NBA Draft – UK Players

Anthony Davis- #1 pick — Davis is the sure fire #1 pick and looks to help resurrect the New Orleans Hornets.  The Hornets traded starting Center Emeka Okafor to help open up more minutes for Davis.  It will be interesting to see if they try and play Davis at C or PF.  I think he can play both throughout the course of a game, but still needs to add bulk to match-up with a player like Lakers Center Andrew Bynum.  Plus the Hornets have a more than capable center in former All-Star Chris Kaman to help shoulder the heavy lifting down low.  I have yet to see anything on the basketball court that Davis can’t do and is only going to get better and stronger.  Davis projects to be the surest player to have a great career out  of this strong draft and I project him to be in numerous All-Star games.  The West is deep at the power-forward position, but when you are being compared to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan you are going to have a great career.  It will be interesting to see how the Hornets build around this pick and develop the rest of their team.  They have stud SG Eric Gordon coming back from injury and the #10 pick to help add another young piece.




Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- Lottery Pick — Often times overshadowed because of Davis and also because of UK’s wealth of talent.  MKG played his role and didn’t have to take over games, which he could have if he was on just about any other team in the nation.  All you need to see is the 24 point 19 rebound game he posted against Louisville in the regular season to know that this guy is a gamer.  He has all the intangibles and only cares about winning.  Honestly watching him for Kentucky he reminds me of John Wall in the open court. When he gets a defensive rebound the defense has to get back or he will get to the rim in a hurry.  With his speed and long strides no one can get in front of him… Still has to work on jumper but dude is a beast and is being compared to Gerald Wallace at the pro level.  Early in the draft process he was projected as high as #2 to Charlotte, but it is reported he had less than stellar workouts and teams looking for a small forward would rather take the more NBA ready and better shooting Harrison Barnes over MKG. Still he has potential landing spots in Cleveland (#4), Sacramento (#5), or Golden State (#7).  I think he would be a great fit for Golden State, but I have a feeling Sacramento is going to snatch him up and pair him with fellow UK alums Demarcus Cousins and Chuck Hayes and former Louisville players Francisco Garcia and Terrence Williams. What an awesome team that will be to root for!

Terrence Jones- Mid-First Round — Has all the talent in the world and an NBA body, but just can’t put it all together consistently. Sometimes loses focus and energy which has hurt his stock (ie: the Indiana regular season loss in which he had only 4 points, 1 rebound, and 6 turnovers in 28 minutes). I think he is too predictable and mechanical in his moves, but was really been a force down low when paired with Davis.  In his freshman year he played soft in the post, but I have been impressed with his strength down low this past year. He is a bit of a Tweener who will prob get minutes at both forwards. I see him having a mediocre NBA career floating around for years as more of a rotation player.  He measured well at the combine and impressed some, but rumored to have not stood out as much in individual workouts. On mocks he has been as high as #7 to Golden State to as low as #23 to Atlanta.  Golden State was apparently one of the teams he didn’t wow so I don’t expect him to go that high.  I expect him to fall somewhere in the 14-22 range with Boston, Denver, or Dallas being probable landing spots.


Doron Lamb- Mid/Late Rounder– Even in what people are calling a strong draft class, I think that UK’s all time 3 pt fg % leader (48.47% for career) will be selected first round.  He is really not getting a lot of buzz in war rooms, but the guy knows how to play the game.   He is a lights out spot up shooter, demonstrated ability to create own shot this year, and is not as small as people try to make him out to be. With his stroke he can def find a niche in NBA much like Jodie Meeks/Leandro Barbosa have done.  I think he could go as high as #18 to Minnesota who are in desperate need for shooting from the wings as Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Martell Webster are just not cutting it.  That is a little high for him though.  I think a couple even better and more likely destinations would be #24 to Cleveland to line-up next to Kyrie and possibly Barnes or MKG (if they pick one of them at #4) or Chicago at #29 where he can learn from Rip Hamilton and play next to Derrick Rose.


Marques Teague- Late/Mid First Round— With a weak PG class, a team in need of a point guard could jump at the opportunity of Teague’s potential.  Damian Lillard is the top point guard in this draft, but after that there are mixed opinions on the second best between Teague, Kendall Marshall, and some even like the potential of Tony Wroten who is very raw with a broken shot, but is an athletic freak.    To me, due to Marshall’s lack of speed and offense, Teague is the next best PG prospect.  His jump shot is unorthodox, but given the space can knock it down. His strength lies in his quickness, allowing him to get to rim at will.  He is one of the best at the collegiate level at finishing at the rim in traffic. When the shot clock was running down for Kentucky he usually had the ball and was the one to make the play even with all the above mentioned talent on this past years team.  He almost always gets free and gets a good shot or if the defense collapses throws it at the rim for Davis. He won’t be able to do that as well in NBA but he is smart player and will find a way to get the job done. Also was only a freshman so plenty of room to grow. I have seen him being drafted as high as #16 to Houston, which is very possible considering their need for a PG with Dragic a free agent and Lowery sometimes getting in Kevin McHale’s doghouse.  Some other possible destinations are Dallas #17, Denver #20 (replace Andre Miller as Ty Lawson’s back-up), Atlanta #23 (back-up his brother),  Indiana #26, or Golden State #30.


