John Calipari’s most prized freshman recruiting class ever, along with a few other multi-talented upperclassmen, break from the starting gate this Friday against UNC Ashville in Rupp Arena. From this game forward all wins and losses count toward the NCAA seeding process for March Madness.
This particular UK basketball team has already demanded more attention nationally than any in recent memory. As for the Commonwealth’s always starved basket-ball fan, well, they have been salivating since the November signing period last year. Evidently, eight previous NCAA championships and having the most all time wins of any team in the history of college basketball has just whetted the appetite of today’s Big Blue Nation.
They want more.
The starting lineup is for a change actually anti-climactic because the UK roster is chock full of McDonald’s All Americans in the freshman and sophomore classes, along with possibly as many as 10 players demanding a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes a game. But we all know that rotation will be whittled down to a more man-ageable seven or eight players by the middle of the SEC season.
Based on the preseason Blue-White scrimmage and the two exhibition games against Transylvania University and Montvello State, my guess is the following 10 players will get the bulk of the minutes early in the season: Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, James Young, Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Jarod Polson, Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins. The latter three will likely get a few minutes less than the first seven until several games have been played and team roles have been established.
Going into the season, team chemistry has been mentioned by Calipari and the media as the most important item for development and quite possibly the only thing in their way of lifting another banner to the rafters of Rupp Arena.
Cal’s dilemma with last year’s team that there was no help on the bench is behind UK now with a valuable lesson learned by Calipari. This team will provide Cal with many options and, as the old saying goes, there is no bigger motivator to a basket-ball player than a little time on the pine.
Stoops’ troops still looking for first SEC win
This Saturday at high noon in the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium and in front of the ESPNU cameras, Mark Stoops and his football Cats hit the gridiron for the eighth time this season overall and the fifth time in SEC play, looking for their third overall win and first in conference play.
While the quarterback position for UK football has garnered most of the talk this season by falling short of expectations in most games, and actually directly related to several close losses, this Saturday the defense will have to step up front and center for UK to have a shot at pulling an upset of this top 20 team. Missouri has been without their starting QB themselves the last four weeks due to a shoulder sprain injury in the Vanderbilt game back in mid-October. James Franklin, the Ti-gers’ multi-talented senior QB, was having a banner year until his injury and reports out of Missouri are that it will be a game time decision, but it appears he will return to the field for at least a few plays.
UK has battled hard all season against superior talent under their new head coach’s tutelage and shown a new rare toughness on game day against several top 10 opponents, taking several of them deep into the fourth quarter with an op-portunity to pull out a win.
This Saturday will be the sixth game of the nine UK has played that they have been listed as the underdog going into the game. Missouri will be the fifth team UK has played ranked in the top 20 and fourth opponent in the top 10.
NCAA football adopts new rules
The NCAA football rules committee has adopted five new rules for its membership that may seem elementary to some, but very important to others, especially coach-ing staffs who need some well-earned breaks through the middle of the calendar year. Of course a couple of them are recruiting oriented and all five are implement-ed immediately into the NCAA calendar, which is a little odd because many new rules in the past by the NCAA has had to pass several committees before being adopted.
The new rules are:
1 - Allowing football players eight hours a week of required weight training and conditioning. Up to two of the hours can consist of film review. (Columnist note: I’m assuming this is outside the normal 20 hour practice week allowed.)
2 - Prohibiting school staff members from attending all-star games or activities as-sociated with those games.
3 - Establishing an extended dead period when no in-person recruiting can take place in December and January. For 2013-14, Dec. 15 through Jan. 16 is now a dead period.
4 - Establishing a 14-day dead period in late June and early July for FBS schools.
5 - Allow member schools to pay for meals for up to four family members when they accompany a recruit on an official visit.