I would say that nothing Bill O’Reilly does surprises me, but he even surprises me with these questions.
Kentucky 6:50 pm
I would say that nothing Bill O’Reilly does surprises me, but he even surprises me with these questions.
It’s time once more for our favorite biannual craft beer festival in the Highlands, The Highlands Beer Festival. The ValuMarket team will have all your favorites, plus some that you might not know are your favorites…yet! Sponsored by Deschutes Brewery, Sweetwater Brewing Company, and us, LouisvilleBeer.com, this event is part of the Bardstown Bound Summer Sidewalk Celebration, and proceeds benefit the Bluegrass Center for Autism. This year, the Thirsty Pedaler will offer free rides between Eastern Parkway and Mid-City Mall, so wear some sensible shoes this time. The Official After Party will be held at Boombozz Taphouse in the Highlands (conveniently located at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road).
Be sure and check back the week of the event, we’ll post the official list of beers, like we always do. Because we love you.
Highlands Beer Festival – Spring 2014
ValuMarket Mid-City Mall
1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
Saturday, May 17 from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
$5 Admission / $1 per 2oz pour
Boombozz Taphouse in the Highlands
1448 Bardstown Road
9:oo pm – Close
See y’all there! If you’re on Facebook, let all your friends know you’re going…
Here’s a video we put together for the 2013 Festival, just so you know what you’re getting yourselves into:
Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison and Bryce Cotton and College Sports and Connecticut Huskies and Dakari Johnson and James Young and John Calipari and Julius Randle and Kentucky and kentucky wildcats and Pro Sports and Russ Smith and Shabazz Napier and Willie Cauley-Stein 9:59 pm
Since John Calipari has taken the helm at Kentucky, he has always said their season doesn’t end until after the NBA Draft. His “players-first” mentality is admired and annoyed simultaneously. Kentucky will always have at least one huge draft prospect, while others will have to make the crucial decision on returning to Lexington or diving into the riches of the NBA.
Willie Cauley-Stein could have left Kentucky after his freshman year. The 7-footer was heavily sought after, but the uncertainty of where he would be drafted kept him in Lexington. Another year, another decision loomed. This time, many will have to wonder if his ankle injury suffered in the NCAA Tournament game vs. Louisville is what ultimately keeps Cauley-Stein in Lexington for another season. With his decision to stay, I wonder what kind of domino effect it will have on other players. Does this mean Dakari Johnson is gone? What is the extent of that ankle injury?
This time of year has almost as much guessing as the recruiting process that brought these extraordinary athletes to UK. As of today, two players have decided to stay at Kentucky for another season and forego the NBA Draft. The simple fact that Marcus Lee had a “decision” to make has to reflect on the kind of prospect he can be. Right now, I see more of his all-state volleyball player rather than his basketball skills. Lee’s decision to stay was an obvious one, and I’m excited to watch him for another year.
The most obvious defection is Julius Randle. He is a guaranteed lottery pick, and will more than likely not fall out of the Top-10. While I’ve heard comparison’s to LeBron, I rarely saw that at Kentucky. Yes, he can drive to the bucket at 6-foot-9, two-fifty and dunk all over you. However, Randle needs some handles and needs to develop that outside shot away from the paint.
James Young is a freak athlete with a streaky outside shot. Coming out of high school, he had the reputation as a knock down outside shooter. In my opinion, Young was not a knock down shooter in his first year at UK. He can score in bunches, and has the size at 6’6” to be a match-up nightmare. If his shot is off, he doesn’t have a lot of bright spots in other areas of his game. His attacks at the basket are often through a lot of traffic, and his decision on when to drive or retreat needs to improve at the next level. And defense? Don’t get me started. Just watch the national title game if you need a refresher.
