Good morning, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies. Since last wrote in this space, a lot has happened — I went to Las Vegas on our annual trip, Kentucky football lost in a second-half collapse to Louisville, and the Wildcats basketball team dropped a game to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. Seems like a whole different world.
Today’s lead story is IsIsaiah Briscoe being named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performances against Illinois State and UCLA. While the other freshmen players for Kentucky looked out of their depth and too small for the moment against UCLA, Isaiah Briscoe, along with Tyler Ulis, manifestly did not. They played bravely and with passion while others quailed.
The best thing about this is that we are seeing early leadership from the freshman class. Yes, we knew and expected Ulis to be a leader, but we needed another to step forward for when he can’t be out there, and we are starting to see that in Briscoe. The tough-as-nails Jersey guard is asserting himself in the best possible way, and not a moment too soon.
Tweet of the Morning
Only 8 more days and I'm on my way to Kentucky!! ⚪️— Tai Wynyard (@WynyardTai) December 7, 2015
After the difficulties due to lack of beef in the UCLA game, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
Will Marshall updates his postmortem for the 2015 football season to include word that staff changes are in the offing (unsurprisingly).
I haven’t talked about the UK football season, so I’ll take this opportunity to offer a few brief observations, for what they are worth.
First, our lines need major work. Both the offensive and defensive lines were disappointing this year, and in my view, were the major contributor to what I consider to be a failed season. That should improve next season with experience gained in 2015, as Will points out:
In the month of November, UK’s offensive two-deep featured 16 underclassmen. Meanwhile, the defensive two-deep featured 11 underclassmen. Out of 44 players in the two-deep on both sides of the ball, 63% were underclassmen. A cursory search around the SEC East finds no team with greater than 46% of underclassmen in the two-deep.
He also rightly points out that red-shirts would’ve been preferable, but sometimes, you don’t have the cards to play that hand, and Stoops needed some improvement this year. The fact that his gamble did not pay off in the immediate near term does not mean it won’t pay dividends down the road, but it could also point to a major rebuild in the next three seasons depending on how recruiting goes.
Second, Kentucky’s coaching staff did a poor job of communicating this season. The outcome of at least one game can be roughly attributed to this problem. Mark Stoops is still young as a head coach, but he has to get hold of this issue immediately and get it corrected.
Finally, I hate to see Patrick Towles go, but he had his opportunity and simply wasn’t able to capitalize. I don’t blame Stoops for moving on from him. Towles had the skill, but he simply failed this season to perform to a reasonable expectation, and it’s not fair to keep Drew Barker behind him under the circumstances. I wish him the best of luck going forward.
Farrington Huguenin has been invited to play in the NFL Players Association College Bowl. Congratulations!
Seth Davis tries to make sense of the chaotic NCAA basketball season start:
If tracking all these crazy bounces is making you dizzy, you are not alone. Welcome to the 2015–16 college basketball season. The one thing we definitely know is that we don’t know anything. The only certainty is uncertainty.
Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no. Parity can be fun, and it augurs for an exciting NCAA tournament. (Then again, there is no such thing as an unexciting NCAA tournament.) On the other hand, the public loves dynastic powerhouses. Those, alas, are in short supply this season. There are more good teams than ever before, but at the moment there are no great ones.
I think Davis gets this mostly right. This is simply cyclical, and the freshman class this season is not one of the best in recent memory, although it is still just fine. This year’s class is not as physically mature, particularly the big players, as most recent classes. Because so many of them are seeing big minutes, the limitations of that lack of maturity are on full display, particularly (but by no means exclusively) with Skal Labissiere.
But as the saying goes, this too will pass. When the coaching begins to sink in, we’ll see development, and with many of the highly skilled players (Brandon Ingram, Labissiere, and Ben Simmons among others), once they "get it," development should be rapid.
"I think they’re better than they showed," said Bilas, ESPN’s top college basketball analyst, "but they’re nowhere near as good as they were last year, which is what I said from the beginning. Nobody wanted to listen when I said no team this year would’ve been in last year’s top six."
He’s right on both points, I think. I have felt all along this season that Kentucky was "overachieving," and a fall back to earth, especially under the circumstances of their first true road game and injuries to key players, was pretty much inevitable.
No matter what you think of Eastern, they are going to be a challenge to Kentucky, but a challenge that UK is fully capable of handling with no problems. Having said that, a mentally down team will struggle against the Colonels, so it will be a good sign if the Wildcats play well on Wednesday. Saturday will be an even bigger test of their ability to get back on the horse.
This is Kentucky Basketball, episode 1:
Other Kentucky sports
Toby Bicknell, formerly of the Air Force Academy, has been named Kentucky baseball’s recruiting coordinator.
Former USC Trojan’s coach Steve Sarkisian is suing the university over his firing:
Former USC coach Steve Sarkisian has filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that the school broke the law for firing him without allowing him to seek treatment for alcoholism, which is defined as a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
I hope this doesn’t go anywhere. Yes, alcoholism can be disabling, but I have always been suspicious of it being on the ADA list, and unlike many other medical issues, it isn’t always a disability — sometimes it’s just plain bad behavior and a personal failure. I have serious doubts that Sarkisian’s case is anything other than the latter.
Boston College players among dozens sickend by an apparent E. coli infection after eating at a local Chipotle restaurant.
Oklahoma crushes Villanova in Hawaii. Oklahoma is really good this season, no doubt about it.
Other sports news
James Young hasn’t seen much playing time in his young career (pun intended), but that’s likely to change. The inimitable Celticsblog explains.
Boban abuses Jahlil, and it’s hilarious.
Dear Byron Scott: I hope your motivational tactic works, I really do. But it looks ill-advised to me, and Laker fans seem to feel the same way.
Harlan, Kentucky’s Jordan Smith gives a jaw-dropping (and arguably mic-dropping) performance of Queen’s Somebody To Love. Freddie Mercury was right there cheering for him in spirit, because absolutely nobody could have done anything else. It’s astonishing, and just in case you haven’t seen it:
I don’t know if he has Freddie’s amazing 4+ octave range, but he sure can hit the high notes.
Kentucky’s new governor, Matt Bevin, was sworn in very early this morning.
Interesting. As a related aside, I wrote an 11th-grade term paper on time travel back in 1974. The state of quantum physics was a bit… primitive then. And with no Internet, the research, as you can imagine, was a lot more challenging.