Darius Miller- Early/Mid Second Rounder– You know what you are getting with Miller. He is a long wing player who can shoot the spot up J. He can defend decently and is ok off the dribble, but best as a catch and shoot. Biggest weakness is when he is forced to dribble the ball up the court or against pressure and make decisions. In the NBA, the PG will handle just about all those responsibilities so he can focus on spotting up and crashing boards. He has NBA size and if he applies himself can become a rotation player. I think the best scenario would be some playoff team looking to add a player with his strengths will snag him early/mid 2nd round.  Looking at teams with earlier second round picks, Cleveland #33 and #34, Golden State #35, and Atlanta #43 could be potential landing spots.

Vargas- Senior — Calipari answer when asked about Vargas NBA potential -“What I say is you’ve got a 6-10, 6-11 player who can rebound and run the court and is more skilled than you think,” Calipari said. “You know, you look in the NBA, how many big guys are there? They’ve got 30 teams. You look at all these teams in Europe, if he chooses to do this, he’ll continue to play.”   Thanks for the support coach, but in all honesty, Vargas will be playing in Europe or NBDL.




Is Kentucky in the Right Conference?

With conference realignment a rampant topic of discussion throughout the country I began thinking of whether or not Kentucky’s SEC membership is the best thing for the school, it’s athletics programs, and the fans.  Kentucky has been a charter-member of the Southeastern Conference since 1932 and with the league expected to distribute $20+ Million to its members following the 2012-13 season it is unlikely that the Cats will make any changes to their conference affiliation. BUT, sometimes schools don’t change with their leagues and the fit between conference and school no longer is the right one.

Take for example Sewanee, Georgia Tech, and Tulane…..all were charter members of the SEC but dropped their membership for various reasons. Sewanee dropped out of the SEC in 1940 when it became clear that the larger state schools were more committed to funding facilities, scholarships, and hiring top coaches.  Georgia Tech left the league in 1964 for multiple factors, but most notably the SEC’s oversigning of athletes prior to the 85 scholarship limit, and also GT’s tough academic requirements that made it more difficult for the program to land the necessary athletes to compete. The final charter member to depart was Tulane who departed in 1966 as the school decided to continue its emphasis on academics as the gap widened on the field between Tulane and the other schools in the league.

The University of Kentucky is a BASKETBALL school.  The SEC is a FOOTBALL league.  Nothing says this to be more true than the following:  Kentucky has won 45 Basketball Regular Season SEC Titles & 27 Basketball Tournament Championships during the league’s 79 years.  It’s also important to note that there wasn’t an SEC Basketball Tournament in 1935, and from 1953-1978.  So UK has won 56.96% of available regular season titles, and the Cats have won 27 of 53 SEC Tournaments (50.94%).

Meanwhile, the SEC gives Kentucky credit for just TWO SEC Titles in football and both are up for debate. In 1950 the Cats finished 11-1, while losing to Tennessee 7-0 but managed to win the league with a 5-1 record while the Vols finished just 4-1 in the league (also 11-1 overall).  In 1950 Alabama played 8 conference games, while Tennessee only played 5. In 1976, the Cats ‘shared’ a league title with Georgia despite the Bulldogs compiling a 5-1 (10-2) league record and the Cats finishing 4-2 (8-4) in the SEC and also suffered a 31-7 loss to UGA in their only meeting.

Also, in keeping with football since the league went to a divisional format in 1992 after adding Arkansas and South Carolina, UK hasn’t won the Eastern Division or played in the SEC Championship Game.  In fact since 1992 UK is just 22-78 against their Eastern Division foes (Florida 0-20, Tennessee 1-19, Georgia 3-17, South Carolina 6-14, Vanderbilt 12-8). There have been 20 seasons during this time, and the Cats have managed to win just 1.1 divisional games per season (out of 5 chances each year).

