Archive for March, 2011

Future Kentucky player Michael Gilcrist at age 13

Last nights McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago saw 24 of the best incoming Freshman on the court at once. If you’re a fan of Louisville and Kentucky it was a peek at the future of each program. The Cards and Cats combined for six ( 4-UK, 2-UL) of the twenty-four players. Including the games co-MVP Michael Gilcrist.

The game was won by the West 111-96 over the East. The West team included future Kentucky player Michael Gilcrist ( 16 points 12 rebounds) and future Louisville Cardinal Chane Behanan (4 points, 3 rebounds). The East team included incoming  UK players Anthony Davis (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks), Marquis Teague ( 9 points, 3 assists), and Kyle Wiltjer ( 11 points, 2 rebounds) as well as incoming Louisville player Wayne Blackshear (2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists). Davis and Blackshear are both Chicago natives but Blackshear had hurt his shoulder in a practice a couple of days before the game. The injury caused him to only play a small amount of minutes (8 minutes).

Louisville and Kentucky were not the only Ohio Valley schools being represented though. Future Hoosier Cody Zellar (brother of North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller) was also on the West team roster. Scoring 10 points and grabbing 3 rebounds. Maybe giving IU fans at least a glimpse of hope for the future.

Here is a video of the six future players talking trash with each other before the game….

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Bacon Bits: MLB Opening Day is Here

Posted: March 31, 2011 by Bacon in Outside the Ville

Opening day is here for Major League baseball. Today begins a 162 game season for most of the 30 teams, while others begin tomorrow. There are several story lines to keep an eye on but the one from a local aspect is “Can the Reds repeat their 2010 miracle season?”

Last year the Reds went from 4th place and six games below .500 in 2009 to a Central Division title in 2010. Their first in 15 years and just their third in the last 28 years. Some things have changed over the off-season for Dusty Bakers Reds. The Reds last season had a great mix of explosive offense, good defense, come from behind wins, and a deep pitching rotation. Here are some questions surrounding the upcoming 2011 (and hopefully repeat Central Division Champs) season.

1) Can Joey Votto repeat his MVP season?

The reigning National League MVP had a spectacular season last year. Leading the Reds in home runs (37), runs batted in (113), batting average (.324), hits (177), and runs scored (106). As well as leading the majors in on base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.600).  Votto was a one man wrecking crew for the Reds as you can see. His season led the Reds to sign him to a contract extension. Bringing his salary from 525,000 in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2011.  Will he continue his MVP like numbers entering just his third full MLB season now he has the big money contract or have we seen the best the Toronto native has to offer?

2) Will the pitching rotation repeat last season’s great work?

Aaron Harang moved on to the San Diego Padres and team leader in wins last season Bronson Arroyo (17) is starting the season on the DL. It was the young arms though that were the biggest surprise for the Reds. Rookie Mike Leake was an impressive 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA and Baker got great fill in starts from Travis Wood (5-4,  3.51 ERA) and Sam LeCure (2-5, 4.50 ERA). Edinson Volquez will be back full strength from Tommy John surgery after only pitching the last few month last year. Will he ever be back to his 2008 (17 wins) form? Then there is Homer Bailey. The former first round pick finally showed the stuff last year in some starts that caused the Reds to take him in the first round. Going 4-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 19 starts. If he can improve on what seemed to be a break through season the Reds could repeat.

3) What will Aroldis Chapman second season bring?

The Red shocked many winning the bidding war for the young flame throwing lefty from Cuba. The 22-year-old was given some spot bullpen duty last year, going 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA. He would top 100 mph on several pitches leading to his 19 strike outs in just 13.1 innings pitched. The kid could be another Dwight Gooden (without the crack habit I hope). If he makes even a few steps forward in his growth as a starting pitcher there is no reason the Reds will have their first back-to-back winning season since 1999 / 2000.

