> Kentucky Basketball

July 12th, 2021

What if past UK players could have signed endorsement deals?

Posted by Tyler Bentley

June 24, 2021 may go down as one of the most pivotal days in the storied history of the University of Kentucky basketball program.  There were no games won, or banners raised, but rather it was an executive order issued by Governor Andy Beshear that will go down as a watershed moment in UK Athletics.  Thanks to Beshear, college athletes in the state will be able to make money from their name, image, and likeness.

For many who support NIL, this has been a long time coming.  While it is great news for today’s student-athletes, it is unfortunate for all of the past Kentucky players who never had the opportunity to benefit from endorsement deals during their time in Lexington.  Which got us here at Lex, Buds, & Pick ‘n Roll thinking, what if NIL had always been in existence?  What would have been some of the ideal business partnerships between companies and players?  After careful consideration, here are the top advertisements and slogans we would have liked to have seen for past UK basketball players:

Player:  Jamaal Magloire

Spokesperson for:  Central Kentucky Chiropractic

Slogan:  “Ask for the Wojo!”

Is your back giving you pain?  Do you have a constant crick in your neck?  Are you an annoying 5’11’’ point guard from Duke who was criminally given the 1998 Defensive Player of the Year award?  If so, visit Dr. Billy Packer and ask for “the Wojo”.  Dr. Packer’s office will bend over backwards to help meet your needs.  And if anyone knows about manipulating someone’s spine to get it in the right position, it’s Jamaal Magloire...

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May 3rd, 2021

THE TOURNAMENT: A BRACKET OF UK PLAYERS UNDER JOHN CALIPARI

Posted by Tyler Bentley

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, I am having bracket withdrawal.  Even without Kentucky in the 2021 field, I still got an emotional high from filling out a bracket, following the rankings in my office pool, and betting on individual games (of course I send all my money to foreign countries since Kentucky’s legislature is still acting like we live in the 1800s).  So let’s keep the bracket hype going!  With the season now officially over, I’ve seeded the top 68 players of the John Calipari era from 2010-2021, and put them into a bracket.  

Download Or Print Full Bracket Template Here (PDF)

Before you completely rip apart my rankings, I would like to say this was a very difficult process.  How do you compare steady 4-year players like Darius Miller and Alex Poythress to good but not great one-and-done’s like Archie Goodwin and Tyler Herro?  Do you give a player more credit for being a role player on great team like Devon Booker, or being the best player on a bad team like Davion Mintz?  I will grant you, this is completely subjective to the things I valued more.  

I present to you the 68 players and their respective seed for The Tournament. The seeds are in no particular order, meaning I did not rank all the players 1-68.  In my mind the 4 best players of the Calipari era were John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Tyler Ulis.  So they were all given 1 seeds, but were placed in random order…

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April 18th, 2021

HOW DO KENTUCKY’S INCOMING FRESHMEN COMPARE TO PLAYERS WITH THE SAME RANKING IN PREVIOUS YEARS?

Posted by Tyler Bentley

John Calipari’s 2021 recruiting class may end up being the worst ranked class of his tenure at Kentucky.  From 2009-2020, Kentucky had the honor of having the #1 or #2 ranked class every single year.  However, as it currently stands, the Cats would finish with the FIFTH best class for the upcoming season; finding themselves behind Michigan, Florida State, Duke, and Villanova.  While there is still time for this to change, it is unlikely that even another signing from this class would move them up more than a spot or two. 

The current class includes 3 signees (247Sports composite ranking):  Damion Collins (#11), Bryce Hopkins (#27), and Nolan Hickman (#31).  We decided to take a look at every recruiting class for the past 12 years, to see how other players turned out that were ranked in the same position as these 3.  In other words, how did the players ranked #11, #27, and #31 each year do at their respective colleges.  What we found was pretty interesting, and also provides some serious optimism about how good these guys could be. 

Below we break down the good, the mediocre, and the ugly, for a best-case/worst-case scenario of how each of this year’s recruits could be looked upon after their time at Kentucky is done.  Please note, each comparison is only based upon what a player did in college and with their originally committed school.  If a player transferred for example, I viewed that as a negative, because well, we hope all of these guys have success while they are here at Kentucky and not at say, UCLA, where they set all-time scoring records in the NCAA Tournament and lead their team… 

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March 10th, 2021

THE 10 BEST SEC TOURAMENT GAMES UNDER JOHN CALIPARI

Posted by Tyler Bentley

Never before has there been so much at stake in the SEC Tournament as there will be for this year’s Kentucky Wildcats.  What started as a team with a pre-season top 10 ranking and potential Final Four upside, has now finished as a team of desperation.  The team and all of Big Blue Nation are clinging to one final chance at making the NCAA Tournament, hoping that this team can do what it has failed to do during the entire regular season:  win 4 consecutive games.

