Category Archives: Ira D. Combs

Dogs And Gators Only Thing Between UK And 31 – 0

( Completion Of 31 – 0 Record May Steal Thunder Away From Senior Day Festivities )

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

gatoraidBrace yourself folks the end of the 2014-15 regular season of college basketball is clearly in sight and the drama and suspense is gaining momentum every day the sun comes up across the Commonwealth .

This coming Saturday’s prize is definitely not the final prize of the season but it will be a very special achievement that should be celebrated to a degree building toward the Grand Prize the first Monday in April . It all should take place this coming Saturday afternoon around 4:00 o’clock in Rupp Arena when Cal’s Boys and  Big Blue Nation should be able to celebrate a perfect 31 – 0 regular season if the Cats take care of business at Georgia Tuesday night (9:00 on ESPN) and again on senior day in Rupp Arena Saturday (2:00 on CBS) against Billy Donovan’s Florida “Gators” .

Actually I could feel the drama and suspense starting to percolate in the atmosphere of Rupp Arena about two weeks ago and that tingly feeling you get up and down your spine when you know your witnessing something special starting to gain momentum each game . If this week plays out like the first 29 games the only drawback is that the uniqueness of a perfect season will steal all the thunder away from the usual senior day ceremonies , but that ain’t all bad especially this year . Regardless of how UK handles senior day festivities you can bet Coach Cal will take the Rupp Arena microphone after the game and give one of his patented speeches about how the season has went so far but the big prize still awaits up 1 – 65 in Indianapolis at the Final Four .

Former Commonwealth Legends Would Have Enjoyed Following This Team

No question UK basketball has had many special teams thru it’s storied history besides the eight NCAA championship teams but as I have sit at courtside in Rupp Arena the last few games I couldn’t help but think how special it would have been if some of the iconic UK basketball personalities who have passed on would have enjoyed watching this team play .

I’m a huge Tom Leach fan and I think he is closely approaching legendary status to be included in the UK history books but just think how special it would have been if Cawood Ledford could have been at courtside calling all the action over the UK radio network . Also , what if former Governor and MLB commissioner Albert “Happy” Chandler could have witnessed this season and even better led us all in the singing of My Old Kentucky Home this saturday at senior day . Many Kentucky governors over the decades have attended games at Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena but no one in the highest ranking political position of the Commonwealth loved and cherished the “Wildcats”more than “Happy” . Yes , John Y. Brown was a big fan of the Wildcats but remember it was under John Y’s administration that the UK – UL series was forced into action which has turned out just fine but many UK old timers will never forgive or forget how it all came about .

But the icing on the cake would have been if my buddy “Mr. Wildcat” Bill Keightley the iconic equipment manager could have been at courtside both at practice and games to assist Coach Cal on how to really show these diaper dandies how to be treated with Kentucky hospitality . Absolutely no one cared more or defended Kentucky basketball more than Bill Keightley . If the public and in particular Big Blue Nation knew how many players over the years “Mr. Wildcat” saved from leaving the team when things weren’t going well with the coach or his role on the team they would be shocked . For every player an assistant kept from leaving the team Bill Keightley talked twice as many from leaving . He was a special man and would have enjoyed this special UK team as much or more than anyone , especially the game back on Dec. 27th even though he softened in his late years concerning forgiving Coach Pitino for coming back to Louisville .

Sports Celebrities Spotted At Rupp Arena

The end zone seats on the floor in front of the Eruption Zone and sideline seats opposite the team benches on the floor at Rupp Arena are generally referred to as millionaire row because they generally go to UK’s most deep pocketed donors but lately the end zone seats on the floor next to the visiting team bench normally taken by various national media outlets has been a who’s who of sports personalities associated with basketball of course . This year there has not been a game at Rupp Arena without at least (5) or (6) NBA scouts in attendance and several Saturday games have brought (20) to (25) to town .

Two weeks ago Oscar Robertson set (2) seats down from me and just last Saturday I had the privilege of sitting directly beside Dick “Hoops” Weiss of New York who is one of the most respected college basketball scribes in the USA and just on the other side of ‘’Hoops” was none other than Phil Jackson the former NBA coach who lead Michael Jordan and his Bulls to several NBA titles . Jackson is now the GM / President of the New York “Knick” and in a very short exchange of words at halftime told me they were looking at Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein since both would more than likely be lottery picks and the Knicks would probably be part of the (7) team draft lottery .

But the real treat for me was having a game long conversation with “Hoops” . He is very knowledgeable/respectful of UK basketball and had a very pleasant way of conversing with an ole country boy from the mountains .

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK sports or KHSAA basketball & football plus you can now follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5 .