Open Letter to UCONN from Cardinal Nation

Posted: March 31, 2011 by robjoneslyes in Posted by Rob Jones

TC is a loyal supporter of both Louisville athletics and Louisville Sports Buzz. He wrote this letter to UCONN fans/players/coaches in preparation for their match-up in Houston Saturday night against Kentucky on behalf of Cardinal Nation. I think it pretty much sums up how most Cards’ fan feel going into the game for a right to play for the national title. Follow him on Twitter (@TCBigSmooth). Hope you enjoy it…

Dear Huskies, 

Let me say this first: I know we’ve had our differences. The most recent and obvious one coming less than three weeks ago when you broke our hearts in the Big East Championship. That was supposed to be Preston’s. And I know you guys still cringe at the thought of Peyton Siva going to work in double overtime in Storrs and then again down here. He owns you. And he will again next year. It’s not personal. Just business. Please don’t hold it against us.

But seriously, what about Larry Taylor and his fake fair catches? Huh? You know that was garbage. You still owe us one.

But today, and this weekend, we stand united. Let’s set aside our differences. For the greater good. We’re willing to shrug off the Big East Championship, Larry Taylor, Jim Calhoun’s indiscretions, even the unrelenting coverage of your women’s obnoxious coach and Maya Moore, if you can take them down Saturday.

You have to.

If you’re a Red Sox fan, think of the most annoying Yankees fan you know, multiple his ignorance and cockiness by 100, divide his IQ by 3, then clone him 2 million times. That’s what we’re dealing with down here. They’re delusional, cocky, disrespectful, uneducated, obnoxious, super arrogant, and rude.  And that’s just their women. The men are the real rednecks. They walk around with a sense of self-entitlement. And they carry these traits and behave in this manner even when their team misses the NCAA tourney, loses a Bowl game in Nashville, or adds another year of probation to their resume.

Lately, they’ve been burning couches in the middle of the street. They got their flags waiving off their souped-up pickup trucks with the Monster tires. You can’t go to the gas station without seeing one in a bright sweatshirt getting the next can of dip, looking smug and presumptuous, wondering why (s)he, as a member of that group, even has to go buy their own Skoal. I can’t live like this much longer.

But you can help. Please take care of business Saturday. Please. I’m sorry I called Jim Calhoun an arrogant jerk. I’m sorry I wished Larry Taylor to hell. I promise I will never refer to you people as “New England elitism” ever again, and once a year I will cheer for the Patriots. Please. Don’t do it for us. Do it for yourselves. Don’t you want another banner? Do it for the Big East. Do it for Kemba and the Calhoun-haters.

Whatever your motivation, just get it done. We march with you, 

Sincerely Yours,

Cardinal Nation

Kentucky fans travel and follow their beloved Wildcats anywhere they go and in large numbers. So when UK clinched their first Final Four in thirteen years you can imagine the amount of Makers Mark that will be requested at all local bars in Houston, Texas this week. 

Big Blue Nation will be there in huge numbers hoping to come home with a championship just like they did in 1998. Looking at the rest of the Final Four and the match-ups I can see why UK fans are already starting to figure out their celebrations on next Monday night.

In what UK fans are referring to as the “revenge tour” in this tournament Kentucky will get a shot at making up for an earlier loss this season in their game on Saturday. The Wildcats have already had their revenge on West Virginia in the second round ( losing to them in the regional final last year) and knocked off North Carolina (losing to the Tar Heels back in November). Now it’s time to get payback on the Huskies and Kemba Walker.

Connecticut gave Kentucky their first loss of the season back in the Maui tournament in November. It has been the worst loss of the season for a Wildcats team who has eight losses but the 84-67 defeat to the Huskies is the only loss by more than seven points. Maui was where the “Legand of Kemba” began this season.

It is clear these two teams are completely different since that match-up. All except that Kemba Walker is still a one man wrecking crew. Since these two storied programs met both teams have seen many changes. For example the rise of fame from UK center Josh “Jorts” Harrellson. The November 24th match-up was one of only three times this season that the beloved jean short wearing center was held scoreless. A stat that was thought as no big deal before he became the white Moses Malone in te SEC tournament and continued through the NCAA tournament. 

