Considering last weekend's heartbreaking football loss to U of L, as well as a pair of uninspired and listless recent performances by the men's basketball team, it's been a challenging past seven days for fans of UK's most popular squads. Further, there is no UK football or men's basketball this weekend, so some of us will be forced to actually go out into public and talk to people.
I need to rewatch last night's game before offering any hard analysis, but I am certainly of the same mind as Jason at this point -- DON'T PANIC! Any reasonable fan expected losses this season and it's early enough that any apparent problems can and should be addressed.
I will, however, address those suddenly using "bust" to describe Skal Labissiere. Please. Stop it. His performances and demeanor over the last two games have certainly been disheartening and he deserved the tongue-lashing he received from Tyler Ulis last night, but he's still going to be a top 5 NBA draft pick in 2016 and will be a significant part of whatever outcome this team has awaiting it. By my count, KAT had at least 5 dud games and he still went #1 in the '15 Draft. Kansas G Andrew Wiggins also had several the year before, and was still selected #1 in the '14 Draft. Texas big man Myles Turner's freshman season at Texas saw him post a quarter season's worth of dud games, but he was still selected in the '15 lottery. These are talented basketball players and so is Labissiere.
I know I'm drifting into non-NCAAB territory with the Draft stuff, but the entire nation, recruiting experts, and most importantly, John Calipari, were/are not wrong about Labissiere. He has the talent and physical tools to live up to his billing as the #2 player in the 2015 high school class. He's just had a pair of bad games and, as Cal has indicated, is behind in his development. Have we already forgotten his 26 point game on 83% shooting against NJIT? His 16-7-3-1 line against BU? Why are we overlooking his 2.1 BPG average? His 70%FT? 61%FG? His overall numbers are solid, though I'd love to see his rebounding numbers improve. Rant over. My point? Let's be patient.
Anyway, your somewhat abridged Quickies, with less commentary than usual, are below. It's been a long and busy week here in Columbus.
Tweet of the Day
I'm just going to assume the UCLA student is not anti-Cal, because this made me laugh and it must be shared...
UCLA student sign: John Calamari pic.twitter.com/GFyX7ZrffB— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 4, 2015
...via Friend of ASoB Nick.
*SI's recap, suggesting that UCLA's performance offered a blueprint for how to defeat UK.
*CBT's most recent NPOY Power Rankings see Michigan State's Denzel Valentine on top and Tyler Ulis at #4. The poster, Rob Dauster, offers some tongue-in-cheek gratitude to UK fans who have undoubtedly been outspoken on social media, espousing their ardent belief that Ulis should be number one. Though these are a few days old, if you slot LSU's Ben Simmons at #1 and move everyone else back a spot, I think they're fair and accurate.
Simmons had a 34-14-7-5-3 line (75%FG and 87%FT) on Wednesday night. He is peerless and clearly the most talented player in college basketball. Valentine notched 25 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds in willing the Spartans over U of L on the same night. Providence's Kris Dunn shot 75% from the floor, also on Wednesday night, putting up a triple double (14 assists!) in a win over Hartford. Ulis' absence in the Illinois State game, which featured a somewhat directionless UK squad, illustrated his value to the 'Cats but then he took a step back in his candidacy last night in Los Angeles, scoring just 9 points, with an abysmal 17%FG, though he did have a 9-2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
*Jay Bilas is, by far, the most knowledgeable, reasonable and objective sports analyst working for a major media outlet today. Complex' Maurice Peebles interviewed Bilas regarding his thoughts on whether college athletes should be paid. I've heard bits and pieces of Bilas' views on the subject previously, but this presents them comprehensively.
*In a gesture that's surprisingly receiving little coverage, NCAAF legend Steve Spurrier penned a letter to South Carolina fans earlier in the week.
*ESPN looks at the resumes of the CFP contenders as we approach Conference Championship Weekend. Here is an in-depth look from CBS Sports' Chip Patterson at how a UNC victory over Clemson would catalyze CFP chaos and the chances that it could actually happen.
*Former U of L football coach John L. Smith is returning to Kentucky, to take over Kentucky State's football program in Frankfort. No matter what Smith does going forward, I will only remember him because of the press conference he held as Arkansas coach in 2012, when he implored reporters to "SMILE!" Kentucky State, competing in Division II, has struggled as of late.
*Deadspin breaks down a report commissioned by UNLV to determine whether the school's Hey Reb! mascot is racist. TL;DR, it's not. Here is the entire report. It's an interesting read and a history lesson regarding the region.
*Based on his background, openness to change, and general demeanor, I believe that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the best head man of any of the major North American sports leagues. That said, Silver needs to address the fact that, although Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton was recently named NBA Coach of the Month, he is actually winless in the record books. It doesn't make sense to me.
*As everyone knows by now, this season is living NBA legend Kobe Bryant's swan song. Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight, the disparity between Kobe this season and Kobe in his prime is nothing short of astounding.
*Here is an interesting media roundtable on what its like to be a beat writer for the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the worst teams of all-time. And my NBA team.
*Matt Carey at Liberty Ballers wants Jamal Murray in Philadelphia next summer. ME TOO!
*Simply put, Steph Curry owns the NBA.
*UK alums' NFL squads squared off last night when Randall Cobb's Green Bay Packers hosted Larry Warford's Detroit Lions. The Packers bested the Lions in a thriller and Cobb's disappointing statistical season continued, as he caught just 4 passes for 29 yards. Cobb, though firmly entrenched as a starter, has recently lost targets to fellow WR Davante Adams, TE Richard Rodgers, and whomever is getting the bulk of the backfield work (James Starks, last night). Thanks to Native Nick for reminding me about this.
*The annual Kiper/McShay ESPN NFL Draft machine began humming in earnest this past week as the pair released their annual 20-question spot.
Unsurprisingly, no UK prospects are mentioned, but I noticed a significant reduction in SEC player mentions as compared to previous years. Prior to last season, the SEC led all conferences in first round picks the previous four years. Dane Brugler's CBS Mock Draft includes 9 SEC prospects. It also includes EKU's Noah Spence, a former 5* who transferred from Ohio State, on the back end.
*Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter detail the hot names for the inevitable 5+ head coaching vacancies that we'll see after the NFL season.
*Rolling Stone provides an oral history of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" car scene from the seminal 1992 comedy "Wayne's World."
*John Cassidy assesses Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the "Rise of Philanthrocapitalism" for The New Yorker.
*The story of Bucky Palermo, "cobbler to sports superstars, legendary pro wrestling referee, raconteur, work-a-day everyman," is one that only could've happened in western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Palermo fixed shoes for over 70 years in the area and is finally retiring as a Pittsburgh legend. A hat tip is owed to my Dad on this one, who says my great aunt used to yell at Bucky on the TV as he refereed studio wrestling matches many years ago.