It's Saturday, there's no college football, there's no Heisman (not that I watch that anyway), there's no bowls yet, and I'm not entirely confident that the introduction of a new football coach at Duke is going to get national coverage. So after some early morning Christmas shopping that turned into mostly shopping for myself once I discovered that rumors of the "Everything is $8.98" sale at Steve & Barry's were indeed fact, I've been watching college basketball with interest for the first time this season. Some thoughts on what we've seen so far today, at 4:23 PM...
- Kentucky might be in for a long year. After blowing a double digit lead and coming apart down the stretch in a 79-76 loss to Mike Davis' UAB team today - at the "neutral" venue in Louisville, no less - the Cats have now lost three straight and are a mighty 4-4 on the season. The final score being a little misleading in their loss to #1 North Carolina, they haven't been consistently competitive with Indiana, UNC and the mighty Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs (who, by the way, are 5-6). And if Mr. Gillespie was listening, those were boos coming down from the rafters at Freedom Hall. And methinks they've have been even louder in Lexington. Somewhere, Tubby Smith smiles.
- While the jury may still yet be out on Kentucky, as well as 8-0 Ole Miss (7 wins at home, biggest one being vs. Winthrop), it appears to be in on 10-0 Vanderbilt. I saw parts of their come from behind OT win over DePaul on Wednesday, and the Dores also have wins over Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Unless something goes terribly wrong, they'll be 15-0 going to SEC play, where they open with South Carolina at home before going to Lexington and Knoxville back to back. They're already ranked #20, so they could, believe it or not, be at least in the Top 15 when they come to TBA. Shan Foster and Andrew Ogilvy have been huge so far for Vandy.
- Arkansas is also intriguing, as they're locked in a tight one at Oklahoma right now, trailing 60-58 with 8:15 to play. Patrick Beverley continues to impress, as he had a huge throwdown using all of his 6'1" frame earlier. The Pigs are 8-1, and Steven Hill is still intimidating just to look at. But not as intimidating as OU's Longar Longar. That's not made up. Doug Gotleib tells me he speaks five languages. Gotleib is also the most entertaining color man I've heard this year in basketball, because he's sometimes right on and insightful, but when he's off - "I wonder which language he used to say "Get that out of my house!"" - it's still entertaining. Also, Brad Nessler continues to be awesome, today for saying "As my friend Ric Flair would say, "WOOOOO!"" when UAB nailed a three to pull close during their run. And one additional nonsensical note: in hindsight, John Pelphrey looked about a million times less enthusied to call the hogs at his introductory press conference than Bobby Petrino did. But then again, he wasn't leaving the Falcons.
- As I'm waiting to see if I can see the Vols and Western Kentucky tonight on ESPNU (which I don't pay for) through my ESPN Full Court package (which I do), a quick note: don't sleep on these guys. As Duke Crews is out and JP Prince is in on the line change, the Hilltoppers are 7-2 and the favorite in the Sun Belt - which means they'll be playing in March. They've already won at Michigan and beat Nebraska, and their two losses are against another tourney team in Northern Arizona, and by three points at Gonzaga. These guys are good.
The Vols, meanwhile, need a good game away from TBA. Hopefully the neutral arena and the late night start won't be adverse factors, and it'll be very interesting to see what JP Prince and tonight's rotation can do. Bruce Pearl has unwavering faith in this team in the media, even when it comes out as some version of "We're not a good team right now, but we will be." I like that. I'll like it more if I can actually see the game tonight.
UPDATE: Here's the insightful Jay Bilas with a huge piece on tonight's Vols/WKU game.