It was also a game that UK fans saw Eloy Vargas clock a season high 19 minutes off the bench. Vargas has played a grand total of 19 minutes in the last 5 games (NCAA tournament and SEC title game). The changes do go both ways.  UConn Freshman Jeremy Lamb, who is averaging 14 points per game through the Big East and NCAA tournament, had just two points and a season-low two field goal attempts in their previous match-up.

Of course the pendulum does swing both ways. Another UConn Freshman Niels Giffey scored a career-high 14 points and played 33 minutes in the Huskies win. He has broken the double-digit plateau just once since and played no more than 21 minutes in a game since as well. Kentucky’s Freshman star Terrence Jones scored a team-high 24 points in the Wildcats loss. He would continue those high scoring ways throughout the early part of the season but it has been when Jones decided to take less shots and look to pass out of more double teams that this UK team has really begun to be unbeatable. Kentucky is 4-4 this season when he scores more than 20 points in a game.

This will be just the fourth time these two school have ever met. Connecticut leads the series 2-1 and are 1-0 versus UK in NCAA tournament play. That game was a 87-83 UConn win came in the second round of the 2006 tournament.

Morning Buzz 3.28.11

Posted: March 28, 2011 by robjoneslyes in Posted by Rob Jones

Happy 42nd Birthday to a thorn in the side of many Louisville fans, former Memphis State guard Elliot Perry

Good morning Buzz fans!

Kentucky is back in the Final Four after 13 long years for the Big Blue faithful. They have done it in an improbable fashion by beating the #! seed Ohio St. and #2 seed North Carolina en route to Houston. What started as an improbable run now has UK in the drivers seat to win championship #8. If you thought their fans were obnoxious before, wait until you hear them this week. It’ll be a long, long week for anyone not wearing the color blue and not long enough for Cats fans.

Today on the Sports Buzz…

In 1998, Jeff Sheppard had a similar run with a group that wasn’t supposed to get as far as they did. He will join the Sports Buzz at about 9:15 to give his thoughts on this years team and reflect on his ’98 run on Talk Radio 1080 AM in Louisville.

Bang it here to listen streaming online via TalkRadio1080.com

Listen via the iHeartRadio app on your smart phone

This day in Sports…

March 28, 1992 – Down by one to Kentucky with two seconds remaining on the clock, in overtime, Duke’s Grant Hill heaves an inbounds pass some 80 feet to Christian Laettner near the foul line. Laettner dribbles once, fakes right, turns left and sinks a 17-footer to win the NCAA East Regional championship game and earn another trip to the Final Four. Many consider it the most exciting moment in the history of the NCAA tournament.

Current Xavier coach Chris Mack

Power conference schools needing a coach every year wait and watch for that coach to take their small school far in the tournament. Hoping to be able to hire the next great name in coaching. It is a story as old as time. Before Bruce Pearl was breaking rules and giving Tennessee their schools best run in history, he was taking UW-Milwaukee to their schools only sweet sixteen. Don Munson grabbed the hearts of America by leading Gonzaga to the regional finals in 1999 and then left Spokane for Minnesota. Butler’s current hot name coach Brad Stevens received his opportunity because the man before him, Todd Lickliter left for Iowa.

 

It seems to happen every year. Last year it was Cornell coach Steve Donahue who parlayed his success to a job at Boston College. This year coaches Donnie Tyndall (Morehead State) and Chris Mooney (Richmond) will get phone calls from different power conference schools who are in need of a new leader. It has always been a crap shoot in the past. For every Bruce Pearl or Anthony Grant though you might get a Don Munson or Todd Lickliter.

There seems over the last decade or so an exception to the rule. A school that has been batting Ted Williams like numbers when it comes to sending their coaches to a power conference. That school is Xavier. Since 1986 the Xavier Musketeers have had  five different head coaches (including current head coach Chris Mack) and the four of those men who have moved on have all done so with great success.

