Sunday, November 5, 2023

College Basketball Starts Tomorrow

The combination of UK's loss to Wisconsin in the 2015 Final Four and the horrific refereeing in UK's loss to UNC in the 2017 Elite Eight have poisoned my relationship to college basketball.  In recent years, I have gotten angrier and angrier, and watched fewer and fewer games.

No more.  I'm at an age where you can't know how many more seasons you will get to see, and I'm too old to keep pouting.  I'm going to worry a lot less about Coach Cal and UK this season, and spend a lot more time enjoying games with obscure schools in the middle of the night.  Roy Williams is gone, Coach K is gone, and I'm too old to keep holding so many grudges.

Here is the AP Top 20 to begin the season.  It doesn't look like a season that will be much fun for UK fans, but I'm determined to have fun anyway:

1.  Kansas
2.  Duke
3.  Purdue
4.  Michigan St.
5.  Marquette
6.  Connecticut
7.  Houston
8.  Creighton
9.  Tennessee
10.  Fla. Atlantic
11.  Gonzaga
12.  Arizona
13.  Miami (Fla.)
14.  Arkansas
15.  Texas A & M
16.  Kentucky
17.  San Diego St.
18.  Texas
19.  N. Carolina
20.  Baylor

Here are the locations for the NCAA Tournament:


    March 21 and 23:
Charlotte, N.C.
Omaha, Neb.
Salt Lake City, Utah

    March 22 and 24:
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Indianapolis, Ind.
Memphis, Tenn.
Spokane, Wash.


    March 28 and 30:
East Regional:  Boston
West Regional:  Los Angeles

    March 29 and 31:
South Regional:  Dallas
Midwest Regional:  Detroit


    April 6 and 8:
Glendale, Ariz.


  1. Last ten NCAA basketball champions:

    2013: Louisville over Michigan
    2014: Connecticut over Kentucky
    2015: Duke over Wisconsin
    2016: Villanova over N. Carolina
    2017: N. Carolina over Gonzaga
    2018: Villanova over Michigan
    2019: Virginia over Texas Tech
    2020: None
    2021: Baylor over Gonzaga
    2022: Kansas over N. Carolina
    2023: Connecticut over San Diego St.

  2. Since 1996, Kansas's win in 2022 is the only time that a team from the East Coast has lost in the final to a team that was not from the East Coast.

  3. Lady Tops vs. Mercer at 5 Central, UK men vs. New Mexico State at 7 and WKU men vs. Kentucky Wesleyan at 7:30.

  4. New for this season: players can use any jersey number, from 0 to 99.

    1. This would make no difference to me: I always wanted to wear Number 5.

  5. In honor of the new rule, I'm going to put out a list of the best UK players by number (using the traditional numbering where no digit can be higher than 5). Here are the best single digit players by number:

    00: Tony Delk
    0: De'Aaron Fox
    1: Darius Miller
    2: Aaron Harrison
    3: Bam Adebayo
    4: Kyle Macy
    5: Wayne Turner

  6. Here are the best players from 10 to 15:

    10: Louie Dampier
    11: John Wall
    12: Ralph Beard
    13: Nazr Mohammad
    14: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
    15: Alex Groza

  7. Best from 20 to 25:

    20: Doron Lamb
    21: Jack Givens
    22: Mike Pratt
    23: Anthony Davis
    24: Jamal Mashburn
    25: Anthony Epps

  8. Best from 30 to 35:

    30: Frank Ramsey
    31: Sam Bowie
    32: James Lee
    33: Ron Mercer
    34: Kenny Walker
    35: Kevin Grevey

  9. Best from 40 to 45:

    40: Larry Conley
    41: Mark Pope
    42: Pat Riley
    43: N/A
    44: Dan Issel
    45: Bob Guyette

    Note: The only UK players to wear number 43 were Brown Sharp, Jason Lathrem, and Jared Carter. I remember none of these guys.

