John Clay's notes: Calipari should be SEC coach of year, but others deserve mention

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 28, 2012 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

Random notes:

■ John Calipari should win SEC Coach of the Year honors — his team is unbeaten in the league, for heaven's sake, but that doesn't mean others don't deserve some consideration.

Surely Alabama's Anthony Grant will get some votes considering he has his team in position for an NCAA bid despite suspending four players, two for multiple games, including one, his second-leading scorer, for the rest of the season.

Grant held firm, and the Tide has responded by winning three straight, including a 17-point win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

And don't count out Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin, who took over a program in tatters and has the Vols in contention for a first-round bye in the league tournament.

Going into Wednesday night's game at LSU, Tennessee has won six of its last seven.

■ Joker Phillips had no choice, but Ridge Wilson's dismissal from the University of Kentucky football team over a felony drug trafficking charge takes another potential defensive play- maker off the board. Or does it?

True, defensive coordinator Rick Minter has lost his top two players, Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy. And as UK's new coordinator last year, Minter created a hybrid defensive end/linebacker spot for Wilson.

Unfortunately, given his athletic ability, the junior played below expectations again. The hope was that, in his senior season, Wilson would meet his potential.

Now the hope is that sophomore Alvin "Bud" Dupree will capitalize on the flashes of excellence he exhibited during a promising freshman season.

■ Has any coach done less with more this college basketball season than Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury?

■ Consider that in the RPI, Mississippi State is No. 65, Ole Miss No. 70 and Southern Miss is No. 13.

■ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have good intentions when he says he wants to return to UK for his sophomore season, but I fully expect MKG to be impressing the NBA next season.

■ Lost in the shuffle on the same day Wilson was dismissed and new assistant Pat Washington was officially hired: Trinity star cornerback Ryan White picked Louisville over Kentucky.

White is a potential national top-150 talent in the Class of 2013 and considered one of the top five players in the state for next season.

■ Written this before, now writing it again: UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart deserves as much credit as anyone for the school's first SEC women's basketball title in 30 years. When Mickie DeMoss made her surprise exit as head coach, it was Barnhart who put his faith in Matthew Mitchell.

■ It won't happen, but I endorse a nine-game conference schedule for SEC football. It's the difference between watching Kentucky versus Charleston Southern and Kentucky versus Texas A&M.

■ New North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham says he wants a 128-team NCAA Basketball Tournament, which prompted this tweet from Missouri star Kim English: "128 NCAA tournament teams would be a complete joke! Oregon State vs Nebraska in the 1st round. On the Food network. Jimmy Dykes on the call."

■ I'm not buying Duke as a No. 1 seed.

■ This is also the time of year when I pay no attention to those who call themselves "bracketologists."

■ After Union Rags' romp in the Fountain of Youth, I think I have my Kentucky Derby pick.

■ That was a big win and nice validation for new "permanent" coach Ray Harper on Saturday when Western Kentucky beat visiting Middle Tennessee 73-67 at Diddle Arena.

Better still: A sold-out crowd of 7,326.

■ From Feb. 24, 2011, to Feb. 24, 2012, Alabama was the only SEC team to score 70 or more points against Kentucky.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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