Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: March 4, 2012 2:55 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 3:10 pm
 

Kentucky completes undefeated SEC campaign

Kentucky became the first team in nine years to go undefeated in a major conference. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

We're in a rush, an anxious crouch, to see what Kentucky does when it matters most, but let's stop and realize the accomplishment this team of young Cats just completed. Going undefeated in major-conference play is like spotting a white leopard in the wild. It's extremely rare and normally fleeting; no matter who arrives on campus in Lexington next year, I'd be willing to wager with you that a 16-0 SEC isn't happening for John Calipari's team in 2013. And probably not too soon thereafter.

But it happened this year, once Kentucky won on the road at Florida, 74-59 Sunday afternoon. Not only did UK become the first team to sweep its league in a Big Six conference since 2003, when Kentucky was naturally the last squad to pull it off, the Wildcats also won 30 games in the regular season for the first time in program history. What a feat. This team is truly scary good (have you seen the way opposing players' bodies curdle when they find themselves suddenly in the paint on offense?), better on offense than it is on defense, in fact, and yet it will only be judged by a national title.

That's a bit unfair, but comes with the types of teams Calipari recruits. His message, that fan base and the college basketball universe look to Kentucky with adoration, hate, expectation, confusion and skepticism. It all squeezes into equal parts cynical and pragmatic forecasting of a national title, whether that was supposed to come two years ago, last year, this year. If it's going to happen, it has to be this year, right? If anything, getting this undefeated season in a worse-than-expected SEC only reinforces that.

Yet when UK did this nine years ago, it was felled by this newcomer named Dwyane Wade. Running the table in the SEC may prove to be nothing compared to the unrelenting heat lamp in March. That heat is inescapable and covers more earth than Anthony Davis. I think about that, then know -- it could be so much more stressful than this. Kentucky is one Christian Watford shot away from pressure as heavy as a Jupiter moon. The Wildcats should be thankful. John Calipari is.

That loss negated an undefeated season. I think this team could handle it, but it's so much better off not having to. It was the early season loss that will have no impact on the team's ultimate seeding and only a positive impact on its ability to keep distracting questions, like ones about undefeated seasons, away.

So, at least for today and the next few days, let's not judge or speculate what Kentucky will be. Instead, can we applaud an increasingly rare achievement in college basketball? College football sees undefeated conference runs every year. Perfection in league play in this sport has only proven to be tougher as basketball's become bigger, quicker, more talented and more popular. Every year is a season happening in a convection oven when you don Kentucky threads. That elusive ultimate trophy remains that for Calipari -- elusive. But this, what Kentucky did with one of the youngest and certainly the most talented team in the country, so far compares to 16-0 in the SEC in Calipari's tenure in Lexington.

Bigger things can come. A national championship could be won. And that success could be repeated. This one, 16-0, it's very likely the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats just finalized something that Calipari won't ever achieve again.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:56 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Is there a three-way POY chase?

By Matt Norlander

No matter who you think should be college basketball's player of the year, if you're a fan of the game, I think it's undeniable: Draymond Green is so, so much fun to watch. When you stop and think about it, isn't he the best big man with the most diverse weaponry in his game to wear a Michigan State jersey since Magic Johnson?

Green is a point forward, essentially. He does things for this team, and has skills at the 1/2/3/4/5 that nobody -- nobody -- in college basketball has. That inherently makes him unique, and I suspect Tom Izzo is thankful for every second he has remaining with Green at his disposal. He's not only reliable, he's impossible to gameplan against because you can take away what he does best, or second-best, or third-best, and he'll still be able to help his team in five or six other ways. It's because of this that he's even in the conversation for Player of the Year.

But should he be? At first reaction, I thought so. Jeff Eisenberg put up a comparison post using traditional, tempo stats on The Dagger Wednesday. It was only between Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis. "Where's Day-Day?" I asked upon seeing the piece. Chris Vannini, who has spent the past four years covering Michigan State, thought the same. And then I realized I was automatically judging Green's value to Michigan State vs. his ability as a player. Without him, is Michigan State an NCAA tournament team? I question that it is.

That's the ever-lasting argument: value to a team vs. actual ability/talent and achievement that's been displayed in a given year. Without Anthony Davis, Kentucky is still very good. It doesn't make him nearly as valuable to the Wildcats as Green is to Michigan State and Thomas Robinson is to Kansas.

In talking Player of the Year, we're talking the latter part of that debate above. I hope voters are aware of that. It's not a valuable award, it's a talent+achievement award. From that combination's standpoint, unfortunately, Green is not in the same class with the two men who are a virtual length-of-a-nose race for Player of the Year. I'm talking numbers here; from a visual perspective, again, it's a blast to watch Draymond. I think when he scores 29 and his team is still not even sniffing a win against Indiana, that's a double-edged result.

The following data was used compiling as-of-today statistics at Statsheet.com (Player Efficiency Ratings and KenPom.com. And fortunately, all statistics are measured through exactly 30 games for each player. Stats need to be judged against schedule strength too, in my opinion. As a backdrop, here's the KenPom.com overall SOS for each player:

Robinson: No. 3
Green: No. 4
Davis: No. 60



Davis' O Rating is absolutely absurd. And take note that I'm using one grid as a background for all data comparisons, so Davis' lofty PER and block numbers look small here, but in fact are nearly as stupid as his adjusted offensive rating.