As we all spend the next few days analyzing the SEC Tournament bracket and talking ourselves into how we can see this team winning the whole thing, let’s take a stroll down memory lane at the 10 best SEC Tournament games of the John Calipari era.  We all need a little dose of optimism and to remember the glorious times of tournaments past.  

 #10:  March 15, 2015:  34-0

Kentucky finished off its perfect regular season with a dominating performance in the 2015 SEC championship game.  Cruising to a 78-63 victory over Arkansas.  It was their 34th straight victory, and after the game the players decided to send the student managers out to cut down the nets because they were waiting to cut down the ones at the Final Four (*insert crying emoji*).  Check out the highlights and tell me how in the world this team ever lost a game…

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February 22nd, 2021

John Calipari ran an inbounds play! (And other takeaways from Kentucky’s HUGE win in Knoxville)

Posted by Tyler Bentley

Kentucky’s lowest and highest moments of this wild college basketball season may have come against the same opponent.  After squandering a 10-point lead with 12 minutes to go a few weeks ago at home against Tennessee, all hope appeared to be lost.  It was the Cats third loss in a row, and had many Vol fans boasting that Rick Barnes had surpassed John Calipari as the Supreme Leader of the SEC.  Flash forward to Saturday and the Cats played what is undoubtedly their most complete game of the season, dominating Tennessee 70-55.

 With their next game already canceled due to Covid issues in the Texas A&M program, the Big Blue Nation will have an entire week to soak up this win, and to also dream about how this team could totally Bad News Bears their way to an SEC Tournament Championship.  So let’s enjoy this one, and relive the high points from this huge victory.

Davion Mintz had me dreaming about roast beef sandwiches. 

OK, this one might need some explaining…

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February 7th, 2021

SILVER UNIFORMS NOT A SILVER BULLET FOR THIS TEAM’S PROBLEMS

Posted by Tyler Bentley

This Kentucky basketball team can’t even make new uniforms exciting.  In a decision that only Mitch Barnhardt could love, the Cats took the floor at Rupp Arena on an ugly, dull Saturday night wearing ugly, dull silver uniforms.  Mitch must have been doubly excited because the grayness really highlighted the checkerboards (even more than normal).  

I guess Kentucky was hoping the silver uniforms would bring good karma.  The last time they wore them was also at home against Tennessee in the 2012 championship season.  A game in which they won 69-44.  But it would take more than a new wardrobe for this team to turn things around.  Especially against a team as talented as Tennessee who is ranked number 11 in the country.  In the end, the silver uniforms were not a silver bullet for the vast problems that continue to plague this team… 

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January 28th, 2021

THE ROUND-ROBIN OF SHAME: BILLY CLYDE’S 2009 NIT TEAM VS. JOHN CALIPARI’S 2013 AND (SOON TO BE) 2021 NIT TEAMS

Posted by Tyler Bentley

You don’t have to be a Basketball Benny to know bad basketball when you see it.  It has become abundantly clear to anyone who was watched this year’s Kentucky basketball team, that they just aren’t very good.  They can’t shoot.  They make too many turnovers.  They take terrible shots.  They have a low basketball IQ.  And they can’t score, which is usually imperative to winning a basketball game.  But other than that, they have looked great!

As lifelong members of the BBN, we have all seen some great teams over the course of our lifetimes.  What we haven’t seen much of are teams like this 2021 squad, that just flat-out stink.  With the possibility of a 3rd trip to the NIT barreling towards us like a freight train, I decided to host a make-believe round-robin to determine if this is in fact the worst time of the last 30 years.

