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Cats leave trail of bruised psyches




Bob Watkins Sports in Kentucky

Bob Watkins Sports in Kentucky

We arrive at a place in winter when fans aligned with a college team in Kentucky can bask a little, brag a little, second-guess a little, plan a little and expect a lot more.

With a run of 17 wins in a-row, Kentucky (25-1) is at the top of all it surveys once more — a lofty perch Big Blue Nation fans expect to occupy every winter.

John Calipari’s Kentucky has not only beaten opponents, but also bruised psyches in Chapel Hill, Louisville, Knoxville, Nashville and Gainesville, where the Gators may have had a nervous breakdown. In demoralizing ways — see Anthony Davis blocked shots file — teams aren’t the same after Kentucky.

As UK rolls on amid gathering whispers of run-the-table, what certainly comes with current prosperity and win-out possibility and bandwagon delirium is an echo from a time distant. The season reminds us of 1978 when more than one fan said, “If we don’t win the national championship our season will be a disappointment.”

UK’s Anthony Davis dunked at Vanderbilt. (AP photo)

UK’s Anthony Davis dunked at Vanderbilt. (AP photo)

Thanks to Jack Givens, things turned out well enough in St. Louis on March 27, 1978.

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For three and a half months, the Murray State Racers turned back all- comers, climbed the polls and became America’s Little Darling. Then, Tennessee State went to Murray. Before Coach Steve Prohm could say “what happened?” the then No. 7-ranked Racers had a loss at home and had a new title from ESPN — bubble team.

This week is moment of truth time for bubble team Murray and its next opponent — St. Mary’s.

To get a new EKG read on Murray State’s heart and St. Mary’s (23-3), the Gaels visits this weekend fresh off a 73-59 whuppin’ at Gonzaga.

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Borrowing a metaphor from nearby Churchill Downs, Rick Pitino’s Louisville team looks like a team coming to the far turn in the Derby two lengths off the lead — with fresh legs and nose in the wind. Even though the Cardinals lost narrowly to Syracuse Monday night, UofL remains a team with a good run still in the tank and high seed hopes, Big East and beyond.

West Virginia won’t be back, neither will Syracuse.

So, King Kentucky, “bubble team” Murray State, and Big Mo Louisville are all headed to a party in March.

Postscript: Here’s hoping Murray State is dispatched to what could be the best chance- toadvance region in the NCAA Tournament — the West Region.

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At Western Kentucky University, interim coach Ray Harper remains the people’s choice and received a ringing endorsement from a local newspaper recently, but it’s still wait-and-see for the man whose supporters have started to call themselves Harper Heads. I like it.

Still, John Pelphrey and Richard Pitino will be interviewed for the Hilltoppers’ job. For different reasons neither is a fit at Western.

As Ralph Willard did before him, young Pitino is shopping for a starter head job. And, as Willard jumped to Pitt, Pitino would keep his bags packed.

Pelphrey has already done the Sun Belt, coaching at South Alabama before a too-soon (and bad) job jump to Arkansas. Pelphrey never looked good wearing red. To regain career momentum and stay on track for chance at his dream job, the Paintsville native’s next head job should be at a school in a major conference, preferably in the south.

At Western in 2012, stability, recruiting and loyalty are priorities. Harper’s credentials fill the bill.

Besides, Harper is the best candidate for a four- to five-year contract that ought to require of all other applicants, a lie detector test.

Now, how about an endorsement from the Godfather of WKU, John Oldham?

Carole King and Me

Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Carole King had a milestone birthday last week. Me too.

King is old enough to have penned the classic “You’ve Got a Friend” for her pal James Taylor. Yet at 70, she’s still a beauty.

As for me, a reader emailed last week with a reminder that I’m old enough to remember Adolph Rupp and able to skip past comparing Kentucky phenom Anthony Davis to Marcus Camby and go straight to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

It’s true. At 19, Davis is ahead of Camby at any stage of the latter’s career and has far more than Russell’s shotblock instincts. Davis runs the floor as well as Russell did, and the kid has a softtouch jump shot with range.

My advanced age allows the advantage of knowing

University of Kentucky basketball has had 38 All Americans (chosen 56 times). A dozen played center, including Hall of Famers Cliff Hagan and Dan Issel. Davis’s game is already broader and better rounded than all 12.

Tragedy is, the decadent NBA will make Davis a millionaire too soon, which squelches any argument on whether or not the 19-yearold is best of them all at Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Carole King is 70 and she’s still a beauty.

Roll On, Burgin!

Burgin High won its 20th basketball game of the season last week.

America’s No. 11097th ranked team, Burgin last had a 20-win season four decades ago.

With two regular season games left after visiting Garrard County Tuesday night and the district tournament ahead, coach Don Irvine’s team (20-7) was three wins shy of establishing a new school record for wins.

If you’d like to know more about the Burgin Bulldogs, Google Burgin Bulldogs Basketball on the internet.


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