Whitesburg KY
Mostly clear
Mostly clear

Prediction: Cats over Marquette

Two things come to mind as I write this week’s column on events surrounding UK basketball:

No. 1. The end of another UK basketball season is near and trust me, sports fans, for about 2-1/2 minutes in the Georgia Dome last Friday evening I thought the end was inevitable for all of us. I know this, for that same 2-1/2 -minute period Patrick Patterson’s stress fracture, Jodie Meeks’s hip fracture, and UK being a bubble team for the NCAA’s were of no significance at all to me.

It was life-changing scary; there’s no way that TV could have done the ordeal justice. I’ve never been one to live his life at the foot of the cross but do consider myself a solid citizen who believes in the American way. However before I laid head to pillow late last Friday night in my motel room, I did give thanks to my maker and will do so on a more often basis the rest of my life.

No. 2. Coaches and parents of today’s youth teach daily (at least most I think do anyway) if you work hard, stay positive, and be patient as well as persistent, good things will happen to you in life and sports.

Well, maybe there is some merit in those qualities because after six months of some of the most bizarre player injuries and quirks of bad luck experiences one could imagine in the crazy world of college basketball, Billy Gillispie and his troops received the coveted prize that all NCAA Div. 1-A basketball teams cherish the most – an invitation to the NCAA basketball tournament, better known as the Big Dance.

Yes, at approximately 6:35 Sunday evening CBS announced that UK would be making an NCAA record 49th appearance in the NCAA tournament, another feather in the cap of college basketball’s winningest program. It will be the Cats’ 17th consecutive appearance in college basketball’s showcase tournament. Kentucky (18-12 overall, 12-4 SEC), a No. 11 seed, will face Marquette (24-9 overall, 11- 7 Big East), a No. 6 seed, Thursday at 2:30 EST on CBS (WYMT Hazard or WKYT Lexington). The Wildcats’ No. 11 seed is its second lowest in the program’s rich and storied history. The only lower seed belonged to the 1985 Wildcats, who entered that tournament as a No. 12 seed.

Marquette had a solid season in the tough Big East conference and will serve as a tough opening round opponent for UK. But looking a little deeper at this particular team; it could be a better match-up sizewise for the Cats than an even higher seed. This particular Marquette team relies on strong guard and perimeter play (sounds familiar) and doesn’t seem to possess any special interior talents or size, which should make for an interesting game with realistic chances at advancing to the second round for the Cats.

With UK’s present roster, senior guards Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford must be at the top of their game for the Cats to pull out a win. It’s just about imperative that those two put up 35 to 40 points between them for UK to succeed in the competition they will be up against for the remainder of postseason play.

I’ll go out on a very strong limb and predict Ramel Bradley will rebound from his SEC tourney nightmare and combine with Joe Crawford to lead UK to a first round win against Marquette, but the buck may stop with the Stanford Cardinals in round two Saturday.

News and notes

from SEC Tourney

• Rumors among the media and SEC officials were strong that Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings was a hot candidate for the Indiana coaching vacancy. Also, reportedly LSU and South Carolina were in a bidding war for the services of Anthony Grant of Virginia Commonwealth to take over their struggling programs. Travis Ford’s name was being banded about as an alternate candidate at both schools should they not get their first choice.

• While sitting on press row at courtside waiting for the nets to be replaced Thursday between opening round games, Mike Pratt, UK’s radio color commentator and former star forward on one of Adolph Rupp’s best teams of the ’70s era, shared a story with us from those testy Adolph Rupp-Ray Mears years. Seems as though Mears hated Rupp and UK so bad that he wanted every advantage possible when the Cats came to Knoxville and, according to Pratt, ordered the Vol managers to change the nets of the goals after UK had its pre game warm-ups and went back to the dressing room and before the Cats came out to start the game. Tighter and shorter ropetype nets were placed on the rims at UK’s end then reversed at halftime. Pratt swears by this story and gets it verified occasionally when in the presence of former UT players of his era.

• Pat Riley was in attendance on Thursday to evaluate the skills of LSU’s megatalented 6’11” freshman Anthony Randolph. According to Riley, look for Randolph to go in the first round of the NBA draft and expect Michael Beasley of Kansas State and Eric Gordon of Indiana to be lottery picks. Patrick Patterson, in Riley’s eyes, is one, maybe even two years away from entering the NBA.

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