UK basketball notebook: A top 10 for those who simply must gripe

Herald-Leader staff writerMay 10, 2014 

Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) and Dakari Johnson celebrate on the sidelines as Kentucky defeated Georgia 70-58 in the SEC tournament on Saturday March 15, 2014 in Atlanta,GA. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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First crisis looming over Kentucky's 2014-15 season: There is seemingly nothing to complain about.

With nine McDonald's All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, on the roster, there's plenty of talent with which to overwhelm opponents.

And with what we know about the schedule, there doesn't seem to be a basis for the customary grumbling about so-so opponents. Even the old reliable gripe about a poor non-conference home schedule doesn't fly. North Carolina, Texas and perhaps Providence will play UK in Rupp Arena.

Kentucky wouldn't be Kentucky without some fan disgruntlement. So for familiarity's sake, here's a top-10 list of ideas for stuffing the complaint box (aside from the officiating, which is too easy and obvious):

1. John Calipari figures to continue to use the label "succeed-and-proceed" for so-called one-and-done players. It's better than, say, fail-and-bail or null-and-void. But one-and-done is well established in college basketball vernacular. Succeed-and-proceed is mere marketing ploy. Besides, players proceed without necessarily succeeding (Archie Goodwin, Daniel Orton).

2. Ticket prices. They're not decreasing.

3. Concession prices. See No. 2. Plus, the food options are uninspiring.

4. Tuition increases. Yet another increase in tuition looms, this time 5 percent.

5. Outrageous expectations. UK puts the audacity in hope. Calipari has already tried to tamp down expectations. But last year's talk of a 40-0 record, greatest-recruiting-class-ever and Death Star now seems like a warm-up act to the buildup for next season.

6. Too many comparisons to UK's 1995-96 team. Rather than follow Calipari's advice about enjoying the process, there will be a rush to compare the Cats to the blue standard for excellence. That was — gulp — almost 20 years ago. With the just-completed NFL Draft having polluted minds, haven't we had our fill of inane barroom conversation?

7. There can be too much of a good thing. Think Italian creme cake. Might Kentucky have too many players and not enough available playing time? Please excuse this reference to UK's 1995-96 team: Billy Packer said some teams can use an injury or two.

8. Homegrown players like Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis might not get a lot of playing time. Dan Issel likes to tell the story of UK fans complaining after the 1978 national championship game victory that a favorite player did not play enough.

9. Too many big guys, not enough perimeter shooting.

10. Interminable stories about the plan to re-invent Rupp Arena.

On schedule

Here are two reactions to last week's announcements about Kentucky playing UCLA and Texas next season:

Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com. "Well, Kansas, Louisville, and UNC are reliably good and figure to be good again next year. Along with Texas, that's four likely pre-season top-15 teams, so that's pretty good. UCLA and Providence suffered big losses from this year's roster, so we'll have to wait and see on them.

"From a historical perspective, last year, Kansas played four top-15 teams (in end-of-season rankings), only one at home, plus two other top half of the bracket teams. They only played one team ranked below 113 in the final RPI outside the league. ... Unlike most majors, Kansas only played seven of their 13 non-conference games at home."

Joe Lunardi, ESPN bracketologist. "That is an extremely strong schedule, more like what we've typically seen from (John) Calipari over the years. Last year is looking like an anomaly. As long as the remaining non-conference games aren't full of sub-250 teams, this slate should not inhibit Kentucky's seeding for next year in any way."

'Will Rogers'

Besides being a longtime buddy of John Calipari, new UK assistant Barry Rohrssen comes with a reputation as an ace recruiter. He supposedly knows all the subway stops in New York City basketball.

So who better to ask about Rohrssen than Tom Konchalski? He is a longtime basketball scout in New York and, as UK fans of a certain age may recall, Rick Pitino's recruiting guru of choice.

Konchalski has known Rohrssen since Rohrssen was 15.

"Great people skills," Konchalski said. "Everyone feels comfortable with him. He makes everyone feel important, whether it's someone who can help him or not.

"He's the Will Rogers of college assistants. He's never met anyone he doesn't like."

Rohrssen attended Xaverian High School, then later St. Francis College. Both are in Brooklyn.

"He was not a player of tremendous distinction," Konchalski said, "but the thing about him is he has a great personality."

Rohrssen and Calipari got acquainted as roommates as counselors at a Five-Star Camp in Moon Township, Pa., the hometown of the UK coach.

"He's very well connected," Konchalski said.

Rohrssen is friendly with Catholic and public school coaches in New York. And, Konchalski added, "He opens his arms to AAU coaches, and goes that route. He's friends with everyone."

Konchalski, not someone given to hyperbole, said Rohrssen can make a telling contribution to UK basketball.

