John Clay

Come on, Kentucky basketball fans, you’re better than that. Right?

In this March 26, 2017, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari argues a call with referee John Higgins in the first half of its 75-73 loss to North Carolina in the South Regional final game against North Carolina in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Memphis, Tenn. Higgins, who lives in Omaha, Neb., has contacted law enforcement to report he received death threats after the game.
In this March 26, 2017, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari argues a call with referee John Higgins in the first half of its 75-73 loss to North Carolina in the South Regional final game against North Carolina in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Memphis, Tenn. Higgins, who lives in Omaha, Neb., has contacted law enforcement to report he received death threats after the game. Associated Press

Random notes:

▪  No one hurts you more than yourself. I’m talking to you, Kentucky basketball fans. Your national image took a hit Wednesday when ESPN and the Associated Press reported that John Higgins had received death threats. Higgins is one of the three officials who worked Sunday’s NCAA Tournament South Region finals between Kentucky and North Carolina. Kentucky lost, 75-73. Some UK fans — hopefully, a minority — blame Higgins.

The Facebook page for Higgins’ roofing company in Omaha, Neb., was shut down because of false and profane comments posted by readers. Internet anonymity emboldens cowards. This went a step beyond, however. According to the reports, Higgins met with law enforcement officials for more than two hours Tuesday to discuss death threats left on his unlisted phone number.

If you’re a fan who posted to Higgins’ Facebook page, or attempted to call him with a complaint or threat, you need to stop being a fan. Go find another hobby. Better yet, seek professional help. You’ve given Big Blue Nation and Kentucky basketball a national black eye.

Higgins is a respected veteran official. In fact, he will work this year’s Final Four, and not for the first time. Did he miss some calls Sunday? Probably. All officials do. It’s an impossible job. As someone fortunate enough to sit close to the action, I am amazed how well officials do game after game. They should be respected, not harassed.

Kentucky lost. Get over it. North Carolina outrebounded UK by 10. It played excellent defense on UK guard Malik Monk. It hit the winning shot with 0.3 seconds remaining. Kentucky had chances and came up short. Give the Tar Heels credit, quit whining and move on. Stop hurting yourself and your team.

▪  Second-guessers question why UK Coach John Calipari didn't call a timeout after Monk’s three-pointer tied the score at 73 with 7.2 seconds left. Easier said than done, considering how quickly Carolina takes the ball out of the net and races the other way. If Cal calls time and North Carolina scores, he is knocked for allowing Roy Williams to call a play.

▪  Save me your “Cal can’t win the close ones” knock as well. Kentucky beat Wichita State 65-62 the Sunday before. In 2015, it beat Notre Dame 68-66 in the Midwest Region finals. In 2014, it beat Michigan 75-72 in the Midwest finals and Wisconsin 74-73 in the Final Four. Those wins have apparently been forgotten.

▪  Calipari’s record at UK in games decided by four points or less: 26-19.

▪  According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, UK-North Carolina was the second-most watched Elite Eight game since 2005. Only Louisville’s 2013 Midwest Region finals win over Duke — the Kevin Ware game — drew more viewers.

▪  What do Patrick Patterson and De’Aaron Fox have in common? In the past 10 years, they are the only UK players to score 30 or more points in a game without making a three-pointer. Patterson did it twice. In the 2008-09 season, he scored 31 points against Lamar and 33 against Tennessee State without attempting a three-pointer in either game. Fox missed his only three-point attempt in last Friday’s win over UCLA, yet he scored 39 points.

▪  South Carolina’s run to the men’s Final Four has an added bonus. The country has discovered Sindarius Thornwell. In four NCAA Tournament games, the senior has scored 103 points, grabbed 30 rebounds and contributed 10 assists. SEC basketball fans knew Thornwell’s toughness and brilliance. Now the country does, too.

▪  My predictions have air-balled the entire tournament. That’s no reason to stop before the Final Four. Gonzaga over South Carolina. North Carolina over Oregon. North Carolina over Gonzaga in the finals.

▪  The road to the Kentucky Derby is hitting the stretch. Saturday brings us the Florida Derby and the Louisiana Derby. Next Saturday brings us the Wood Memorial, the Santa Anita Derby and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

▪  Interesting note out of Arizona: The Reds will begin the season with Rookie Davis and Amir Garrett, both rookies, in the rotation of starting pitchers. Davis arrived from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade. FanGraphs ranks Garrett as the 65th-best prospect in all of baseball.

▪  Major League Baseball opens play Sunday. The Reds open Monday with Philadelphia at Great American Ball Park. My Reds 2017 projection: 74-88. I’m an optimist.

Kentucky Derby preps for 2017

Date

Race

Track

Points

Winner

9/17/16

Iroquois

Churchill Downs

10

Not This Time

10/1/16

FrontRunner

Belmont Park

10

Gormley

10/8/16

Champagne

Belmont Park

10

Practical Joke

10/8/16

Breeders' Futurity

Keeneland

10

Classic Empire

11/5/16

Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Santa Anita Park

20

Classic Empire

11/19/16

Delta Downs Jackpot

Delta Downs

10

Gunnevera

11/26/16

Remsen

Aqueduct

10

Mo Town

11/26/16

Kentucky Jockey Club

Churchill Downs

10

McCraken

11/26/16

Cattleya Sho*

Tokyo Racecourse

40

Mont Saint Legame

12/10/16

Los Alamitos Futurity

Los Alamitos

10

Mastery

1/2/17

Jerome

Aqueduct

10

El Areeb

1/7/17

Sham

Santa Anita Park

10

Gormley

1/16/17

Smarty Jones

Oaklawn Park

10

Uncontested

1/21/17

Lecomte

Fair Grounds

10

Guest Suite

2/4/17

Withers

Aqueduct

10

El Areeb

2/4/17

Holy Bull

Gulfstream Park

10

Irish War Cry

2/4/17

Robert B. Lewis

Santa Anita Park

10

Royal Mo

2/11/17

Sam F. Davis

Tampa Bay Downs

10

McCraken

2/18/17

El Camino Real Derby

Golden Gate Fields

10

Zakaroff

2/19/17

Hyacinth*

Tokyo Racecourse

50

Epicharis

2/20/17

Southwest

Oaklawn Park

10

One Liner

2/25/17

Risen Star

Fair Grounds

50

Girvin

3/4/17

Fountain of Youth

Gulfstream Park

50

Gunnevera

3/4/17

Gotham

Aqueduct

50

J Boys Echo

3/11/17

Tampa Bay Derby

Tampa Bay Downs

50

Tapwrit

3/11/17

San Felipe

Santa Anita Park

50

Mastery

3/18/17

Rebel

Oaklawn Park

50

Malagacy

3/25/17

UAE Derby

Meydan Racecourse

100

Thunder Snow

3/25/17

Spiral

Turfway Park

50

Fast and Accurate

3/25/17

Sunland Derby

Sunland Park

50

Hence

4/1/17

Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park

100

 

4/1/17

Louisiana Derby

Fair Grounds

100

 

4/8/17

Wood Memorial

Aqueduct

100

 

4/8/17

Blue Grass

Keeneland

100

 

4/8/17

Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita Park

100

 

4/15/17

Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park

100

 

4/15/17

Lexington

Keeneland

10

 
 

* Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

  
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