Mark Story: If it comes to it, Cats should say yes to the NIT

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013 

  • 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

Fast-break points from the return of Danica-mania:

21. No Dance for Kentucky? There is still time for the UK men's hoops team (17-8) to play its way into the NCAA Tournament. Yet off what we saw last week, there's a good chance the Cats will miss the tourney for the second time in five seasons.

20. Should UK say yes to the NIT? When Kentucky whiffs on the NCAAs, there is always a section of the UK fan base agitating for saying no to an NIT bid. For two reasons, that stance is mistaken.

19. Reason one. Sportsmanship. If Kentucky's record stamps it as NIT-worthy, there is something "un-sporting" about refusing to accept what one has earned.

18. Reason two. All-time wins. UK entered this season with a 20-game lead over Kansas for No. 1 on the list of winningest men's college hoops programs. Through Sunday, KU had cut four games off that lead. The Jayhawks could make up significant ground if Kentucky said no to a post-season bid and Kansas were to make a deep March run.

17. Calipari in NIT. John Calipari has coached four teams to the NIT Final Four. He won the 2002 NIT championship with Memphis.

16. Staying out of the NIT. If Kentucky could win its final four home games, including victories over Missouri and Florida, and win one of its two remaining road games (Arkansas, Georgia), that should put the Cats into the NCAA tourney.

15. The UK experience of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. When things are going well, Kentucky must be the best place in the country to play college basketball.

14. The UK experience of Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress. When things are going poorly, Kentucky must be the most difficult place in the country to play college basketball.

13. On second thought. Last Oct. 30, online sports gambling site Bovada distributed pre-season odds on who would win the 2013 NCAA men's basketball championship. The favorite, at 6-1, was Kentucky.

12. On second thought II. In those same odds, the Miami Hurricanes were 75-1 to win it all. The 'Canes (21-3, 12-0 ACC) and Indiana are currently the two top-rated teams in the country.

11. Donnie Tyndall. The ex-Morehead State men's hoops coach has led Southern Mississippi to a 20-6 record, but the Golden Eagles may need an upset at Memphis on Feb. 23 to get on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

10. Mindy McCready. The troubled country singer, who apparently committed suicide at age 37, sang the National Anthem when Kentucky played Syracuse in the 1999 Music City Bowl. She even taped a pre-game interview with Dick Gabriel on the UK Radio Network.

9. Gabriel's memory. "At that time (McCready) was a big star, and she couldn't have been nicer," Gabriel said. "She was excited about singing in front of a big crowd, most of whom were Kentucky fans. She said she knew she had a lot of fans in Kentucky."

8. Danica Patrick. In earning the Daytona 500 pole position, Patrick drove a car with a Hendrick Motorsports engine for the team, Stewart-Haas Racing, that won the 2011 Sprint Cup championship. So spare me the theories about NASCAR spinning a conspiracy to produce the first female pole winner in Cup history.

7. Mark Simendinger. The Kentucky Speedway GM values Patrick's star quality. "I'll use Danica Patrick to market my race any way possible," he said Monday. "She's valuable."

6. Brad Keselowski. The Michigan product won last season's Quaker State 400 in Sparta then went on to claim the Sprint Cup title. "Every time something happens that makes history (at Kentucky Speedway)," Simendinger says, "that's a good thing."

5. Kyle Busch and "the Kentucky triple." In 2011, Busch won the inaugural Cup race in Sparta, won in the trucks series and finished third in the Nationwide race.

4. Will Busch try for three in 2013? Last year, Busch ran only in the Cup race in Sparta. But in addition to this year's Quaker State 400, Simendinger says Busch has already committed to run Nationwide. "He's iffy on the truck race," Simendinger says, "but I think there is a chance he will do it."

3. Michael Waltrip. In 2012, the Owensboro product became the first native Kentuckian to run in a Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. He finished 30th in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.

2. No Waltrip repeat. A part owner of the race team that bears his name, Waltrip said recently he will not race in his home state in 2013.

1. The boss gets benched. "I'm not going to run at Kentucky," Waltrip said. "I didn't do good enough last year. I got kicked out of my own car."

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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