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UK, Wisconsin not so different after all

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Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kentucky and Wisconsin are being cast as a study in contrasting styles.

In one corner there are the Wildcats, the crew of super-talented youngsters, and the other the Badgers, the veterans who rely on cohesiveness and half-court execution.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, however, doesn't exactly see things that way.

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole," Ryan said on Monday. "We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

There's certainly some truth to Ryan's words, but it's also a bit of an oversimplification.

UK and Wisconsin, of course, are teams that get the job done on both ends of the floor in different ways. Let's explore kenpom.com's advanced statistics to explore those differences.

When Kentucky is on offense

Julius Randle has always been a basketball fan, so he was familiar with Wisconsin before UK even began scouting the Badgers for the Final Four.

"Just growing up I've always known Wisconsin just to be a hard-nosed, tough team," Randle said. "They play really good defense."

That's true again this year, as Wisconsin ranks 45th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Badgers are sound defensively on the strength of their ability to play without fouling and close out possessions with defensive rebounds.

Wisconsin is third nationally in defensive free-throw rate, yielding just 15.1 free-throw attempts per game. By contrast, UK is ninth nationally in offensive free-throw rate. Don't think, however, that the Cats can't get the job done when they aren't getting to the line. Against Michigan, UK scored 1.26 points per possession -- its highest total of the tournament -- in spite of hitting just six free throws in 11 attempts.

The Badgers are also tireless workers on the defensive glass, ranking 13th in rebounding rate, but they haven't faced Kentucky yet. The Cats lead the nation in offensive-rebounding rate, claiming 42.5 percent of their own misses. And less than two weeks ago, UK faced off against an even better defensive rebounding team in Wichita State and still snagged 10 of its 29 misses.

Wisconsin relies on sound positioning in its man defense, not often gambling to force turnovers. The Badgers' opponents have committed turnovers on just 15.6 percent of possessions (322nd nationally) while UK is middle of the pack (174th nationally) taking care of the ball.

Just because the Badgers don't force many turnovers, don't think passing the ball against them is easy. Wisconsin allows assists on just 40.1 percent of opponents' made field goals, the third-lowest rate in the nation.

Also of note is that just 25.8 percent of field goals attempted against Wisconsin come from 3-point range, the eighth-lowest rate in the nation. Though UK is shooting the ball remarkably well, this isn't necessarily bad news for UK. The Cats are at their best when they attack the basket.

When Kentucky is on defense


As good as Randle has always known Wisconsin to be on defense, he's not oblivious to the fact that the Badgers are among the best offensive teams in the country even though they score just 73.5 points per game.

"Of course, our team's already been informed that this is one of the better offensive teams that they have had, and they really can score the ball, move the ball," Randle said.

Thanks to that ball movement, the Badgers almost never turn the ball over. Wisconsin has committed single-digit turnovers in 26 of 37 games, including two remarkable two-turnover performances, en route to ranking second in turnover rate. Considering UK is 301st in defensive turnover rate, don't expect many Wisconsin mistakes on Saturday evening.

With UK's size advantage and Wisconsin's preference for getting back on defense over crashing the glass, don't expect many Badger offensive rebounds either. Wisconsin is 274th nationally in offensive-rebounding rate.

The Badgers get by on offense without many rebounds because they shoot the ball so well to begin with. Wisconsin is 32nd nationally in effective field-goal percentage (.533) and UK 35th in effective field-goal percentage defense (.458). The team that wins this battle could well be playing for the national championship on Monday.

Bottom line

Tempo has a lot to do with the supposed contrast between Kentucky and Wisconsin, but a look at the numbers reveals two teams more similar than you might think.

Wisconsin ranks 287th nationally in adjusted tempo, playing just 63.4 possessions per game. UK, meanwhile, is 226th in adjusted tempo, playing just 66.2 possessions per game and 61 in the NCAA Tournament.

As friends John Calipari and Ryan match wits for the first time, be prepared for a grind-it-out affair. The pace might not be frenetic and the final score might be in the 60s, but these are two teams playing their best offense of the season.

