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From the Pressbox: Jim Master remembers Memorial

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"I thought it was a great place to play and I even tell some of my buddies that it was one of my favorite places to play to shoot in."

So says one of UK's all-time best sharpshooters of Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium, Jim Master.

"It is a great shooting gym with the way it is lit," Master said. "Of course the benches are a little different but that didn't faze us much. It is a really, really good shooting gym for most players.  

"I think it is the lighting," Master continued. "It feels to me to be more confined as opposed to Rupp Arena which is a big space if you will. The way its lit and way it is formed, it is more like a high school gym the way you are shooting the basketball. Some people may say that Coach Hall or Coach Calipari are on the other side of court so you can't hear them screaming at you. But it is really a comfortable gymnasium to shoot the basketball in. I think you can even look at how Vanderbilt shoots the ball not only at home but how they have shot their free throws over the years. They have always been a really, really good free-throw shooting team."

This figures to be the most hostile crowd Kentucky will have faced since its trip to Bloomington, Ind., back in December but Master says players usually feed off that energy and passion directed against them.

"I think you have to go out and play. I enjoyed playing on the road as a player and having a feeling like it is us against the world," Master said. "Also, we had some good players during my four years at Kentucky.  But again, I think you put it out of your mind. Coach Hall always talked about it and I think Coach Calipari does certainly talk about where the benches are and that it is a little different. But when you are playing hard, it is still basketball and I enjoyed the lighting of it and the atmosphere of it. And Vanderbilt has improved over the years. They have had some good players and Coach Stallings does a heck of a job.  So, they make it an even tougher place to play."

Bilas praises Cats

With a win at Vanderbilt, Kentucky may well become the media's definitive favorite to win the national title. Already, ESPN's Jay Bilas has them in elite company.

"I would put them on the top shelf along with Syracuse, Ohio State and perhaps North Carolina," Bilas said on ESPN radio's "Scott Van Pelt Show." "They've got something that nobody has in Anthony Davis.  He's the best big guy to come along in a period of years. He absolutely covers the basket up. He's an extraordinary talent and he's just scratching the surface of how good he's going to be. And they've got in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the single hardest-playing player out there. They're well-coached and they guard you every possession and they're going to be really hard to beat," Bilas added.

Van Pelt raised the issue of trust for a team as young as Kentucky, wondering if the inexperienced Wildcats can be counted on in March to string together the kinds of performances it takes to win a title.

"I don't trust even older teams," Bilas said. "This is the third year in a row that we don't have any historically great teams.  The last great team we've had was North Carolina  in '09 and I don't think anybody can hold a candle to them. I think college basketball has taken a step down from last year (in overall quality). I think they're all vulnerable to getting beat on the second weekend (of the tournament)."

Bilas will see the Cats play in person, as part of ESPN's College GameDay show tomorrow at Vandy's Memorial Gymnasium.

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