Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Dick Vitale thinks LSU capable of beating UK on Saturday

In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25), of Australia, puts the ball up for two points in heavy traffic between Kentucky forwards Derek Willis (35) and Isaac Humphries (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La. Simmons and LSU play at Kentucky on Saturday.
In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25), of Australia, puts the ball up for two points in heavy traffic between Kentucky forwards Derek Willis (35) and Isaac Humphries (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La. Simmons and LSU play at Kentucky on Saturday. The Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Friday:

Kentucky women top LSU at the SEC Tournament, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “If we play with tremendous focus and effort, and play for each other, don’t let off the gas pedal, we’re a good team,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said after UK’s 79-71 win over LSU in the second-round game. “When we don’t, you saw what could happen to us.”

Florida vs. UK women’s rivalry taking shape, writes Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun. “When you play this much basketball, a month ago seems like six months ago,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “We played one of our best games against Kentucky. We’ve gotta dictate. They’re very good and if you let them dictate you don’t have a chance of winning.”

Dick Vitale thinks LSU can beat UK on Saturday, reports Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. “What they have to do is right in front of them; they have to do something no one has done,” Vitale said Thursday. “Think about it, no one’s beaten Kentucky at Rupp. Well, they have a date with Kentucky at Rupp this weekend. That’s it right there … you have got to go out and spring an upset. You’ve got to go out there and pound them, find a way to win.”

LSU needs a “Miracle on Ice” versus Kentucky, says Ron Higgins of NOLA.com. “The unpredictable Tigers end their regular season at Kentucky Saturday afternoon, and LSU might be the only college basketball team in America to simultaneously have chances to possibly win a share of its conference title and not receive an NCAA tournament invitation.”

Ben Simmons sees pressure for both teams Saturday, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. ““There’s always going to be pressure for them,” he said of the Cats on Thursday. “Because they’re Kentucky and they’re expected to win. Obviously, we beat them at the start of the (Southeastern Conference) season. They want that revenge. There’s also pressure on us, too. We don’t think we should be considered one of the lower teams. So we have a point to prove.”

Kentucky launches a Ulis, Murray awards campaign, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. The guard tandem is on the potential list for several of college basketball’s conference and national awards.

Vitale is impressed by UK’s backcourt, reports Metz Camfield of coachcal.com. “I think the backcourt of Ulis and Murray is the premier backcourt in America,” Vitale said. “I think that duo, to me, is as good as you’ll find in the nation.”

Georgia upsets South Carolina in Columbia, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “J.J. Frazier wasn’t having his best night. But with the game on the line, it was Frazier who nailed a huge 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to lift Georgia to a road upset win Thursday. With less than two minutes remaining, Frazier pulled up for a 3 at the top of the key, which helped propel the Bulldogs to a 74-72 win over the Gamecocks.”

South Carolina fails to finish, reports David Cloninger of The State. The Gamecocks have dropped four of their last six games.

Ben Simmons could get a $100 million shoe deal, reports ESPN. “Former Nike marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro, who signed a young Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal, said he wouldn't be surprised if the Melbourne-born 19-year-old snared a $US 100 million-plus shoe contract.”

The most successful Kentucky basketball program is not who you think, says Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “When Thomas More (27-0) begins defense of its 2015 women’s Division III national championship Friday night against La Roche College (24-3) in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Saints will carry a 60-game winning streak.”

Andy Buh promoted to UK special teams coordinator, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Andy Buh is going to really be overseeing all the special teams,” Stoops said Thursday. “Andy will be promoted to special teams coordinator, and we will still delegate some of those responsibilities to some other coaches, but he will oversee all of it.”

Some early thoughts on UK’s special teams adjustments, from Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “One thing UK lacked this season was someone to work with the kickers and punters -- a problem on most staffs nationally -- but Stoops seems to have gone a long way toward remedying that situation as well with the newly created special teams quality control assistant position filled by Louie Matsakis, a three-year placekicker and punter at Emporia State. He also was special teams coordinator at Kansas.”

Steve Clinkscale newest member of UK family, reports Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “The Cats’ new defensive backs Steve Clinkscale hails from the same hometown – Youngstown, Ohio – as head coach Mark Stoops and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow. Clinkscale and Marrow, though, share a deeper connection than just being new co-workers from the same stomping ground.”

Rick Pitino says the haters don’t get him down, reports the Courier-Journal. Louisville finishes its season Saturday at Virginia.

Louisville scandal makes 60 Minutes Sports, reports Rick Bozich of WDRB. “This time it’s ‘60 Minutes, Sports,’ that has produced a 13-minute segment that features the issues surrounding U of L coach Rick Pitino as well as Larry Brown of SMU and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. The story, titled, ‘Three Kings,’ examines the NCAA issues that will keep U of L and SMU out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament and pushed Syracuse to the sidelines last season. It focuses on the concept of ‘plausible deniability,’ the idea that rules can be violated at a program without the knowledge of a head coach.”

UK baseball hosts Buffalo this weekend, reports Brent Ingram of UK. “In the midst of a season-long 10 game homestand to open the 2016 schedule at Cliff Hagan Stadium, Kentucky will welcome Buffalo for a three-game series, starting on Friday at 4 p.m. ET. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.”’

UK has featured role in Shannon Spake’s highlight reel, writes Jamie Vaught of KyForward. “With her job as one of the more respected sideline reporters, Shannon Spake has been covering lots of UK basketball games on national TV lately. If you watch sports, especially on ESPN, you’d certainly know who she is. Spake does an admirable job and has worked with the sports network since 2006.”

Jim Harbaugh has a suggestion for Butch Jones, reports Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Suggestion to my Rocky Top colleague,” Harbaugh posted, “rather than lunch in Florida, you might spend your time and focus attending to your present team.”

SEC men’s basketball standings

Team

W

L

W

L

Texas A&M

12

5

23

7

Kentucky

12

5

22

8

Vanderbilt

11

6

19

11

LSU

11

6

18

12

South Carolina

10

7

23

7

Ole Miss

9

8

19

11

Georgia

9

8

16

12

Arkansas

9

8

16

14

Alabama

8

9

17

12

Florida

8

9

17

13

Miss State

6

11

13

16

Tennessee

6

11

13

17

Auburn

5

12

11

18

Missouri

3

14

10

20

SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament

Thursday’s results

  • Auburn 47, Missouri 45
  • Kentucky 79, LSU 71
  • Tennessee 68, Arkansas 51
  • Vanderbilt 54, Georgia 49

Friday’s schedule

  • 12:00 - Auburn vs. South Carolina (SEC)
  • 2:00 - Kentucky vs. Florida (SEC)
  • 6:00 - Tennessee vs. Texas A&M (SEC)
  • 8:00 - Vanderbilt vs. Miss State (SEC)
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