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Sports in Kentucky

'Bubble' talk now surrounds Kentucky basketball



Memphis . . . North Carolina . . . Kansas . . . UCLA . . .

Prime contenders all, for NCAA Tournament top seeds. But the emerging fun-to-watch dark horse group on Road to the Final Four is more eye-catching in February. Louisville, Purdue, Tennessee and Washington State one or all could be at the Georgia Dome on last day of March. UofL’s win over No. 6 Georgetown last week had earmarks of a Final Four run. The Cardinals were efficient, set tempo, patient for shots, relentless defensively, smart down the stretch and David Padgett at anchor.

Purdue stunned us, won at Wisconsin. Matt Painter’s Boilermakers might be the most entertaining

team in basketball. Rated nowhere in preseason, Purdue is too young to be this good. But the Boilers top the Big Ten standings.

Tennessee is talented, deep and has swagger despite those clown-ish head bands. The swagger could easily be the Vols’ undoing since Bruce Pearl’s prima donnas play best with shirt tails out. Just short of YMCA ball.

Washington State Teams to watch and enjoy: Louisville, Purdue and Tennessee.

Kentucky Bubble?

Keystone Cops turnover totals aside, Billy Clyde Gillispie’s blue collar Kentucky is overachieving. UK forged a fivegame streak by making opponents play Gillispie Grinder ball.

The Wildcats’ next three weeks could produce Big Dance bubble talk.

How? Take 18 wins into SEC Tournament play and win twice.

Ugly Ball

Once upon a time, college hoops was compared to ballet because of its grace, precision and physical stamina. Today it’s Survivorman.

Sportsmanship is as rare as a Bob Knight story without a chair. Coaches ignore bad behavior as players grab shirts, swing elbows or a forearm to the chops. Trash talk is ruthless and a hard foul is followed by a sneer. Ugly ball.

When Georgia’s Dave Bliss fouled Ramel Bradley February 2, Kentucky’s coach saw nothing wrong. Nor did Georgia’s Dennis Felton. I did. Why didn’t Bliss or Felton show concern? Sportsmanship over gamesmanship?

During player introductions at Champaign, Illinois guard Chester Frazier ignored the outstretched hand of Indiana freshman Eric Gordon and stuck him with a shoulder. IU’s Kelvin Sampson shrugged and Illini coach Bruce Weber said he didn’t see it. Ugly. Hard fouls are fair, but should be followed by good behavior. I think directors of athletics ought to examine how student athletes represent their sports programs. Players inflame crowds, show minimal respect to visiting opponents. There’s too much anger. Bliss’s foul on Bradley was part of the game, but the aftermath should not be. The UK player was prostrate on the floor and Bliss walked away. Frazier’s shot at Gordon was cheap. Weber ignoring it fueled an already hateful Illinois crowd. Weber, Gillispie, Felton, all coaches should be reminded – parents of a high school prospects see what goes on and ask themselves: “Do we want our son playing for a coach who allows this stuff?”

College game officiating crews are guilty also. Referees allow players to talk too much. Why not a pre-tip-off warning? “Hey! There’s a little kid in the fourth row who thinks you’re a hero. Show some respect. Play the game and shut up!”

College basketball used to be like ballet.

Just Wondering Dept.

When ESPN “Game Day” will discover a ratings gold mine, NAIA basketball, and set up at Georgetown College, and celebrate the perennial power Tigers (25-0). Could be a grassroots ratings bonanza.

Bob Knight Do-Over?

If someone stuffed a dollar in your pocket for every paragraph written about Bob Knight, you could put your mother-in-law in a condo at Palm Beach for life.

In Lubbock last week Knight’s resignation almost pulled Wolf Blitzer away from Hillary and Obama. It was accompanied by the usual video clips. Bob throws chair; Bob chokes player; Bob demonstrates game face.

Then came the stream of testimonials (soft music, please) assessing Knight’s place in basketball’s pantheon. Then media critics slammed Knight for quitting on his team in midseason.

Quitting on college players is new? Gee, what was it Bob Huggins did last year at Kansas State? And, John Beilein at Wester Virginia and Billy Clyde Gillispie at Texas A&M?

Then came newspaper columnists braying about Bob the bully, Bob the coward, Bob the arrogant, Bob the misunderstood. Bob the ticking bomb headed for his Woody Hayes moment.

I identified with and liked best that Knight had what every working man wants – option to leave when he chooses, on his own terms.

Knight handed his son a D-I job, watched ex-Indiana players lobby for a statue at IU, then left a MacArthurian hint that he might return.

Finally, a parade of national columnists jockeying to one-up each other with prose and psycho-babble about who Knight is. Again.

First up, Mike Lopresti, at Gannett News Service, wrote: “I’d like to take maybe 10 moments in Knight’s career and give him a do-over.”

Ten do-overs?

In a southpaw kind of way, Lopresti’s snooty idea has utility. Let’s all lobby for 10 doovers. Maybe the man at Gannett has an ‘in’ with The Man upstairs.

If Bob Knight rates 10 doovers, maybe you or I need only five. Lemme make a list. You make one too.

And so it goes.

Have a comment (or a list) to share, write to Bob Watkins, Sprtsinky@aol.com.

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