  10. Best from 50 to 55:

    50: Marquis Estill
    51: Oliver Simmons
    52: Vernon Hatton
    53: Rick Robey
    54: Melvin Turpin
    55: Mike Phillips

  11. Best NCAA Tournaments of the 21st Century:

    1. 2019
    2. 2014
    3. 2008

    1. Here are the last 7 games of the 2019 Tournament, which was amazing:

      Texas Tech 75, Gonzaga 69
      Virginia 80, Purdue 75 (OT)
      Auburn 77, Kentucky 71 (OT)
      Michigan St. 68, Duke 67
      Texas Tech 61, Michigan St. 51
      Virginia 63, Auburn 62
      Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77 (OT)

    2. There were also some great Sweet 16 games in 2019:

      Duke 75, Virginia Tech 73
      Virginia 53, Oregon 49
      Purdue 99, Tennessee 94 (OT)
      Kentucky 62, Houston 58

      What a great tournament that was.

  12. Here's a list of Cal's NCAA Tournament Games while at UK:

    03/18/10: Kentucky 100, E. Tennessee St. 71
    03/20/10: Kentucky 90, Wake Forest 60
    03/25/10: Kentucky 62, Cornell 45
    03/27/10: W. Virginia 73, Kentucky 66 (3-1)
    03/17/11: Kentucky 59, Princeton 57
    03/19/11: Kentucky 71, W. Virginia 63
    03/25/11: Kentucky 62, Ohio St. 60
    03/27/11: Kentucky 76, N. Carolina 69
    04/02/11: Connecticut 56, Kentucky 55 (7-2)
    03/15/12: Kentucky 81, W. Kentucky 66
    03/17/12: Kentucky 87, Iowa St. 71
    03/23/12: Kentucky 102, Indiana 90
    03/25/12: Kentucky 82, Baylor 70
    03/31/12: Kentucky 69, Louisville 61
    04/02/12: Kentucky 67, Kansas 59 (13-2)
    03/21/14: Kentucky 56, Kansas St. 49
    03/23/14: Kentucky 78, Wichita St. 76
    03/28/14: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
    03/30/14: Kentucky 75, Michigan 72
    04/05/14: Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73
    04/07/14: Connecticut 60, Kentucky 54 (18-3)
    03/19/15: Kentucky 79, Hampton 56
    03/21/15: Kentucky 64, Cincinnati 51
    03/26/15: Kentucky 78, W. Virginia 39
    03/28/15: Kentucky 68, Notre Dame 66
    04/04/15: Wisconsin 71, Kentucky 64 (22-4)
    03/17/16: Kentucky 85, Stony Brook 57
    03/19/16: Indiana 73, Kentucky 67 (23-5)
    03/17/17: Kentucky 79, No. Kentucky 70
    03/19/17: Kentucky 65, Wichita St. 62
    03/24/17: Kentucky 86, U.C.L.A. 75
    03/26/17: N. Carolina 75, Kentucky 73 (26-6)
    03/15/18: Kentucky 78, Davidson 73
    03/17/18: Kentucky 95, Buffalo 75
    03/22/18: Kansas St. 61, Kentucky 58 (28-7)
    03/21/19: Kentucky 79, Abilene Christian 44
    03/23/19: Kentucky 62, Wofford 56
    03/29/19: Kentucky 62, Houston 58
    03/31/19: Auburn 77, Kentucky 71 (OT) (31-8)
    03/17/22: Saint Peter's 85, Kentucky 79 (OT) (31-9)
    03/17/23: Kentucky 61, Providence 53
    03/19/23: Kansas St. 75, Kentucky 69 (32-10)

  13. 2010 to 2012: 13-2
    2014 to 2017: 13-4
    2018 to 2023: 6-4

  14. Kentucky has been eliminated by: W. Virginia, Connecticut (twice), Wisconsin, Indiana, N. Carolina, Kansas St. (twice), Auburn, and Saint Peter's.