The competition?  The other 2 NIT teams of 2009 and 2013.  If you are like me and tried to block the memories of those teams from your brain or if you were ever flashy-thinged by Tommy Lee Jones, here is a rundown of the staring 5, bench players, and KenPom rankings for each team…

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January 11th, 2021

6 Reasons Why This Kentucky Basketball Team is Following the Same Path as Disney’s Mighty Ducks 2

Posted by Tyler Bentley

In 1994, the greatest sports story and greatest sequel ever were combined into one incredibly epic film.  I’m of course referring to Disney’s Mighty Ducks 2.  If you have never seen it, I encourage you to stop reading this article, and watch it immediately.  You are sure to be inspired by this group of pee-wee hockey players (who played for a team called The Ducks in the first movie) who unite to represent Team USA in the Junior Goodwill Games.  To say this film was a staple of my childhood would be an understatement.  I could quote the entire movie, and it still ticks me off that Iceland’s coach took that cheap shot against USA’s coach Gordon Bombay (played by none other than Emilio Estevez).  But is it possible that Estevez’s finest work, was actually a prophecy for the 2021 Kentucky basketball team?  Here are 6 reasons why this year’s team is eerily similar to those Mighty Ducks. 

# 1:  Both teams cruised in their first game.  

Everyone remembers that opening game, right?  If you listened to any post-game shows after Kentucky’s 81-45 victory over Morehead State, you would hear fans calling this one of Cal’s best teams, and a certain Final Four and national championship contender.  Expectations were immediately raised for a team that was already ranked in the pre-season top 10. 

Similarly, Team USA destroyed Trinidad and Tobago 9-2 in their first contest at the Goodwill Games.  Establishing themselves as the favorites to win the tournament.  Although the true winners were the spectacular uniforms the team from the Caribbean brought with them.  

I would still rather see Kentucky wear these uniforms than seeing any more checkerboard…

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January 1st, 2021

COACH CAL: “THEY CAN’T GIVE US A BAD SEED IN THE TOURNAMENT, IF WE DON’T MAKE THE TOURNAMENT.”

Posted by Tyler Bentley

It has become an annual tradition in Lexington, KY.  Every March, after the NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed, someone will ask UK Coach John Calipari what he thinks of Kentucky’s draw.  He then proceeds to discuss all the reasons why Kentucky’s region is the most difficult of any team.  This usually includes little jabs at the selection committee by asking if the Lakers are in their bracket, or if they are playing the first round in Anchorage.  

All those years of being hosed by the selection committee seems to have finally reached a boiling point with Calipari. 

After its worst start since 1911, Calipari held an urgent press conference this week to address the Big Blue Nation’s concerns about missing the Big Dance for the 2nd time in 8 years.  That is when he revealed his diabolical plan to get even with the selection committee.  Below is a transcript of his opening statement: 

Listen, you all know I’ve been doing this for a long time.  I don’t have a magic wand that can give us the #1 seed we deserve every year.  The tournament committee thinks they poop ice cream and can continue to give us the hardest draw time after time.  Well, after having so much time stuck at home quarantined this off-season, I figured out how to get them back.  I’m going to lose so many games this year that we aren’t even eligible for March Madness!  They can’t give us a bad seed in the tournament, if we don’t make the tournament!” 

As a stunned Commonwealth tuned in from Pikeville to Paducah, nobody could believe what they just heard…

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December 20th, 2020

IGNORING KENTUCKY: HOW JOHN CALIPARI’S REFUSAL TO USE IN-STATE TALENT IS HURTING THE PROGRAM AND Alienating THE FANBASE

Posted by Tyler Bentley

 “Hey, Coach, is Richie gonna play tonight?”  For years this was the number one question on every single Kentucky basketball call-in show in the late 80s.  For those of you too young to remember, “Richie” is former Kentucky Wildcat basketball player Richie Farmer, and he may be the most beloved player to ever wear the Blue and White to only average 7.6 points per game. 

Why the popularity for a kid with such a meager scoring average?  Well, a lot of it had to do with the fact that Richie grew up in Manchester, Kentucky, deep in the heart of the mountains of eastern Kentucky, where he led tiny Clay County High School to the 1987 Kentucky State Basketball Championship.  A game in which they defeated Louisville Ballard who happened to have a future NBA superstar named Allan Houston. 

By the time Richie finished his senior season in another clash with Ballard in the state finals (this time Clay Co. lost but Farmer set a title game record with 51 points), tens of thousands of Kentuckians had seen him play, and fallen in love with his game.  They couldn’t wait to see him suit up for their beloved Wildcats in Lexington and show the world how a Kentucky boy can ball.

