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Big Blue Links: Tubby Smith picks up National Coach of the Year honors

Former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, now at Texas Tech, was named National Coach of the Year by the Sporting News.
Former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, now at Texas Tech, was named National Coach of the Year by the Sporting News. The Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

Tubby Smith named National Coach of the Year by the Sporting News. “Three seasons later, Smith has Texas Tech on the brink of an NCAA Tournament bid, what would be the school’s first in nearly a decade and only the 15th in its history. Five years after Billy Gillispie’s one disastrous season resulted in a single conference victory, the Red Raiders went 19-11 overall, 9-9 in the Big 12 and defeated three consecutive ranked opponents in mid-February. They lost seven of their eight games in one January stretch but recovered to win five in a row.”

Related: Tubby Smith has changed the trajectory of Texas Tech basketball

This down year could be good for Anthony Davis, writes Neil Paine of Fivethirtyeight.com. “Even as Stephen Curry and LeBron James were dueling under the bright lights of the NBA Finals last season, the league’s collective presumption was that both would soon have to make room for Anthony Davis as the face of the NBA’s future. But by the time the postseason rolls around this year, almost certainly without Davis and his New Orleans Pelicans in it, that presumption may be due for a re-examination — and not just because Curry has only gotten more superlative since June.”

Ulis, Murray express pride over honors, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Ulis became the eighth UK player to win the SEC Player of the Year award and the fifth to be voted Defensive Player of the Year. UK players have won the latter now four times in the last five years: Davis in 2012, Nerlens Noel in 2013, Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015 and now Ulis.”

It’s a wide-open SEC Tournament, says Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “No great team emerged from the SEC men's basketball season. Five league losses qualified for a co-championship for the first time since 1991. What that translates to, however, is a compelling, wide-open SEC tournament in Nashville starting Wednesday night.”

Talk of SEC’s best players should include Stefan Moody, says Parrish Alford of the NE Mississippi Daily Journal. “The difficulty of some of his makes – Moody is tied for the SEC lead with 3.2 3-pointers per game – is also quite impressive, but the 3-point shot is just one part of his game. While his 3-point percent at 37.3 is up two points from last year, and just outside the SEC’s top 10, opponents have to respect his ability to create with the dribble.”

C.J. Conrad talks about Kentucky’s new offense, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “I’m moved more around,” Conrad said Tuesday after UK’s first day of spring practice. “I’m in the slot. I’m kind of everywhere. I really like it so far.”

Mark Stoops talks about the first day of spring drills, reports Smith. “On the timetable for the quarterbacks position, whether he would like to name starter by end of spring: “The timeline was two months ago. (Laughter) I'm not really worried about that. I'm gonna let it play out and we'll see how it goes. Drew's taking the first-team reps right now, and Stephen's taking the twos and we're rotating the threes.”

My column is about the importance of this spring practice for UK football. “We’ve had a better offseason than we have any other year,” Stoops said Tuesday. “I feel like we went longer this offseason as far as our fourth-quarter conditioning, and we went longer in those drills — longer period of time, longer duration each day.”

Kyle Wiltjer is back in the NCAA Tournament, reports John Marshall of the AP. “The Zags didn’t have that luxury this year. Lose in the West Coast Conference title game and there was a chance one of the nation’s longest NCAA streaks would come to an end. Gonzaga took the guesswork out of its postseason fate with a dominating offensive performance, shooting its way past Saint Mary’s 85-75 Tuesday night in the WCC championship game to earn its 18th straight NCAA Tournament berth.”

Lovie Smith is going after Illinois’ offensive coordinator, reports Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. “Garrick McGee and Hardy Nickerson are Smith's top targets as offensive and defensive coordinator, according to reports, while a source confirmed to the Tribune that Smith will retain Mike Phair as defensive line coach and is expected to hire Andrew Hayes-Stoker as wide receivers coach. Another report said former Illini center Luke Butkus will coach the offensive line.”

Florida suspends quarterback and wide receiver, reports Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun. “Florida quarterback Treon Harris and wide receiver Antonio Callaway have been suspended indefinitely and will not participate in spring practice, UF coach Jim McElwain announced Tuesday.”

The Bears are going after ex-UK linebacker Danny Trevathan, reports Brad Briggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Trevathan was the leading tackler for the Super Bowl champion Broncos, who were No. 1 in the NFL against the run and pass, so the attraction is obvious. He was a sixth-round pick from Kentucky in 2012, when John Fox was the Broncos coach, became a starter in his second season and seamlessly transitioned to a 3-4 scheme in Denver last season.”

Kentucky in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Bridgestone Arena in Nashville

Opponent: Winner of Thursday’s Alabama-Ole Miss game

TV: SEC Network

Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year

  • 2006–07 Derrick Byars, Vanderbilt (coaches)
  • 2006–07 Chris Lofton, Tennessee (writers)
  • 2007–08 Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
  • 2008–09 Marcus Thornton, LSU
  • 2009–10 John Wall, Kentucky
  • 2010–11 Chandler Parsons, Florida
  • 2011–12 Anthony Davis, Kentucky
  • 2012–13 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
  • 2013–14 Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
  • 2014–15 Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • 2015–16 Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
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