  15. Under Cal, UK has NCAA Tournament wins over Kansas, N. Carolina, Louisville (twice), Indiana, W. Virginia (twice), Wichita St. (twice), Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Kansas St., and U.C.L.A.

  16. In the past, UK has played huge games in the NCAA Tournament against Duke, Michigan State, and Marquette. Cal has never coached UK in the NCAA's against any of those teams.

    1. On the other hand, Cal has coached UK in the NCAA's three times against West Virginia, three times against Kansas State, and twice each against N. Carolina, Louisville, and Wichita St.

  17. In 14 seasons, Cal has:

    6 regular season SEC titles (2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020)
    6 SEC Tournaments (2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
    7 Elite Eights (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019)
    4 Final Fours (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)
    2 Finalists (2012, 2014)
    1 National Champion (2012)

    Cal has an all-time record of 387-113 at UK.

  18. Here is UK's projected starting lineup for tonight:

    G: D.J. Wagner, Freshman from Camden, N.J. (Number 21)
    G: Adou Thiero, Sophomore from Leetsdale, Pa. (3)
    G: Antonio Reeves, Fifth Year from Chicago (12)
    G: Justin Edwards, Freshman from Philadelphia (1)
    F: Tre Mitchell, Grad Student from Pittsburgh (4)

    1. Mitchell is a transfer from West Virginia.

    2. Wagner played at Camden H.S. in Camden, N.J.
      Thiero played at Quaker Valley H.S. in Leetsdale, Pa.
      Reeves played at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago.
      Edwards played at Imhotep Institute Charter H.S. in Philadelphia.
      Mitchell played at The Woodstock Academy in Woodstock, Conn.

  19. New Mexico State jumps out to an early 6-2 lead and another year of fun begins.

  20. Calipari has only had two teams at UK that finished in the top 70 in the country in three-point shooting percentage. The 2011 team was 9th and went to the Final Four. The 2012 team was 37th and won the national championship.

  21. The 2015 team was 143d, and look what happened to them.

  22. My YouTube account just played "Year of the Cat," which could be a good omen.

  23. Kentucky doesn't just have three-point shots -- they have wide open three-point shots with nobody within ten feet. They miss them anyway.

  24. At the first TV timeout, with 14:04 left in the first half, the Cats lead 10-6. They are 1-4 from 3-point range.

  25. There's an old theological idea that God is simple -- that is, he is not compounded of anything else, but is purely Himself. Cal's system of basketball is simple in that sense -- it is all built around the idea of dominating the rim on both ends of the court. The idea is that if you can drive to the rim on your end of the court, and stop the other guy from driving on his end, then you should usually win.

  26. This idea has many strengths. First, it rewards hard work and effort, which is something that Cal really cares about. Second, it is dependable. Guys aren't likely to "go cold" at the rim, the way they can from three-point range. Third, it means that you have the percentages on your side. This explains why Cal's best teams can win dozens of games in a row -- the whole system is very repeatable: it doesn't rely on a "hot hand."

  27. To me, there are only three problems with this system. First, it requires elite talent. It's hard to dominate the rim with guys who can't finish or block shots. Second, it doesn't account for the 3-point shot. Third, it means you are highly dependent on officials and free throw shooting. In the NCAA's, you will play extremely physical games where it's almost impossible to get to the rim without being fouled. (Hello, Connecticut!) For UK to win those games, we need the officials to call the fouls (and they often don't) and we need to make the free throws (and we often don't).

  28. I think that Cal's system underrates how dependable good outside shooting can be. Dean Smith's teams were near the top of the country in shooting percentage for decades. Steph Curry has just as many NBA titles as LeBron James. And to me, you have a better chance of getting an open three in the last few minutes of a big game than you have of getting to the rim.

  29. At this point, Cal and I are both too old to change, so I'm just going to hope that our guys get a lot of put backs and make a lot of free throws.

