Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Four reasons why Kentucky basketball can win the trophy

Big Blue Links for Thursday:

▪ Four reasons Kentucky can win the tournament, from Brian Mull of NCAA.com. “3. Momentum and past history -- Connecticut went 6-4 and 7-3 in its final 10 games before the NCAA tournament en route to its last two national titles. So consider the Huskies the outliers. Every other champ since 2008 was 8-2 or better. Kentucky enters the tournament with an 8-2 record in its last 10. Also, here’s another trend. The last seven national champions hailed from three states: Connecticut, Kentucky or North Carolina. Going back to 2004, Kansas and Florida join the fun. From a geographic perspective, it’s an elite club of net snippers.”

▪ Stony Brook is looking to shock the world, writes Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. “Jameel Warney could have worn a net around his neck as long as he liked, but the thrill of Saturday’s conference championship win would eventually be pushed aside. For as long as Stony Brook had waited to know what it felt like to reach the NCAA Tournament, the team could only revel in the moment for so long.”

▪ Kentucky faces NCAA novice in tournament opener, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Stony Brook, which is playing in its first NCAA Tournament (and first postseason game of any kind since the 1991 Division III tourney), played the part of wide-eyed novice Wednesday. As part of an unaffected gee-whiz news conference, forward Rayshaun McGrew said he grew up a Duke fan and no-longer-secretly hoped the Seawolves would be playing Duke in Thursday’s first round rather than Kentucky.”

▪ Kentucky basketball draws confidence from Calipari Effect, says my column. “The Hall of Fame coach is an indisputable Man of March. His Kentucky basketball teams have played in four of the past five Final Fours, for heaven’s sake. That’s an 80 percent success rate. In this age of parity, that’s ridiculous. In this one-and-done era, that’s crazy.”

▪ Stony Brook must neutralize Kentucky’s guards, reports Greg Logan of Newsday. “On the bright side for Stony Brook, Kentucky lost seven players from last season’s 38-1 team to the NBA, including four dominant frontcourt players. The bad news is that John Calipari had five-star sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis waiting in the wings and added five-star guards Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe to form the nation’s top backcourt.”

▪ A look at each UK player’s role in NCAA Tournament, by Gene Abell for the Herald-Leader. “Labissiere started the first 10 games and was expected to be a team foundation but the physical and mental maturity did not match the high expectations. In SEC play, he made 30 baskets in the first 16 games; 13 in the final two. Late in the year, he showed a nice jump shot and the ability to block shots, which is what attracts NBA scouts.”

▪ Can the SEC ever become a basketball league? asks Mark Bradley of the AJC. “SEC fans see SEC football as part of themselves — their birthright, their 24/7/365 passion, their DNA. Only one SEC school regards basketball that way, and it’s the one that plays the SEC’s best basketball but not very good football. I don’t know that, say, Georgia fans will ever embrace basketball the way Kentucky fans do.”

▪ Nothing to lose for Stony Brook against UK, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. “The best part of it is if you turn on ESPN or CBS, (Kentucky) is always on TV," Stony Brook star Jameel Warney said. "You can watch 'em on SportsCenter. Obviously, we watched them a lot as (fans) of basketball, but it's great to watch 'em even closer when you're scouting them because of the feeling of knowing you're going to play one of the biggest programs in college basketball history."

▪ Jamal Murray is a big hit in Canada, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. “I would say there’s a growing number of people who will casually know who Jamal Murray is,” said Simon Garan, a producer at TSN, that country’s version of ESPN. “I would say the overwhelming majority of Canadians would have not much of an idea who Tyler Ulis is.”

▪ Tyler Ulis is the No.3 player in the tournament, says Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo. “Kentucky is lucky top class of 2014 point guard target Emmanuel Mudiay chose SMU over the Wildcats. Otherwise they likely wouldn't have pursued Ulis, and the first-team All-American might be starring for Michigan State instead.”

▪ Cats can’t let Stony Brook be a stumbling block, writes Eric Crawford of WDRB. “The problem is that, while everybody is supposed to be focused on the University of Kentucky’s first-round NCAA Tournament matchup with Stony Brook, all anyone wants to talk about is the potential second-round game against Indiana. Stony Brook? Has it been eight years since Stony Brook came into Rupp Arena and played the Ramel Bradley-Joe Crawford-Patrick Patterson-Perry Stevenson Wildcats to a 62-52 loss? Yes. It has.”

▪ Breaking down UK-Stony Brook, by Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “Puriefoy has reached double figures in all but four games this season and has posted 20 or more points six times, including his last two outings in the America East Tournament, where he was named to the All-Championship team. In games against Vanderbilt and Notre Dame this season, Puriefoy (6-0, 175) scored 16 points against the commodores on 6-of-16 shooting and 17 against the Fighting Irish on 6-of-16 from the field.”

KENTUCKY VS. STONY BROOK

When: Thursday, 9:40 p.m. (approximate)

Where: Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa

TV: CBS with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson

Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

Thursday’s NCAA Tournament television schedule

12:15: Duke vs. UNC-Wilmington (CBS)

12:40: Texas Tech vs. Butler (truTV)

1:30: Colorado vs. UConn (TNT)

2: Iowa State vs. Iona (TBS)

2:45: Baylor vs. Yale (CBS)

3:10: Virginia vs. Hampton (truTV)

4: Kansas vs. Austin Peay (TNT)

4:30: Purdue vs. Little Rock (TBS)

6:50: Miami vs. Buffalo (TNT)

7:10: Indiana vs. Chattanooga (CBS)

7:20: North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast (TBS)

7:27: Utah vs. Fresno State (truTV)

9:20: Arizona vs. Wichita State (TNT)

9:40: Kentucky vs. Stony Brook (CBS)

9:50: Southern Cal vs. Providence (TBS)

9:57: Seton Hall vs. Gonzaga (truTV)

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