The Fans of Kentucky deserve better.  And by better I mean one of two things:  Either 1) Compete in Football or 2) Find a better place to showcase the basketball program.  History shows that UK has dominated Basketball just as much as they have been dominated in Football. You’ll often hear the S-E-C chant by fans of member institutions, never is that cheer more awkward than in Lexington.  At the 2012 SEC Tournament in New Orleans about two dozen LSU fans showed up, meanwhile 15,000 Kentucky fans descended onto the French Quarter dubbing the town “Blue Orleans” leaving room for just 3500 fans from other schools. In Football the chant from UK fans is sort of like the nail celebrating its relationship with the hammer.  SEC Fans care about football, Kentucky fans care about basketball.

For the Cats to compete in Football the administration needs to start reinvesting more of the money that it gains from its football program and its affiliation with the Southeastern Conference BACK into the football program.  The Fans and the Administration need to stop treating winning the SEC East in football like a mission to the moon.  It’s not impossible, in fact, someone wins the division every year!  It starts with facilities, extends into finding and retaining top coaching (including a deep assistant pool), and finishes with recruiting (which by the way comes when facilities and coaches are in place).

Many fans blame geography as UK has been the northern most school in the league, now Missouri assumes that role.  180 miles north in Columbus, Ohio State has built one of the nations top football powerhouses including 7 national titles and 34 Big Ten Championships.  So I’m not going to buy the geography argument.  I’ve even heard other fans claim that Kentucky is not competitive in football BECAUSE it is in the SEC.  As if Alabama, LSU, and Florida can somehow be successful DESPITE the league they play in.  Schools that are in the MAC, Sun Belt, WAC can blame their league, to some extent, for their failure to be a top program as those leagues have built-in limitations.  Competitiveness comes from within.  I’m convinced that if the University of Kentucky WANTED to compete in football then it could.  But from the actions of the administration and the apathy from the fans it’s clear that football is just not something they want to invest their time and capital into.

Which leads me to my original question: Is Kentucky in the Right Conference?

If the University of Kentucky is not going to make a FULL commitment to football and its fans are not going to DEMAND that it do so, then I see only one course of action:  LEAVE THE SEC and find a league that matches Kentucky’s athletic mission, which is showcasing the basketball program.  The Southeastern Conference is a football league, and while the league also excels at other sports there is not a discernible difference between the sports that would require UK to keep their membership in the league.

With that, Kentucky should pursue membership in a league with an emphasis on basketball.  Regionally the only viable leagues would be the ACC, Big Ten, and Big East.  The Big East doesn’t have the stability in football to make such a move plausible. UK isn’t giving football up, but rather finding a league where basketball can be showcased properly. The Big Ten is a better basketball league, but it isn’t quite what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking the ACC.  Here’s why:

1) The Atlantic Coast Conference is CHOCK FULL of basketball focused schools: Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse.  Adding Kentucky to these basketball schools would make the ACC the preeminent college basketball conference and would be the perfect platform for a program that has been out of place for quite some time.  The fans would be able to see throughout the season top notch competition and share membership with schools who valued basketball as much as Big Blue Nation.

2) Being with membership who place as much emphasis on basketball as Kentucky does means one thing:  Less football focus.  But the ACC, isn’t a league void of football competition.  The Atlantic Coast Conference is also home to Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Boston College, Virginia, and Virginia Tech in addition to the schools mentioned previously.  While the league has under-performed on the gridiron in the past decade (2-13 in BCS Bowl games) the membership still retains name recognition and some perceived value.  The league would be a much better match for UK in football, allowing the Wildcats to potentially win more games and create more interest in the football program.

3) So with better suited competition in basketball and football, that means one thing: More Demand.  Right now UK’s season ticket packages are surprisingly affordable compared to their rival down I-64, Louisville.  While much of Louisville’s pricing structure emerged during the seat realignment during the move from Freedom Hall to the KFC Yum! Center, donation requirements and ticket prices also have increased since the school’s move to the basketball focused Big East Conference.  Kentucky’s fan base is 4-5x as large as Louisville’s and Kentucky gains more from their membership with the SEC, but despite that UofL’s overall revenue ($87.7M) outpaces that of UK’s ($84.8M).

How can that be?  How can a school with a SIGNIFICANTLY larger fan base and SIGNIFICANTLY better conference membership create less revenue than another school?  There are several factors.  First, Louisville has suite revenue that Rupp Arena does not allow.  That is a big factor.  UofL sells alcohol, where UK does not but the net gain for the Cards accounts for just under $600K annually.  But even so, Louisville is a smaller fan base than Kentucky and receives just $10.4M from media relationships, while UK receives $29.2M.  Louisville makes up the difference with $28.2M in donations from its fans compared to just $14.65M from the UK fan base that is 4-5x larger than UofL’s (difference of $13.5M).