Maybe a surprise to some, but I believe Dakari Johnson will not return to Kentucky. With the additions of Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles, Kentucky will have a very loaded front-court. Especially wiith WCS and Lee returning to school, I think Johnson will declare. Johnson can claim that he was chosen to start over a veteran on a team that went to the championship game. He played very well in considerable minutes, and played his best on the biggest stage. I hope I’m wrong, but I think he’s gone.
We already know about Cauley-Stein and Lee, so who will join them on the UK roster next season? My most obvious answer here is Alex Poythress. I really wonder if he will be the most highly ranked recruit to ever stay at a major program all four years. At this point, I can’t see Poythress leaving for the NBA until he graduates. While he did improve this past season, Poythress just hasn’t shown enough to get himself into the draft. The battle for playing time will be rough once again with a true power-forward Trey Lyles coming next season.
To Tough To Call
The only other players that have a legitimate shot at the NBA next season is Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Today, head coach John Calipari revealed his “tweak” that spurred his ‘Cats to an improbable national title shot. He had to get Andrew Harrison to pass the ball more. Andrew Harrison is not a true point guard, he’s not a freak athlete and he won’t blow by you. He’s very strong on the drive and made better decisions as the year progressed. His size will always be a problem for smaller guards, but smaller guards have seemed to be a problem for him as well. (See also: Russ Smith (LOU), Bryce Cotton (PROV), Shabazz Napier (UCONN).
Aaron Harrison is labeled as a shooting guard, but he didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well all season. He was never a knock down shooter, even though his clutch shots in the NCAA Tournament made most question the size of his…uh..guts. Like his brother, he made a living off driving to the basket.
Why They Stay: NBA Draft projections do not favor either of the Harrison twins. Coming into Kentucky, they were labeled as lottery picks. Now, they are fringe first round selections. Contracts become non-guaranteed after the last pick of the first round. Would that be enough to scare the Harrison’s back to Kentucky?
Why They Go: A small rumor began days after the championship game that the Harrison’s didn’t believe they were showcased well at Kentucky and were leaning towards the NBA Draft. In my opinion, the system head coach John Calipari runs does not showcase any one person. The dribble drive is supposed to unleash every player, not just ones named “Harrison”.
With incoming competition from point guard Tyler Ulis and shooting guard Devin Booker, will that push the Harrison’s away from Lexington? They came into this past season as THE guys. Keep calm, the Harrison twins are coming. Next year, they will no longer be the new kids on the block. Ulis is a pure point guard that is an extremely willing passer despite having a deadly jumper. Devin Booker could be the first knock down shooter for Kentucky since Doron Lamb left in 2012. Both Ulis and Booker can and will compete for starter’s minutes. I don’t know if the Harrison’s want to run the risk of being shuffled to the bench.
Brantley Gilbert and Concert and Concerts and Country and Country Music and country rock and Eric Paslay and Kentucky and KFC Yum1 and LMNEditor and Louisville and Previews and Thomas Rhett and video 5:31 am
brandon jennings and Brandon Knight and daniel orton and demarcus cousins and enes kanter and john wall and Kentucky and kentucky wildcats and Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Pro Sports and Terrence Jones 8:24 pm
A recent article from Sports Illustrated attempts to examine each draft class since the “One-And-Done era began in 2006. Not shocking to anyone that hasn’t been living under a rock since 2008, Kentucky is well represented in the analysis. The article labeles players as stars, rotation players, bit contributors or busts. Just how well have the former ‘Cats fared? Remarkably well, actually.
2013 saw only two ‘Cats enter in the NBA Draft, and only one of those players has been able to take the court. Archie Goodwin is labeled as a “bit contributor”. While he’s not apart of Phoenix’s starting rotation, he has been a solid addition to the Suns bench. Nerlens Noel is still recovering from his torn ACL that he suffered at Kentucky, and his grade is labeled as N/A. The SI article does not list any “stars” for this draft class. The highest ranking player was former Kansas Jayhawk Ben McLemore, who was graded as a rotation player.
2012′s biggest star came straight from Lexington to the NBA, and has earned his star ranking. Anthony Davis is backing up his #1 overall draft pick status and has the highest ceiling of anyone in recent memory. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist makes the list as a rotation player for Charlotte. MKG has steadily improved his game since entering the league, and is finally on a team headed to the playoffs. Marquis Teague makes the list as a bit contributor, which may be somewhat generous. I’m not sure I could grade him as a “bust”, but Teague’s absence from the floor in Chicago, his D-League stints, and a trade to Brooklyn makes “contributor” seems generous at best.
In 2011, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter both make the list as rotation players. Knight blossomed in Detroit, but was traded to the Bucks after the Pistons acquired Brandon Jennings. A change of scenery hasn’t stopped Knight’s progression as one of the most explosive young guards in the league. Enes Kanter has always been a solid but quiet contributor for the Jazz. He is now labeled as their starting center. Both Knight and Kanter’s grades are hurt by the fact that neither player will be playing playoff basketball for the foreseeable future.
201o was Kentucky’s best year for producing the best crop of NBA talent. John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe were graded as stars. Wall is also living up to his #1 overall draft pick status and has the Wizards heading to the playoffs. With his emotions in check, Cousins is one of the best scoring centers in the league. Bledsoe’s star ranking was perhaps a stretch, despite the fact that he has anchored a serious playoff push for the Phoenix Suns. I see why the article names him a star, but I just haven’t felt like he has made the impacts of Wall, Bledsoe and Davis. Mixed in with all the great reviews 2010 had to offer, here comes the bad. The one Kentucky player that received a bust grade was Daniel Orton. His lack of playing time in Oklahoma City and being cut by the horrendously bad Philadelphia 76ers makes you think the grade is fair. Orton was scouted with a tremendously high upside with a huge body to boot. For one reason or another, Orton’s game just hasn’t cracked into that potential he was scouted with.
I personally believe the article has completely missed one Kentucky player. I would firmly place Terrence Jones on the list and give him the grade of at least a rotation player. Jones has played some dynamite basketball for Houston, and his a key cog in their push towards a deep run in the playoffs.
You can read the article and it’s entirety right here.
Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison and Arizona Wildcats and College Sports and florida gators and James Young and John Calipari and Kansas State Wildcats and Kentucky and kentucky wildcats and michigan wolverines and Wichita state shockers and Willie Cauley-Stein and wisconsin badgers 10:07 pm
I’ll admit, the sting is still there. Kentucky’s loss in the national title game hit me pretty hard. The loss to UConn reminded me of 1997′s overtime loss to Arizona in the final game. The west-coast Wildcats broke my nine-year-old heart, and the Huskies were added to my list of teams I like to despise more than others. I had to take a hiatus and realize just how far this team had to come. Once I did, I realized how proud I am of the result and the state I live in.
The loss at South Carolina was the rock bottom for me. The heavily favored ‘Cats were supposed to blow the barn doors off of a Gamecocks team that had only won three of their 15 conference games. We all had to sit and watch this lowly SEC bottom-dweller outplay the second best team in the conference on their home floor. We watched head coach John Calipari limp away to the showers midway into the second half after being ejected. The coach’s bum hip wasn’t the only thing that was going to bother him on this night.
When Kentucky loses, the media immediately reacts by asking “What’s wrong with Kentucky?” Fingers are pointed, and criticism hits an all-time high. Pat Forde and Pete Thamel will write their condescending articles about the players, to the program, and the coaching staff. In the midst of all the heavy negativity, Aaron Harrison publicly said he still had the faith that this team could do something special. Even for the most die hard Kentucky homers, the season did not have the feel of a national title contender. Heck, Kentucky barely had the feel of an SEC championship contender.
