Kentucky Wildcats Saturday Quickies: Final Four Edition

Ronald Martinez

News and commentary from around the Big Blue Internet. Bat Cats crush Florida 17-1 in season opener. Softball drops series opener to Texas A&M. Football completes 4th spring practice. Basketball faces Wisconsin in Final Four tonight. More.

Today is Final Four Saturday. First, we get the Connecticut Huskies and the Florida Gators facing off at 6:09 PM, with Kentucky following around 8:49, assuming a timely first game.

Tweet of the Morning

Priceless.

Your Quickies:

Kentucky football
  • Four days of practice down:

    "Overall, we are improving and are a better football team right now. Just like I told them, we are a lot better and miles ahead of where we were, but we need to continue to go miles further to be competitive in this league. But, I like the pace we are on."

    I know it's still not time to get excited. Let's get this tournament out of the way first. But I like what I've been reading.

  • UK football practice report.

  • Bud Dupree is setting a high standard for the Wildcats defense. Good. Kentucky desperately needs to show improvement on defense.

Kentucky basketball
  • WillCallWindow has an interesting look at the Kentucky-Wisconsin matchup from the viewpoint of a Wisconsin fan. It tries to draw a contrast between the two programs and does a pretty good job, although I might take issue with a few things, like this:

    The Badger program sells family values, earning a degree, and a deliberate style of play. Meanwhile, Kentucky only slightly differentiates itself from an NBA Developmental League Team. In fact, so many players recently have had a cup of coffee with the UK program, they could rename Rupp Arena- Heine Brother’s Arena.

    I think this is juuust a bit outside ... But read the whole thing.

  • An outstanding look at Coach Cal from Ricky O'Donnell over at the mothership. Consider this:

    "I think that just the way he is," Towns said before the McDonald's Game. "He never lies to you and he keeps it straight with you. Cal really does a great job of always being honest. That's the way the program is, it just runs on honesty."

    Honesty. It might not be the first trait an outsider would associate with the Kentucky coach, not after scandals involving former players like Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby. But talk to any of the kids or parents who have committed to Calipari, and that same word keeps popping up.

    Those who don't know him are prone to describe Calipari as a salesman. Some even use the adjective "sleazy." To those around him, though, John Calipari might be the most honest man in sports.

    Do yourself a favor. You know the drill. Read the whole thing. Hey, he even quoted a piece of mine from back in 2012.

  • BT Powerhouse previews tomorrow's game. He reaches many of the same conclusions I do, that neither team can really guard the other.

  • Calipari damnation by faint praise. In my veiw, "Real Sports" is the most agenda-driven and fictional representation of sports anywhere. The fact that this guy swallows it whole and uncritically informs is cyncal article. Read it if you want to, but I had to go wash my hands afterward.

  • More Calipari hate by John Feinstein. He's subtle about it, of course, trying to keep you from walking away after three or four paragraphs, but incapable of keeping it bottled up:

    On Friday, Calipari experienced open practice at the Final Four for the fifth time as a head coach, although if you read the NCAA record book his 1996 Massachusetts team and his 2008 Memphis team never existed.

    Yeah, yeah. He goes on to write glowingly of Billy Donovan and Bo Ryan. He just flat ignores Kevin Ollie, and instead talks about Jim Calhoun. I hope it's because Ollie wouldn't give him the time of day.

    Yes, it's pretty weak beer, but then again, Feinstein is trying hard not to look like a jerk with an agenda. In my personal view, he fails, as usual.

  • College basketball arena rankings over at Stadium Journey. I think you'll like #1.

  • I think Mike DeCourcy is a little off on this one about UK's recruiting class. I see his point, I just don't happen to agree with that, which is fairly rare, come to think of it. I do agree with his other points about UConn, Florida and Wisconsin.

  • James Young talks to Andy Katz.

  • Good luck trying to change the "one-and-done" to "succeed and proceed," but this was very interesting and just confirms what we already knew:

    Kentucky's again the example of success -- this is Calipari's third Final Four in four years -- with youth. In starting five freshmen, Calipari's inadvertently (sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein is out with a foot injury) being allowed to prove a point. He's able to turn his players into driven, unafraid men by challenging them about playing at Kentucky. Or he'll outright warn them against ever coming, never promising playing time or starting roles.

    "At first it scared me," Cauley-Stein said Friday. "You grow up at that point."

    Cauley-Stein said Calipari's blunt recruiting pitch lingered with him, and as he reflected on how different the pitch was to everyone else, he realized UK had to be the place.

    "You could tell the other coaches' stuff was all fake," Cauley-Stein said.

    Just so you know, Alabama, Florida, and Kansas State all recruited Willie. I'm sure other coaches did as well that weren't on his list at Rivals.com. So when he says "fake," this is an interesting list to be included.

  • From the grave: The Baron talks about tournament basketball. We've linked this before from different sites, but it's worth it to reread on the day of the Final Four games.

  • Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports writes about John Calipari, and it's a very fair article. Consider this:

    And in that spin room, it’s oddly comforting to see John Calipari. There are no illusions with Coach Cal. Twice before he got to Kentucky, Calipari led teams to the Final Four. Twice, the NCAA invalidated those Final Four appearances, once because the star player was found to have been paid by two sports agents, the second time because someone else allegedly took the S.A.T. for a star player (the second player, Derrick Rose, still denies this happened). Nobody ever did officially connect Calipari to either scandal but then he was already at his next job when the judgments came down.

    Notice that he gets his facts exactly right. Derrick Rose was never "found" to have done anything, it was all allegations backed by significant, but not unassailable evidence. He's right that nobody every tied Coach Cal to either one. I kind of object mildly to his last sentence because it seems to imply Calipari was running away from trouble, and that perception is just not supported by the facts surrounding his leave-taking. A minor quibble. I'll take it. From the mainstream sports media, this qualifies as good opinion journalism.

  • Kentucky remains basketball's most fascinating team.

  • So much cynicism. I guess this is just the world we live in, where nobody can see any good in anything anymore.

  • Nice SI piece about Julius Randle and Kentucky.

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