When is a hang-on win better than a blow-out? When it produces a North Carolina-Kentucky game film in December.
Reward? Kentucky takes a No. 4 ranking and 8-0 record to Madison Square Garden against Connecticut.
UK’s star-studded lineup reminds us of rookie season for Dan Issel, Mike Pratt and Mike Casey. A team that got off to a 9-1 start and No. 4 ranking.
And, Win No. 2,000 in UK basketball history will happen where it should: in Rupp Arena against Drexel or Long Beach State.
Items John Calipari will point out on game film.
1. Defense was superb. Wins games. Carolina shot 39 percent putting up 13 more shots than Kentucky.
2. First 20 minutes, offense was like old times. UK’s go-to-guy was whoever ran the floor, who battled for rebounds and who got his feet set for shots. Team-ness.
3. John Wall is an “all-of-that” slashing wonderboy, but consistently good decision-making is still second place to the Sportscenter show-time play. Seven turnovers.
4. DeMarcus Cousins will see on film what a 6-11, 250-pound whiner wearing a headband looks like on national television.
5. The clutch play hero-at-theend was Eric Bledsoe. Good for him. Good for the team.
6. Future? An Adolph Rupp ploy from 50 years ago is worth repeating. In 1959 Rupp introduced new players to his All- American holdover Johnny Cox, saying “so, get him the (bleepin’) ball!,” (at crunch time). Patrick Patterson had only 12 shots in 37 minutes. Down the stretch Saturday, he should have touched the ball.
John Wall & ‘KISS’
Christmas season. Think celestial with angels singing glories and fallen angels singing the blues.
As often happens in fickle sports, the media herd gets into a frenzy now-and-then and anoints this or that athlete icon status.
Last week Kentucky media shamelessly proclaimed its new icon — John Wall. Five games into his first (only?) college season, the kid was hoisted up just as another icon was in free fall on the way down from Icon Heaven.
Tiger Woods told earthlings what we already knew. “I am not perfect.” Really.
Says here, Kentucky’s 18- year-old kid would do well to pay attention to Tiger’s demise and ignore fevered metro media types who are showing symptoms of full blown KISS.
King Icon Shame (on you) Syndrome.
Wall will realize that icon Tiger is rich enough to buy his own country, famous enough to have his name in sentences with Ali, influential enough that a President returns his Twitters and yet happiness is still a tricky business. Go figure.
Wall will see that icon Tiger has stuff, ivory, platinum and otherwise, a beautiful wife and kids and this week he’s looking squarely into face of Dixie Chicks damage control.
So, Icon World. John Wall would do well to ignore it all, be a college kid, play the game, keep smiling.
Those who would make Wall an icon are to young to remember or too gullible to recognize their KISS symptoms.
A little history:
• Kelly Coleman was made an icon half century ago. Crowned King by a sports writer. The title, and all that went with it, did him no favor.
• A generation later, Ervin Stepp at Phelps was points king. Led the nation averaging 53 points in 29 games. Iconic enough for a CBS-Television feature. All the points and titles did Stepp no favors either.
• A skinny kid emerged from Owensboro. Extraordinary hops, instincts and pizzazz, Rex Chapman was anointed King Rex. He arrived at Kentucky with astronomic expectation, grew weary of celebrity and skipped the last two years of childhood for NBA money, made lots from a mediocre career and is mostly forgotten.
John Wall? Beware of icon-makers. Media types fevered with KISS.
More likely, kiss of death.
Kentucky versus Clemson December 27 in the Disappointment Bowl. Ah, Music City Bowl.
Clemson’s bowl invite: Losing its last two games, the Tigers went from being BCS hopeful to a trip to Nashville, Music City Bowl.
Kentucky? Double bitter pill: Loss to Tennessee cost the Wildcats a trip to Tampa on New Year’s Day. Instead, a team Kentucky defeated, Auburn, plays Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.
• Idiot No. 1. Florida’s Carlos Dunlap, best lineman for unbeaten Gators and projected as an NFL draft first rounder, was found asleep at the wheel of his car at a Gainesville intersection near 4 a.m., days before the SEC title game. Arrested and charged with driving under the influence, Dunlap was suspended indefinitely.
• Idiot No. 2. Ron Artest, Los Angeles Lakers, told The Sporting News he kept liquor in his locker and drank during halftime of NBA games while with the Chicago Bulls, 1999-2002.
• Idiot No. 3. Tiger Woods.
ESPN television college football television analyst Gary Danielson: “I would love to be a combination of my two favorite analysts, who are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is Billy Packer, true to his convictions and loved every second of the game. The other is Don Meredith, fun, irreverent and able to make the complicated easy to understand.”
And so it goes. Reach Bob Watkins at