WCS makes return-to-UK argument compelling

After Kentucky’s loss in the NCAA Tournament finals Monday night, Willie Cauley-Stein candidly detailed the conflicting factors that he and several teammates will face in deciding whether to return to college next season or enter this year’s NBA Draft.
Cauley-Stein made his ledger seem heavily weighted toward returning.
“I still have something to prove and I still have so much to work on in my game,” he said. “I went up from last year. Now, I want to take another step.”
Cauley-Stein professed his love for all things UK.
“You know, I love the school,” he said. “I love being at Kentucky. I love the fan base. I love the community. I love the people there.
“Why not stay until they make you leave.”
Because a NBA career means millions of dollars and the opportunity to improving in basketball while free of schoolwork.
“I really don’t know,” Cauley-Stein said. He added that he would meet with his family and UK coaches before deciding on future plans.
Several other UK players recoiled from the inevitable questions about whether to return next season or leave.
“No clue,” Aaron Harrison said.
When asked what thoughts he had about the subject, James Young said, “None at all.”
Julius Randle, widely considered the most likely of UK’s freshmen to enter this year’s NBA Draft, said, “It’s hard to think of that right now. I’m hurting from this loss.”

UK: Final Four tickets on sale

Kentucky season ticket holders could begin placing a request for Final Four tickets through the UK ticket office at 9 a.m. Monday.

Ticket holders may request up to two tickets at $300 per ticket. Tickets include the semifinal games on Saturday and the championship game on Monday. UK is sold out of its NCAA required hotel allotment, the school said in a news release. Ticket holders will receive an email confirmation on Monday evening regarding the status of their ticket request.  Please note that placing a request does not guarantee tickets.  All tickets must be picked up in Dallas and will require a photo ID.

All ticket requests must be received by 4 p.m. EDT on Monday.  Seat locations will be assigned based on the K Fund priority point system.

Season ticket holders may request tickets one of the following methods:

  • Call the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287.  The ticket office is open from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm ET.
  • Fax your request form to (859) 323-1269.  Request forms have been emailed to all men’s basketball ticket holders.
  • Walk up and place your request in person at the UK Ticket Office, located in the Joe Craft Center, from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm ET.

UK students who signed up for the online Final Four lottery last week will receive an email from the ticket office on Monday afternoon, March 31 with ordering instructions for the NCAA’s Veritix ticket system.  Student tickets must be purchased by Tuesday at 12:00 noon ET.  If not all tickets are purchased by the deadline, the ticket office will send another email to all eligible students, and the remaining tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis until Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. ET.  Student ticket information can be found online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets.

Andrew Harrison: Elbow getting better

Andrew Harrison gave an update on his injured right elbow Thursday.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “Still a little sore. Still ice it and stuff. But it’s definitely getting better.”
Harrison acknowledged that the elbow as not 100 percent against Wichita State last weekend. Wearing a padded sleeve on the elbow, he scored 20 points in UK’s victory.
“I had some pain during the game,” he said. “A game like that, it’s so exciting. The adrenalin is flowing.”

Harrison said he planned to wear the padded sleeve again Friday night.

Cauley-Stein: UK, U of L fans not so different

Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein suggested that UK and U of L fans might be more similar than they think.
“If you ask Kentucky fan about the rivalry and then ask a Louisville fan about the rivalry, they say the same kind of trash talk about each other,” he said. “. . . It’s the same thing, just on the different side of it. It’s funny because it’s so similar.
“That’s why it’s funny. You all are really the same. You’re saying the same thing.”

UK, U of L players: What rivalry?

To hear players from both teams, the chance to keep alive national championship hopes dwarfs any importance attached to the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry.
“I don’t want to disrespect the rivalry, but we’re playing for something bigger than the rivalry,” UK 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein said Thursday. “We’re playing to move on. We’re not thinking about it as a must-win game because it’s Louisville. It’s a must-win game because we’re trying to win the national championship.
“That just happens to be the next bump in the road.”
UK and U of L play here Friday night in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round.
Louisville players echoed Cauley-Stein’s sentiment.
“It’s not a rivalry to us right now,” guard Chris Jones said. “We’re trying to win a national championship. There’s only one team in the way, that’s Kentucky.”
Even if it were the regular season, a Kentucky-Louisville game might bring a what’s-the-big-deal shrug.
“It doesn’t really mean much to you if you’re not from Kentucky,” Cauley-Stein said. “If you’re not from Kentucky, you don’t understand it. It’s that simple.”
Cauley-Stein likened UK-U of L to Kansas-Kansas State.
Andrew Harrison also sounded puzzled
“It’s not a big deal to people not from Kentucky,” he said. “People from Kentucky, they take it very seriously. It’s kind of life and death.”
For UK players who did not grow up in Kentucky, Louisville is “just another great team we have to play,” Harrison said.

Polson: Wichita State is ‘real deal’

Kentucky players said they haven’t watched a lot of Wichita State this season. But they’ve seen enough to know they face a worthy opponent in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament third round.

