2014 season, Louisville was 1st in scoring margin and Wichita State was 2nd. Uconn was 40th in scoring margin (they also finished 40th in scoring margin in 2010-2011), 31st in scoring defense and 13th in team field goal percentage defense.  On offense, Uconn averaged 71.8 points per game, 136th in field goal percentage (44.9%), and in free throw percentage (77.7).  I am not sure what any of that tells us other than that there hasn’t been any one method to beat UK teams of late.

This year’s Wildcat team is similar in many ways to the 2011-12 team that finished 38-2.  That 2011-12 team was actually slightly better at blocking shots and also led the country in scoring margin.  Those Cats from three years ago lost to Indiana in December and then were beaten again by Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament.  That Vanderbilt team led the country in 3-point shooting.  But a big note from that Vandy-UK game, the Wildcats were an abysmal 6 for 28 from the 3-point line.  They shot 10 more threes than Vanderbilt on that day.

Here is where you, as a UK basketball fan, are being cheated and your experience cheapened by Calipari’s refusal to reasonably reopen discussion about continuing the series with Indiana.  Anything that cheapens the experience and the history cannot be in UK’s best interests.   Despite being unranked, Indiana has a pretty good scoring offense and they knock down three pointers at a  pretty good rate.  They lead all big conference schools in 3-pt percentage.

Two of Indiana’s three losses came at Madison Square Garden against Louisville and more recently Georgetown.  It is very likely Kentucky would roll over Indiana; but we will never know unless they meet in the tournament.  If the Wildcats run the table on the remaining schedule, it will not include a regular season victory over Indiana as it would have any season from 1969 to 2012.  What a shame.

The Wildcats look pretty unbeatable because they have pretty much handled everyone on their schedule so far and the schedule moving forward looks to be pretty manageable.  The last time Kentucky played, they won 58-50 over Louisville.  The Cardinals attempted 8 more field goals than the Wildcats but went 3-14 from three point range while Kentucky went a season best, 6 for 14 from three.

Somewhere in the UofL matchup is the recipe to beat Kentucky.  It might be to limit their number of shots, force them to shoot and miss 3s, while knocking down your own 3s.  Doing all of those simultaneously may be impossible.  Prior to the Louisville game, Columbia had a similar plan, they shot 25 threes and made 8; but Kentucky had 12 more field goal attempts and escaped with a 10 point win. Likely no one on Kentucky’s remaining regular season schedule is going to be able to do all of the things necessary to beat them.

However, South Carolina poses some problems for Kentucky on defense and will likely be able to keep the Cats from running away with the game; but I just don’t see any way SC will be able to score enough to win and the game is set to be played at Rupp.

Florida probably has the best shot to hang a loss on Kentucky, out of their remaining scheduled opponents.  The Cats travel to Gainsville on February 7th.  While Florida currently sits at only  7-6, they were ranked pre-season #7 in the AP poll.  They have played the second toughest schedule of any SEC team outside of Kentucky (losses to Kansas, UNC, UConn, Georgetown, Miami, and Florida State).  A resume of losses is nothing to write home about; but the Gators are second in the SEC in 3-point attempts and 1st in the conference in 3-pointers made.  The tough non-conference schedule the Gators have played gives them the most experience to be able to pull an unlikely upset down in Gainesville.

Florida has played Kentucky (79 games) more than any other school in their 94 year basketball history.  The Gators beat Kentucky three times last season, including in the SEC tournament in Atlanta.  Since 2005, the Gators hold a 13-10 advantage over the Wildcats.  During that same stretch, Kentucky is 2-8 in Gainesville.  Florida’s longest winning streak against Kentucky was 7, from 2005 to 2008.  This time the fourth win in a row will be a little tougher to come by.

Kentucky’s remaining schedule:

01/06/15 vs. Ole Miss Lexington, Ky. 7:00 pm ET
01/10/15 at Texas A&M College Station, Texas 1:00 pm ET
01/13/15 vs. Missouri Lexington, Ky. 9:00 pm ET
01/17/15 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala. 4:00 pm ET
01/20/15 vs. Vanderbilt Lexington, Ky. 9:00 pm ET
01/24/15 at South Carolina Columbia, S.C. 12:00 pm ET
01/29/15 at Missouri Columbia, Mo. 9:00 pm ET
01/31/15 vs. Alabama Lexington, Ky. 7:00 pm ET
02/03/15 vs. Georgia Lexington, Ky. 7:00 pm ET
02/07/15 at Florida Gainesville, Fla. 9:00 pm ET
02/10/15 at LSU Baton Rouge, La. 7:00 pm ET
02/14/15 vs. South Carolina Lexington, Ky. 2:00 pm ET
02/17/15 at Tennessee Knoxville, Tenn. 7:00 pm ET
02/21/15 vs. Auburn Lexington, Ky. 6:00 pm ET
02/25/15 at Mississippi State Starkville, Miss. 7:00 pm ET
02/28/15 vs. Arkansas Lexington, Ky. 4:00 pm ET
03/03/15 at Georgia Athens, Ga. 9:00 pm ET
03/07/15 vs. Florida Lexington, Ky. 2:00 pm ET