"You're playing for either one of these teams, I mean, there's no such thing as an underdog," Randle said. "It's just going to be a hard-fought game, and I think that's what both teams are looking forward to."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Video: Antigua on taking USF job, time at UK

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Calipari hopes to rebrand one-and-done

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John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ever since a record-setting five Kentucky players went in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, the "one-and-done" label has been pinned on John Calipari and his program like a tail on a donkey.

For better or worse, Kentucky has become, reputation-wise, the place to go to play for a year and then head to the NBA after one season.

Calipari, who has long maintained that he's against the one-and-done rule but is playing by the rules, doesn't understand why kids are criticized for pursuing their dreams if the opportunity presents itself.

"Until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are," Coach Cal said on Monday on his weekly radio show. " 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

Greg Anthony, a former UNLV star and analyst for CBS, spoke on a Final Four teleconference earlier in the week and said he is sick of hearing about the one-and-done rule altogether. After all, UK isn't the only program that went after the John Walls and the Anthony Davises in high school; it just so happens to be the one that landed the most.

"I'm so tired of everyone talking about the one-and-done from this standpoint: Every one of those damn kids for Kentucky, everyone else would have signed them if they decided to go there," Anthony said. "Every high-school kid coming in as a freshman would go one-and-done if they had ability for the most part."

It's worth noting that one-and-done talent like Andrew Wiggins went to Kansas, Aaron Gordon went to Arizona and Jabari Parker went to Duke.

But the one-and-done rule is a hot subject again at this week's Final Four because of the unprecedented youth and potential NBA players Calipari has brought to Arlington, Texas. On its road to the Final Four - a path Coach Cal called a "mine field" - UK has relied heavily on its youth, starting five freshmen throughout the tournament and getting 89.8 percent of its points from freshmen.

As a point of reference, the famous Fab Five accounted for 75.3 percent of Michigan's scoring during the 1991-92 season. The Cats' freshmen, many of whom will have an NBA decision to make after the NCAA Tournament run ends, have accounted for 81.8 percent on the season.

With all that said, a young player helping a team to the Final Four and then weighing his pro aspirations at the end of the season is still perceived negatively among the masses.

"One-and-done has now become a bad connotation," Coach Cal said.

And until the rules change, the negative perception is here to say, Calipari realizes. No matter how many times he says they don't talk about turning pro until after the season, it's going to be viewed in a dim light.

So Coach Cal has a solution: a new name.

"We're going to break out something new this week to get you guys off this one-and-done so that we can think about (it) in another term, which is trying to help these kids do what they're trying to do as college students, as where they want their careers to go," Calipari said.

The idea behind the rebranding is to change the idea that just because a player may turn pro early that he isn't a college athlete.

"Does a player have to be here four years to be a terrific college player?" Calipari said. "The last four years, our grade-point average has been a 3.0. Our (NCAA Academic Progress Rate) is as high as anybody in the country. They're college students; they're just not college students for four years in most cases, but in some they are."

So, Calipari hopes to unveil something this weekend - perhaps during the next media availability on Friday - that will get that message across. What it is remains to be seen, but Coach Cal did ask for answers on his radio show earlier in the week and actually received some via social media.

Among the best were "Succeed then Proceed," "Learn then Earn" "Learn and Turn."

They're all better than the one-and-done label in the eyes of Calipari.

"All I got to say to Cal is when somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when my mom would give me a pork chop or a piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, 'No, one-and-done,' " Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.

Ryan is confident that if the name isn't going to change, the rules will soon. Perhaps the bad connotation will die with it.

"We're (Calipari and Ryan) both on the board of directors with the NABC and we have talked about this quite a bit," Ryan said. "I'm sure there's something coming down the road that's going to alter that. But all we know is we just want our players to get the most out of the experience and I think we both are coaching guys that understand what that's all about."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

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If you are looking for 'Cats 2014 Final Four merchandise, look no further than the official store of UK Athletics, UKTeamShop.com. UK Team Shop has the best choice of Final Four apparel, including the Nike Locker Room T-shirt the players wore after the big win over Michigan. Click on the link below to see the full selection.

http://www.ukteamshop.com/source/bmbh_ukfinal4

Gymnastics looking for consistency in NCAA Regionals

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Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Consistency.

Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Kentucky gymnastics team has turned in solid performances on each of the four events in a meet. However, it's putting it all together at once that will allow Kentucky's season to live on, which the Wildcats have yet to do this season.

UK head coach Tim Garrison has preached consistency to his team as the NCAA Regional quickly approaches. It's the one thing that has escaped his team throughout the course of the season, and in order for Kentucky to advance to the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, the Cats will need to heed the message.

"We still have yet to put a complete meet together," said Garrison who is in his third season at UK. "In my mind, we've improved in a lot of ways; we still haven't shown 100 percent of that improvement all at one time, which is something we're looking forward to doing this weekend."

The Wildcats will put their skills to the test this weekend in State College, Pa., joining No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, New Hampshire and Maryland in the program's 26th NCAA appearance, including 10 straight. In the 25 previous appearances, UK has never advanced to the NCAA Championships. Hence the reason Garrison has instilled the concept that his team needs to be consistent to earn a top two finish and a berth in the NCAA Championships.

This year's NCAA Regional has put the Wildcats in a great position to claim that first NCAA Finals appearance. For instance, Kentucky is familiar with the venue in State College, having competed at Penn State last season. Coincidentally, the Wildcats registered a school record mark of 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State's Rec Hall, which is where this weekend's regional will be held.

Also, earlier this season, UK defeated Penn State in the season-opening meet, as part of a four-team event in Lexington.

"We think we have a favorable draw, I think for several different reasons," Garrison explained. "One, we're comfortable with Penn State. We're comfortable with the arena. We've competed against Penn State this year and had a favorable result. Obviously, that was the first meet of the year, but still it was a good result for us, so we're comfortable with that fact."

It all starts with building momentum.

Many times a meet can be determined with how a team starts. Garrison is hoping his team can build some early momentum to control the jitters and settle his team down to begin a consistent performance.

"Obviously we need a good start on bars," Garrison said. "There's a bit of momentum that comes along with getting into a competition and doing well and building momentum. It has to start somewhere and that momentum is going to have to start on bars. I'm looking for consistency. I'm looking to save every tenth we can possibly save. I'm looking to build momentum. I'm looking to put pressure on the other teams."

Kentucky's rotation will be bars, beam, bye, floor and vault. The rotation gives the Wildcats an early chance to build momentum, as the uneven bars have proven to be a good event this season.

"We have a great rotation," Garrison said. "We're starting off on bars, which is a good event for us. We go to beam, which is second, and we're settling down and we're into the competition by that point. Then we go to floor and we finish off on vault. Floor and vault this year are two very strong events for us, so we're looking forward to finishing on strong events."

Senior Audrey Harrison, who will compete in all four events, will carry some of the burden of building and sustaining that momentum and consistency.

"I definitely think we have a great chance this year," said Harrison about the team advancing to the NCAA Championships. "It's definitely possible and our confidence has been building throughout the season, so I think it can all come together and we can hit all four events at the same time, which would be awesome."

Every little detail matters when postseason arrives. Building momentum to start the meet is vital. Consistency throughout the competition is crucial.

The stage is set for the Wildcats, now they just have to take advantage.

"I think we're going to have to have a good day," Garrison said. "I think we have the team. I think we have the draw. It really is set up well for us to be successful in many different ways. Every region is going to be tough. You have six teams going in and they're all very competitive or else they wouldn't be there. You have to be one of the top two teams to come out of the region. They're going to be tough, every single one of them."

Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
The No. 12 Kentucky softball team used a complete performance in all facets of the game Wednesday night in its 5-0 win over Louisville.
 
After a 1-2 weekend against then-No. 21 Auburn, a complete, well-played game against their in-state rivals was just what the Wildcats needed.
 
