As much as is possible, Kentucky created seamless joy this season. Winning every game from November through March. First team since Duke in 1991-92 to be ranked No. 1 in every weekly poll by The Associated Press. Largest average margin of victory (20.1 points) in more than a decade (since Duke's 20.2 ppg in 2000-01).
UK fans fretted (is that redundant?).
Let's set aside the Final Four loss to Wisconsin. Obviously, losing makes fans uneasy. Kentucky's 68-66 victory over Notre Dame in the Midwest Region finals remains the freshest example of how winning can be stressful, too.
Only when Jerian Grant missed a last-second three-point shot from the corner could Kentucky be confident of beating Notre Dame. With the riveting game decided on its final possession, former Herald-Leader columnist Chuck Culpepper turned to leave his press row seat. He made eye contact with a nearby UK fan who looked stricken.
"You OK?" Culpepper asked the man.
Speaking in a low voice that made Culpepper lean forward in order to hear, the fan said, "That's tough on a triple bypass."
Of course, most Kentucky games did not jangle nerves so severely. Yet, UK fans frequently fretted.
Here's a list, in chronological order, of fan anxiety that could be heard at courtside this season:
■ "C'mon! We should be up by 50!" Yelled by a fan not satisfied with UK's 24-9 lead against Grand Canyon with 9:21 remaining in the first half.
■ "OK, no more of this!" Montana State scored with 4:16 left in the first half to reduce UK's lead to 30-9.
■ "C'mon!" Whiny lament after a UK turnover. The Cats led UT Arlington 47-12 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
■ "You've got to play every game like it's the championship!" UK led UT Arlington 58-18 with 16:42 left in the second half.
■ "Nothing! Nothing!" A fan encouraged more defensive effort with UK leading Eastern Kentucky 36-14 with less than three minutes left in the first half.
■ "You were never going to win anyway." A fan couldn't resist taunting Columbia — Columbia? — when Kentucky eased to a 54-41 lead with three minutes left. Columbia had scored the game's first 11 points, which made for UK's largest deficit of the season (matched by Texas A&M).
■ "You know you're a little teeny ref." A fan yelled this when referee Pat Adams gave Kentucky a delay-of-game warning midway through the second half against North Carolina. (By the way, Adams made the most courageous call of the year, and maybe of the last several years: a foul on Ole Miss with seven-tenths of a second left in a Southeastern Conference Tournament game. South Carolina made three free throws to win by two points.)
■ "Taylor, you're a thug." After Alabama's Jimmie Taylor fouled a driving Andrew Harrison.
■ "Terrible!" "Let 'em play!" "Don't dictate!" Less than three minutes after Taylor's foul, fans objected to a charging call on Willie Cauley-Stein.
■ "Focus!" UK led Auburn 42-16.
■ "Who's reffing this game? The pope?" Objection to the officiating in the game against Notre Dame.
What's known as UK's "Senior Autograph Tour" made stops in London last week. The former UK players made appearances at Sheppard's Fan Shop, which is owned by ex-UK standout Jeff Sheppard.
On Tuesday, Andrew and Aaron Harrison signed autographs for an hour ($20 per signature). Seniors Tod Lanter, Sam Malone and Brian Long signed autographs an hour earlier ($20 for the three signatures).
On Wednesday, Karl-Anthony Towns signed for 90 minutes ($35 per autograph).
More than 400 people got autographs each day, Sheppard said.
Departing UK players annually go on such autograph tours. Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles are scheduled to appear at Sheppard's store in London on Friday, Willie Cauley-Stein on April 27. The players are here, there and everywhere signing and posing for a fee. Cauley-Stein signed and posed at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Thursday before and after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch (or three) at the Lexington Legends' home opener.
"It's kind of the next step when they leave or graduate," Sheppard said. "When fans get the personal interaction with players, it kind of completes their rooting for (the players)."
Changing the rules
The NCAA's men's basketball Rules Committee will meet May 13-15 in Indianapolis. Expect changes. For instance, there may be fewer timeouts beginning next season. Not fewer television timeouts!! Are you nuts?! Can't touch the money. Fewer timeouts for teams.
"I think something will happen with timeouts," Committee chair Rick Byrd, the Belmont coach, said before adding, "and the discussion of live-ball timeouts called by coaches will be part of serious discussion."