Flash forward to 2020, where before the season started the average Kentucky fan had never seen a single minute of John Calipari’s incoming freshman class play basketball, or even know what they look like.  I’m not sure if before the season started I could tell Terrence Clarke from Sir Basil Clarke (for you history nerds he was an English war correspondent during WWI)…

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August 15th, 2020

Did Kenny Payne Really Develop Players At UK?

Posted by Tyler Bentley

Just when you think 2020 can’t get any worse, this past Tuesday, August 11th, the University of Kentucky basketball program lost one if its most important pieces for the upcoming season. No, it wasn’t a 5-star recruit, diaper-dandy freshman, or returning upperclassman (what are those?), it was Assistant Coach Kenny Payne.  KP, as he is affectionately called by his players, made the decision this week to head to the bright lights of New York City and take a role as an Assistant Coach in the NBA for the New York Knicks.

This left John Calipari with a huge hole in his coaching staff.  Coach Payne seems kind of irreplaceable.  While most assistant coaches specialize in a particular area, Kenny Payne did it all. He was an excellent recruiter, both high school kids and parents loved him.  He was great in practice, where he specialized in working with post players.  He excelled at being the “good cop.”  Whenever a player got frustrated or down on themselves after being berated by Coach Cal, KP was always there to step in and smooth things over and tell them they would get through it. Every coaching staff needs one of those guys. 

What Kenny Payne is most known for however, is his ability to develop UK’s big men.  In the world of UK Basketball, most players are only on campus for about 7 months before bolting for the NBA.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time for coaches to even teach them their system, let alone work on their individual skills to improve.  While we have seen Kentucky’s big men struggle at the beginning of the season all too often the past 11 years, they seem to always have it together by March.  And everyone around the program gives a large portion of the credit to Kenny Payne for that…

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June 24th, 2020

Lexbuds Pick Their UK Basketball Presidential Cabinet

 

Anthony Davis – Secretary of Defense?

On Episode 11 of The Lex, Buds, & Pick ‘n Roll podcast, co-hosts Brandon and Tyler each take their shot at building the perfect Presidential Cabinet, comprised entirely of UK basketball players from the past 30 years. 

Lexbuds UK Basketball Presidential Cabinet Picks

President of the United States:  Before we can build a cabinet, you must first have a President. Which former UK player has the leadership, charisma, and intelligence to be the leader of the free world?

Brandon’s PickAnthony Epps.  The starting point guard on 2 of the greatest Kentucky teams in 96 and 97, Anthony Epps is often forgotten. However, there is no doubting his leadership skills and toughness to make the correct decision.  All of which are important traits for a president.

Tyler’s PickKarl-Anthony Towns.  If you want someone who cares about people, and will kill his political opponents with kindness, look no further than KAT.  Anyone who has ever met Karl, will tell you that he is one of the nicest people you will ever find.  President Towns would make every decision with empathy to those that would be affected.

Secretary of Defense:  Best defender.

Brandon’s Pick:  Willie Cauley-Stein.  He was a first-team All-American, and it wasn’t because of what he could do on the offensive end.  WCS was the best defensive player on perhaps UK’s best defensive team. He could switch every pick and roll and guard all five positions.  Some might even call him, “positionless.”  I kind of like that term, maybe it will catch on someday.

Tyler’s Pick:  Anthony Davis.  Not only was he college basketball’s player of the year, he was also the DEFENSIVE player of the year in 2012.  How often does that happen?  Well, according to Wikipedia, only 4 times. The others were Tim Duncan, Kenyon Martin, and Shane Battier.  Not bad company. I can’t deny Anthony Davis as the best defender in UK history until the day I die…

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May 4th, 2020

AMINU TIMBERLAKE WANTS REMATCH WITH CHRISTIAN LAETTNER

The former Wildcat talks with Lex, Buds, & Pick ‘n Roll about the 1992 UK-Duke game, the stomp, and how his grandmother once left Bobby Knight speechless.

As everyone online is currently going crazy over the fact that Christian Laettner  was a member of the 1992 Dream Team (are people just NOW realizing this?), we had the pleasure this weekend of having a conversation with former Wildcat, Aminu Timberlake.  A person who will be forever linked with Laettner’s name.  While most of the country knows him simply as “that guy that Christian Laettner stomped on”, we in Big Blue Nation hold fond memories of him and wanted to find out Aminu’s perspective of that moment and the game, now that it has been almost 30 years (how is that possible?). 