Head coach Rachel Lawson got just the turnaround performance that she was hoping for.
 
"I thought it was big," Lawson said. "Auburn was a tough weekend. I know we took one from them, Auburn is a very good team, but I felt like we really didn't play our best game against Auburn. 
 
"Some things were exposed that we needed to work on, and the fact that we were able to work on them and turn around so quickly really shows that the girls have their minds in the right spot and they want to get it done and go deep in the postseason."
 
UK out-hit the Cardinals 7-3, and was able to take advantage of two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. The first five batters in the Kentucky lineup all reached base at least once.
 
While the run production was a highlight, the well-rounded game started in the circle for the Wildcats. After Kelsey Nunley allowed one run and five hits in seven innings of work Sunday, she came back even better on Wednesday. The sophomore hurled a complete game shutout and allowed just three hits and two walks.
 
"I thought Nunley was incredible," Lawson said. "I thought she was great on Sunday. The fact that she was able to turn around four days later and do it again says a lot about how strong she is as a pitcher. The fact that she was able to change her game a little bit and keep them off balance, they're an awesome hitting team. The fact that she didn't let very many of them square up on the ball really says how much stuff she has and how she's able to put the team on her back and carry them."
 
Defense was a point of emphasis the last few days, and it showed Wednesday night. 
 
In the field, the Wildcats didn't commit a single error and turned several dazzling defensive plays to extinguish any Louisville scoring opportunities.
 
"We really worked on hustling," Nikki Sagermann said.. "Making every play, not giving up. Just keeping on running hard and competing on every play."
 
The team worked on it, and Lawson noticed.
 
"I was really impressed with them," Lawson said of the defensive effort. "Overall I'm really pleased with our defense, and I thought that was the difference early."
 
Without senior captain Lauren Cumbess, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury, the offense didn't miss a beat.
 
"I think the best part about it was the last few days we had really been working on our approach, getting more aggressive," Lawson said. "It was so nice to see the team step up. I think they knew because Lauren wasn't in the lineup, that each person was going to have to chip in a little extra, and I thought they really responded and we put up five runs against a really good Louisville team."
 
The win marked the first time UK had beaten U of L in back-to-back games in Lawson's seven-year tenure. The Wildcats will have a chance to go for three consecutive wins at the end of the month on April 30 in Louisville.
 
In the meantime, the Wildcats will look to build on Wednesday's win when they host SEC-foe and 18th-ranked Texas A&M at John Cropp Stadium this weekend. First pitch Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, while Sunday's contest will commence at 1 p.m.

Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Julius Randle was a high-school junior sitting in study hall when he first found out.

His schoolwork done, Randle came across the news that the Final Four would be coming to AT&T Stadium in 2014. Thinking two years in his future, Randle pictured himself a college freshman playing for a national championship mere miles from where he grew up.

He hasn't stopped thinking about it since.

"It's been my screensaver for about two years," Randle said.

A year after he first found out North Texas would host the Final Four, Randle was in AT&T Stadium. Watching Florida and Michigan play in the Elite Eight just weeks after committing to Kentucky, Randle's focus only intensified.

"I just wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to get back there," Randle said. "It's just added motivation that it's in Dallas, but any kid wants to play in the Final Four. I don't care if it's on the moon. You want to play in the Final Four. But for it to be in my hometown, it's special as well."

It became even more special last weekend when playing in the Final Four went from dream to reality for Randle.

Randle's mother, Carolyn Kyles, was in Indianapolis as her only son played in the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals. She saw all of UK's comeback victory over Louisville on Friday, but had to leave Randle's Elite Eight game against Michigan early to catch a flight home so she could work first thing on Monday morning.

"I knew she was going to have to leave so I just wanted to make sure we won so I could see her again," Randle said.

Randle -- the Midwest Region's Most Outstanding Player -- delivered. Now, he gets to go home and play on college basketball's biggest stage in front of his mother.

"She's really excited," Randle said. "I don't know much she's going to be around because I know she wants me to focus and stuff, but she's really excited and so is the rest of my family."