In 1995 Xavier coach Pete Gillen left the school for  a job with Providence. Starting the current trend. Gillen would spend four years at Providence, going 125-72 while leading the Friars to the regional final. Losing in overtime to eventual national champion Arizona.

Skip Prosser would take over for Gillen and after 7 years at the helm there, compiling a 213-148 before moving on to Wake Forest. Prosser passed away unexpectedly in 2007 but before then he helped bring the Demon Deacons back to their winning ways.  Winning over 21 games in his first four seasons there.

Following Prosser and Gillen for the Musketeers would be Thad Matta. He would spend just 3 seasons, going to the NCAA tournament in all three, including a regional final loss. Matta would take the job at Ohio State where he took over a program facing sanctions and in a short time has built the Buckeyes into one of the premiere teams in college basketball.

Sean Miller would be the next in line to have success at Xavier and beyond. In Miller’s 5 years replacing Matta, taking them to four tournament appearances. Including a second round, sweet sixteen, and regional final appearances. In Miller’s second season at Arizona this year he has returned the Wildcats to the regional finals after knocking off #1 seed Duke in convincing fashion.

So kids what is the lesson we have learned today? If you are looking for a coach maybe consider current Xavier coach Chris Mack. Was an overtime loss in the sweet sixteen to Kansas State last year from reaching the regional finals and this year (only his second season) won 24 games before falling in the first round.

Now other schools may have mild success in producing coaches. Virgina Commonwealth recently produced Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, while current head coach Shaka Smart may be moving on after this tournament. Not the Rams of VCU or any other school can match though the nearly two decade success of Xavier. Maybe one day one of their great coaches will stay but unfortunately for them that is the price you pay for being a “stepping stone” program.

Is Arizona shocking the world?

Posted: March 25, 2011 by Bacon in Outside the Ville

Two years ago Arizona was hanging on by a thread keeping their streak of NCAA tournament hopes alive by barely sneaking into the tournament as a #12-seed. The Wildcats would go on and upset #5 seeded Utah and then #13 seeded Cleveland State to reach the sweet sixteen. Then interem coach Russ Pennell ran into the top seeded Louisville Cardinals and a buzz saw. Louisville manhandled Arizona, beating them senseless 103-64.

The next year Arizona hired Xavier head coach Sean Miller and for the first time in 25 years the Arizona Wildcats were not invited to the NCAA tournament. Making it the first time since another man was in his first year in Tucson. That man was Lute Olson in 1984 and I think he went on to have a pretty good career.

In just his second year Sean Miller has returned the glory of Arizona basketball that Lute Olson once built. Being led by Sophomores like Lamont Jones, Solomon Hill, and superstar Derrick Williams who all came to the desert with Miller last year. Arizona won it’s first Pac-10 regular season title since 2005 and getting them to thier first regional final since also 2005.

All three member of this Sophomore class are key players in Arizona’s current tournament run and upset of Duke last night but none more then versitle big man Derrick Williams.

Last year as a Freshman Williams led the Wildcats in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg) and field goal percentage (.574). Making him the first Freshman in Arizona history to do so. Williams raised his game for his second season in Tucson but he has been a true superstar in this tournament play.

So far Williams is averaging 23 points a game and 10 rebounds a game. Both improvement from his season averages of 19 points and 8 rebounds a game. He blocked Memphis last second shot in the first round to seal the victory. Along with a modest 22 points and 10 rebounds. With Arizona trailing Texas in the final seconds it was….you guessed it, Derrick Williams who drove to the basket and getting the two points and a foul to give them a lead and trip to the sweet sixteen. So when Williams treated the Plumlee brothers last night like the gimp from Pulp Fiction, scoring 32 points at ease and grabbing 13 rebounds. Was anyone really shocked?

While the country (including me) was looking forward to a Kemba Walker vs Nolan Smith match-up in the regional final. Don’t worry everyone cause we will still get the chance at watching two superstars carring their teams to a cinderalla final four run.