  30. With 7:32 left in the first half, Cats lead 23-17. Their guard-heavy lineup is struggling to get rebounds, and is 3-10 from three-point range so far. I'll be very surprised if Cal lets UK shoot 30 or so three-point shots once they start playing good teams.

  31. Here are the three-point shooting percentages of national champions since 2015:

    2015: Duke (38.7 percent) (26th in the country)
    2016: Villanova (36.2 percent) (105th in the country)
    2017: N. Carolina (35.5 percent) (148th in the country)
    2018: Villanova (40.1 percent) (11th in the country)
    2019: Virginia (39.5 percent) (8th in the country)
    2021: Baylor (41.3 percent) (1st in the country)
    2022: Kansas (36.1 percent) (51st in the country)
    2023: Connecticut (36.3 percent) (62d in the country)

  32. So my takeaway is that unless you are going to get the kind of officiating that UNC got in 2017, you better make at least 36 percent of your three-point shots.

  33. Under Cal, UK made 36 percent of its three point shots only three times: 2011, 2012, and 2016.

  34. This game is a heartbreaker for fans like me. The Cats are basically using a whole lineup of guards. So they are running and jumping all over the court, and zipping beautiful passes to wide open guys -- I mean guys with no one within shouting distance. And then those guys are shooting threes. It's beautiful -- and they are missing everything. So far, they are 3-11 from three-point range (27.3 percent). And they're only 6-16 from two-point range (37.5 percent). They still lead 27-20 with 3:05 left in the first half. But this feels like Cal is letting everyone get this type of basketball out of their system, and convincing himself that it doesn't work, so that we can get back to attacking the rim when the real games start.

  35. Reed Sheppard is fouled while shooting a three-point shot. I literally don't remember the last time that happened for UK. He makes all three free throws, as any Kentuckian should.

  36. Now Sheppard makes a three-point shot of his own. He's got 8 points and 3 rebounds off the bench.

  37. At the half, Cats lead 37-29.

    4-13 from 3-point range
    8-18 from 2-point range
    9-12 from the line

    4-13 from 3-point range
    6-18 from 2-point range
    5-5 from the line

  38. UK has 20 rebounds. NMSU has 22.
    UK has 1 turnover. NMSU has 6.

  39. K-Pom has Kentucky at number 18 in the country. He thinks the Cats will go 11-7 in the SEC, and 21-10 overall.

  40. You may wonder how the number 18 team in the country goes 11-7 in conference.
    Well, UK's schedule is amazingly difficult. Ken Pom has UK playing 14 "A" games, which is the most difficult type of game. That's almost half the schedule.

  41. Cats also have seven "B" games:

    11/28: MIAMI (FLA.)
    12/21: at Louisville
    1/9: MISSOURI
    1/20: GEORGIA
    1/31: FLORIDA
    2/6: at Vanderbilt

  42. Now on YouTube, Johnny Cash sings: "I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel." That's also appropriate for the beginning of college basketball season.

  43. "But I remember everything / What I have become / My sweetest friend? / Everyone I know / Goes away in the end." It's like an anthem for college basketball fans.

  44. "You are someone else / I am still right here."

  45. I've heard omens in basketball songs before. In 2011, I had developed the following ritual for UK basketball: I would listen to Tom Leach and Mike Pratt on the radio -- synced up to the TV -- for as long as UK was in the lead. But if UK fell behind, I would switch over to "Classic Rewind" on XM Radio, and stay there for the rest of the game.

  46. Now that was a team that fell behind a lot, and I was really obsessed with them, so I heard a lot of Classic Rewind. But they made a run in the tournament, and got to the Elite Eight against UNC. I have never wanted to win a game more in my life. I hate UNC, and UK hadn't been to the Final Four since 1998. I was almost ill waiting for the game to start.