Cal’s Boys Perfect Season Rolls On

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

If LSU doesn’t spoil the party tuesday night down in Baton Rouge (7:00 est. ESPN) Cal’s Boys will roll into this coming weekend with (7) games left in the regular season (3) on the road and (4) in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena . Ironically enough the (3) road games are all on weeknights two on tuesday and one on a wednesday with all (4) of the remaining home games set for saturday afternoon tip-offs at either 2:00 , 4:00 , or 6:00 est. where the momentum toward that perfect 31 – 0 season will start mounting minute by minute game by game

Why do I bring this scenario up at this point in the season .

Because the light at the end of the tunnel for a perfect 31 – 0 regular season is finally starting to flicker a little , again based on the fact that the LSU game went in the win column while this column was en-route to it’s various destinations early this week .

The road hasn’t been easy of late with injuries and sickness playing havoc with Coach Cal’s Platoon System . The past (3) games Trey Lyles didn’t even sit on the bench with the team . According to Calipari it was only for precautionary reasons to keep Lyles sickness from spreading thru the rest of the team with only six and a half weeks left in the season every practice and game is magnified with each player in the sickness/injury category .

It’s kind of crazy how the season has unfolded starting back in August with the exhibition tour to the Bahamas where the Calipari Platoon Tweak was first introduced to the college basketball world for scrutiny . When first witnessed most felt cautiously optimistic but absolutely no one would breathe a simple word about 40 – 0 , still too many bad memories in the back of Big Blue Nation’s head from last year . Then the Cats post a 5 – 1 record in the Bahamas and a little optimism started to spread but still many were cautious about the 10 man rotation thru the Platoon System . Fast forward to mid December and all of a sudden many think the Majic Carpet ride of a perfect season is possible .

Then bump in the road number one happens and Alex Poythress who is playing arguably his best basketball since he’s been wearing blue and white blows out his ACL and is pronounced done for the season . No problem the SEC logo 2Platoon System is re-tweaked to a nine and sometimes 8 man rotation and the Majic Carpet ride continues on . Now bump in the road number two crops up and freshman PF Trey Lyles comes down with some type mysterious sickness that evidently is contagious due to his separation from the team during practices/games .

Now I ask you what would have been your train of thought or projected record for this UK team back in August if you had known that Alex Poythress and Trey Lyles had both missed a combined six games at the same time at this point in the season with Poythress having missed eight to ten himself going into mid February .

Raise your hand if you said the Cats would be 23 – 0 going into Valentine’s weekend with all the above scenarios unfolding since the Bahamas trip and to add to that freshman Devin Booker would be .08 ppg from being the leading scorer . To date the Cats have two double figure scorers , Soph. guard Aaron Harrison leads the team with 11.5 ppg. followed closely by Fr. guard Devin Booker at 10.7 ppg. with nine players averaging between 11.5 and 5.5 ppg.

With all the above now behind us isn’t it crazy to think the real fun is still in front of us .

Is SEC Men’s Basketball Getting Better ?

At the beginning of the SEC season the first week of January there were many college basketball gurus especially across the south who pondered thoughts due to a few somewhat surprising non conference wins in December that the SEC was starting that climb back up to respectability across college basketball .

Maybe so , but I counter with the last few weeks ugly losses by LSU to two severely inept college basketball teams like Miss. State and Auburn at home plus Ole Miss is 15 – 7 but three of those seven losses are to Charleston Southern , Dayton , and WKU at home where they blew a 16 point lead . There are four SEC teams headed for losing seasons and three other teams just a game above or below 500 who may very well end up on the downside of 500 .

My final point is we are on the brink of having two different teams in two consecutive seasons of running the table to a perfect 18 – 0 regular season with those two teams being the kingpins of southern hoops for over a decade now ( except for the Gillispie disaster ) .  

In closing I just can’t see where SEC basketball is any better off top to bottom with two different teams running the table two years in a row . My guess is with a little luck UK , Arkansas , Texas A & M , and LSU will make the Big Dance with Georgia and Ole Miss hanging very delicately on the bubble . If anybody else makes a post season tourney it will be the NIT or CBI . But that’s just my opinion .

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK sports as well as KHSAA basketball and football or follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5 .

Wildcats Special Season Still On Track

(Mark Stoops 2015 Signing Class Just Days Away) 

By Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

UK vs Georgia 11-8-14 (78)As we enter the last week of January the Kentucky “Wildcats” special season is still on track at 19 – 0 with games coming up this week at Missouri (Thurs.9:00 est. ESPN) and saturday in Rupp Arena (7:00 est. – SEC Network) . Most all the college basketball gurus don’t think there will be a bump in the road this week either but sometimes that’s when lightning strikes . Cal’s boys did dispose of Missouri in Rupp Arena a couple weeks ago pretty easily and the Alabama game this coming saturday will be in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena so it’s doubtful anything earth shattering will happen this week unless it’s with the only other undefeated NCAA Div. 1 team over in Charlottsville , Va.

The Virginia “Cavaliers” have a tough road ahead over the next two weeks in ACC play ( Duke / UL at Home and North Carolina / NC State away ) while UK has an upcoming road swing of back to back games on the road at Florida and LSU within three days of each other . If both the Cats and Cavs are still undefeated after wadding thru those tough waters then we can all start getting excited and talking about something that could be very special which would be the prospects of something I’m not sure has ever happened before , an NCAA championship game with 2 undefeated teams .