For years, referees have suggested that only players be allowed to call timeouts when the ball is in play. When coaches call such timeouts (usually in anticipation of a held ball), a referee must take his or her eyes off the action to make sure it's the coach who wants the timeout. A timeout can mistakenly be granted when a team does not have possession of the ball.
"I saw several games where that very thing happened: a timeout was awarded when no one had possession of the ball at crucial times." Byrd said.
Another possible change is shortening the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. Of course, with the hope of producing more scoring and more action, the NCAA experimented with a 30-second shot clock in the NIT.
"More possessions, more points and, surprisingly, even a little better offensive efficiency — points per possession," Byrd said of the NIT experiment. "People like me would say if you only have 30 seconds, you're not going to score as well."
But there's a potential downside. A shorter shot clock means a greater possibility of rushing a throw toward the rim in hopes of avoiding a shot-clock violation. UK fans need only recall the three straight shot-clock violations against Wisconsin to know what that might look like.
"You think the game is ugly, now." Byrd said. "It might get uglier. I'm still not convinced."
KU and UK
Forward Perry Ellis made news at Kansas' end-of-season banquet. After receiving the Danny Manning "Mr. Jayhawk" award, he announced that he would return next season to play for Kansas as a senior.
Coincidentally, the Big 12 Conference named Ellis its men's basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an award that requires a grade-point average of 3.2 or better.
Kansas, which won an 11th straight conference championship in 2014-15, is not opposed to so-called one-and-done players. Kansas Coach Bill Self echoed UK Coach John Calipari in noting how the basketball program supports players who decide to enter the NBA Draft as underclassmen.
"We want every kid to be in the position to make that decision," Self told the crowd. "We have two stud freshmen that have each made the decision (to go to the NBA) and should be 100 percent happy for them. All of us wish you two nothing but the very, very best."
Self was referring to Kelly Oubre Jr., and Cliff Alexander. Earlier this month, both announced their intention to declare for the 2015 NBA Draft.
In summing up the season, Self thanked each of his coaching staff members, his "boss," Cindy Self, and delivered one last message to the crowd.
"We're going to get better," he said. "No matter what happened this year and how it ended ... think big picture. Because as much fun as you've had — we're getting ready to have more."
Kansas will represent the United States in the World University Games July 3-14 at Gwangju, South Korea.
Type K personality
Before saying a word, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski begins making a recruiting pitch by simply showing up to watch a prospect play.
"He just changes the whole complexion of the gym," Jahlil Okafor said at the Final Four. "Everybody gets nervous. I know I did. He has such a dominant personality."
Former UCLA and NBA star Reggie Miller made waves before the NCAA Tournament by saying it would take "an act of God" to beat Kentucky.
To which, college basketball analyst Dan Bonner said, "In college basketball, isn't that Mike Krzyzewski?"
A chance to dine, chit-chat and play golf with a big-name coach at one of the world's top courses. That's the prize in a fund-raising effort to help pay for cancer research.
John Calipari is among the coaches participating. Others coaches involved are Steve Alford (UCLA), Rick Barnes (Tennessee), John Beilein (Michigan), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Greg Kampe (Oakland), Sean Miller (Arizona), Josh Pastner (Memphis) and Roy Williams (North Carolina).
Up for auction are a private dinner with the coaches, a one-night stay at Detroit's MotorCity Casino Hotel on May 31, and an afternoon of golf on June 1 at Oakland Hills Country Club (a site used for U.S. Open and PGA Championships). The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected coach.
The bidding period began Monday and runs through 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 1. Winning bidders will be notified at the close of the auction. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.
More information is available at (248) 370-4005 or at email@example.com.
The annual Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament was held April 8-11. Participants are usually college seniors who want to improve their NBA Draft profiles.
Among the familiar names this year was former UK player Ryan Harrow, who averaged 5.3 points and 2.0 assists in Portsmouth. He made eight of 24 three-point shots, got credit for six assists and committed six turnovers.
Three players from the SEC participated: Georgia's Marcus Thornton (13.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Alabama's Levi Randolph (11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Auburn's KT Harrell (11.3 ppg).
To Dwane Casey. He turned 58 on Friday. ... To Michael Bradley. He turned 36 on Saturday. ... To Doug Flynn. He turned 64 on Saturday. ... To Nate Knight. He turned 37 on Saturday. ... To Ashley Judd. She turns 47 on Sunday (today). ... To Scott Padgett. He turns 39 on Sunday (today). ... To Ryan Harrow. He turns 24 on Wednesday.