UK Men's Basketball

UK’s 2016-17 schedule pleases many constituencies

DeWayne Peevy, Deputy Director of Athletics at UK, chatted with UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari in his office on Jan. 27, 2015.
DeWayne Peevy, Deputy Director of Athletics at UK, chatted with UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari in his office on Jan. 27, 2015. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

With the announcement of the non-conference schedule for next season, Kentucky Deputy Athletics Director Dewayne Peevy can take a bow.

Peevy, who works with UK Coach John Calipari on scheduling, seemingly checked every box with the 2016-17 schedule.

Attractive home games for season-ticket holders? UCLA and Kansas check that box.

“True” road game to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee? Louisville checks that box.

Made-for-TV, neutral-site games that also grab the Selection Committee’s attention? Michigan State and North Carolina check that box.

A trip to a warm-weather site for those people (blush) who miss the quadrennial UK trips to Maui? A game against Arizona State in The Bahamas (average temperature in November in the low 80s) checks that box.

(Ticket packages for UK’s game against Arizona State in The Bahamas are on sale. Tickets and room reservations are available by calling 1-888-877-7525. More information, including seating chart information, is available at atlantisbahamas.com/basketball.)

Peevy pointed out another box UK checked. “The fact we’re not raising ticket prices always helps,” he said.

The Southeastern Conference has asked league teams to increase the degree of difficulty of non-conference opponents. The SEC asked that the average Ratings Percentage Index of all non-conference opponents be 175 or better.

Kentucky’s opponents had a final average RPI of 97.7 last season.

“Really, for Kentucky, that’s not something we pay attention to,” Peevy said of the SEC’s 175 guideline, “because we’re easily better than that. That doesn’t affect us at all.”

For comparison sake, the average final RPI of Duke’s upcoming non-conference opponents was 124.3, Kansas’ 101.5 and North Carolina’s 91.3. (It should be noted that those teams are playing in pre-conference tournaments where all opponents are not known.)

Mike Tranghese, the former Big East Conference commissioner hired to help elevate the profile of SEC basketball, applauded Kentucky’s schedule. The game at Louisville is important, he said.

“In the eyes of the committee, the one thing you can do that is the most important thing is to win a quality road game,” Tranghese said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Tranghese said it was “shocking” to see how few teams have victories in “true” road games against top-level competition. So if Kentucky were to win at Louisville, it would have “tremendous influence on the committee,” Tranghese said.

As an example, Tranghese pointed out how Providence punched its NCAA Tournament ticket by winning at Villanova last season.

“I remember telling (Providence coach) Eddie Cooley, that’s it,” Tranghese said. “Just hold onto your hat. You’re in.”

As for Kentucky’s future schedules, Peevy said he would like to have at least two marquee home opponents each season. UK figures it will have one for sure each season with Louisville alternating with an opponent in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge every other season.

“So we know we have our challenge,” Peevy said. “How do we get the second one.”

North Carolina might be a possibility, but Peevy said the future of that on-again, off-again series is not settled.

When asked about a home-and-home series with Duke, Peevy said, “We’re open-minded.”

Two thumbs up

Regarding the non-conference 2016-17 schedule UK announced last week, here are two early thumbs-up reviews from high-profile college basketball analysts.

Famous numbers-cruncher Ken Pomeroy: “It seems like an above-average schedule for a top-25 team. A couple of decent neutral-site games, and the game at Louisville will be difficult. And there are a couple of decent home games as well.”

CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm: “Plenty of marquee opponents. Six majors, all likely ranked in the preseason. A couple of traditionally strong non-majors in Valpo, which should be good again this year, and Stephen F. Austin. We’ll see what a coaching change does to Stephen F. Austin.

“Not too many majors will play as many good opponents. It’ll be relatively strong.”

Sound and fury

The ever-increasing attention on NBA Summer Leagues continues to raise a question: Why?

Who gives a ... hoot? What conclusions should be drawn from what seems like basketball’s version of early spring training games? The competition isn’t NBA quality. Neither is the setting. So does the sound and fury signify nothing?

“Summer league is a time for over-reacting (and) knee-jerk responses ... ,” NBA.com reporter Scott Howard-Cooper wrote in an email. Then, to illustrate the point, he provided examples of summer-league success not foretelling NBA stardom.

