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UK gets a nod in first season poll

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Also, Kentucky’s First Lady of Basketball and Brooks’ Lombardi-ism

By Bob Watkins

Postcards from the Edge.

First Lady of Kentucky basketball is going back to college. Ashley Judd has enrolled at Harvard University and will pursue a master’s degree in public administration. The edge? When (not if) Judd earns her new degree, she can one-up NFL czar wanna-be Condoleezza Rice, come back to Kentucky and petition to become czar of UK’s athletic department.

Stop laughing. Could be a marriage made in intercollegiate athletics heaven.

Postcard from the other Edge ...

For University of Kentucky fans, it’s in fine print of USA Today’s first college coaches poll last week. After taking note of the Usual Suspects at Number 1, 5 and 13, (Florida, Alabama and Georgia) review the ORVs. Others Receiving Votes.

Nestled middle of the pack like Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird, is Kentucky. The Wildcats are listed with perennial ORVs North Carolina State and Nevada.

UK’s back-to-back-to-back winning seasons, three bowl wins, 17 Wildcats signed to NFL contracts the last two years, got Rich Brooks’ team nine points worth.

What does it mean? Brooks said it best last month. Winning seasons are fun, but next level progress is the goal. A break-through against Nos. 1, 5 and 13 (and Tennessee).

Consolation? USA Today’s Coach poll and Kentucky’s ORV spot puts  Kentucky ahead of Tennessee and Arkansas and in close proximity to South Carolina and Auburn.

This postcard from the edge  signals Others Receiving Votes isn’t bad place to start.

Stay tuned.

BROOKS

LOMBARDI-ISM

Helmets and shorts was uniform of the day when Kentucky’s coaches assembled their team for the first time last Friday. Following a two hours-plus practice at the Nutter training center, Brooks’ assessment echoed The Coach, Vince Lombardi.

“This is the fun part of the year, what I enjoy most,” Brooks said. “I like to watch players move, see how they react.  I look for athletic ability, focus, concentration and how they’re handling things.”

A Brooks’ Lombardi-ism.

BIG BLUE STEW

ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt stirred the stew-for-all-seasons subject earlier this week, UK basketball. He took on Big Blue fans who are adamant that ESPN is biased against UK.

Van Pelt wasted a breath trying to dispel the idea.

One respondent did offer a sane view however. “ESPN does not hate UK. That suggestion is ridiculous on its face,” a fan in Jeffersonville, Indiana wrote. “Some ESPN personalities may have some anti-UK slant, but that’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Exactly right.

Fans generally accept and understand Digger Phelps and Bob Knight have little more than grudging respect for UK basketball. For the discerning fan, its a reality that makes it all the more entertaining. Fans around the country get a chuckle out of UK fans grumbling while their team gets more attention than half the other NCAA D-I affiliates combined.

WATCH ‘EM GROW LIST

Beginning this week, a Watch ‘Em Grow List of Kentucky’s premier high school prime prospects for D-I scholarships, and candidates for Mr. Football.

1. Tim Patterson, a linebacker at Louisville Central. A 6-5, 225-pound Mr. Football candidate will choose from the nation’s premier programs.

2. Miles Simpson, 6-2, 195-pound running back at Simon Kenton who lists Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois already among his suitors.

3. Malcolm McDuffen, 6-3, 205-pound linebacker at Christian County is drawing interest from Tennessee, Stanford and Purdue.

4. Austin Collinsworth, 6-0, 178 at Fort Thomas Highlands being projected as a defensive back is being courted by UCLA, Stanford, Tennessee and Florida.

Footnote: Father Cris was All-American receiver at Florida; grandfather Abe played basketball for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky.

Keep an Eye On: Caleb Watkins, 5-11, 205-pound running back at Corbin could emerge as the best prospect you’ve never heard of ... until this season.

All are being courted by Kentucky, Louisville and Western.

‘OMV’ & THINGS

• Western basketball standout Orlando Mendez-Valdez received an award last week I consider superior to all others. WKU’s John Oldham Male Student-Athlete of the Year for the 2008-09.

Mendez-Valdez earned his Interdisciplinary Studies degree in May and is currently trying out for the Mexican National team.

• Crossroads Weekend? Pencil in Oct. 16-17.

Friday, October 16 may be football homecoming for high schools across the Commonwealth, but top billing will belong to Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena. The night John Calipari introduces his Kentucky Wildcats.

Saturday, Kentucky at Auburn football, 1 o’clock kickoff.

• Preseason football rankings: NAIA fans in southeastern Kentucky are in for another treat October 11. No. 5 ranked Cumberland and No. 11 Union College meet in Williamsburg. Will be the Patriots homecoming and Battle for Brass Lantern.

IDEAS DEPT.

The Sun Belt Classic Dec. 11. in Nashville will be a fan-fun new/old wrinkle for college basketball in hard economic times. A regional doubleheader.

Middle Tennessee plays Tennessee then Vanderbilt faces Western Kentucky.

Marquee teams playing each other close to home should fill the Sommet Center.

College directors of athletics in Kentucky should examine and gauge fan interest for baseball series and men’s and women’s basketball.

Men’s basketball -  A River City Classic in Louisville’s downtown arena in 2011. UofL against Xavier and Kentucky-Cincinnati.

At Cincinnati Coliseum - Morehead State against Dayton and West Virginia versus Western Kentucky.

Regional doubleheaders in this economy could be popular with ticket buying fans and perhaps even regional television.

Qs & A’s

Q. Has any college football team won two, let alone three, consecutive post-season bowl games, then been picked pre-season last in its conference/division?  Or, does Rich Brooks and Kentucky have that record to themselves?

A. Safe bet this one belongs to the Wildcats. UK’s men’s basketball team would be the answer to another (tongue-in-cheek) trivia question - Has  any college program with five-or-more NCAA titles gone unranked and received no tournament bid one season and a year later preseason ranked in the Top 5? Answer: Only one. The winningest program in college hoops, Kentucky.

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across the state. You can rech bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com