- © Copyright 2014 Tailgate Review
Tomorrow the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats (24-1) will head down to Nashville to do battle with the Vanderbilt Commodores (17-7) in a key game in the hunt for the SEC Title. The Cats will enter this game on a roll as they come off a pasting of the #8 Florida Gators on Tuesday night while Vandy is fresh off of a victory over the sliding LSU Tigers. The Cats appear to have rounded into form over the last 2 weeks and they will not easily be derailed as they prepare to head down the home stretch of this college basketball season. Freshman Anthony Davis (14.0 ppg, 10 reb., 4.8 blk & 1.5 stls) continues to be the centerpiece behind a defense that is just downright frightening at times. The Cats are still looking for a total effort on offense but there is no denying the way they play defense. Davis is literally the front-runner for not only “Defensive Player of the Year” but also “Freshman of the Year” as well the possible “Player of the Year”; no player has ever won all three awards in his first year of playing college ball. But Davis will need help from Terence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller if the Cats are to come away from Nashville with a “W” tomorrow night. Marquise Teague will also have to have an excellent floor-game to allow those guys to be able to produce.
For the Commodores, the season has been a combination of ups and downs, injury filled and sometimes a lack of passion and intensity. This is a veteran team that some thought could win the SEC and at times they have looked very good (i.e. a 17 point victory over a then “hot” Marquette squad in late Dec.); however the ‘Dores have inexplicable losses (home losses to Cleveland St. and Indiana St.). So it is hard to get a read on a team that had high expectations coming into this season. John Jenkins leads Vandy averaging 19.7 ppg but he will need help from Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor if they hope to topple the Cats. Coach Kevin Stallings knows this is a chance for his team to build some momentum as they head toward March, something they sorely need after being bounce in the 1st round of the big dance each of the last two years. Vandy still has at the very least “Elite 8” talent but they will need to at least try and add another marquee victim to their list (Marquette is the only ranked team they have beaten).
My thoughts for this game are simple, the Cats routinely have problems playing in down in Vandy and that is usually atypical of any visiting opponent to Nashville. However, the friendly confines have not been all that friendly as mentioned previously. The Commodores need this victory badly, if for nothing else, to pad their resume. #1 going on the road for a tough conference game usually smells of upset but I am not so sure the Commodores believe in themselves the way UK does; give me UK 72 – Vandy 68.
Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats (15-1) will pay a visit to the state of Alabama to play the Auburn Tiger (10-5). The Cats are fresh off of a good victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday while Auburn was thoroughly beaten by Vanderbilt (65-35) in its SEC opener over the weekend. Kenny Grabiel (6’8’’ forward) leads the Tigers in just about every important offensive & defensive category (11.9 pts per game, 7.8 reb. per game, 1.5 steals per game and 2.7 blocks per game. While Auburn had a pretty good start to the season with their non-conference record of 10-4, they really didn’t beat anybody worth speaking of. Their best win on paper appears to be against South Florida, but only because the Bulls are in the Big East Conference. Auburn had bad losses to Seton Hall (81-59), Long Beach St. (64-43) and Florida St. (85-56). The Tigers really have trouble putting the ball in the basket, even more than UK’s last opponent, the Gamecocks. Usually home-court advantage means something for a team (worth between 5-10 points possibly) but for the Tigers, it just means there will be no long bus ride after this “mercy killing”.
For the Cats, this game will be about focus and not letting up on the road against an inferior opponent. Terrence Jones finally re-emerged as he had maybe his best game of the season against South Carolina. Anthony Davis continues to give opposing players fit when they attack the rim. The Cats cannot come out sluggish and uninterested because much like the Commodores did, you want to take the heart and breath away from a team like Auburn early because that will lead to them hanging their heads and being frustrated.
This one should not be a challenge except if you are betting whether or not the Tigers score more than 40……….I’m betting they will, but barely; UK 70 – 45.
Well we are about 1/3 of the way through the College Basketball season and we have seen a lot of different things up to this point. We saw a mammoth clash between UNC and UK that went right down to the wire before the Cats pulled out a victory. We seen a great group of teams assembled for the Maui Classic, including Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown but when it was all said and done, the “Dukies” continued their mastery of the islands and brought home the championship. We have already had 3 teams stand atop the polls at #1; we started with North Carolina, then we had Kentucky and now we have Syracuse. We have been surprised by some teams while disappointed by others but thru it all, we are prepared to witness even more great things as each team quickly approaches conference play. So with that being said, let me hand out a few honors as well as a few “head-smacks” for what has transpired thus far.
The Five Most Disappointing Teams:
The Five Most Surprising Teams:
The Best Conference: The Big 10 – After the Big 10 destroyed the ACC in their annual conference clash, there is no reason not to believe that this conference can put 8 or 9 teams in the “Big Dance” in March.
The Most Scrutinized Team: The Louisville Cardinals (10-0) – Some people are saying the Cardinals are the worst Top 5 team they have seen but the numbers show different. The have beaten Vanderbilt, Memphis and Butler but they have only played 1 game outside of the friendly confines of the YUM Center….that game was right up the road in Indianapolis.
The Most Scrutinized Conference: The PAC-12 – This conference does not boast ONE single team in the Top 25 in any poll at this point and that quite frankly is reason for concern. Stanford (10-1) and California (10-2) have the best records but when they have played a team of caliber, both have lost. The third best team at the moment is Oregon State………., yes I said Oregon State (9-2).
The Most Improved Player: Dion Waiters (Syracuse) – Waiters has gone from a guy that barely saw action last year to a star in the making. Waiters came out of high school highly acclaimed but then struggled to understand the offensive and defensive philosophies that Jim Boeheim teaches. Waiters even considered transferring this summer. But he seems to have a renewed spirit and dedication and he is one of the reasons the ‘Cuse are #1 right now.
