In 1891, when James Naismith first instructed his Springfield students to throw a soccer ball into peach baskets to avoid going out into the harsh New England winter, he had know idea that a tournament would one day be played in his honor. But, this past weekend, some 120 years after the invention of the game, one of the best basketball teams in the country and some mediocre ones gathered in Uncasville, Connecticut for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic. Those who witnessed the event called it the most exciting thing that has gone on in Uncasville since Tim McGraw played back-to-back shows over the summer. Literally hundreds of people – including Rajon Rondo, Worldwide Wes, Dan Issel, Andy Katz, and the Petersons from Shelbyville – packed the Mohegan Sun Arena for the final two rounds of the eight-team tournament. Sunday’s championship game pitted the No. 2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats and the Elder Dominions. It was a close battle for most of the contest but the Wildcats claimed the title in the end. The championship was also a moral victory for Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who finally silenced those critics who said he would never win one with one-and-dones. Well, Calipari haters, this tiny glass trophy is for you.
To your News and Views…
– Obviously, the story of the weekend was Kentucky’s successful run through the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Saturday’s game was the much more enjoyable game to watch of the two, but both were good games for the Cats going forward. Kentucky ran through Penn State with ease in the first game with 26 points from Doron “Nappy Boy” Lamb and another 19 from one half of the White Boy Academy, Kyle Wiltjer. The Cats showed their unselfishness with 19 assists on 28 field goals while knocking down 50% of their three-point attempts.
– The second game, however, was a whole ‘nother story. Kentucky struggled throughout against Old Dominion on Sunday, failing to really establish a comfortable lead until late in the game. The Monarchs led through most of the first half while Kentucky fans – and John Calipari – ripped their hair out watching Marquis Teague handle the ball. It seemed like the Kentucky point guard turned the ball over every single time he touched it. The box score credits Teague for six turnovers but there were plenty of times he lost control of the ball but was fortunate enough to have a teammate track it down. After the game, Calipari said his team played a “loop”, which is a zone offense that UK hasn’t used before. That could explain Teague’s struggles and the team’s 21 turnovers in the game.
– Another thing this team is going to have to work on going forward is their attitudes. I’ll be honest, I can’t stand Terrence Jones when he flexes and stares down defenders after a made basket. Doing it once or twice a game is great — no one loves trash talking more than me — but Jones does it entirely too much. Take your points and get back on defense. You’re supposed to be dominating these guys. That, and the jawing that led to the technical foul was completely uncalled for and 100% Jones’s fault. We don’t need that. Same goes for Marquis Teague a couple plays later, although he was provoked. It’s okay to be cocky, but don’t be thugs about it. John Wall was cocky with that “You Can’t Stop Me” smile on his face. That’s what we want to see, not what we saw on Sunday. (Now go kill me in the comments section.)
– I think it’s safe to say that the outcome of the game would’ve been different without Darius Miller. He played great on both ends of the floor and he was the glue that held everyone together when it was getting ugly. Darius finished with 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds in 28 minutes and played his role as leader perfectly. I hate to see him not in the starting five as a senior, but it might be the best place for him. He’s exactly what this young team needs coming off the bench. He’ll get his minutes either way.
– It wasn’t all basketball this weekend for Kentucky, the Cats played a solid game down in Athens too. Kentucky entered its game against Georgia as a 31-point underdog against the Bulldogs and had a realistic shot of winning until a late fumble by Max Smith at the Kentucky 10. Georgia would score three plays later to make it 19-10, the way it would end. Take away that fumble and Ashely Lowery’s fumble before the half, and 10 free points come off the board for Georgia and we could be looking at a different outcome. But like someone in the comments section said, if Grandma had ashe’d be Grandpa. If, if, if.
– The loss to Georgia ruins any hopes for a bowl game for the Cats. That means this Saturday’s game against Tennessee is the bowl game. We’ve said it every November for the last five years, but I honestly think Kentucky has a chance. Unlike previous years when we’ve said Kentucky is good enough to compete, I think Tennessee is bad enough to suck with us. Tyler Bray coming back is huge for the Volunteers, though. #BeatTennessee
– Has there been a better weekend in college football…ever? Four of the nation’s Top 10 teams lost over the weekend in four of the most exciting games we’ve seen all season. Iowa State pulled off an enormous comeback to beat No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime on Friday; USC fought off an incredible comeback by Oregon to take down the No. 4 Ducks in Eugene; No. 5 Oklahoma learned that Baylor’s RG-III is the real deal; and No. 7 Clemson, well, they got spanked by NC State. It all helps set up that LSU-Alabama rematch for the National Championship that everyone wants to see. It also means that Monday’s top three teams in the country all come from the SEC West.
– There is a video from the Tennessee locker room that tells the story of how the Vols football program has fallen. The video has been pulled from YouTube but I was lucky enough to catch it before it disappeared. It was taken in the Tennessee locker room right after the win over Vandy and the players are going absolutely crazy. You’d think they just won the National Championship by the way they’re acting. They are throwing Derek Dooley in the air (seriously) and carrying him around on their shoulders. Some of the players look like they’re crying. After a few minutes of celebration, Dooley silences his team and yells, “The one thing Tennessee always does is kicks the s— out of Vanderbilt.” Then they all sing some song in unison about being better than Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt. Yes, that’s right, Vanderbilt. They’re celebrating a win over Vanderbilt. I wish you could see it.