Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Mid-January report cards on big dogs.

Louisville. Polls aside, the Cardinals are ranked best in America where it counts, defensive efficiency. Poll position? Not relevant for another six weeks.

Kentucky. Normally, this Wildcat collection would get an ‘I’ for incomplete, except it has underachieved, responded poorly to Camp Cal and in-your-face antics by its coach and lost twice at home. C-minus.

Looking ahead …

Of Louisville’s 16 games (at this writing), the Cardinals have played three road games. Rick Pitino’s carefully constructed (weak) schedule is about to change. Syracuse on Saturday in Yum Center then trips to Villanova and Georgetown.

We will see if UofL belongs at the pinnacle of college hoops.

Kentucky. The sky-is-falling negative notion that the Wildcats won’t make it to the NCAA Tournament is poppycock. Against an alarmingly anemic SEC field the rest of the way, consider the number 11.

A win over Tennessee would be Kentucky’s eleventh. Of 15 remaining games, 11 are winnables.

On the national stage, logic tells us a defending national champion with another 20-win season as its resume’ high mark, being included in the field of 65 looks to be far less a problem than for Big Blue Nation to deal with a mid-range seed.


One NBA draft (ahem) expert offered his 30 first round projections last week for the June Draft. At No. 4, Nerlens Noel, No. 9 Willie Cauley-Stein, No. 13 Archie Goodwin, and No. 23 Isaiah Canaan.


1. That Louisville has no player projected for first round speaks well of experience and team-ness.

2. Once a top five projector, Alex Poythress is no longer a top 30 pick.

3. Beyond Noel, Cauley-Stein and Goodwin, only one SEC player was listed among the top 30, Georgia’s Kentavious-Caldwell Pope at No. 22.


While Louisville adjusts the target on its Cardinal and Big Blue Nation worry-warts fret about their fiscal cliff, i.e. “we might not get an NCAA bid!?”

While Murray State fans come back to earth with a thud, and previously perfect Bellarmine recovers from back-to-back blow-ups.

And, while Western Kentucky climbs out of a Sun Belt hole Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers have dug … who rides out of basketball’s battlefield smoke? Eastern Kentucky’s Colonels.

Jeff Neubauer’s surging Colonels (14-3) sent stat boys and girls scrambling to the archives last week to track down the milestones “the last time we …” applications.

• Beat Murray State at Murray? 2007.

• Opened OVC play 4-0. 1979.

• Sell-out crowd at Alumni Gym. (Last time WKU visited?)

• Fourteen wins in 17 games at mid-January.

• And, a trio of Colonels earned OVC player-of-week honors four times in December: Glenn Cosey, Corey Walden and Mike DiNunno (2).

Other answers? Look them up.


After college at Western Kentucky and Kentucky, Patrick Sparks’s post-grad education could be the envy of every college kid in America majoring in international studies. Since leaving UK in 2006, Sparks has made a living playing basketball in Portugal, Russia, Germany, Greece and now Ukraine.

Now 30 and eight time zones from home in Central City, Sparks suits up for Kirovograd in Ukraine this season. Kirovograd is called a “small town of 270,000” south of Kiev in central Ukraine. Or, one might say, middle of nowhere.

An NBA career not in the cards, finding opportunity to keep playing a game he loves is impressive. Sparks must have a first class business agent. Assuming he’s learned to stash his cash, life is good.


Alabama’s crushing win over Notre Dame for the NCAA championship brought a gleeful response from Bowling Green. “WKU gave Alabama a better game (in Tuscaloosa) than Notre Dame did.”

Bama beat Western 35-0 and crushed the Fighting Irish, 42-14.


Baseball’s Hall of Fame at Cooperstown has wings to honor former players and managers, broadcasters and other contributors to the game. Apparently the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association has a ‘wing’ for writers, another for broadcasters, and another for clowns.

The NSAA has honored the likes of Cawood Ledford (21 times) and inducted, for basketball alone – Brent Musburger, Verne Lundquist, Bob Ryan, Sally Jenkins, Jim Nantz, John Feinstein, Frank Deford and the list goes on.

Qualifications? Exemplary reporting, thought-provoking commentary, visionary analysis, and originality in glowing prose about the game.

The NSSA’s Wing for Clowns, perhaps it’s named for 1976 inducee, Jay Hanna ‘Dizzy’ Dean, gets a new inductee this year. Dick Vitale.

For what?

Vocabulary-challenged and scratch-a-blackboard awful, Vitale’s idea of vision is, well, lacking. He has uttered nothing original or funny since running out of ways to say the University of Detroit fired him in 1977. Analysis? Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, bay-bee. That’s it.

Try and imagine a game on television with Dizzy Dean and Dick Vitale doing a telecast.

Good Lord, Cawood, hide the women and children.

And so it goes.