Turn off experts and examine your favorite team's Valentine

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By Bob Watkins

If ball sports make your heart throb, then February 2011 will be your valentine.

Wednesday. While we watch, first day of the rest of their lives for next wave of sleeper stars (Randall Cobb), Heisman hopefuls, Outland dreamers and Tom Brady wannabes.
Monday-through-Saturday this week?

Western ... Louisville ... Kentucky.

Encore. Peyton Siva and Louisville showed a collective valentine at UConn last week. Will February be a staging area for another Big East title run?

Encore. A week ago Western Kentucky’s ship was listing like the Andrea Doria in its last throes. As quick as the turn-around in President Obama’s approval ratings, the Hilltoppers found their valentine. Ran up a four-win streak including a gem at Florida Atlantic, and open February with a 5-game home-stand during which the ‘Tops can win back hearts and minds of disenchanted WKU fans.

Encore. Kentucky. Taking a brassy 17-4 record and top 10 ranking into February, the Wildcats are the best since, well, since last season’s too-young team had a 20-1 mark at the calendar turn.

This week, standing-room-only crazies are waiting at Ole Miss and Florida, Big Blue Nation will see if Kentucky’s too young, too immature, six-man team can overcome it all despite shortcomings.


• Early on Kentucky got itself into a rhythm against Georgia last week. Crisp defense and extra pass offense rolled up a 17-point first half lead. Nice.
Second half, the Wildcats stood around, shot selection went south and finally had to hold on to win. When UK settled into its second half funk, where was the coach? Where was the yelling and demands to executive. Where was a substitution?
Instead ...
• ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes defended John Calipari’s whine about a six-man team. The analyst apparently doesn’t recognize the box score acronym next to names John Hood, Stacy Poole, Jared Polson. DNP – Did-Not-Play.
• Worth Repeating. On the heels of a comeback wins over Marquette, West Virginia, then UConn, a weary-faced Rick Pitino praised his team, but said, “I wish we could have a normal game now-and-then. But then this hasn’t been a normal year.”


Questions for prep-dot-com recruiting gurus and six-figure salaried college recruiters: How could a high school star in basketball popular New York state who was tough enough to play in a prison league, go undetected by so many?

And, how is it, a shootist like Jimmer Fredette finds his way to fame in, of all places, Salt Lake City, Utah? From Brigham Young, gone coast to coast, Fredette has become all the rage.

“Any team should want a player like Jimmer,” said ex-Furman University stand-out and long-time hoops watcher David Selvy in California. Selvy became a Jimmer fan long before ESPN (and unbeaten San Diego State) discovered him.

“He’s a great ball handler and super passer. And that’s before you even mention he could be the best shooter in college ball today. Jimmer’s just a great player.”

COMMENT: Selvy’s qualifications? Beyond his own college numbers, he watched brother Frank become one of America’s best ever shootists at Furman decades before the 3-point line was even an ABA novelty.


• John Pelphrey. Back from the brink? Did Arkansas’s stunner at Vanderbilt launch the Razorbacks into a true Pelphrey Era? Or, did it merely stay another nail from the coach’s coffin?

Given the Hogs’ efficiency, quality of play and poise always required in Vandy’s Memorial Gym, I prefer New Era for the Pelphrey(s).

With 36 points, Rotnei Clarke was a Jimmer. But little used junior Michael Sanchez was incredible. Averaging two points a game, he slipped on a Superman cape and scored 20. Clarke and Sanchez made 20 of 28 shots. Both are juniors.
• Whatever happened to the ball fake in college hoops? Apparently college coaches have succumbed to show-time street ball and NBA throw-down, abandoning teaching the double-pump that made Dan Issel an All-American. Left behind much the way “run over somebody! Go the rack!” has replaced mid-range jump shooting.
• Why don’t college basketball coaches counsel shot blockers (Sam Muldrow, Terrence Jennings, Terrence Jones, “Listen kid, blocking a shot out of bounds might look macho, but if the other team keeps possession, it does our team no good. Rejecting your man’s shot toward a teammate would be cool.”


When a fan believes he/she has seen everything, take a deep breath.

A new idea is always around the corner. Consider, the 50 Worst Teams to Win a Championship. Internet correspondent Ross Coleman researched his subject to include all major sports, then offer his list. 50 Worst Teams to Win a Championship.

A sampling:
No. 35, Joe Namath’s New York Jets in 1968.
No. 29, 2007 Boston Red Sox
No. 28, 2006 Florida Gators.
No. 24, 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
No. 15, Jim Valvano’s 1983 North Carolina State.
No. 11, Villanova Wildcats ‘perfect game’ in 1985 (in Lexington)
No. 2, LSU football in 2007.
No. 1. 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, drama provided by Kirk Gibson.
Question. Who would be in your Top 50 Worst champions?
Comment: Before examining Coleman’s list I expected to find ...
• 1958 Kentucky Wildcats. Fiddlin’ Five.
• 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates.


Josh Harrellson might be personfication of Strother Martin’s famed “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” in the film Cool Hand Luke. 1967.

In December Harrelson lost twitter privileges after complaining about his coach. Last week the amiable big man unwittingly told reporters visitor Larry Brown had been an instructional part at UK practice.

Oops. A possible NCAA violation.

UK reaction? The usual man-the-barricades damage control.
Spokesman Dwayne Peevy said it (Brown participation) didn’t happen.

Compliance officer Sandy Bell said she wasn’t sure, but was on it.

Calipari had no comment.

And, typically some UK fans blamed the messenger.

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across Kentucky. You can reach bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.