  47. And so the game starts, and UK actually jumps out to the lead, and for almost two hours, Tom Leach, Mike Pratt and I are as one. But finally UNC cuts into the lead, and eventually (I think) they tie it up. Now I'm in a dilemma. I usually go to Classic Rewind when UK gets in trouble, and they're definitely in trouble, but the game is almost over and the radio guys have gotten me this far. What to do?

  48. The situation gets worse, and I decide that if UK is going out, then I'm going out with all guns blazing. So I switch over to Classic Rewind. And it turns out that they're playing an old song by Kansas, and this is what I hear:

    Hold on, baby, hold on
    For it's closer than you think
    And you're standing on the brink

    I was THRILLED! And sure enough, UK pulled it out, and we went back to the Final Four.

  49. Meanwhile, the Cats have blown this game open. With 7:36 left in the game, they lead New Mexico St. 65 to 44. They are only 6-21 from 3-point range, but they have pushed the Aggies into 14 turnovers, and have committed only 5 of their own.

  50. Cats have 21 fast break points and 18 points off of turnovers. That's the kind of basketball I love.

  51. Cats up 74-46 with 5:09 left. They have outscored the Aggies 37-17 in the second half.

  52. Cats up 78-46 with 3:10 left. The second half has been an array of steals (the Cats have 13 steals for the game), passes (16 assists), and dunks. Really pretty basketball.

  53. Cats win 86-46. Cats had five guys in double figures:

    Rob Dillingham (Donda Academy, Simi Valley, Calif.): 17 points
    Wagner: 13 points:
    Edwards: 12 points
    Reed Sheppard (N. Laurel H.S., London, Ky.): 12 points
    Reeves: 11 points

  54. UK for the game:

    9-29 from 3-point range
    23-36 from 2-point range
    13-19 from the line


    5-23 from 3-point range
    13-33 from 2-point range
    5-5 from the line

  55. With the 86-46 victory, Kentucky moves up to number 14 on Ken Pom. Now their projected record is 11-7 in the SEC, 22-9 overall.

  56. Since 1975, there are 11 teams that have won at least 20 games in the Sweet Sixteen or later rounds. If you give teams 1 point for appearing in the Sweet Sixteen, 2 points for appearing in the Elite Eight, 4 points for appearing in the Final Four, 8 points for appearing in the Finals, and 16 points for winning a National Championship, those 11 teams look like this:

    1. N. Carolina: 51-25 (286 points) (5 National Championships)
    2. Duke: 48-23 (282) (5 Titles)
    3. Kentucky: 44-24 (236) (4 Titles)
    4. Kansas: 35-21 (192) (3 Titles)
    5. Connecticut: 27-11 (182) (5 Titles)
    6. Louisville: 26-18 (149) (3 Titles)
    7. U.C.L.A.: 25-21 (141) (2 Titles)
    8. Michigan St: 26-17 (135) (2 Titles)
    9. Indiana: 20-14 (133) (3 Titles)
    10. Villanova: 21-10 (125) (3 Titles)
    11. Michigan: 23-13 (122) (1 Title)

  57. Since 1975, these are the National Titles won by teams not listed above:

    1977: Marquette
    1983: N. Carolina St.
    1984: Georgetown
    1990: U.N.L.V.
    1994: Arkansas
    1997: Arizona
    2002: Maryland
    2003: Syracuse
    2006: Florida
    2007: Florida
    2019: Virginia
    2021: Baylor

  58. Classic ACC: UNC (5), Duke (5), N. Carolina St., Maryland, Virginia (total of 13)
    Classic Big East: UConn (5) Villanova (3), Georgetown, Syracuse (total of 10)
    Classic SEC: Kentucky (4), Florida (2) (total of 6)
    Classic Big 10: Indiana (3), Michigan St. (2), Michigan (total of 6)
    Classic Big 8: Kansas (3) (total of 3)
    Classic Pac 10: UCLA (2), Arizona (total of 3)
    Classic SWC: Arkansas, Baylor (total of 2)

    That leaves five Champions in the "Other" category:
    Louisville (3), Marquette, UNLV