“I watched them make that tournament run last year (to the Final Four),” UK guard Jarrod Polson said. “. . . We know they’re the real deal.

“It’s definitely going to be a real challenge for us.”

Teammate Alex Poythress noted Wichita State had “quick guards, shooters, nice forwards.”

Polson acknowledged the impossible-to-resist storyline: Kentucky, a team that aspired to a 40-0 record, facing a Wichita State team that’s one track at 35-0 for just such a season.

“Yeah, it is a little ironic,” Polson said. “I don’t think anyone expected  how both of our seasons went. But at the end of the day, it’s zero and zero, now.”

Young laments lapse in shot confidence

After making three of 13 shots (zero of three from three), Kentucky wing James Young said he needed to bolster his confidence.

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my shot,” he said after UK beat Kansas State Friday night. “I was leaning back again. It was just poor confidence in my shot and lack of focus…”

Young, who made 15 of 33 shots in the SEC Tournament the previous weekend, said he generally feels confident warming up.

“Before the game, I’m hitting every shot,” he said. “Once the game starts, I lose focus or I kind of get carried away, and try to do too much.”

No such problem occurred prior to coming to college, he said.

“It’s been like this all season for me,” he said. “Up and down. I just have to stay consistent with my jump shot, and not lean away, and stay confident in my shot.”

Andrew Harrison injures right arm

Kentucky freshman point guard Andrew Harrison downplayed an injury to his right arm he sustained late in Friday night’s victory over Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament.

Saying he believed he hyperextended the arm at the elbow, Harrison said, “I’ll just get a new arm.”

Harrison said he injured the arm when he reached in trying to strip the ball from Kansas State’s Will Spradling with 1:14 left.

“That didn’t turn out too well,” he said as he kept an bag of ice in place on his right elbow. “I’ll be all right.”

UK confirmed that Harrison injured his right elbow, but did not elaborate on the the extent of the injury. Harrison’s status was “day to day,” UK said.

Teammate Alex Poythress suggested the injury was not serious.

“It’s just a little bump,” he said. “Nothing too serious. He’ll be fine.”


UK to fans: Meet me in St. Louis

The UK Alumni Association will consider Joe Buck’s as its headquarters in St. Louis this weekend.

Joe Buck’s (1000 Clark Ave.) is about a quarter mile from the Scottrade Center, the site of the NCAA Tournament games this weekend.

Alumni and fans are invited to a pre-game event beginning at 4 p.m. EDT/3 p.m. CDT on Friday. There is no admission fee. At about 6:30 p.m. EDT/5:30 p.m. CDT, the UK Band and UK Cheerleaders will lead a pep rally at Joe Buck’s.


Joe Buck’s will show the Kansas State vs. Kentucky game live. If the Wildcats advance, a similar event will be held at the same location on Sunday, March 23.

Vitale: UK a ‘major disappointment’

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale labeled this season’s Kentucky team a “major disappointment” on Thursday.
Speaking on a telconference (and with 20/20 hindsight), Vitale and fellow analyst Seth Greenberg noted how the freshman-oriented Cats lack leadership, maturity and consistent perimeter play.
“Deep down, (UK Coach John Calipari) has to believe these kids have not lived up to expectations,” Vitale said.
Vitale and Greenberg acknowledged that unrealized expectations might say something about recruiting camp followers who speculated last year about Kentucky adding the greatest freshman class in the history of college basketball.
“We got so far ahead of ourselves,” Greenberg said of the six McDonald’s All-Americans among UK’s freshmen. “Until you get to the next level, you really don’t know who (is an elite player).”
Added Vitale: “Some of the recruiting services got carried away.”
Kentucky, which takes a 22-9 record into a Southeastern Conference Tournament game Friday night, can change perceptions radically in the next few weeks, the analysts said.
“Kentucky can wipe out all the talk,” Vitale said. “. . . If they get on a run, and they’re capable. There’s talent.”
Vitale said he could imagine a Calipari press conference following a dramatic resurrection of Kentucky basketball.
“Didn’t I tell you? It takes time,” Vitale said in predicting Calipari’s reaction. “We finally got our mojo back.”
Many of Kentucky’s flaws picked at by Vitale and Greenberg had been duly noted earlier this season. For instance, the lack of a veteran presence that’s experienced and commands respect.
“They don’t have anybody to coach the locker room,” Greenberg said. “A strong voice to explain Cal and hold each other accountable. A freshman can’t be that guy. It’s got to be an upperclassman.”
Greenberg also questioned the UK players’ willingness to cooperate with each other in a unified style of play.
“I’m not sure this team developed that trust that you want,” he said. “. . . You’ve got to have guys who want to trust each other.”
Like all teams, Kentucky must walk the delicate balance in attacking while also exhibiting good decision-making. That responsibility falls heaviest on the guards, who the analysts found lacking on defense and offense. Vitale said he had not seen the kind of lock-down defense that keeps the ball out of the lane.
“The biggest thing is it’s a two-week season,” Greenberg said. “What everybody’s got to do is check the egoes at the door.”