"John Calipari could not have hired a better guy for the northeast United States," Konchalski said, "in terms of his contacts and his ability to make Kentucky not just some iconic program down south. With Barry Rohrssen recruiting, it's going to feel like (pause) that's home."

Block/charge

The NCAA men's basketball rules committee said last week it wants to, ahem, tweak its block-charge rule next season. And Mr. Tweak himself, UK Coach John Calipari, probably won't like the change.

This past season, Calipari applauded the tightening of the block/charge rule. A defender could not get in position to take a charge once the offensive player had begun his upward movement toward the basket. Coincidentally, the dribble-drive offense is built around drives to the basket.

Belmont Coach Rick Byrd, a member of the rules committee, told Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports that next season the defender can get in position for a charge until the offensive player has left the floor.

In a follow-up phone conversation, SEC supervisor of officials Jake Bell said he could not confirm the change. But he knew the committee had met last week and was supposed to consider just such a change.

"Basically, it goes back to the way it was," Bell said.

The referees will like the change. Judging when an offensive player began his upward motion was more subjective (i.e. more open to second-guessing and criticism) than deciding when a player rose off the floor.

In the referees' perfect world, coaches would not be allowed to directly call timeouts. Only players could call timeouts.

Why? Because if only players call timeouts, the referees can keep full attention on the court.

But coaches, who are well represented on the NCAA Basketball Committee, will never cede the power to call timeouts, Bell said.

Joe B. Hall Award

Brad Underwood of Stephen F. Austin won the 2014 Joe B. Hall award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in college basketball.

Of course, Joe B. Hall had the unenviable task of following Adolph Rupp as Kentucky coach. In his first season at UK, Hall finished 20-8, won the SEC regular-season championship and advanced to the NCAA regional finals.

2014-15

In case you missed it, Bovada made Kentucky a 5-1 favorite to win the 2015 national championship. The online betting site's second choice is Duke at 10-1, followed by Wisconsin at 12-1, Kansas at 14-1 and three teams at 16-1: Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.

Bovada's odds of Louisville winning the 2015 NCAA Tournament are 25-1, the same odds assigned to Michigan State.

Other odds include Wichita State at 28-1, Larry Brown's SMU at 33-1, UK opponents Texas at 33-1 and UCLA at 50-1, Kyle Wiltjer and Gonzaga at 40-1, defending champion UConn at 50-1, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Missouri and Tennessee all at 100-1, Indiana at 100-1, Mississippi at 150-1, Alabama at 200-1, Vanderbilt at 250-1, South Carolina at 300-1, Texas A&M at 500-1 and Tubby Smith's Texas Tech at 500-1.

On, Wisconsin

Wisconsin, which lost to Kentucky in the Final Four, figures to be equipped to compete with UK again next season.

The Badgers return seven of their top eight scorers from last year's Final Four team, which finished with a 30-8 record. Four starters return: point guard Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg), shooting guard Josh Gasser (8.8 ppg), small forward Sam Dekker (12.4 ppg) and center Frank Kaminsky (13.9).

Coach Bo Ryan can ponder a big lineup with Nigel Hayes (7.7 ppg) or a smaller, quicker alignment with Bronson Koenig (3.5 ppg).

Either way, Wisconsin figures to be have a balanced attack and a wealth of experience. The Badgers should be a contender in the Big Ten and nationally.

'Really cool guy'

Growing up in France, UK tennis star Tom Jomby naturally became a fan of Yannick Noah. Noah is the last Frenchman to win the French Open. Of course, he's also the father of former Florida basketball star Joakim Noah, whose animated (and effective) play drew the ire of UK fans.

Jomby said he met Joakim during one of UK's matches at Florida. Joakim happened to be in town.

"A really cool guy," Jomby said.

Marshall tour

If you're curious about Marshall hiring 66-year-old Dan D'Antoni as its new basketball coach, you'll have a chance to size him up later this month.

You could also ask him about the speculation that he will hire former UK assistant Scott Rigot and former Duke star Chris Duhon to his staff.

The 2014 Marshall University Big Green Scholarship Coaches Tour makes its annual stop in Lexington on May 21. The event will be at The Club of Beaumont Centre (3231 Beaumont Centre Circle) beginning at 6 p.m.

Other Marshall officials expected to attend are Athletics Director Mike Hamrick and football coach Doc Holliday.

Reservations to attend can be made by contacting Travis Epling at (304) 696-3385 or Rusty Cook at rustyc1973@gmail.com or (859) 948-2737. Tickets are $30.

Happy birthday

To Merion Haskins. He turns 59 on Tuesday. ... To Kevin Grevey. He turns 61 on Monday. ... To Jarrod Polson. He turned 23 on Thursday. ... To Jon Hood. He turned 23 on Friday. ... To Keith Bogans. He turns 34 on Monday. ... To Heshimu Evans. He turned 39 on Thursday. ... To J.P. Blevins. He turned 35 on Thursday.

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

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