As everyone else, I’m very anxious to hear these “tweaks” that John Calipari installed on these ‘Cats to reverse the avalanche that was the 2013-14 season. While most wanted him to be even harder on his 18-19 year old stars, he realized he may have been pushing them too hard. Could the excruciating pain in his hip been a factor? I firmly believe one of these tweaks was a self adjustment. Calipari had to push aside the pain, aggravation and some pride to get his players believing again.
The very first glimmer of hope came in the first SEC Tournament game vs. LSU. The Tigers outplayed the ‘Cats in a regular season matchup in Baton Rouge, and were narrowly defeated by a Julius Randle putback in the closing moments in Rupp. LSU was labeled as a matchup nightmare for Kentucky with their quick guards and bulk down low. The 18-point throttling proved to everyone that these ‘Cats can be for real and LSU was not a “problem” anymore.
Despite being a James Young slip away from the SEC Tournament crown, the team was riding a serious high heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Big Blue Nation was in hopes of a decent seeding in the big dance, spurring on the hopes of a shot at #9. As the Midwest bracket was revealed, the murder’s row to the Final Four was immediately evident. Kentucky would immediately face their most physical opponent all season vs. Kansas State. Awaiting in the wings was three of the four Final Four participants from last season, including their arch rival and a 35-0 Wichita State team.
In miraculous fashion, the Wildcats seemingly avoided every major landmine on their way to the Final Four. James Young’s heroics vs. Wichita State “shocked” the nation’s first undefeated team since 2004. Despite losing Willie Cauley-Stein and trailing Louisville 16-5, the ‘Cats clipped the Cardinals behind the first Aaron Harrison dagger. While it wasn’t a game winner, the go-ahead three-pointer with :39 left in the game propelled the ‘Cats passed their in-state rival. While it was not a torn ACL, Cauley-Stein’s injury was serious enough to knock the ‘Cats biggest shot blocking presence for the rest of the tournament. From that point on, they were winning it for Willie.
A pair of highly skilled and veteran Big 10 clubs separated this team full of fantastic freshmen from a shot at the national title. The Courier Journal’s Kyle Tucker tweeted his thoughts on the upcoming game with Michigan. Tucker believed if the ‘Cats could beat the Wolverines, they could handle Wisconsin and play for the national title. Wisconsin plays a very unique style of basketball by playing the full length of the shot-clock and running their offense to perfection. Michigan had the same genetic make-up of the Badgers, but their style was less restricting on running the clock. Ironically, both teams suffered the very same fate in dramatic fashion. Both games could have easily been the end of this meteoric rise for Kentucky. Thanks to two Aaron Harrison daggers and his big..umm..guts..the ‘Cats would get their chance at a 9th national title.
All of the anger, frustration and mental anguish I experienced watching the closing moments of the title game made me realize my true feelings. Look how far Kentucky had to go, look what they’ve done to just get this far. So many times when the team could have given up on the season or in a game, they played through. I am so spoiled and blessed to be apart of this great tradition, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s going to be a long time till November…
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We were on the air on ESPN 680 until 2 a.m. last night. That is why this is a day late. But, it’s also given me time to reflect on what this season was. And what it means.
Here are my thoughts on Kentucky’s disappointing loss to UConn in the championship game.
For the first time since Kentucky played Kansas State in the opener, I thought the Wildcats were going to win. I thought they matched up too well with UConn. I thought their bigs would have a field day.
I was wrong. And it sucked.
As they did the entire tournament, the Cats fell down early. Cal blamed it on them being freshmen. I’m not sure what to blame it on, but at some point digging yourself a hole early is bound to catch up with you, right?
On Monday night. In the National Championship game, it did.
Yeah, the Wildcats got back in the game. Trimming that 15 point first half deficit to four at the half. Just as had been the case the entire tournament, you felt like Kentucky was in good shape at half time. Down just four in a game where you felt like it could be much more.
But, it felt a little different to me. In a game where I thought Kentucky’s bigs would dominate, I didn’t see it at all and that concerned me.
