Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky spring practice, SEC Tournament, more Big Blue Links

Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari instructed his team during its 71-63 win over Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas on March 4, 2017.
Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari instructed his team during its 71-63 win over Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas on March 4, 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

▪ has a download the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket. Play starts Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. No. 1 Kentucky does not play until Friday.

▪ Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader reports that John Calipari says his team has learned to fight but a post-season tweak is still in order. The Cats did finish the regular season with eight straight wins, but fell behind by double digits in each of their last three games before rallying to win.

▪ The new AP college basketball poll is out and Kentucky moved up a spot from ninth to eighth.

▪ Here’s the AP poll week-by-week in a Google Doc.

▪ Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph gives an update on Yante Maten’s injury status at Georgia. The Bulldogs play Tennessee in the SEC Tournament on Thursday. The winner plays Kentucky on Friday. Maten, who was injured in the UK game on Feb. 18, is not expected to be ready to play in Nashville.

▪ Larry Vaught of Vaught’s Views wonders if it’s time for John Calipari to put Dominique Hawkins in the starting lineup. The UK coach speculated about changing things up to stop the string of slow starts and Hawkins gave Kentucky a first-half spark in Saturday’s 71-63 win at Texas A&M on Saturday.

▪ Dominique Hawkins was sleepy Cats wake-up call at Texas A&M

▪ Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader has the transcript of Mark Stoops’ press conference on Monday talking about spring drills. The first practice was Sunday. Stoops talked about Drew Barker, Stephen Johnson, Darius West, Benny Snell and others.

▪ Smith reports that Stoops is excited to see what comes from a retooled defensive staff. Stoops said that new defensive coordinator Matt House will make the defensive calls next season. Stoops took over that responsibility early in the 2016 season.

▪ Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes that if you’re expecting a Kentucky quarterback controversy in 2017, you’ll be disappointed. Having started the final 10 games in 2016, Stephen Johnson is the prohibitive favorite to the starter this fall as Drew Barker work his way back from back surgery.

▪ Pat Forde of Yahoo has 10 takeaways on the brink of March Madness. Pat thinks the NCAA bubble teams are really not very good. “If the (Vanderbilt) Commodores are in with 14 defeats, including five losses to SEC teams not making the Big Dance (Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri), it’s a lousy bubble,” he writes.

▪ Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal makes 15 bold predictions for the ACC Tournament. He thinks the ACC will like holding the tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

▪ Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader reports on UK baseball’s sweep of UC Santa Barbara over the weekend. Justin Lewis, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, was nearly perfect in Sunday’s win.

▪ Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star reports that Missouri coach Kim Anderson says he will leave his job with head held high. Anderson was asked to step down after this his third season in Columbia. Missouri plays Auburn on Wednesday night in the SEC Tournament.

▪ Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun reports that Florida would love to get a third shot at Vanderbilt, which could happen in the SEC Tournament. Vandy beat the Gators 68-66 in Gainesville and 73-71 in Nashville.

▪ Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Arkansas is convinced it will get an NCAA Tournament bid after Saturday’s 85-67 win over visiting Georgia.

▪ Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser reports that Alabama coach Avery Johnson thinks the SEC Tournament is wide open. Johnson did not include Auburn among the teams that had a chance to win the tourney. Rankins says he should have included the Tigers.

▪ Elliott Pratt of the Bowling Green Daily News reports on the Western Kentucky wrapping up the C-USA regular season title as the Lady Toppers head into the conference tournament this week. WKU will play either North Texas or UAB in a quarterfinal game on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. CT in Birmingham.

▪ Matt Jones of Whole Hog Sports reports that Jimmy Dykes is out as Arkansas women’s basketball coach. After saying that he planned to be back next season, the 55-year-old Dykes resigned after going 13-17 overall and 2-14 in the SEC this past season.

▪ Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reports on the Shockers punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MVC Tournament. Now they don’t have to worry about Jerry Palm.

▪ Shehan Jeyarajah of SEC Country ranks SEC football coaches 1-14 going into spring practice drills. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops ranks 10th on the list. Alabama’s Nick Saban is first. Missouri’s Barry Odom is last.

▪ John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel wonders if Tennessee football coach Butch Jones has met the man who will ultimately fire him? That’s new Tennessee AD John Currie, who comes to Knoxville from Kansas State.

▪ Rhiannon Polkey of the News-Sentinel reports that Tennessee could pull your scholarship offer over a tweet.

▪ Albert Breer of Monday Morning Quarterback says that Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett’s great workout at the NFL Combine actually makes matters more complicated for the Cleveland Browns, who own the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

▪ Joan Niesen of writes that with the most players in the NFL Combine, Jim Harbaugh is running Michigan right. The Wolverines had 14 players invited to Indianapolis. That tied the same number that Ohio State had invited last year.

▪ Richard Deitsch of reports that Sam Ponder is the favorite to succeed Chris Berman on ESPN’s NFL Countdown. The network believes Ponder has great potential as a studio host.


All times ET. Seeds in parentheses. First three rounds on SEC Network. Semifinals and finals on ESPN.


Game 1, 7 p.m.: Mississippi State (12) vs. LSU (13)

Game 2, 9:25 p.m.: Auburn (11) vs. Missouri (14)


Game 3, 1 p.m.: Georgia (8) vs. Tennessee (9)

Game 4, 3:25 p.m.: Alabama (5) vs. Game 1 winner

Game 5, 7 p.m.: Vanderbilt (7) vs. Texas A&M (10)

Game 6, 9:25 p.m.: Ole Miss (6) vs. Game 2 winner


Game 7, 1 p.m.: Kentucky (1) vs. Game 3 winner

Game 8, 3:25 p.m.: South Carolina (4) vs. Game 4 winner

Game 9, 7 p.m.: Florida (2) vs. Game 5 winner

Game 10, 9:25 p.m.: Arkansas (3) vs. Game 6 winner


Game 11, 1 p.m.: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner

Game 12, 3:25 p.m.: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner


Finals, 1 p.m.: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner