Cats in middle of only 3-game SEC home stand

Ira Combs Tri State Sports Media

January 21, 2014

It’s home sweet home for the immediate future of Cal’s Cats with Saturday’s lone game this year against the Vols being in Rupp Arena and this week’s two matchups being in Rupp Arena as well. The Cats need to build a little cushion and separate themselves from the rest of the SEC, except—of course—for Florida, but we’ll cross that bridge later on.

Right now, UK needs to pick up these next two wins at home against Texas A & M, Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN and then Saturday against Georgia at 1:30 p.m. on the SEC Network, and build up a little more confidence in their play as well as impress the pollsters who need something to give them a reason to jump back on the Cats bandwagon. That special undefeated or even a two loss season has been history for about six weeks now, and having four losses on their resume heading into the last week of January wasn’t what anyone was expecting either—including Coach Cal himself .

However, Big Blue Nation may need to step back and take a broader look at the college basketball landscape because this team may not be in as bad a shape as many think they are. Just ask the folks out in Lawrence, Kan., and over in Durham, N.C., and they’ll tell you real quick how hard times really are on two teams that were hyped just about as much as UK was back in October and November.

This UK team may need to pull a couple of surprise road wins out of their hat to get back in the three seed discussion, but it can be done, just not at Florida or Missouri. No question though that the Cats need to run the table at Rupp Arena the rest of the year to get in the three seed discussion for the Big Dance. It is difficult for many in the BBN to step back and look rationally at the big picture, but the four losses aren’t as damaging when you look at them individually. It’s collectively that hurts. None of the four losses have been blowouts and all could have easily been wins with a few more made free throws or less unforced turnovers.

Actually, we’re probably not even having this discussion if that happens, but that’s the beauty of college basketball, the landscape can change entirely many teams each week.

Hopefully, UK has a few good weeks left in them to compensate for a couple ugly yet close losses that have put them in this bind.

Stoops and Wildcat Assistant’s Coming Down Homestretch With 2014 Recruiting

It is just a few days away from national signing day for the 2014 NCAA football recruiting classes to be finalized in writing with verbal commitments becoming either signed grant in aids or—heaven forbid—a little backsliding by some high school football phenoms. It happens every year about this time; always a few surprises both ways for all schools.

UK still has one more big time recruit on the board in John Hardin High’s big 6-foot-7, 355 pound Matt Elam, who evidently is really struggling with bolting the state for high profile Alabama or staying home and helping build UK into a consistently winning college football program.

At present it is becoming a little puzzling with the so called four major recruiting services in how they have the UK recruits of 2014 rated. One service has UK’s class rated as the 12th best in the nation, but two of the other three have UK slowly slipping down to almost being out of the top 25. Of course, all this info they are providing the football fans across the country means absolutely nothing except fodder for the sports radio talk shows and Internet debates. But that’s all we have until the pads are put on in August and these kids are introduced to another level of football—one that most aren’t ready for as freshman but there is always a few that are thrown to the lions anyway.

However, it is somewhat intriguing that one major recruiting service would be so impressed more than the other three major services and in particular two of them.

Listed below is where UK ranks with their present verbal commitments and the few who have already enrolled in classes earlier this month.

Rivals.com – 12th

ESPN.com – 19th

Scout.com – 22nd

24/7 CatsPause.com – 24th

All of these recruiting services use the star system with a five-star recruit being the elite player at his position and the two-star recruit being the lowest level. For example, the Rivals.com service has UK with nine four-star recruits and the Cats Pause 24/7 service has pretty much the same nine players mixed and downgraded to only four four-star recruits. Go figure. The evaluation process it can’t be very accurate and the only thing that matters is how they adjust to college level football anyway, their ratings are all based on their high school play to date. Some players will improve both physically and in their skill level and some will stay hung on the bottom of the depth chart and some will drift into oblivion as they go forward through college football.

I’ve never seen a study done but about every college signs between 22 to 28 players each year, but I rarely see a graduating class with more than 18 and all those classes have a mixture of four- and five-year red shirt players.

But make no mistake, you can document it for many years in the past, the schools with the most four- and five-star players are usually what makes up the top 25 each season and go bowling for the holidays.

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