Hey , we can dream can’t we it’s not Hollywood but we can still dream .

On the home front Devin Booker continues to open eyes across college basketball with his uncanny shooting from behind the arc now hitting at a 64% clip the last five games . Just last weekend the SEC Network’s premier weekly show SEC Now did a poll among their host and game announcers of who were the top (5) three point shooters in the SEC . Guess what team had (2) players in that top (5) , none other than your own Kentucky “Wildcats”  . Soph. Aaron Harrison was ranked the # 3 shooter from behind the arc and Devin Booker UK’s multi talented freshman was the top rated long range specialist in the SEC .

Double Dip Weekend For BBN Out In State

In the fall of the year most of Big Blue Nation loves a double dip weekend of Keeneland racing on a saturday afternoon and UK football at CWS on saturdayevening . This coming weekend you can get the winter version of double dipping UK basketball style . This coming saturday as we mentioned above you have UK playing Alabama at Rupp Arena with tip-off slated for 7:00 p.m. then on sunday afternoon you can catch Matthew Mitchell’s UK Hoops team in Memorial Coliseum battling the Georgia womens basketball team at 1:00 p.m.and still get back to most parts of the Commonwealth at a decent hour for a good nights rest to start monday morning off for another week at the office .

There is only one more of these double dip weekends left in the season and it comes when the men play Arkansas on Feb. 28th then the UK Hoops team plays # 1 South Carolina the following day (Sun.) March 1st in Memorial Coliseum .

You can go online at www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA basketball and football . You can also follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5 .

UK Now One Of Only Two Undefeated Teams

By – Ira D. Combs

Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

(Mon.) 1/19/2015

 

First off don’t ever try to figure out why teams and players play to the extreme one way or the other within the same season  , there is no rational explanation .

 

With that being established I still don’t know if it was the annual January slump or just overlooking an opponent week before last when UK struggled to two OT wins against Ole Miss and Texas A & M but it appears after last weeks two games against Mizzou and Bama when UK bombarded both with a total of over 70 points worth of beat downs that Cal’s Boys are back hitting on all eight cylinders .

 

Next up this week is Vandy (Tues. 9:00 est. / SEC Network) and South Carolina (Sat. Noon est. / ESPN) . If the Cats are truly back on track both should be wins but the South Carolina game could be troublesome for a half or so . However , if this team has a pay back game on this years schedule it would be the “Gamecocks” , why , remember last year . UK suffered it’s most embarrassing loss of the season in Columbia , SC. and Cal was boosted by the officials in the process .

 

Devin Booker seems to be the hottest of the Wildcats at the present time averaging 10.6 ppg while knocking down 20 of his last 28 (3) point attempts . UK has (7) players averaging between 11.4 – 7.8 ppg with Tyler Ulius just behind those (7) players averaging 5.7 ppg. Yet , Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Anthony-Towns continue to get the bulk of the love from the media and especially the NBA scouts and GM’s .

 

Time will tell once the NBA draft rolls around but I still think Devin Booker will be highly valued by NBA folks once it’s all said and done . Booker has perfect skills both offensively and defensively for an NBA two guard and his 6’ 6” frame is spot on for that position .

 

Undefeated Match-ups Dwindling For March Madness

 

Now that Duke , Wisconsin , Louisville , and Arizona have all hit a wall and lost at least (2) games the only team left that could be undefeated and matched – up against UK is Virginia . With the ACC being as strong as ever I doubt Virginia can work their way thru that regular season schedule without at least a couple losses if not more . So don’t expect (2) undefeated teams to make it to Indianapolis for a championship showdown .

 

It would have been interesting to compare TV ratings of (2) undefeated mens basketball teams playing for the NCAA championship to the Oregon – Ohio State football championship TV ratings .

 

Special Day Of Hoops In Honor Of Joe B. Hall

 

Normally this column is devoted exclusively to UK sports in season but this week we honor an old warhorse who is finally getting the love he deserved years ago . This coming Saturday Jan. 24th over at the MCHS Events Center in Mt. Sterling adjacent to the MCHS high school the 25th annual Joe B. Hall Prep Classic will take place showcasing several of the Commonwealth’s top 25 high school teams and all (4) of the Mr. Basketball candidates ( Ray Spalding – Trinity , Cam Justice – KCC , “Beetle” Bolden – Holmes and Jacqualis Matlock – Hopkinsville ) . The 1st game tips-off at 1:30 and the fifth and final game tips-off at 8:30 . Those worried about missing part of the 2nd half of the UK – South Carolina game which tips-off at Noon don’t worry there will be a big screen TV in the lobby for the fans to not miss a minute of the game which should end about halftime of the first game .

 

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA basketball and football . Also , you can now follow us on twitter at @combsbrothers5 .

Cats Dodge Another Bullet Still Undefeated

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

Photo by Tammie Brown
Photo by Tammie Brown

Thank God those eight letters across the jersey UK wears still has an impact to it’s opponents , even if it doesn’t with the ones who wear it , or else UK would be saddled with (2) losses today .

Last Tuesday late in the Ole Miss game my brother Oscar ( who has much more name recognition than I’ll ever have with Big Blue Nation ) while setting beside me on media row out of the blue said “ anyone above 30 years of age that said this team is capable of or should go undefeated should be examined for sports brain surgery “ .  I didn’t know how to take that since obviously I’m way above that age cutoff , then again so is he and he may not be on record predicting a 40 – 0 season but he’s been high on the soap box with his opinion of this team to make such a statement .

Anyway , If these Kentucky “Wildcats” are like a normal feline they only have (7) lives left after last weeks single and double overtime wins against Ole Miss and Texas A & M .

Now in order to keep the undefeated season in tact several things must change and quickly if this team is serious about doing something special that no other UK team has done . What appears to be the difference in the team the last two games from the team that played in late Nov. and all thru December?

Coach Cal said in the post game interview at Texas A & M that , “he felt they still had a will to win at the end of last weeks two games “ . Maybe so but only at the end , you can’t tell me this team has played the last two games with the same passion , physical effort , and intensity defensively from the tip off to the end . That was evident when they continuously got beat off the dribble against Texas A & M and gave up uncontested open looks earlier in the week against Ole Miss plus were nowhere close to where they were in dominating the boards like the first 13 games . While Coach Cal may have fudged a little with his remarks in defense of his players on their will to win he did confess that “ we simply aren’t very good right now “ .

Again when and where did UK lose that edge ?

Is it due to the fact no more marquee opponents for national TV are left on the schedule . Could the Louisville game as physical as it was piggy backed with 10 days of Camp Cal have taken a little out of the teams physical abilities and emotions which now need some recuperation time over in the Wildcat Coal Lodge . Could the loss of Alex Poythress experience maybe have hurt this teams abilities to fight thru tough road game atmospheres or dare I even say this teams ceiling offensively may not be as high as it’s ceiling defensively .

 

It does appear this teams strength and depth inside at the power forward , post , and base line positions what everyone thought going into the season was their strength is not as potent especially offensively as first thought . There is no denying that Devin Booker , Tyler Ulis , and on occasion Aaron Harrison’s perimeter shooting has bailed this team out of a couple losses already .

Whatever the problem is that needs to be fixed it better happen this week because the SEC is not as weak and putrid as in past years . Arkansas is now a serious top 25 contender , LSU is just a few votes away from the top 25 , South Carolina has received votes for consideration to the top 25 , and Alabama UK’s opponent this coming Saturday may be a tougher game in Tuscaloosa than any of the above mentioned teams , the Crimson Tide announced last week that the UK – Bama game on Jan. 17th is already a hard sellout .

Is this the beginning of a rare disappointing SEC regular season or are we simply fighting thru another January slump Calipari style unlike the old Joe B. Hall January slumps of the 70’s and 80’s .

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA basketball and football plus you can now follow me on twitter @combsbrothers5 .

Camp Cal Behind Them UK Enters Part 3 Of 2014-15 Season This Week

Stoops & Assistants Begin Final Phase Of 2015 Recruiting Class

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

Most college basketball experts will tell you that each season is divided into (5) mini seasons which consist of ( pre-season practice , non conference games , conference regular season , conference post season , NCAA tourney )  so this week UK enters the SEC regular season portion of the schedule .

Coach Cal - photo by Tammie Brown
Coach Cal – photo by Tammie Brown

 The Cats are ranked # 1 and considered a prohibitive favorite to win the SEC regular season title and quite possibly run the table at 18 – 0 which if this materializes would put them at 31 – 0 entering the SEC post season tourney in Nashville , Tenn. and on schedule for the ultimate prize of a 40 – 0 undefeated season and NCAA championship # 9 . So far there has been only a couple mild bumps in the road . First was the season ending ACL injury which sidelined Alex Poythress then second was not as much a bump in the road as it was the first physical hard fought challenge on the road with the possibility of spoiling the undefeated season . At this point it appears Poythress injury can be overcome and the Louisville game while much like a scrum match has been placed in the W column and everyone can now move forward .

 

So the big question during Camp Cal the last 10 days has been now that all the marquee games (Kansas-Texas-UCLA-North Carolina-Louisville) are behind them and the SEC once again not getting much respect from the pollsters what can John Calipari do to keep this team hungry ?

 

My guess is and what I would recommend is to use what everybody doesn’t want to talk about as a motivation factor . Tell the players you want to do something special be a part of history then let’s talk about going undefeated and keep it in the forefront and fresh on their minds before they take the court for every game . Your playing for a program that deals constantly with being placed in the national media’s eye , the majority of your roster has already experienced playing on the biggest stage . The UK freshman like most of recent years have already been exposed to more big time game day atmospheres thru the all star game circuit than most juniors and seniors .

 

I can’t think of anything else that would keep the players minds from wondering and putting an emphasis on attention to detail more than constantly reminding them they are square in the middle of doing something very special , another words use the pressure don’t let the pressure consume you .

 

As far as competition the upcoming (2) months I’m not buying into what others are saying especially on the road across the south . When Kentucky arrives at places like ( Florida – LSU – Arkansas – Georgia ) it’s very much like when the Alabama football team rolls into town during the fall , everybody raises there game a level . More 3’s fall , more rebounds bounce into the home teams hands , and the whistle mysteriously turns in favor of the home team unlike Rupp Arena .

 

Everything taken into consideration it does appear that this UK team is special enough to pull off this 40 – 0 miracle season but it has to go out every nighthungry with a fresh mind and true sense of purpose because it will be the world against the blue team , at least until they run into Duke .

 

UK Football Hits Final Leg Of 2015 Recruiting Season

 

Mark Stoops and his assistants are drifting into the final leg of the 2015 recruiting season and must close the deal on about 17 verbal commitments from the past year then reel in a couple recruits who have not yet made their decision .

 

The most coveted recruit still on the board at this point resides just 25 minutes down the road in Richmond , Ky. , Damien Harris who many consider the # 1 running back in the entire country is set to make his decision this coming saturday and Harris has made it known that the winner will come from ( UK – Alabama – Ohio State ) . Many think Stoops has done his homework and will get the coveted prize come signing day but until it happens it’s still pure speculation . Marcus Lewis a 6’ 2” safety rated #154 in ESPN’s top 300 from the Washington D.C. area is still uncommitted and UK is reportedly squarely in the mix .

 

Stoops already has verbal commitments from (2) ESPN top 300 players in safety Marcus Walker and LB Eli Brown , both should have an opportunity to play as freshman due to a severe lack of quality depth at both of their positions . As always there will be a surprise or two on signing day but if Stoops can pull in the (4) above mentioned recruits along with the 17 previous verbal commitments it should provide UK with another top 20 class like last year and maybe it’s all time best .

 

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA basketball and football . Also you can follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5  .

Cats Beat Cards In Ugly Affair 58 – 50

( Eleven More Days Of Camp Cal Then SEC Starts Play )

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports media Service Inc. 

It’s official now you can commence with the 40 – 0 talk and you can attach the name of  “ The Unselfish Cats ” to this 2014-15 UK team and more than likely the monday after the first weekend in April you can tweak that to “ The Unselfish Undefeated Cats “ . 

After the UK dominance of UCLA on Dec. 20th there was an NBA general manager that told Chad Ford who himself is considered the guru of the NBA draft that his opinion of UK was and I quote , “ I’ve never seen anything like this , UK doesn’t beat you they chew you up and spit you out “. UK didn’t exactly chew Louisville up and spit them out but it was very apparent as the game wore on that UK was the better team and the only thing left was the final margin on the scoreboard and who had the most take downs or landed the most punches . 

It was ugly basketball from the tipoff which thanks to the worldwide Leader in sports ESPN or in this case ESPN2 only those lucky enough to have tickets in the You Center got to see for the first 5:00 minutes because they wereshowcasing that barnburner affair between IU – G-town . Then the light went off in the brain of ESPN’s producer/director and they switched over to ESPN News for a few minutes until the IU – G-town game finally ended . Once the game telecast locked in to the rest of the free world it was another classic case of the actual game didn’t match the hype which has become too often in this regular season rivalry . 

The last (5) years whether the regular season game has been at Yum or Rupp it’s been a blood bath of physicality with very few moments of pure basketball where players can feature their god given skills . Yet , when the two teams have met recently in the 2012 & 2014 NCAA tournaments on neutral courts outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth the games have showcased some special moments both by players individual physical talents and team wise . Regardless of anyone’s individual opinion of play on the court there are many longtime supporters on the inside of each program that really look forward to each season when this game can be put behind them and they can move on to their conference schedule and build that NCAA tournament resume to as high a seed as possible . I know both head coaches feel that way and after the last few years regular season blood-baths you can count me in that category as well . Problem is I’m afraid we’ve not seen the last of ugly basketball . There are basically (2) ways a team with marginal talent can compete to a degree against a team with superior talent like that of this UK team . You can shorten the length of the game by keeping possession of the basketball away from the superior team for long periods of time but the modern day 35 second clock throws a clink into that theory or you can make the game as physical and ugly as possible with constant contact from full court pressure to constant hand slaps and body checks on the half court perimeter to bull rushing tactics in the lane and underneath the boards . In other words hopefully your team can give up as many or more fouls and out foul-shoot the superior talented team . 

Any of this sound familiar yet . 

Who is to blame for this type of basketball ? Nobody other than the coaches . Who can clean it up ? No one other than the game officials . 