In the second half, the Cats trimmed it to one several times, but could never get over the hump. Every time they got the ball down one, they failed to score. The first time they got it to one was the first bucket of the second half, an Aaron Harrison three that cut it to 35-34. But, Ryan Boatright hit a crazy difficult shot to answer after James Young missed a jumper that would have given Kentucky the lead.
The Huskies then answered with a 14-4 run that gave them a 48-39 lead.
Then a James Young monster jam poster cram would initiate another Kentucky run, getting them right back into the game. This time an 8-0 run that would again cut the lead right back to one.
But, Aaron Harrison would miss a three that would give Kentucky the lead. Then UConn would sandwich a Julius Randle layup with two humungous threes. One huge answer by Shabazz Napier and the other a wide open look by Niels Giffey.
The lead was then 54-49 Connecticut with 6:19 to go.
Kentucky would not get it closer than four the rest of the way.
There are a lot of things you can point to as to why Kentucky lost this game.
The first of which is that their bigs didn’t really play a huge role. They were outrebounded by an undersized Huskies team and didn’t even come close to dominating the offensive glass. Something we have seen this Kentucky team do, even when they were struggling to beat the lower echelon teams of the SEC.
A lot of Kentucky’s struggles on offense can be credited to Randle not having one of his best games. You can look at his seven field goal attempts and say he didn’t get enough touches. But, how many of his field goal attempts this year came off of offensive put backs?
This just wasn’t the same Randle. He shied away from the rock at times. He shied away from the moment at times. And that is a big reason why Kentucky lost.
You also have to credit Connecticut with the way they guarded Kentucky. Remember, this is the same team that beat Michigan State and made Florida look entirely inept in beating them to get to the championship game.
Maybe I didn’t give them enough credit coming into this thing.
Their defense starts with their two guards up top as you must constantly be aware of Napier and Boatright’s ball hawking abilities. And while that did have a factor in the outcome, their team defense is really what did Kentucky in.
Unlike any of the teams that have faced Kentucky in the tournament, UConn found a way to crowd the lane and limit the Wildcats ability to get the ball into the middle. And when Kentucky couldn’t get the ball in the middle of the lane through penetration, it kept them from getting it up on the rim for those offensive rebounds to be had.
To me, that was the difference in the game. You can point at Cal’s insistence to not stay in the zone. You can point at Napier and Boatright’s big, tough shots. You can point at Giffey finally knocking down a few shots in the Big Dance.
But, all of that is no different from anything we have seen all tournament. All tournament, Kentucky’s opponents have refused to back down on the offensive end. Remember, Cleanthony Early did the same thing. Luke Hancock did the same thing. Glenn Robinson Jr. did the same thing.
All tournament long, Kentucky’s opponents have hit big shots down the stretch.
But, on this night, Kentucky ran out of answers. Aaron Harrison didn’t have one more miracle.
If you’re still looking for answers, yeah there are a few other things that you can look at. You can look at the Wildcats’ struggles at the line. It’s hard to win games when you shoot 13-24 from the line. Especially when you are facing a team that shoots 10-10 from the stripe.
You can look at Calipari not fouling late. To me, the issue was not fouling right away after Young’s layup cut it to 58-54 with 1:09 to go. The Wildcats had only committed five fouls at the point, meaning they would have to foul twice to send UConn to the line. If you foul right away, you are now at six fouls and the next one sends the Huskies to the stripe. Then you can play defense, try to get a steal, and be selective on who you send to the line.
Instead, they waited till :54 seconds remained on the clock to commit their sixth foul. Now the shot clock resets. You’re down four. If you don’t foul, the best case scenario is you get a stop after they run 30 seconds or so off the clock. Then you’re coming down the other way down four with 20 to 25 seconds left.
Meaning you just allowed nearly 50 seconds to come off the clock, with no chance to cut into the UConn lead. That’s just too much time.
