UK Women's Basketball

Making a case for Cats' Wall-star

Fast-break points from the bubble watch:

21. The John Wall campaign for National Player of the Year. Seems to have lost steam with Ohio State star Evan Turner now seen as the consensus favorite.

20. The case against Wall. Is that he hasn't played as well in the second half of the season as the first. There is something to that. In Kentucky's past three games, he's shot 13-for-40 from the floor. Over UK's past five games, he has 21 turnovers.

19. The case for Wall. Can be summed up in six letters: C-L-U-T-C-H.

18. Miami (Ohio). With UK teetering on the verge of another embarrassing early-season loss, Wall bailed the Cats out with a game-winning buzzer beater.

17. Connecticut. In a tense, every-possession-counts slugfest in Madison Square Garden, Wall scored 12 of Kentucky's final 15 points including the game-winning shot against UConn.

16. Louisville. When U of L took its only lead, 42-41, inside the final 10 minutes, one could feel Rupp Arena getting "tight." Wall responded by scoring six straight points to launch Kentucky to victory.

15. Mississippi State. With the Cats in overtime in a raucous road environment, Wall scored five in a row and had a crucial blocked shot (yes, it should have been called goaltending) to lead UK to victory.

14. Vanderbilt. What was more impressive? Wall somehow regaining the basketball after Vandy had stripped it from him under the Commodores basket and scoring to put UK ahead by two with 39 seconds left? Or was it Wall blocking John Jenkins' potential go-ahead three-point shot and coming down with the ball?

13. Tennessee. With UK dead in the water and down 19 in the second half in Knoxville, Wall all but single-handedly ignited the Kentucky comeback that eventually tied the game by scoring seven straight points to turn momentum.

12. Why Wall still deserves Player of the Year consideration. I have a hard time believing any player in the country has come through in tight spots for their team as many times as Wall has for UK.

11. Bruce Pearl. It's easy to get distracted by his theatrics, but the Tennessee head man is a good basketball coach.

10. Beating Jodie Meeks. As the Kentucky Kernel's Metz Camfield noted Saturday, the entire UK team did not eclipse the 54 points Meeks scored himself last season in Thompson-Boling Arena until DeMarcus Cousins cashed a pair of free throws to give the Cats 55 with 5:47 left in the game.

9. Kentucky boys make noise. With Oklahoma State's upset of Kansas, OSU Coach and Madisonville product Travis Ford joined ex-Tates Creek star and South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn (who beat — who was it?— Kentucky) with a victory over a No. 1 team this season.

8. Pilgrim's progress. Oklahoma State forward Matt Pilgrim, who sat out at UK last season as a transfer then was shed in the Calipari roster purge, went 8-for-8 from the floor, 2-for-2 from the foul line and finished with 18 points and six rebounds in the Cowboys' takedown of Rock Chalk.

7. OVC rubber match. No offense to good guy Jeff Neubauer at Eastern Kentucky, but count me among those hoping to see Murray State and Morehead State play for a decisive third time in the Ohio Valley Conference men's tournament finals.

6. On the verge of Kentucky college basketball history. If Louisville (19-10) and Western Kentucky (19-12) each win one more men's basketball game, they will join UK (27-2), Murray State (27-4), Morehead State (21-9) and Eastern Kentucky (20-11) as 20-game winners.

It would be the first time in the commonwealth's history that all six Division I men's teams reached the 20-win milestone in the same season (thanks to EKU's Dan McBride for calling this to my attention).

5. UK Hoops. I don't think the "lost" final week detracts from what was a breakthrough season for Matthew Mitchell's crew; I do think it puts a premium on playing well in the SEC tourney to regain positive momentum before the NCAAs.

4. SEC women's basketball. Ought to be set up in East and West Divisions, just like football and men's basketball. I'm told the reason it isn't is because the league's coaches, especially those who would be in the East, are resistant.

3. A'dia Mathies. I'm not sure the UK women's basketball freshman standout has even begun to realize how good she can be.

2. Freedom Hall. Though Saturday's meeting with No. 1 Syracuse will be Louisville's final men's hoops game in the venerable arena, I hear there is a strong chance that Kentucky will continue to play in the Hall in coming years when the Cats have "home" contests in the Derby City.

1. Worry material. Now that Louisville is probably secure in the NCAA tourney and could be a No. 8 or No. 9 seed — meaning a possible second-round matchup with a No. 1 — those UK fans who need something to fret over can add this:

In post-season tournaments, Rick Pitino is 4-0 all-time against John Calipari (2-0 in the NCAAs, 2-0 in the C-USA tourney).