So it appears the ugly tactic is the chosen one for this years UK opponents or at least it has been for Texas , Providence , and Louisville . Just settle in Big Blue Nation and enjoy the ride and let the players and coaches deal with the cheap shots and ugly basketball and Cal you probably need to slide over to Nutter Center and borrow those pads and helmets you used to tweak the team practices with in recent years .

Camp Cal Now Goes 24/7 

You think you had a rough holiday think again . If that scrum of a basketball game that UK – UL had Saturday wasn’t enough for UK players to deal with in the recovery process then add another week to 10 days of Camp Cal to the daily grind . Trust me all coaches love practices because they are in complete charge of everything plus don’t have the pressure of having to win . Players especially college and professional players literally hate practice especially those full of fundamental drills . Ever heard that old adage that practice makes perfect . Everybody knows there is no such thing as that perfect game but every coach thinks it’s still out there . 

UK doesn’t play again until Jan. 6th against Ole Miss in Rupp Arena . I’m guessing that game or game plan won’t be mentioned until the morning shoot around on Jan. 6th and in the meantime it’s more preparation in the bowels of the Joe Craft practice facility for more ugly , aggressive , brutal hoops the next 2 ½ months . 

Hang in there guys , the prize at the end is well worth it !!!!!!! 

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball & football as well as KHSAA basketball and football . Also , you can follow me on twitter now at @combsbrothers5 .

Cals Boys & Mitchells Gals On A Unique Ride

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. 

As we scan across the USA this holiday season there are not too many colleges or universities enjoying the combined success in college basketball as the University of Kentucky .   

John Calipari has his team atop all the men’s college basketball rankings as the consensus #1 team with only two real solid challenges left before the calendar turns to the new year . The first is coming up this saturday against UCLA (3:30 on CBS) at the United Center in Chicago , Ill. where I’m sure Big Blue Nation will make the trip north up 1-65 and give them a decided neutral court advantage . The following saturday Dec. 27th at the Yum Center in Louisville , Ky. many college basketball gurus think will be the Cats first real test of being bumped from the unbeaten ranks when they take on Rick Pitino’s # 4 ranked Louisville Cardinals .  

With first semester classes behind them and no more NCAA 20 hours per week rule holding them back you can be sure both Cal and Rick as well as their trusty assistants will be burning the midnight oil in the film room and their players will be practicing , eating , sleeping , and  dreaming basketball 24/7 .  

Other than a matchup between UK – UL in the NCAA title game the next best scenario would be meeting in the regular season as unbeatens at  # 1 and # 2 . That scenario has come about as close to happening this year as any time in the past but to come true U-Conn has to bump Duke from # 2 on Dec. 21st then UNLV must bump Arizona from # 3 on Dec. 23rd . I doubt either will happen but then again I never thought I’d live long enough to see the day Gardner Webb would be UK in Rupp Arena . 

Only one thing I’m sure of come Dec. 27th and that’s with the Yum Center having 21 different concessions/venues where you can purchase alcohol you can be sure the vast majority in attendance will hit the hard sauce either in celebration or deep sorrow . I wouldn’t want to be in or around the River City the evening of Dec. 27th nor will I be . 

Matthew Mitchell and his UK Hoops team’s holiday schedule will be similar in ways (especially the extra practice routines) but Santa has already provided Mitchell and his gal’s with an early present when they came from 16 points down at the Yum Center last sunday and beat the Lady Cards by (9) points . Now Mitchell and his lady hoopsters set their sights on a Dec. 21st date with Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium (3:00 o’clock on ESPN2) before they embark on another tough SEC regular season schedule that with a solid showing (I’m thinking at least 12 – 4) can propel them into a # 1 or # 2 seed for the NCAA Women’s version of March Madness . Remember starting in 2016 Rupp Arena will play host to (3) consecutive years (2016-2017-2018) of an NCAA Women’s regional round which if not this year hopefully in 2016 that will propel the UK Hoops team into that ultimate Final Four that Matthew Mitchell has so coveted in recent years . 

Regardless of how everything plays out in March for either Wildcat program you have to be pleased this holiday season to be a member of the Big Blue Nation . 

Special Notes Of Interest For Wildcat Fans 

# 1 – Beginning (Mon.) Dec. 15th at 9:00 a.m. 2015 UK season football tickets will go on sale for the general public now that the new seat selection process for CWS is completed .  For obtaining season tickets you can go online to   www.TheNewCws.com and click the button that says (Buy New Season Tickets) or call the Joe Craft Center ticket office at 1 – 800 – 928 – 2287 . 

# 2 – Tony Delk , arguably one of the top 2 or 3 Wildcat all time 3 point shooters will have his jersey number retired into the rafters of Rupp Arena on (Sat.) Feb. 21st against Auburn . Delk was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008 . Most consider having your jersey retired by a school it’s highest honor to an athlete . Any remaining tickets for this game will go on sale at www.ukathletics.com about 10 to 12 days before this game . 

# 3 – UK and UCLA announced last week that the two historic men’s basketball programs have signed a contract to play each other in a home and home series beginning Dec. 3rd , 2015 in historic Pauley Pavilion where John Wooden made the Bruins famous then the following year Dec. 3rd , 2016 the Bruins will make their first ever appearance in historic Rupp Arena . Steve Alford one of Bobby Knight’s favorite players is the head coach at UCLA presently and agreed to the terms with John Calipari .

UK Keeps Lock On #1 Host Tarheels Saturday In Rupp Arena

uk ballBy – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. 

The latest Wildcat winning streak put together by Coach Cal and his uniquely talented hoopsters should be holding at 10 once the Cats paste Columbia at mid-week and then march into the 2nd weekend of play in December with another top 25 battle awaiting this Saturday in Rupp Arena against the North Carolina “Tarheels” at 12:00 (Noon) on CBS . 

Already on the Cats NCAA resume are wins over (#5 Kansas , #6 Texas , and #23 Providence) so even the most novice mind of the NCAA selection process will tell you that UK is setting in pretty good shape to get one of those coveted #1 seeds and in the lead for the overall #1 which should put them in a 1st weekend setting at the Yum Center in Louisville , Ky. where I’m sure tickets will be at an all time premium .

 

The trick now for Coach Cal is to keep this team engaged daily with an eye on the prize at the end of the season next March in Indianapolis .

 

Actually , that shouldn’t be very hard for the remainder of this month anyway with upcoming saturday prime time nationally televised games against North Carolina , UCLA , and the annual Battle of the Bluegrass with the Cards . If the winning streak continues on thru December and the Cats are setting at 13 – 0 on New Years Day and with the SEC being as putrid as it is then Cal may have a challenge on his hand keeping these young minds from wavering into mindless thoughts instead of the task at hand or heaven forbid having to deal with the old annual nemesis of years past the ( January Shooting Slump ) of the Joe B. Hall & Eddie Sutton eras . Don’t laugh you old school Wildcat fans it could happen and maybe already has to a degree . The last (3) games UK has went inside the last 5:00 minutes of each game 0 for every how many attempts they took behind the arc but was bailed out each game before the final horn .

 

But then again we or I may not be giving this team it’s just due in being more mature mentally and emotionally than what we think they are . I simply just still have a hard time labeling this a veteran team when it has no seniors who play actual minutes , I guess I just can’t get out of the old school mind-set .

 

On the other hand at the end of the day or in this case the season what better way is there to keep today’s young and mega-talented players like Cal has engaged and energized at tip off every game when they have a prize lying in front of them of an undefeated season but let’s wait at least until mid January before we start talking about what everybody wants to talk about but won’t and you know exactly what I’m talking about .

 

One thing I do like about this team is the fact that it has already proven it can win a big game against a solid ranked opponent without shooting the ball well from the perimeter both in front of and behind the arc . Proved that against both Providence and Texas but both those games were in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena when Big Blue Nation had the back .

 

Now the next question is can they survive a poor shooting night and win on the road because remember all NCAA tournament games are on a neutral court .   

 

  Press Row Notes & Tidbits

 

# 1 – Did you know that U Pike Univ. has scored more points on UK to date than any other team when they posted (68) on the scoreboard back on Nov. 1st .

# 2 – First it was Alex Poythress who missed back to back games with sickness then Tyler Ulis got the bug against EKU and now Coach Cal has left Rupp Arena early (2) games in a row .

# 3 – UK has now hit at least (1) 3 point shot 909 games in a row which puts them in 2nd place among NCAA Div. 1 schools behind only UNLV .

# 4 – After this Saturdays game against North Carolina there will be a (24) day stretch until Jan. 6th that UK will not play a game in Rupp Arena , the longest in recent memory .

# 5 –  CBS will televise both the North Carolina & UCLA games but ESPN2 will televise the Battle of the Bluegrass on Dec. 27th .

 

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA football and basketball .

Cal And Cats Wade Thru The Ducks And Pigeons Still Waiting On The Big Test (Cards Provide Last Chance At Bowl Eligibility For Stoops & Gridiron Cats)

By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Services Inc.

When your ranked # 1 in the nation and have just thoroughly beaten the likes of Grand Canyon , Buffalo , Boston University , and Montana State  , oops , I forgot the Kansas thrashing which was more dominating than any of the previous mentioned then it’s difficult to get excited about UT Arlington if you’re a member of college basketball’s most elite team at this date , that’s  just human nature in the world of team sports it has nothing to do with not having a competitive spirit for every game . 

So if your John Calipari your challenged to come up with ideas and practice routines to off set all the pats on the back the players are getting from BBNnot to mention being glorified on a daily basis by all the national news media . But then isn’t that the beauty of the new “Platoon System” it has it’s own built in mechanism every day in practice that keeps players minds , emotions , and competitive spirit squarely on earning their spot in their respective platoon rotation so they can garner the few minutes their (5) gets on game night and then the production on court during those precious few minutes keeps the mindset squarely on the next task at hand , it’s just a constant daily reminder of what your role is in the eyes of John Calipari . 

