Kentucky-Iowa St. notes: Yum Center 'impressive' NCAA host

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 17, 2012 

LOUISVILLE — As first impressions go, the KFC Yum Center and Louisville performed a slam dunk in the last four days.

Xavier Athletics Director Mike Bobinski, the chair of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee next year, said Louisville probably will be a regional site in the next few years.

"I'd certainly expect to receive a bid from this group," he said before Saturday's games. "That would be something we'd seriously consider.

"This place was clearly built with this event in mind. I don't know if I've seen a site with less issues. There have been no media or team issues of any consequence."

Such problems as inadequate space for locker rooms or media work areas typically arise at sites, said Bobinski, who added that the NCAA also desires a "clean look" to the arena. That meant no advertising in the arena bowl.

"The ability to transform (the Yum Center) to a blank slate was really impressive," he said.

Dan Gavitt, an associate commissioner of the Big East, attended the games here because Connecticut and Marquette played in Louisville. He drove to Nashville for games Friday and planned to return Sunday because Cincinnati and South Florida played in the Music City.

"Frankly, I've never seen a better one," Gavitt said of the Yum Center as a site. "This building just makes it to a whole other level."

Nearby hotels enhance the Yum Center, he said. Jim Host, chair of the Louisville Arena Authority, noted that about 4,300 hotel rooms were accessible to the Yum Center via pedways.

The glowing words should benefit UK, which could expect to play games here when the NCAA Tournament comes to Louisville.

"They should always be here," Gavitt said of the Cats.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart spoke highly of the experience. He said the city and U of L officials had been "very gracious" in playing host to the games.

"They've worked extremely hard to make sure everything came off well," Barnhart said. "It's been fun for our fans to be here and be close."

Cal conspiracy?

As with past Selection Committee chair Gene Smith (Ohio State athletics director), Bobinski laughed when asked about UK Coach John Calipari's suggestions that obstacles are intentionally thrown in his team's path. "John's never ever said that to my face," Bobinski said. "John, in his heart, knows it's not true. He loves to give good quotes."

Bobinski noted that Xavier played his alma mater, Notre Dame, in the first round.

"Do you think I wanted that to happen?" he said. "Going into St. Patrick's Day?"

Home away from home

After saluting his team for competing well despite a largely partisan UK crowd, Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg said, "We're going to walk out of Lexington — I'm sorry, where are we? — Louisville with our heads held high."

Injury update

With 8:46 left in the first half, Kyle Wiltjer fell onto his back. He did not return until there was less than five minutes to play, and UK Coach John Calipari said the freshman was not seriously injured.

Wiltjer did not play in the second half "only because of the game we had going," the UK coach said. "And I want to get the guys to run with the game that they have."

MKG is OK with Cal

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored his only basket in the final minute. The only time he scored fewer than the two points against Iowa State came in a one-point performance at Louisiana State.

"He's fine," Calipari said. "... When you say to a player — and I say this to my team — what do you do to help us win when you're not scoring the ball? Well, he has a list of about nine things that he does when he's not scoring."

Kidd-Gilchrist had seven rebounds. Calipari also noted his defense.

Royce rolls

Iowa State star Royce White scored 23 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made three steals. But it wasn't enough ...

"The game plan was to make sure the other guys didn't get a lot of points," UK forward Terrence Jones said. "If he could beat us by himself, then we'd do that."

Cal to Knicks?

Barnhart dismissed speculation about Calipari becoming the New York Knicks' coach next season.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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