▪ It’s not just a big weekend for Kentucky women’s basketball. It’s a big weekend for Kentucky baseball. Gary Henderson’s club, fresh off taking two of three at Georgia, plays host to No. 1-ranked Florida for a three-game series, starting Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Florida is 22-1. That’s not a misprint.
Henderson’s bullpen is off to a terrific start. The Cats are 15-5 overall. They are 11-0 when leading after five innings.
▪ This was supposed to be a wide-open year in college basketball, yet 14 of the Sweet 16 teams are from the Power Five conferences. Villanova and Gonzaga are the only two non-Power Five teams still alive.
▪ A No. 11 seed, Gonzaga has been favored in all three of its NCAA Tournament games, including its Sweet 16 matchup with No. 10 seed Syracuse. The Zags are a four-point favorite.
▪ I have been among those that questioned Tom Crean’s coaching acumen but the Indiana leader executed a terrific game plan last Saturday in the Hoosiers’ 73-67 win over Kentucky. Indiana singled UK’s post players and made it difficult for the Kentucky guards to get in the lane.
▪ Actually, it’s the ACC’s world and college basketball is just living in it. There are six ACC teams in the Sweet 16. Pittsburgh was the only ACC team to lose the first weekend, and Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon saw the writing on the wall. He took the head coaching job at his alma mater, TCU.
▪ It’s been a bad tourney for the Pac-12. Only No. 1 seed Oregon remains alive. UCLA, which did not make the tournament, made news when it was announced that head coach Steve Alford was returning the money from his contract extension. It was all downhill for the Bruins after they beat visiting Kentucky last December.
▪ Compare the stats for the 2015-16 Kentucky basketball team with John Calipari’s previous six teams and the results are not surprising. This was Calipari’s second-best team in terms of offensive efficiency and field goal percentage. It was his second-worst in terms of defensive field goal percentage and defensive efficiency.
▪ My guess is Western Kentucky brings back Dennis Felton to replace Ray Harper. Felton was 100-54 in five seasons at WKU before moving on to Georgia in 2003-04. Fired by the Bulldogs after the 2008-09 season, Felton was an NBA scout until last year when he joined Tulsa as an assistant to Frank Haith.
▪ They will be drinking plenty of coffee in the state of North Carolina over the next two days. On Thursday, Duke plays Oregon at 10:07 p.m. On Friday, North Carolina plays Indiana at 9:57 p.m.
▪ For once, the NFL is adopting a college football rule. The owners voted Tuesday to move the touchback for kickoffs from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line, just as in the college game. Now if the NFL would just adopt the college football pass interference penalty of 15 yards or shorter, depending on the spot of the foul.
▪ Word out of Georgia is that new football coach Kirby Smart is restricting transfers from going to any SEC school or archrival Georgia Tech or Miami, where Smart’s predecessor Mark Richt is now the head coach.
Don’t these guys ever learn. When he was the head basketball coach at Florida, Billy Donovan did not place restrictions on any of his players who transferred out of the program. Didn’t hurt him a bit. Florida won two national titles before Donovan departed for the NBA.
▪ Good luck to Allen Edwards, the former Wildcat who was promoted this week to head coach at Wyoming after Larry Shyatt resigned. Edwards earned his way to the top, serving as an assistant at Morehead State (2003-06), VCU (2006-09), Towson (2009-10), Western Kentucky (2010-11) and Wyoming (2011-16).
▪ Bet you never thought this would happen: Steve Spurrier is getting the Robert Neyland Award. The same coach who once said you can’t spell Citrus Bowl without UT will receive the award during Tennessee’s spring game weekend next month. The Old Ball Coach did win at Neyland Stadium with three different schools — Duke, Florida and South Carolina.
▪ RIP, Joe Garagiola. When I was a kid the only baseball on television was Reds’ road games and NBC’s Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons with Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Garagiola’s Baseball is a Funny Game was one of the first non-fiction sports books I ever read.
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 by conference
ACC (6): Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia
Big 12 (3): Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma
Big Ten (3): Indiana, Maryland, Wisconsin
Big East (1): Villanova
Pac-12 (1): Oregon
SEC (1): Texas A&M
West Coast (1): Gonzaga