So as we wade thru the ducks and pigeons on the schedule such as ( UT Arlington (Tues.) 7:00 est. on SEC TV Network ) BBN patiently waits on the next supposed solid challenge which should be the fighting “Friars” of Providence College (Sun.) Nov. 30th on ESPN2 at 2:00 p.m. est. ) . Providence at one time was one of the original mainstays of the old extremely deep and talented Big East . Surprisingly Providence had not received even (1) vote for consideration into the top 25 at this writing and they were undefeated at 6 – 0 with wins over Fla. State / Notre Dame of the supposed mega hoops conference , the ACC . 

While we wait on that first true test for the 2014-15 Wildcats I continue to be impressed with this new “Platoon System” that Coach Cal has come up with . 

The man still continues to get virtually no recognition on his talents as a game and practice coach yet he has virtually overhauled and changed his system on how he utilizes his players various talents at each of the five positions on the floor . First was the “Dribble Drive” system which utilized his multi talented point guards ( John Wall – Eric Bledsoe – Brandon Knight – Marquiss Teague ) then last year he saved a season that was headed toward a disaster when he tweaked the dribble drive system to where it enhanced the different type guard skills  that the Harrison twins brought to the program . Now in his 6th campaign leading the Big Blue he has brought to the table another change called The Platoon System which incorporates all the different talents and abilities at all (5) positions for (2) platoons of starters where all 10 players receive between 18 – 22 minutes per game with their own respective platoon . 

If you have followed UK basketball for many decades and have a trained and skilled eye on the X’s and O’s of the game you should have noticed that in recent games Cal has run several different offensive sets previous UK coaches have used . The old high – low post that Joe B. used to implement with Rick Robey & Mike Phillips and Sam Bowie & Melvin Turpin has been used to incorporate this teams depth at the PF and C positions a few times . Also , if you were really paying attention in the Buffalo game when UK faced a couple possessions against a man to man defense and Cal had (3) guards in the game he ran ole # 6 the guard around that Adolph Rupp made so famous . 

Bottom line is the man can do much more than recruit and he still gets very little credit from the national and local media corps for his vast talents . You can bet on one thing for sure if this “Platoon System” continues on thru the season as is and UK takes home NCAA title # 9 the inner power circles of college basketball will find a way to curtail his success in the future just like the inner power circles of college football came up with the playoff system to try and thwart Alabama and the SEC from dominating college football . 

Finally It’s The Cats vs. Cards On Rivalry Weekend

As the great Yankee Yogi Berra once said , “ It ain’t over till it’s over “ . So one more time Mark Stoops and his battle weary Wildcats get an opportunity to get bowl eligible as his brief (2) year tenure as the head Wildcat comes to a close this saturday down in River City at the “Pizza Pit” better known as Papa Johns Stadium where the Cards are usually hard to handle .

To set the scene for you  the Cats are rolling into “The Ville” on a (5) game losing streak with an overall record of 5 – 6 but still have one more opportunity to circle the wagons and extend their season into the holidays and get valuable extra practices for their extremely infant roster which has 21 redshirts with nothing to do until winter workouts begin in mid January if the Cats don’t pull off the upset . The “Cards” on the other hand are riding high tide into the Thanksgiving Holidays after solving the time honored delimma of whipping “The Irish” right underneath the Golden Dome which I’m sure enhanced their bowl opportunity selection to an even higher $$$$$ maybe even a New Year’s Day bowl , that is , unless the Cats can pull off the upset which would leave the Cards with (4) losses and a mid level bowl .

Now who said the Governors Cup game couldn’t have flair and excitement at the end of the season where it has always belonged in my eyes . Now if we can just get Mitch & Tom to move the women’s and men’s basketball games to friday night and sunday afternoon we’ll have a true rivalry weekend the entire college world will be jealous of and for those media folks worried that a major network can’t carry the UK – UL game in a national prime time setting .

Think again .

NASCAR is over way before sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and don’t think the folks at ESPN wouldn’t love to have a premier sunday afternooncollege basketball game to offer the sports viewers and go up against CBS , Fox , or NBC at any time afternoon , evening , or night when their precious NFL season has been dilluted to almost nothing other than a possible wild card opportunity or two .

Inner athletic circle officials well know that both Rick Pitino & John Calipari literally hate playing the game at any time or place on the schedule so why not get the game out of the way early so both programs can go on to building their NCAA resumes for March without having the game hanging around until late December .

Just a thought but it makes to much sense for the powers that be at UK and U of L to even discuss , remember if not for the SEC and ACC conference offices we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the Governors Cup rivalry on rivalry weekend . This Saturday’s UK – U of L game has been assigned a 12:00 Noon kickoff time and will be televised on ESPN2 .

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA football and basketball plus we now have a new twitter account at @combsbrothers5 .