Sidelines with John Clay

Don’t call Northern Kentucky Cinderella, plus more Big Blue Links

Kentucky guard Malik Monk (5) drove on forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) as the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team practiced for their first round NCAA tournament game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, In., Thursday, March16, 2017.
Kentucky guard Malik Monk (5) drove on forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) as the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team practiced for their first round NCAA tournament game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, In., Thursday, March16, 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Friday:

Northern Kentucky says it is not a Cinderella story against Kentucky, report Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “This is a 15-2 seed,” NKU head coach John Brannen said. “The committee put Northern Kentucky versus Kentucky. It’s a good storyline, the first time ever versus the greatest program in college basketball history. It’s an opportunity for us to continue to play well, hopefully. We’ll take it as that.”

David vs Goliath? Northern Kentucky doesn’t think so, writes Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Northern Kentucky Coach John Brannen anticipated the David and Goliath storyline. How could he not? The competing teams in one of Friday’s NCAA Tournament games here will be two-seed Kentucky, college basketball’s winningest program, and 15-seed NKU, which in its infancy in Division One became only the second program since 1970 to receive an NCAA Tournament bid in its first season of eligibility. “

Some basketball-proud programs are in Indianapolis, but the talk Thursday was of the one that wasn’t, says my column. “If you are picking any particular spot on the planet to start your NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament run, you could not find a better place than Indianapolis. For starters, it’s in Indiana, where they care about basketball a great deal. And it’s Indianapolis, which if many of us had our way would be the permanent host for the Final Four, what with its connected walkaways, its close proximity to various downtown attractions and its fondness for the sport.”

NKU’s wager on in-state talent yields a Big Dance return, writes Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “When the University of Kentucky begins its quest for a ninth NCAA championship Friday night in the NCAA Tournament, there will be an odd dynamic. The team representing the commonwealth’s flagship university will have far less of a “made in Kentucky” pedigree than its opponent. Northern Kentucky’s second-year head coach, Newport Catholic graduate John Brannen, is originally from the commonwealth. “

Kentucky women talking the talk to walk the walk, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “I can’t get her to stop talking during the game,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of sophomore Taylor Murray. “I try to get her to sit down and rest for a second, then she calls me back over to the sideline to talk to her to make sure we’re doing what we need to do. She’s doing a great job as a floor general.”

John Calipari does it all, but keeps it simple, writes Eric Crawford of WDRB. “John Calipari, noted documentary subject, pitchman, podcaster, author, Tweeter and coach of the storied basketball team at the University of Kentucky, wishes to put your mind at ease. He can, in fact, do it all. On the eve of his No. 2-seeded Wildcats’ meeting with No. 15 seed Northern Kentucky, Calipari was asked how he has time for it all? How did he add a podcast to his already busy schedule?”

Approach no different for UK or NKU, reports Metz Camfield of coachcal.com. “We’re just trying to come out the same way they are, even with more intensity,” De’Aaron Fox said. “We don’t want to go into the game being the prey just because we’re Kentucky, they’re Northern Kentucky. We’re not looking at it that way. We’re looking at as another basketball game.”

Fisher-Davis takes blame for Vanderbilt loss, reports Adam Sparks of the Tennessean. “The highs and lows of Matthew Fisher-Davis’ season simply had to turn up in the final moments of Vanderbilt’s NCAA tournament game. Fisher-Davis’ team-high 22 points led the Commodores’ furious rally from a 15-point second-half deficit. But his gaffe of committing an unnecessary foul yielded the 68-66 first-round loss to Northwestern Thursday. “

Second-half surge sends Florida to the second round, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “The surprise flashed on the video screen. Florida players thought they were going through a last-minute scouting report in the locker room shortly before their matchup with 13th-seed East Tennessee State on Thursday afternoon. Instead, it was something different. A clip from the Selection Sunday Show, in which CBS college basketball analyst Seth Davis picked ETSU to upset the fourth-seeded Gators.”

North Carolina will only go as far as Joel Berry takes them, writes Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. “Joel Berry II might not be the MVP of this North Carolina basketball team, but I think he’s the MEP. That would be ‘Most Essential Player,’ and that is what Berry is for a Tar Heels squad that often takes its cues from its point guard. When Berry plays well, life is good for those who care about Carolina blue. When he plays poorly, as he did in the ACC tournament against Duke, life is often bad for North Carolina. “

South Carolina is looking for the perfect game, reports David Cloninger of The State. “South Carolina’s season was an unqualified success. The Gamecocks won 22 games, 12 in the SEC (the second-most in school history), had a player voted the best in the league and are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years. Friday’s game doesn’t change that success. It just seems like it determines so much more. “

Arkansas’ Dusty Hannahs relishes long-sought NCAA shot, reports Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The wait is over for Dusty Hannahs. Hannahs, a senior guard from Pulaski Academy, will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time when the Arkansas Razorbacks (25-9) take on Seton Hall (21-11) at 12:30 p.m. today in a first-round South Regional game in Bon Secours Arena.”

Friday’s NCAA Tournament television schedule

  • 12:15, CBS: No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State
  • 12:40, truTV: No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
  • 1:30, TNT: No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Seton Hall
  • 2:00, TBS: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Iona
  • 2:45, CBS: No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State
  • 3:10, truTV: No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 USC
  • 4:00, TNT: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
  • 4:30, TBS: No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island
  • 6:50, TNT, No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 UC Davis
  • 7:10, CBS: No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State
  • 7:20, TBS: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy
  • 7:27, truTV: No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Kansas State
  • 9:20, TNT: No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State
  • 9:40, CBS: No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky
  • 9:50, TBS: No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette
  • 9:57, truTV: No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State
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