To Randle, that kind of unselfishness is what defines his mother above all else.

"Just seeing her every day get up, go to work and just take care of me and my sister and for her to do it by herself and for her not to have much and to make sure me and my sister felt like we had everything we needed and wanted just goes to show how strong of a woman she is," Randle said. "She did it all by herself."

Of course, paying his mother back for all she's done helps drive Randle to be the tireless worker he is on and off the floor. But Kyles has refused to let that overwhelm her son.

"She's always telling me just to enjoy being a college student, not to worry about her, not to worry about taking care of her," Randle said. "She says to enjoy being a college student because she doesn't want to put that type of pressure on me and there's no need to. I'm just blessed to be here, play basketball at Kentucky and that's all I can really focus on."

It's that kind of perspective, character and strong family background John Calipari saw early in Randle's recruiting process.

"The best thing that has happened for him is that he surrounded by good people, and they all tell him the truth," Calipari said. "They tell him the truth. ... His mother is solid; she left the game early because she had to go to work."

The same goes for the Harrison twins, who will also be returning to their home state for UK's Saturday national semifinal matchup with Wisconsin. Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Randle give Coach Cal three players from the Lone Star State, which was unthinkable 20 years ago.

"When I was back at UMass and went into Texas, the coaches asked if we were Division I or Division II, so we didn't do real well then," Calipari said.

Doing well in Texas has become more and more important over the years. Though the state is still known for the bright lights of football, basketball has come a long way.

"Where Texas was always just about football, it still is, Friday nights and all that stuff," Calipari said. "But the coaching in Texas, the high-school coaching, has gone from the (football) line coach coaching the basketball team, to basketball coaches, basketball junkies, coaching basketball now. So now all of a sudden you're getting skilled players."

UK's Texas trio certainly fits that bill, benefitting from solid coaching on both their high school and AAU teams. The Harrisons, however, did dabble in football before switching to basketball full time. Andrew Harrison was a running back but was too lanky at the time to continue into high school.

"If it's not during the season, you have to do 7-on-7 or something like that," Andrew Harrison said. "We wanted to play basketball."

Based on the volume of ticket requests the Harrison twins are receiving for this weekend, they might have converted some football lovers with that choice. Aaron Harrison reported around 50 friends and family have asked for tickets and his brother the same, while Randle is forwarding all such requests to his mother.

"You can call my mom," Randle said. "I'm not dealing with it. I changed my number."

But not his screensaver

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are two in-game situations that will almost always divide fans and coaches alike.

One is the debate over whether to call a timeout when you have the ball to win the game. The other is whether to foul when your team is up three to prevent a game-tying 3-pointer.

Coach Cal found himself in both those situations against Michigan.

First was when the Wolverines tied the game with 27 seconds to go and the Cats got the ball with a chance to win on the final possession. Under normal circumstances, Calipari would have let his guys play so the other team couldn't set up defensively, but like he did against Florida in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, he called timeout.

Calipari said after that game that he wanted to kick himself for calling timeout, but not this time around.

"There was so much at stake here, we had to know what we were doing," Calipari said on his weekly radio show Monday night. "And part of the reason is they had a foul to give, so I figured we had to start a little bit earlier so they would foul earlier so that we would still have a lot of time to get a shot off, which they did."

The timeout allowed him to call up a similar play to the one in the SEC Tournament finals, which was a handoff for James Young to take it to the basket; only this time it called for Aaron Harrison to get the ball.

"I wanted it to be Aaron because he wouldn't be afraid to miss," Calipari said. "Not that James is, but Aaron now in the last five games has been an assassin."

Aaron Harrison had the option to dribble it or pull up. When he fumbled the handoff and the shot clock started winding down, he elected to go up with it.

Once Michigan had called timeout and the officials reset the clock to show 2.6 seconds left, Calipari decided not to foul because there wasn't enough time left on the clock. With only seconds left, he didn't want one of his players fouling the shooter in the act.

He also put Marcus Lee on the inbounds pass in hopes of tipping the pass and taking the shot out of the equation altogether.

