John Clay

A surprise Final Four pick, all those Reds trades and more random notes

What impression has Chris Mack made in first season at Louisville?

Louisville basketball forward Jordan Nwora talks about the influence new coach Chris Mack has had on the program. The Cardinals play host to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018 at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville.
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Louisville basketball forward Jordan Nwora talks about the influence new coach Chris Mack has had on the program. The Cardinals play host to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018 at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville.

Random notes:

Andy Katz, who now works for NCAA.com, has already made his picks for the 2020 Final Four in Atlanta. Andy likes Michigan State, Kansas, Florida and Louisville. That’s right. Louisville.

Football is here. The NFL’s Hall of Fame Game is Thursday night. (Yes, I’m the geek that watches preseason football.) UK football media day is Friday. UK football fan day is Saturday. Miami plays Florida in Orlando on Aug. 24. Good time to make sure you know the whereabouts of your chinstrap and the remote.

Kentucky football’s defense jumped 68 spots from No. 74 to No. 6 nationally in scoring defense a year ago. If you look at the last five years, 28 percent of the teams that finished in the top 10 in that category one season managed to finish in the top 10 the following season. I don’t expect that to happen with UK. But 62 percent of those top 10 teams finished in the top 30 the following season.

Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl told Jon Rothstein on the College Hoops Today podcast that “we’re not finished” with NCAA penalties. Bruce does have some experience in that area.

Following up on my earlier column on future UK football schedules, Phil Steele, the king of the college football yearbook, ranks the Cats’ 2019 schedule at No. 51 in terms of strength of schedule.

I liked the Reds’ trade for Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer. With Bauer under contract control through the 2020 season, the Reds look to have a starting rotation next year led by Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Anthony DeSclafani. Not bad. Not bad at all. (Plus, they could still sign Alex Wood to an extension.)

Maybe the Reds just love pitchers who have stood on the mound and thrown the ball over the outfield wall in frustration. Reds reliever Rob Dibble did it in 1991, hitting a school teacher in the process. Bauer did it Sunday in his final appearance for the Indians.

According to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, now-former Reds pitcher Tanner Roark learned he had been traded to the A’s on Wednesday while in the Arby’s parking lot on the way to ordering a beef and cheddar with curly fries.

While you hate to see Yasiel Puig go, it was unlikely the Reds were going to sign the free agent at the end of the season. Give Puig credit for his community involvement in Cincinnati and his willingness to fight for his teammates, even after they were no longer his teammates.

Speaking of trades, former Pendleton County High School and NKU pitcher Nate Jones was acquired by the Texas Rangers from the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. The 33-year-old Jones has a career 3.12 ERA in 284 MLB games in his career.

Filly to watch: Immediate Impact, a half-sister to Arrogate, who won her debut as a 2-year-old in a romp last weekend at Del Mar for trainer Bob Baffert.

Love A.J. Green, but the Bengals’ star receiver has trouble staying on the field. He played in just 10 games in 2016 and nine games last year. Now he’s likely to miss the first few games of the 2019 season after tearing ligaments in his ankle during the Bengals first training camp practice.

Ex-Morehead State and Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall is a head coach again. Tyndall, fired at Tennessee for NCAA violations, will coach in the NBA’s G League next season.

Congrats to former UK basketball star Kelenna Azubuike, who will be the color analyst on the Golden State Warriors’ broadcast team next season.

Congrats to Lexington’s own Tom Hammond, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor at Saratoga.

Sorry to hear of the passing of Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, part of one of the greatest defenses off all time coached by perhaps the greatest defensive coordinator of all time, the late Bill Arnsparger of Paris, Ky.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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