Then they fouled anyways Kromah got behind the defense. And he knocked down both. Now you’re down six with :25 to go.
I understand Calipari’s reasoning. You play defense and get a stop and you have a chance. Plus, the Huskies simply were not missing free throws. But, the real issue was not committing the sixth foul until :54 remained. That was 15 seconds you needed and it hurt.
And this one hurts. Any time you get this far and lose it’s going to hurt. Getting this far is so difficult and opportunities to win championships simply are not there for the taking every year.
But, as I said all night long on the post game show last night, after the hurt goes away and you’re able to sit back and look at this run, you’ll realize how special this thing was.
The Wildcats entered the Big Dance with really no expectations. Yeah, we knew the possibility of them making a run was there. Simply because of the talent that this team had. But, we hadn’t seen it all year. Why would this time be any different?
But, it was different. This team came together. And boy, was it fun to watch. And boy, did they put on a show?
En route the National Title game, these Wildcats put on one of the greatest displays in the history of the tournament. They beat three of the four Final Four teams from a year ago. They beat a team that was the first team to enter the Big Dance undefeated for the first time since 1991. They beat the defending National Champion. They beat last year’s runner-up. They beat their rival.
And they beat all of these teams playing their best basketball. And they did it in dramatic fashion.
Win or lose in the National Title game, it’s still kind of tough because you’re never going to see that exact team ever play again. Of course, winning makes it easier. But, you can’t tell me there wasn’t a hint of sadness when you saw Anthony Davis cutting down the nets in 2012, knowing that him, MKG, Darius Miller and the rest of those Cats would never take the court again.
Louisville fans, tell me you weren’t a little sad last year that you’d never see Siva and Gorgui play together again while they were cutting down the nets.
The goal is to win a championship. At least that is the case when you play basketball at Kentucky or Louisville.
When you fall short of that goal, there is sure to be disappointment. Partially, because they lost. Partially, because the season is over.
But, let this loss by the Wildcats take nothing from this run. A miraculous run that fell just one game short.
And now we wait until November for the ball to be tipped again.
Kentucky 11:02 pm
Tom Leach’s call is awesome. Mike Pratt’s comment is almost as awesome as he goes with, “The Deuce is Loose”.
Kentucky 1:06 am
Wow, what a game. What a tournament run. I’ll tell you what, these Kentucky finishes are a hell of a lot better than whatever that How I Met Your Mother finale was. I mean the final HIMYM season and Kentucky’s season were comparably sucky, but the ending…HIMYM ain’t going nothing on what these Wildcats are doing at the end of their story.
It was Aaron Harrison again. From the same spot. With the clock winding down. And once again, he drained it.
Alex Poythress called them Hangers. Oddly enough, there was plenty of talk about the size of Aaron Harrison’s man parts in post game. But, can you blame them?
Last Sunday against Michigan, he was scoreless going into the final five minutes. Then he hit four huge threes to lead the Cats to victory. On Saturday night against Wisconsin, he hadn’t even attempted a three prior to his game winner. He was 2-for-7 overall.
And Wisconsin made a point of it to not allow Aaron Harrison to get going. They stayed attached to him on drives. For the most part, John Gasser did not leave him too far out of his sight.
But, when Kentucky needed it most. He stepped five feet beyond the arc. At the same wing that he knocked down the Michigan shot. With Glasser right on him. And he drained it. Again.
And now we have Kentucky v. Connecticut in the National Championship and the Huskies will wear white as a 7-seed. It’s 7 v. 8 in the National Title game. The lowest combined seeds in the history of the title game. Two teams that didn’t even compete inthe Dance a year ago.
The Wildcats have now won 11 straight games in the NCAA Tournament. Their last loss to UConn in the Final Four in 2011.
And now I get to talk about this on the radio. Are you kidding me?
Don’t forget to join Nick Curran and myself tomorrow morning on ESPN 680 from 10 to noon. Be loud #BBN!