Bigger isn't always better

Dominique Hawkins doesn't have the look of a lockdown defender - at 6 feet, he looks to be at a size disadvantage - but the Kentucky reserve re-emerged from the bench during UK's two games in Indianapolis to help contain Louisville and Michigan's best scorers.

Against U of L, Hawkins locked down and limited Russ Smith in the second half, and against Michigan, Hawkins slowed down Nik Stauskas after his fast start.

"We weren't going to win that game until he guarded that kid," Calipari said Monday of the Hawkins-Stauskas matchup. "And he was a pit bull."

Stauskas, who at 6-6 had torched his competition all year long because of an ability to shoot over most defenders, had six inches on Hawkins.

"A lot of times, putting a little smaller guy on a bigger guy bothers 'em," Calipari said. "I don't know why. Just does."

Hawkins knows why. It's the competition he goes against every day in practice. Matching up with players like Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young, he's learned a few tricks to neutralize the length.

"Those three, I feel like they could be the best player on any other team if they went on another team," Hawkins said. "They help me out on my defense in practice a lot, so I feel like when I was guarding him that it was just like guarding James or Aaron or Andrew off the ball in practice."

One and done with

Fed up with the label that gets thrown on his program for allowing players to go to the NBA, Coach Cal said on the radio show Monday that he wished someone could come up with a new term that doesn't have the negative connotation that "one and done" does.

The Big Blue Nation listened and responded. Among some of the best responses from fans on Twitter:

  • Succeed then proceed
  • Learn and turn
  • Learn before you earn
  • Progressive freshmen

Of course, Coach Cal has not wavered in his stance on the current one-and-done rule. He has said he does not believe in it and wishes it would go to at least two years, but he's also not going to hold kids back if they have an opportunity to leave.

He just wishes the negative connotation of letting players pursue their dreams would go away.

"I know some people can't get their mind wrapped around anything other than a four-year program," Calipari said. "Well, you also can't get your mind wrapped around social media. And until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are. 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

An all-time run

It's already been well-documented that UK's road to the Final Four has been one of the all-time runs.

Not only have the Cats knocked off the defending national champion, last year's runner-up and an undefeated No. 1 seed, they've become the first team ever to knock off three of last year's Final Four teams.  

But according to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, UK's run may be the all-time run.

Eisenberg's research says that the seeding tally of UK's opponents (16) is only outdone by LSU in 1986, when the 11th-seeded Tigers beat the top three seeds in their region to reach the Final Four - the only team to ever accomplish such a feat.

Eisenberg points out that LSU caught a break by playing its opening-weekend games in its backyard in Baton Rouge, La.

Did Bo Ryan take a dig at BBN? Cal doesn't think so

On Monday's Final Four teleconference, some thought Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was taking a dig at Kentucky fans when he answered a question about what basketball means to the Cheese State.

"The people here in this state are crazy about basketball," Ryan said. "They realize that they didn't invent it like some other states believe."

Did he mean Kentucky when he said that? It goes without saying that UK fans are known throughout the country for their passion for basketball.

Told Tuesday of Ryan's comments, Calipari, who has a good relationship with Ryan, brushed it off.

"Our people don't think they invented it; they just made it better," Coach Cal said. "And our fans do have all the answers to every issue concerning basketball. They're crazy. They're nuts. They watch the tapes more than I do. I bet you there are fans out there that have watched more Wisconsin tape than I have. There's no question."

Bo knows

Some other notable gems from Ryan on Monday's Final Four teleconference:

On Kentucky ...
"For me to say Kentucky is good, I'd be slighting them. They are very good."

On the contrast in styles between UK and Wisconsin ...

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

On why he doesn't use a coaching board ...
"Have you ever watched a huddle, where the players' eyes are while the coach is making 15 lines? You look at that thing and you swear it was your 4-year-old granddaughter who just made a drawing for you."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Video: UK heads to Texas

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Departure and arrival from Kentucky Wildcats TV


Hotel arrival from the NCAA


James Young is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range in the postseason. (Chet White, UK Athletics) James Young is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range in the postseason. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The more John Calipari called this group a great shooting team, the more it seemed to miss.