If it did, “Marco Belinelli, Donte’ Greene, Josh Selby and others would be well on their way to the Hall of Fame by now,” Howard-Cooper wrote, “and Kelly Olynyk would be working on his second or third MVP.

“Same thing the other way. Karl-Anthony Towns shot 39.6 percent and averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a year ago. The rookie season that followed seemed to turn out OK for him.”

Howard-Cooper termed NBA Summer League play as “an early step in the long process.”

Rick Bonnell, who covers the NBA for the Charlotte Observer, said the summer leagues help with decisions on what “second and third level of talent” will stock D-League rosters.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist (and UK graduate) Mark Bradley confessed to his own over-reaction.

“I came away from a game at Life College in Marietta believing Jonathan Bender would be the next Kevin Garnett,” he wrote in an email. “And, several years later, there was a Hawks official who kept emailing me about how great Marvin Williams looked in Vegas.”

This led Bradley to a telling conclusion.

“What happens in Vegas ... well, you know,” he wrote.

High Tide

The ongoing effort to gin up excitement for SEC basketball came to mind with the news that Alabama planned to publicly announce its non-conference schedule this week.

The unveiling will come at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Birmingham on Wednesday afternoon.

Coach Avery Johnson and his staff will comment on each opponent. Chris Stewart, the play-by-play announcer for radio broadcasts of Alabama games, will be the host of what’s being called the “Alabama Basketball Summer Tip Off Event.”

The event will be seen on RollTide.com or via Facebook.com/AlabamaMBB.

It’s all in stark contrast with the past when Alabama simply sent out a news release and/or posted the schedule on its website.

Alabama chose to stage the event before the start of football season (and even preseason practice), when any non-football news would fail to register.

It will be interesting to see how Alabama fans react to the pomp and circumstance.

‘Claim to fame’

A special happy birthday wish to longtime Lexington newspaperman Bill Hanna. He turned 94 on Wednesday.

Hanna has a Kentucky basketball connection. As a UK student, he played on what was known as the B Squad, which Adolph Rupp used as practice competition for the varsity in the late 1940s. Two players, Roger Day and Garland “Spec” Townes, played their way from B Squad to the UK varsity.

Hanna and a college roommate got an invitation to try out for the B Squad because assistant coach Harry Lancaster saw them shooting around in Alumni. “Thrilled us to death,” Hanna said last week.

Rupp wanted the B Squad to play “three-quarter defense.” Or as Hanna recalled, “We weren’t supposed to try too hard.”

Maybe his competitive juices got the better of Hanna. Or perhaps he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show what he could do. So as All-American Ralph Beard began what was supposed to be an unopposed drive, Hanna stripped the ball away.

Rupp blew his whistle. “We just want three-quarters,” he said. “We don’t want any stars.”

Looking back almost 70 years, Hanna said with a chuckle, “That was my claim to fame.”

Hanna, who grew up in Harrodsburg, was first drawn to journalism as a soldier in World War II. As a member of the 24th Infantry Division stationed in the Pacific, he noticed what he said were “Chicago Tribune guys in action.”

“They looked like they were having fun,” he said. “I wasn’t having much fun.”

Such was the spark to a career in newspapers.

Laettner update

In case you missed it, former Duke All-American (and UK villain) Christian Laettner has been given an extension on when he must respond to the allegation that he owes about $14 million in debts.

The extension was granted last week by the U.S. District Court Middle District of North Carolina.

Laettner must respond by Aug. 20, the court ruled.

Belated Happy Birthdays

While we were away, Carlos Toomer turned 44 on July 9. … Bernard Cote’ turned 34 on July 12. … Hall of Famer Frank Ramsey turned 85 on July 13. … Antwain Barbour turned 34 on July 17. … Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes turned 62 on July 17. … Veteran CBS announcer Verne Lundquist turned 76 on July 17. … Edrice “Bam” Adebayo turned 19 on July 18. . . . Derek Anderson turned 42 on July 18. … John Pelphrey turned 48 on July 18.

Happy Birthday

To Jules Camara. He turned 37 on Saturday. … To former Georgia coach Jim Harrick. He turns 78 on Monday. … To former SEC commissioner Mike Slive. He turns 76 on Tuesday.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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