The Conference Most Likely to Turn MMA: The Big East – Between the Georgetown Hoya’s brawl with the Chinese National team over the summer and the fight the Cincinnati Bearcats had with Xavier, the Big East referees must be fully prepared for anything once conference play begins. Factor in other physical teams like UCONN, PITT, Syracuse and Seton Hall, some of the conference games could resemble a match in the caged “Octagon”.
Conference With the Most to Prove: The SEC – Because John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have ruled the recruiting and the conference for two consecutive seasons, it has overshadowed nearly every other team. This season, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are considered to be contenders to the throne but more importance will be placed on what they do in March.
The Best 5 Teams I Have Seen Up to This Point:
- Albert Pujos to the Angels was not necessarily about the money (although 10 yrs, $254 million is not “chump change”) as much as it was about the Cardinals not showing a lot of initiative to re-sign him. The fans in St. Louis are upset and rightfully so but they can’t or shouldn’t be upset with the player in this instance. This is more about management maybe being a little hesitant to give a great player a contract that would take him into his early 40s when they were probably eyeing maybe something around a 5 year offer. So with the defending champion Cardinals now without its two faces of the team (Pujos and Tony LaRussa), you have to wonder where the organization goes from here. As for the Angels, the sky is the limit provided Albert stays healthy and can continue to produce for them the way he did for St. Louis.
- The brawl this weekend between the Xavier Musketeers and the Cincinnati Bearcats was one of the ugliest in recent years for College Basketball and certainly it could have been a lot worse. Obviously with both of the teams in Ohio and not very far apart, the animosity in this rivalry has picked up over the last couple of years. But what occurred Saturday was just inexcusable and it shows the immaturity of the Bearcat squad. Even when Bob Huggins was the coach, it was know that the Bearcats were a very physical team that had players that actually looked as though they belonged on the “gridiron” rather than the “hardwood”. Who can ever forget the incident when form Bearcat hoopster, Art Long was arrested downtown Cincinnati (outside of a club) for punching a police horse…..yes I said a police horse. But the rivalry has spilled over to “Twitter” where UC players have allegedly being tweeting that the Xavier players were not good, specifically Xavier guard Tu Holloway and that if he was at UC, he wouldn’t even make the squad. Well I am not sure that is a true statement but then Holloway’s assessment of the incident in the post-game conference was not much better when he proclaimed “…..we have gangsters in our locker-room…..”! At this point, I am not sure that the six-game suspension handed down to UC PF, Yancy Gates was enough as he was the most serious offender in the brawl, as he literally knocked-out Musketeer big man, Kenny Freese with a stingy right hand. But I do know that as the Bearcats head into Big East play at the end of this month; this may not be the only on-court incident so coach Mick Cronin would be best served to get this under control now.
- The craze and the criticism that surrounds the new phrase: “We Got Tebowed” has merit no matter which side you are own. Tebow has helped elevate the Denver Broncos from a season to be lost to now possibly AFC West Champions and a play-off berth. Tebow is simply just a “winner” and always has been. He is not a prototypical QB and by no means will he ever be but he is a believer and a winner. The majority of the Bronco faithful are all in with the Tebow craze but they shouldn’t be completely secure for the future of the franchise unless a few things happen. #1 is that the Broncos need to make sure they give him a great QB coach that can continue to help him try and improve as much as possible. #2, the Broncos need to start to improve on the offensive line and add more talent (at the skilled positions) around him, particularly in the area of wide receiver. But for all it is worth, you have a guy just living out his dream of playing QB in the NFL and he is enjoying every bit of it.
- David Stern’s veto of the trade that would have sent Chris to the Los Angeles Lakers upset a whole lot of people but in reality, Stern was looking out for the NBA owned Hornets. Without Paul, and now with David West a pick-up the Indiana Pacers, who would have been even tougher to find an interested buyer for a Hornets franchise with no “name” player on its roster. The fact is simple, while “small market” teams are already behind the “big market” franchises in terms of money and fan support, the one thing small market teams hang their hat on is having a at least one star player to lure fans in. If Paul is in fact moved at some point, the Hornets will definitely need to recoup some young, serviceable talent in return as well as a stockpile of draft picks.
- Robert Griffith III was the correct pick for the Heisman based on the voters but he may have not been the popular pick by the people. Andrew Luck would have been just as deserving but it is hard to argue with what RGIII did against good competition. He opened the season with a bang when Baylor beat TCU. He was able to continue his play against the rest of the non-conference slate on into the Big 12 season. But what he did to Oklahoma (of course the Baylor’ “D” had a hand in it too) and Texas, both games toward the end of the season put him on the mind of a lot of voters as opposed to Luck. In fact, with Baylor playing the last weekend of the regular season and Stanford and Luck being off probably was just as key as anything. RGIII had the stage all to himself to make his bid for the Heisman. Now the talk that he could rival Luck for the #1 overall spot or at least the overall #1 QB taken in the 2012 NFL Draft is foolishness. While Griffith is definitely worthy of being one of the Top 5 QBS taken is one thing but Luck is NFL ready now in terms of almost every aspect of the game. In fact, the Indianapolis Colts may be so fortunate as to be able to draft Luck and still have Peyton Manning around for 1 or 2 more years. The Colts nor any other franchise looking to pick a QB in the draft should not be fooled into putting Griffith ahead of Luck. In fact, Griffith’s talents may best fit with a team like Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks or the Miami Dolphins. The Colts and the Washington Redskins would both be disastrous fits for RGIII if he was chosen either of those teams.