4) UK could see gains in both major sports as the school could justify higher donations and pricing and also more reliably sell out the capacity 67,606 of Commonwealth Stadium. Currently the average price for a UK football ticket is about $39 (not counting parking or suite revenue) and last year Kentucky played 7 games at Commonwealth Stadium. 67,606 x 7=473,242 possible tickets sold, but UK sold just 417,237 tickets in 2011 (88%).  The 12% of unused tickets accounts for $2,176,354 of unrealized revenue. (Also, Kentucky’s average face-value ticket price was 10th in the SEC in 2011).

That’s important because the ACC’s television payout for UK would be about $3-$5 Million less than what the school would receive in the SEC in the coming years. The SEC distributed $19.5M to its schools in 2010-11, and $20.1M in 2011-12.  That figure is expected to climb higher in 2012-13, while the ACC distributes $17.1M currently.

But the areas of opportunity to make up the difference (and more) go beyond just more adequately filling Commonwealth Stadium with a better matched football league.  Basketball is the crutch of this argument, and while Kentucky can certainly not sell any more tickets for its basketball program at the moment they can justify a price and donation hike with the caliber of schedule the ACC would offer.

Moving off the dollars and cents placing Kentucky in a league that it can identify itself with other members is the ultimate goal and purpose of a league.  At this point Kentucky is a SEC school by definition, but not by mission.  While schools like Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, etc. are constantly re-investing in the football program by building and improving facilities, targeting top coaches, establishing large assistant coaching pools and recruiting budgets, the University of Kentucky has made excuses as to why they can not do these things while still collecting the SEC paycheck.

During UK’s 2011-12 National Championship run in basketball the SEC schedule lacked a true test for a team that was becoming more and more bored with their competition as the season went on.  It wasn’t until the Cats dropped the SEC Tournament Final against Vanderbilt that a team provided a realistic challenge to the Cats within the league.  Without that loss many experts felt that Kentucky may have found their focus to be insufficient heading into the NCAA Tournament and put an obviously dominant team at risk for not achieving its ultimate goal.  The national champions won a title despite not being able to fully cut its teeth with a robust league schedule that was worthy of the 2011-12 version of Kentucky Wildcats.

In the end, Kentucky stays in the SEC.  But personally, I’d like to see Kentucky seek out membership in a league that would better suit both of the major collegiate sports in Men’s Football & Basketball.  The Football program would win more games and have a better chance to build a winner, but the school will eventually need to invest more favorably in their football resources.  For basketball, the proposed (my proposal) would be basketball paradise for Cat fans everywhere.  No longer would so much pride and enthusiasm be lost on their fellow members who are happy to half-way fill up their multi-use facilities and sell popcorn as stale as their basketball product.  Kentucky Basketball deserves better, Kentucky fans deserve better, but as long as the SEC paycheck continues to grow (because of football) the less likely Kentucky will ever find themselves in a league with members who care half as much as they do.


Rakeem Buckles Transfers from UofL to FIU

From UofL SID-

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Forward Rakeem Buckles will transfer from the University of Louisville to join the Florida International University  men’s basketball team.

FIU is coached by first year head coach Richard Pitino, a former UofL assistant coach, and FIU assistant coach Mark Lieberman was Buckles’ high school coach and is a former UofL assistant.

“Rakeem is one of  my favorites during my tenure at Louisville,” said U of L Coach Rick Pitino. “He’s just a fantastic young man who we wish great success at FIU.  We will miss his personality and work ethic, but he is in good hands with Richard.”

Buckles was expected to miss the 2012-13 season while recovering from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of his career.  He suffered the injury in his left knee during the Cardinals’ game at Marquette on Jan. 16, had surgery on Feb. 1 and will missed the remainder of season.

The 6-7, 215 pound forward tore the ACL in his right knee on Feb. 27, 2011 in a game against Pittsburgh. He had surgery to repair the knee on March 16, 2011, and saw his first game action in 283 days against IUPUI on Dec. 7.  He played an average of 13 minutes in the 11 games in which he participated last season, averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds.  He made his only start of the season against Memphis, totaling 12 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes.

The first knee injury was one setback during a tough sophomore season in which he suffered three separate injuries that kept him off the court, as he also endured a concussion and broken index finger.  As a sophomore, he averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in 16 games, including 10 starting assignments. He had ranked among the BIG EAST top ten in rebounding before he broke his finger.

He finished his freshman year scoring a career-high 20 points against California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  He added nine rebounds while hitting 10-of-11 field goals in that game.

Buckles will be returning to his hometown in Miami where he earned Class 4A Player of the Year honors in Florida when he averaged 22.8 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots as a senior in helping Monsignor Pace post a 24-8 record and the Class 4A regional finals.  Monsignor Pace won the state championship in his sophomore and junior seasons with Lieberman as his coach.