Here's how it spreadsheets out. Notice how frequently Green is third in these dozens valuable categoriges. His only advantage is when it comes to passing, wher he is clearly as far ahead in that category as any other player is in any other. He makes teammates better, which speaks more to value than his overall achievement profile, but it's still plenty noteworthy.



Green's had a great, great year so far, but he's going up against an all-time shot-block/freak in Davis and a relentless, superior rebounder and scorer in Robinson. I think, at this point, POY is out of Green's reach, even if he's deserving to be in the conversation. From a numbers standpoint, he's a notch below. It's not his fault. If he put up these numbers last year, against Jimmer, it would actually be a really intriguing race.

No matter. Green's still incredible to watch, just as valuable to his team as Robinson, and more diversified in his game -- even though his ceiling are lower -- than Davis. Michigan State won't get to the Final Four without him, and while any coach would love/marry/kill to have Robinson or Davis on their roster, Green is woven into the fabric of his team's scheme as much as any player in the country.
Posted on: February 29, 2012 7:18 pm
 

NCAA looking into Shabazz Muhammad recruitment

By Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish

Shabazz Muhammad is the top-ranked recruit in the nation.

Muhammad's recruitment, however, has drawn the attention of the NCAA - which has spoken to his father, Ron Holmes, about the family's relationship with a pair of financial advisors.

His list of finalists reads as follows: UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, UNLV, Kansas and USC.

You can read the exclusive story here:
Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:34 pm
 

Pod: UCLA reaction, OSU doubt, UConn bashing

The photo that will define Reeves Nelson's college career.  (AP)

By Matt Norlander


In immediate wake of Sports Illustrated's piece on Ben Howland, Reeves Nelson and the culture of no accountability at UCLA, the podcast addresses why it's, really, not surprising. Nelson is no longer on the team, UCLA has a big recruiting class coming in -- and you could likely find these sorts of problems at most places not winning consistently right now. Why it's bad: Ben Howland's reputation takes a hit and it's unclear whether he ever separates himself from the past few years of bad chemistry and bad basketball. Aside from UCLA, Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish and I touch on ...
  • From the beginning: UCLA.
  • 11:46: Aren't a lot of these problems mirrored at Mississippi State the past two seasons?
  • 15:40: Jerry Palm, as of this podcast's posting, has UConn in the field as an 11 seed. Why? Because the profile still stacks up favorably to other fringe squad. But the Huskies aren't a tournament team and cannot be trusted.
  • 19:36: Getting Draymond Green into the POY debate. Also, Goodman thinks it's "sad" one of these guys won't win it. What I forgot to bring up on the podcast: There are six POY awards, which is dumb, and so it's likely T-Rob/AD/Day-Day may split in some regard.
  • 24:26: Ohio State now has problems and Parrish thinks reaching the Elite Eight is highly questionable.
  • 28:28: Indiana away from home in the NCAAs -- will we see a different team?
  • 29:59: The lower seeds we're expecting a lot out of come bracket time.
  • 32:43: And out of nowhere, I'm raked over the coals for my final version of the Non-BCS Power Pyramid.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast -- whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:36 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 3:43 pm
 

Kidd-Gilchrist: I'm staying at Kentucky

By Jeff Borzello

Don't write off the idea that Kidd-Gilchrist would return for his sophomore season. (US Presswire)

It’s around this time every year when we start to see some of the top players in the country swear they’re returning to college next season. And then, come April, they go pro anyway.

As a result, most people took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s comments after Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt with a grain of salt.

“I’m graduating here. I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying at Kentucky,” Kidd-Gilchrist said, according to Brett Dawson of Rivals.com. “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing.”

Will Kidd-Gilchrist definitely return to school? I have no idea. I wouldn’t doubt that he’s thinking about it, though.

Kidd-Gilchrist is just wired differently than most of the star freshmen and college players these days. He’s always been that way. He has never truly carried himself like a superstar, and even his skillset doesn’t resemble that of a typical “future NBA All-Star.” Kidd-Gilchrist outworks players, he outhustles players and he’s a winner above everything else.

If Anthony Davis had said the same thing about returning to school, would I believe him? Not a chance. He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Kidd-Gilchrist has moved all the way up to No. 3 in several mock drafts, but I don’t think he’s overly concerned with that. He’s not the kind of player who will regress with another year in college. Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have a ton of people feeding him all sorts of conflicting information; he has a good support team around him that will help him make the right decision.

Like I said, do I think Kidd-Gilchrist is a lock to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season? No. But I certainly wouldn’t write off the idea when it comes to him.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:03 pm
 

Pitino nets deserving Hall of Fame nomination

By Jeff Goodman

Rick Pitino was nominated for the Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon. 

He's the only college basketball coach in history to have officially taken three programs to the Final Four, has a national title to his credit and has 618 career victories despite three different stints in the NBA.

