While 2015 was a fine year for UK sports, 2016 has the potential to be even better.
John Calipari has the men's team sitting at 10-2 with marquee non conference victories over rivals Duke and Louisville. The two losses look better as time passes -- UCLA is #25 in the AP Poll and 5-1 since they beat UK, with a win over #20 Gonzaga and that one loss at the hands of #11 UNC and OSU is 3-0 since, with a 15-point victory over Richard Pitino's Minnesota Golden Gophers. Also, 2016's recruiting class is typical top-2 Calipari fare. And we can't forget the beloved '14-'15 squad and its Final Four run.
The football team still sports a top 25 recruiting class for 2016 and the addition of Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw to the offensive staff from Cincinnati has been widely considered an upgrade over what Stoops had previously. Also, recruiting ace Vince Marrow's return is something we need to be thankful for every offseason.
Despite attrition via transfer, Matthew Mitchell has #7 UK Hoops rolling. They're still undefeated (11-0) with impressive victories over two ranked teams, as well as U of L.
Feel absolutely free to discuss optimism surrounding UK's other sports in the comments. I'm just not that well-informed about them.
Below are your significantly shorter than usual Quickies for the first day of 2016.
*The National Championship Game is set, as Clemson stymied Oklahoma and Alabama embarrassed Michigan State. As an objective football fan with no real rooting interest, these games were fairly lackluster. I'm curious about the TV ratings for the games, especially for the last 30% or so of the Alabama victory, as midnight approached.
The matchup will transpire on Monday, January 11 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. Alabama opened as a touchdown favorite.
*Houston figures to start next season in the top 15 as it easily took care of Florida State in the Peach Bowl yesterday.
*Here is the bowl schedule for today. All five of these games are watchable, and a trio of SEC teams are included in the slate.
*CBT's Rob Dauster ranks the 2015 Dunks of the Year. WCS comes in at #2 (twice!). I can't argue with Jerian Grant's monster being #1. It truly appears that some spectral entity boosts him at least another 8 inches mid-jump.
*PG Kris Dunn's near-triple double led the way for #12 Providence yesterday as the Friars beat #9 Butler. Providence was projected as a fringe NCAAT team, but apparently no one told Dunn.
With Denzel Valentine missing time due to injury and Ben Simmons playing on a mediocre LSU team, Dunn is my current choice for NPOY. His glaring weaknesses -- shooting and turnovers -- appear to have been addressed and Dunn is arguably the most complete all-around guard in NCAAB.
I'd put Oklahoma's Buddy Hield just behind Dunn. Hield is averaging nearly 30 points per game over his last five, shoots 90% from the FT line, rebounds like a power forward, and rarely fouls.
*After #16 Villanova shellacked #6 Xavier yesterday, only three undefeated teams remain. South Carolina is one of them. If you're looking for a single fact to illustrate the unpredictability and parity in NCAAB this season, that's a fantastic one.
*The 'Cats commence SEC play tomorrow night in Rupp against Ole Miss. Kyle Tucker observes that no non-UK SEC team did very much in non-conference play. Ole Miss, especially.
*Jerry Tipton appraises the SEC as league play begins. I don't think anyone can argue with this:
As the Southeastern Conference continues what it hopes is a transition to greater basketball relevance, Kentucky remains, well, Kentucky. Other programs bob to the surface as temporary challengers, then soon return to the league's nether regions. Kentucky is eternal.
*Here are today's college basketball games. There's nothing earth-shattering there, but two ranked west coast teams are in action.
If you want to watch one of the nation's best big men, catch the Utah-Stanford game at 9 p.m. EST on ESPNU. Utah's Jakob Poeltl is a legitimate C at 7' and 235# and will be a lottery pick in 2016.
Nerlens comes alive! Noel shot 67% from the field, scoring 20 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 steals in a victory over the Kings on Wednesday night. The 76ers recently reacquired PG Ish Smith from the Pels after he signed with New Orleans last summer. Noel was most productive last year when Smith was his PG, and Noel has been outspoken in his support of Smith, so expect more of this type of performance from the former 'Cat going forward.
That's all. Happy New Year from everyone at ASoB!