There were a LOT of great tidbits from our interview, including: Bernadette Locke-Maddox being a pioneer and why there aren’t more female coaches in college basketball, his recruitment under Rick Pitino and the convoy of Town Cars that arrived at his house for his home visit, and..

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April 26th, 2020

COACH BILLY GILLISPIE REFLECTS BACK ON HIS OLD KENTUCKY HOME

In a very candid and revealing interview with Lex, Buds, & Pick N’ Roll, the former Kentucky Coach discusses Jodie Meeks, his feelings on coming back to Rupp, and why UK fans might need cough syrup. 

 

I still vividly remember the day Billy Gillispie was introduced as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.  It was during Spring Break of my Senior year of college. And as I’m sure most of my fellow Colonels at EKU were doing that week, I was sitting at home in my pajamas watching SportsCenter.

It had been about 2 weeks since Tubby Smith resigned, and despite the fact that your cousin’s neighbor’s realtor had assured you that Billy Donovan had been in Lexington to close the deal on a house, UK was still without a head basketball coach.  Everyone was getting a little antsy, and as days grew into weeks, the speculation only increased.

When SportsCenter was interrupted with breaking news, I thought maybe this could be it. And it was…

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April 13th, 2020

MARCH SADNESS: MY INTERNAL STRUGGLE TO LIVE THROUGH A MARCH WITHOUT AN NCAA TOURNAMENT (AND A BRACKET)

Posted by Tyler Bentley

March Madness Image on Basketball Court

If you are reading this article, odds are you are a UK basketball fan. And if you’re a UK basketball fan, odds are that nothing gets you quite as excited as March Madness.  From the SEC Tournament, to Selection Sunday, to the best 4 days of the calendar year when there is basketball on from Noon to midnight, March just means more to Kentuckians.

So how the heck did we all just survive the last few weeks with no NCAA Tournament?  We are certainly living in unprecedented times, and if you had told me 6 months ago that there would not be an NCAA Champion this year, I would have assumed it was because Kansas or Louisville had hired too many strippers for their students again.  I would never have dreamed it would be canceled because of something called Covid-19.  I know this has been a difficult time for us all, but let me share why not having a tournament was especially difficult for me.

My Addiction to Brackets

This is my first article for Lex, Buds, & Pick ‘n Roll, and I feel like if I’m going to continue to post more articles for your reading pleasure, I need to be honest and confess something to you. I have an addiction.  To brackets.

Now I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, I love brackets too and love filling out one for my office pool every year, what’s the big deal?”  Well, let me tell you why.  My obsession with brackets extends beyond March.  When I was just a young lad growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, I made brackets for everything.  I couldn’t just play a random game of “Sports Talk Baseball’ on my Sega Genesis, I would have to put every team into a bracket that I would hand-create and spend all night playing each game until I had a winner.  I would make my own…

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April 10th, 2020

WOULD UK HAVE WON THE 2020 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP?

Posted by Tyler Bentley

NCAA Final Four Trophy Image

Many, many years from now, some young UK fan will be looking at a list of all the previous NCAA tournament champions (because I’m sure that’s what people will do in the future). And they will see that in a 7-year period in the first quarter of the 21st century, there were 2 years where * was the national champion.  This person in the future will then probably turn on the Google web browser installed in their retina to learn about the names Katina Powell and Minardi Hall.  Next, they will read about the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, and how every sporting event in the world got shut down.  This unknown future dweller will then probably find themselves thinking, as all of us UK fans will undoubtedly wonder for the rest of our lives, “would Kentucky have won the 2020 NCAA Tournament?” 

My hope is that their Google Retina, will lead them down a wormhole that ultimately lands them on this article.  Well, young whippersnapper, you are in luck.  Here for your reading pleasure are the arguments for and against UK winning the 2020 title, and who the numbers say would have actually won it.

Depending on whether you are a glass is half-full or glass is half-empty type of person, you could make whatever prediction you wanted about this past years University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.  This team could have cut down the nets, or gotten knocked out in the 2nd round.  Lord knows there is plenty of evidence to support either theory.  Let’s start with the optimistic view.

 The Cup is Half Full

We have seen year after year that backcourts win chips, and have unfortunately seen guards that single-handedly will their team to a title (i.e. Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier for UConn).  In end of game situations, it is guards who have the ball in their hands and are trusted to make the right decision, or when things break down use their God given talent to make something happen.  UK was blessed with…

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