Clanks here. Bricks there. Some shots would just outright miss everything.

Coach Cal's words seemed hollow.

Then something happened right at the start of the postseason. Suddenly the Wildcats started making shots.

Since the postseason began at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, UK is shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range, up from 31.6 percent in the regular season.

To give you some perspective, Creighton led the country this year in 3-point field-goal percent with a 41.4-percent mark. Undoubtedly, the ability to make shots has given UK a different dimension.

"Aaron (Harrison) and James (Young) are really knocking down their shots, making big shots for us," Andrew Harrison said.

Aaron Harrison and Young especially have been better since the postseason began. The former is shooting 50 percent in the postseason (22 of 44) from behind the arc and the latter is making them at a 41.4-percent clip (12 of 29). Both are noticeable increases from their regular-season numbers.

"We're shooting with a lot more confidence than we have been," Young said. "We're getting a lot of extra shots up, coming in each day shooting at least 30 minutes worth, and really just staying confident with all our shots."

Young said they've been having really good pregame shoot-arounds, which he says have spilled over to the games. But perhaps there's more to it than that.

In the loss at South Carolina, Kentucky's shooting woes got to the point where the Cats almost seemed to ditch the perimeter shot altogether and just drive to the hoop in hopes of getting fouled. The strategy turned into habit and habit turned into bad shot selection.

Since the well-known "tweak" Calipari made before the SEC Tournament, the offense appears to have opened up. It isn't just that shots are going it; it's that shot selection is better.

"I think Andrew's really starting to create shots for us," Aaron Harrison said. "We're just trying to knock them down."

And as they've gotten better shots, their confidence has gone up, allowing them to brush off the misses. They've learned to put the previous play behind them and not worry about misses, a revelation for a team that struggled so mightily with it earlier in the year.

"If you miss a shot, you just have to go on to the next one in your head," Aaron Harrison said. "It's just a mental thing."

That probably explains why Aaron Harrison was able to shine so late in the Michigan game after struggling so much early.

After missing all four of his shots in the first 32 minutes of Sunday's game, Aaron Harrison shook the adversity off and made the final four, all from 3-point range and all in the biggest moments of the game. In the previous game, against Louisville, Aaron Harrison hit the go-ahead 3 with 39 seconds left after making just two of his previous 12 shots.

The most important one of the weekend, of course, was the game-winning 3-pointer vs. the Wolverines from the top of the key with 2.6 seconds left.

"I think we all just learned that it's all about winning," Aaron Harrison said. "It doesn't matter individually what you're doing. You just have to do whatever you can for the team to win."

Since that big shot, Aaron Harrison has been nicknamed a number of things by the fans, including "Mr. Big Shot" and "Big Shot Aaron." Calipari, on his weekly radio show Monday night, called him "an assassin."

"A couple of kids have said stuff about it," Aaron Harrison said. "I feel like the big man on campus, really."

His teammate Dakari Johnson had a much more colorful description of his fortitude, but unfortunately it's PG-13 material on a PG site.

"Yeah, I (heard) it," Aaron Harrison said. "It's pretty funny. It's not surprising from Dakari. Pretty funny."

All jokes aside, if the Cats need another big shot at the Final Four and it comes down to a last shot again, don't be surprised if Coach Cal goes with the hot hand again.

Asked on Tuesday if he would lobby for the last-second shot should the situation come down to it against Wisconsin, Aaron Harrison tried to play off the big-game heroics.

"I don't know," he said, smiling. "It depends on what Coach calls."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: The song is "The Mighty Rio Grande" by the band This Will Destroy You. read more
  • Griffin: What's the name of the song that this video starts playing when describing Cal getting ejected and Aaron talking about read more
  • Quinn : It was an amazing run! I hope you all return and make another stab at it. read more
  • Sandy Spears: I completely with the person's comment above. So proud of all the young men and their accomplishments. They have everything read more
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