"I'm extremely honored and grateful to be a finalist for the Hall of Fame," Pitino told CBSSports.com shortly after learning he was one of a dozen finalists.

I covered much of Pitino's forgettable tenure with the Boston Celtics, one that was a complete train wreck. The bottom line is that Pitino is one of the best college basketball coaches in my generation. However, he was far more suited to the college game than the pro ranks. 

Just imagine how many wins he'd have in the college ranks right now if not for his eight years in the NBA. Probably somewhere in the vicinity of 825 and he's still not yet 60 years old. 

The 59-year-old Pitino began his head coaching career in 1978 at Boston University, spent a couple years as an assistant with the Knicks before taking over a dismal Providence team. Two years later, the Friars were in the Final Four. Pitino then left for the head gig with the Knicks, where he was 90-74 in two seasons, before taking the job at Kentucky -- where he rebuilt a program that was on probation. 

The Wildcats went to the Final Four in 1993 and won the national title in 1996 with a loaded group that featured Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. 

Pitino took another shot in the NBA, this time asked to bring the storied Boston Celtics franchise back from the ruins. Pitino flopped in his three-plus years in Boston and made some ill-advised personnel decisions. 

Pitino is in his 11th season at Louisville. He took the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2005 and has led the Cards to Elite Eight appearances in 2008 and 2009. Louisville is 21-7 this season and a lock to make its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. 

The other finalists: first-timers Reggie Miller, Bill Fitch and Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain. Previous finalists include Mo Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and Red Heads. 

The Class of 2012 will be announced on Mon., April 2 in New Orleans prior to the NCAA national title game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The enshrinement ceremony is Fri., Sept 7 in Springfield, Mass. 

Posted on: February 22, 2012 12:22 pm
 

Pod: Flat tires, court storms, Calhoun's future

Whenever Calhoun does leave, what is next for UConn basketball? (Getty Images)

By Matt Norlander


I have to admit, sometimes, I'd love to make these podcasts just storytelling with Goodman and Parrish and leaving most of the basketball talk out of it. When Nickelback bashing, goalpost hanging, drunk tire-changing and late-night driving is part of the court-holding, why get into the hoops?

Well, we do. All of that described above is on today's pod, plus an assortment of basketball team topics.

In order:
  • From the beginning: It's the worst possible way to start a podcast. Goodman's a Nickelback fan. Let the excuses rain down from the heavens.
  • 2:25: On Kentucky and expectation and why it's logical to believe this team is as good as we want them to be. Final Four seems inevitable. National champs? .
  • 8:06: Kentucky needs a loss? What?
  • 11:00: UConn and Jim Calhoun. Will he coach this Saturday? What's the future of this program whenever Jimbo leaves? And if this team beats Syracuse Saturday, it sort of feels like the 8/9 game is in its future.
  • 17:36: New Mexico's a fine example of seed and expectation and team talent. What have the Lobos proven and what seed do they deserve? Parrish takes up the case that seeds four through eight stand to be fairly similar, no matter who lands on what line this season.
  • 20:55: Storming the court. We bring it up here, but Goodman actually cops to hanging from the goal post after Arizona beat Washington. Just picture that.
  • 24:36: The college basketball player who is shorter than Parrish. Goodman's now obsessed with this.
  • 26:44: And it's time for Parrish to steal the show again by sharing a story of something stupid he did. In this case, it was changing a tire with a drunk Mississippian college kid at 2 in the morning. Oh happy day!

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast -- whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 3:19 pm
 

No. 1 senior Nerlens Noel discusses recruitment

By Jeff Borzello

Nerlens Noel's recruitment has heated up since he reclassified to 2012. (MassLive.com)

Since Nerlens Noel announced a few weeks ago that he was reclassifying to the class of 2012, he’s been the most talked-about recruit in the country.

Noel, a 6-foot-10 Massachusetts native who plays at Tilton (N.H.), immediately moved to the No. 1 ranking in the nation. Moreover, the schools pursuing him have really turned up the heat.

“Recruiting has gone crazy all of a sudden,” Noel told Jeff Goodman on SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball on Thursday afternoon. “I just need to plan out some visits to get out to all these schools. Keep talking to coaches, build better relationships with them.”

Noel is currently considering Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown and Connecticut. He later tweeted that Providence was also on his list, but did not mention them during the interview with Goodman.

He visited Syracuse this past weekend for the Orange’s win over Connecticut, and he will trip to Kentucky this coming weekend.

“I’m talking to a few more coaches to get down to their campuses during vacation,” Noel said.

Noel is the best shot-blocker in the country, and would immediately be the best in the college game too. He has tremendous dexterity defensively, able to cover a lot of ground and alter shots with either hand. Noel’s offensive is constantly getting better, and he is developing post moves and is taking defenders off the dribble as well.

He would dominate defensively wherever he ends up.

“Just a good program where I can go and play and be comfortable with the coaching staff, the whole program,” Noel said. “I know I can develop as long as I’m there, as a player and a person.”

Noel maintains that he is wide open among the six schools he mentioned, and he is still a long way from making a decision.

“I don’t really have a timeframe,” Noel said on the show. “I just want to make sure I get in all my visits to these schools. However long that takes.”

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com