Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Creating better non-conference schedules

Southern Cal coach Clay Helton will lead the Trojans against defending national champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas on the opening weekend of college football.
Southern Cal coach Clay Helton will lead the Trojans against defending national champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas on the opening weekend of college football. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

The SEC creating a better non-conference schedule, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger. “We are going to get better nonconference games overall in the Southeastern Conference this season, because of legislation that requires each school to play someone from a Power 5 conference or Notre Dame/BYU. But that does not mean you have to go to the other school at some point, or pay them more to come to you. Neutral site games are all the rage — Ole Miss and Florida State will play in Orlando; Alabama-Southern Cal in Arlington, Texas; UNC-Georgia in Atlanta; LSU-Wisconsin in Green Bay; and Tennessee-Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Darius Miller is enjoying seeing the world, writes Anthony Crawford of the Herald-Leader. He starred in the playoffs in the German League. “Miller came on strong when it mattered most for the team, averaging 18 points in the finals and hitting 16 of 19 threes in the three games. But throughout his second season in Germany, Miller said he was finally starting to feel comfortable in the team’s system and the overall playing style of the league. “

Pat Summitt’s connection went way beyond basketball, writes John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Just two weeks earlier, I had wondered about her. Her birthday is June 14, the same as my brother’s. So ever since she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, I have been as mindful of her as my brother on that date. Two weeks ago, I thought about the call that would come, probably sooner than later. When the call finally came, my first memory had nothing to do with basketball.”

Ashland City remembers Pat Summitt as its Trish, writes Joe Rexrode of The Tennessean. “Norma Gibbs Beshears can tell you about Trish. The drag racing and the waterskiing, the endless days on the family farm, the moments on a high school basketball court that remain vivid nearly half a century later. “

The Hornets expect big things from Aaron Harrison in the NBA’s summer league, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “With Frank Kaminsky having chest surgery and the Hornets intending to trade rookie Malachi Richardson to the Sacramento Kings, Harrison is the only player on the Hornets’ roster playing in summer league in Orlando, Fla. The Hornets are holding two-a-day practices for the summer roster this week and start playing games Saturday in Florida. “

Injuries are hindering ex-Cat Andy Green’s first season as a MLB manager, says my column. “It’s a great group of guys,” the skipper of the San Diego Padres said Sunday in the visiting team’s clubhouse at Great American Ball Park. “We had a ton of injuries early on in the season. We lost several pitchers from our rotation, including Tyson Ross, our opening-day starter.”

Greg Ostendorf of ESPN breaks down the Kentucky football schedule. “There’s a stretch from Oct. 22 through Nov. 12 where Kentucky plays four SEC teams in four weeks. It won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. But it’s critical to whether or not the Wildcats want to take the next step as a program. They went through a similar stretch last year -- five conference games in five weeks (the first coming on a Thursday night against Auburn) -- and they lost all five games. One win during that stretch would have made them bowl eligible.”

Derek Willis must play a key role for UK basketball, says Justin Rowland of Cats Illustrated. “The 2015-16 season was a bit of a breakthrough for Willis, a player who has received plenty of attention as a former local recruit, but one who had struggled to find minutes because of the Cats’ embarrassment of riches in the Calipari era. Last year Willis played nearly half the game, on average, scoring 7.7 points and grabbing four boards per game.

Rick Pitino has been impressed by his backcourt in summer workouts, reports Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal. “That is important for a team looking to replace its two leading scorers — guards Damion Lee and Trey Lewis —and an NBA-bound big man in Chinanu Onuaku. College basketball analysts have pegged Louisville as a top-25 team for the 2016-17 season, and the potential of the Cards’ backcourt is a big reason why.”

Rick Stansbury says he didn’t come to Western Kentucky to rebuild, reports Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal. “But Stansbury said Monday night during a WKU alumni event at Hunting Creek Country Club in Prospect that he’s happy with the five additions he’s made for the 2016-17 club and that the roster is better than it was 10 weeks ago. Stansbury said he’s felt like a ‘full-time assistant’ because his sole focus the past few months has been on using his connections to identify and recruit 2016 players.”

Bruce Pearl remembers his friend Pat Summitt, writes Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. “She was the most accomplished person in her field and the humblest woman I knew,” continued Pearl, who is overseas in Spain scouting.” She was the best at what she did. She was always reading, writing, asking questions, watching tapes, watching the Olympics, watching European basketball trying to stay on the cutting edge, always trying to get better. She created a brand called the Lady Vols. Enough said. You say Lady Vol, and Pat created a brand that said it all.”

Opportunities, not wins, were Pat Summitt’s greatest achievement, says Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News and Observer. “Few people dominate the landscape of a sport so as to become synonymous with it, inseparable from it even after they’ve left the scene as an athlete or coach. To lose three of them in the space of a month is unfathomable. First it was Gordie Howe. Then Muhammad Ali. And Tuesday morning, Pat Summitt at only 64, taken so quickly by Alzheimer’s disease, only four years after it forced her to retire as the winningest college basketball coach, thanks to her 1,098 wins building Tennessee into the first dynasty of women’s basketball. “

Missouri gets a commitment from a Utah forward, reports Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star. “Missouri’s search for another forward to bolster its 2016-17 roster ended Tuesday when Jakoby Kemp accepted a scholarship offer. ‘Humbled to further my education and love for the game of basketball at the University of Missouri,’ Kemp wrote on Twitter in announcing his verbal commitment.

Don’t blame Clemson for its easy schedule, writes Dan Hope of the Anderson Independent Mail. “he chatter that Clemson has a weak football schedule has begun, and is likely to continue into the fall. It’s not false. Outside of a road game against Florida State — Clemson’s top competition for Atlantic Coast Conference supremacy over the past half-decade — there are no other games on the Tigers’ schedule that stand out as intimidating. “

Experience brings expectations for LSU basketball, writes Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. “No one can accuse LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones of not being an optimist. Though his Tigers this season will be without basketball’s newest young star, Ben Simmons, and two other key veteran starters, Jones said his 2016-17 team will be improved in terms of its experience.”

Moses Kingsley is the most important player in the SEC, writes Eric Bolin of the Arkansas News. “Moses Kingsley turned down a chance, albeit a long one, at the NBA for a final season at Arkansas. Back with him come 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game and increased expectations for a Razorbacks team that has made the NCAA Tournament exactly one time in Anderson’s five seasons.”

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