Tag Archives: UofL

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Louisville Hosts Red-White Baseball Scrimmage

Photos by Christian Watson

Feb. 9

The University of Louisville baseball team opened its final

weekend of preseason work with a Red-White scrimmage

Feb. at Jim Patterson Stadium. Gates opened at 1 p.m. for

batting practice and admission was free for the scrimmage.

Louisville opened the 2018 season on Feb. 16 at against

Richmond in the first of three games at the Charleston Crab

House Challenge in Charleston, South Carolina. The Cardinals

also played The Citadel on Feb. 17 and George Mason on

Feb. 18. The 2018 home-opener at Jim Patterson Stadium

occurred Feb. 21 against Eastern Kentucky.

Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter (@

UofLBaseball) and on Facebook (@ulbaseball).

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It’s Time for David Padgett to Diversify

Photo by Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com

Photo by Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com

By Zach McCrite

know I have.

David Padgett should do this.

If I were David Padgett, save for a dream postseason

by the Cardinals, I wouldn’t want to be at the University

of Louisville after this season ends.

That’s nothing against Padgett. Quite the opposite.

I’m a fan of what he’s done at U of L. He’s held this thing

together with duct tape, a piece of chewed bubble gum

and some paper clips. He’s been nothing short of the

basketball version of MacGyver, all things considered.

But, March, for all intents and purposes, will be

fruitless for the Cards. Then, what? The question for

Padgett, more or less, becomes “How do I want to

build my coaching resume (if coaching is indeed what

he wants to do as a career) from this point forward?”

He could stay at his alma mater and try to be the

savior. That’s certainly an option, provided UofL even

wants Padgett to be the next coach.

For the sake of this argument, let’s assume they do.

Now, obviously money talks. Perhaps Padgett isn’t

much worried about building his resume. Shoot, he’s

already at a prestigious program, historically. He

wouldn’t be crazy to think “Oh hey, UofL is going to

give me a couple million dollars a year? I know I can

make this program better. Besides, I’m only going to

get $500,000 a year if I’m a head coach at a mid-major

school. They’re going to give me $2 million a year

here? Let’s do this.”

By the way, I’m just throwing out that $2 million

number as a guess. Who knows what it would be?

Regardless, U of L would likely offer four times—

minimum—what a mid-major would offer for the

services of a guy with the resume of Padgett. That

shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If it were me, though, I’d hit the road. Cut my

teeth some more elsewhere. I would have enough

confidence in myself as a coach to go all in. Do it the

old-fashioned way. Why? It’s simpler than you think.

First off, this year, Padgett has proven that he’s not a

basketball idiot. He’s certainly competent. Looks like

he has the chops. Now, how much more than that has

he proven? I don’t know. That’s up for debate. But, at

the least, he’s proven that he’s not a nimrod.

Has he made some rookie mistakes? Eh, maybe,

but anybody in that same position would make a

mistake here or there. Who cares, right?

But, so far, at the University of Louisville, Padgett

and the coaching staff he scrounged together and

finalized (and did so fairly well) just 24 days before

Louisville’s first official game this season have already

let a full season of recruiting come and go without as

much as an iota of interest from any appealing recruit.

Tip of the cap to all of those involved in StripperGate

for that one.

The point remains, Padgett will already be without

at least one good recruiting class. That will make for

an uphill climb right out of the gate for whoever the

coach may be. And it might not end there. There

may be more virtually-empty recruiting classes to

follow since prized recruits might be too nervous to

plant their flag somewhere that they may think will

be rebuilding.

Add on top of the turmoil that Louisville is already

in with StripperGate, there’s also the cloud that’s going

to hang over the University in the future with the Brian

Bowen/Adidas case. Who knows what will come of it.

Maybe nothing, but the NCAA is going to take their

sweet time, which means that cloud will remain,

which means there are going to be head coaches at

other places that are easily going to be able to recruit

against the next head coach at U of L.

Bottom line, recruiting is going to be much tougher

than it’s ever been at Louisville. A prominent name in

college basketball to take over the program might help

in that regard. Padgett’s Name would not.

But hey, let’s give Padgett a little credit here. Maybe

Louisville makes the tournament this season and

maybe the Cardinals go on a run. Odds are obviously

against it, but if it happens, Padgett might be able to

use that as a recruiting tool, showing big time recruits

that he was able to make some serious noise in the

NCAA Tournament with the cards (no pun intended)

seriously stacked against them.

I would go out on a limb and say that the Cardinals

would be uber-lucky to make any NCAA Tournaments,

especially as the potential recruiting base dwindles.

The question Padgett would have to seriously look

in the mirror and ask is this: as much as he loves the

University of Louisville, is he willing to risk his head

coaching career at his alma mater where it might

(keyword: might) be damn near impossible for him,

and many other non-household-name coaches for that

matter, to thrive—even if given a long leash to do it?

Is he willing to have his career die on “Cardinal Hill?”

If it is, then by all means, go for it!

But If I’m David Padgett, I say, “Peace. I love the

University of Louisville, and I’m so thankful that I

got the opportunity to be an interim head coach. I

have proven to the rest of the free world that I’m not

a dolt. Now I can go and build my resume elsewhere.

Then, who knows? Maybe you’ll have me back when

the dust settles.”

For now, though, if Louisville offers Padgett the job

permanently, Padgett should pass.

It’s time to diversify his coaching portfolio.

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.

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Louisville Women’s Basketball Marching Toward The Top

By Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com | Photos by Adam Creech, courtesy University of Louisville Athletics

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-3-18-59-pmThe old saying is “If you wanna be the best you gotta beat the best.” The University of Louisville Women’s Basketball team wants to be the best and they are dominantly marching their way straight to the top and taking on all comers.

Louisville came into this season ranked No. 10 in USA Today’s preseason coaches poll. The schedule ahead of them appeared daunting, as they would have to face six teams ranked in the preseason top 25 (No. 1 UConn, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 12 Duke, No. 14 Florida State and No. 24 Miami).

Louisville also had the possibility of playing No. 11 Oregon and/or No. 23 Michigan in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament, making that potentially eight preseason top 25 teams as well as a trip to Lexington to face nemesis Kentucky – never an easy trip.

The Cards are coming off of a season that ended in the Sweet 16 and are returning nine players from that team. Included in that nine are Asia Durr, the ACC’s preseason player of the year, and Myisha Hines-Allen. They also bring in the nation’s top recruiting class that includes Dana Evans, Lindsey Duvall and Loretta Kakala.

UofL head coach Jeff Walz confidently marched his wealth of talent into this season like a proud peacock. The look in his eye during preseason interviews was as easy to read as a mother goose nursery rhyme. And that message was that he was sitting on something very special.

It didn’t take long for everyone to see exactly what coach Walz already knew when, in the second game of the season, Louisville played No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. It took overtime, but Louisville prevailed 95-90. Just four days later, Louisville faced No. 24 Michigan in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Louisville destroyed them by 25 points and, only two days later, would play No. 11 Oregon in the championship of the NIT. The Cards easily handled that challenge winning by 13 points.

Front Row – 12 Lindsey Duvall, 23 Jazmine Jones, 10 Sydney Zambrotta, 2 Myisha Hines-Allen, head coach Jeff Walz, 25 Asia Durr, 11 Arica Carter, 24 Jessica Laemmle, 1 Dana Evans Back Row – Video Cordinator LaMont Russell, Executive Director of Player Relations Adrienne Johnson, associate coach Sam Purcell, assistant coach Sam Williams, 3 Sam Fuehring, 32 Loretta Kakala, 21 Kylee Shook, 33 Bionca Dunham, associate head coach Stephanie Norman, Director of Operations Kate Tucker, Assistant Strength & Condition Coach/Special Advisor to the Head Coach Beth Burns, Asst. Athletic Trainer Keressa Ackles, Sports Performance Coach Kaitlynn Jones

Front Row – 12 Lindsey Duvall, 23 Jazmine Jones, 10 Sydney Zambrotta, 2 Myisha Hines-Allen, head coach Jeff Walz, 25 Asia Durr, 11 Arica Carter, 24 Jessica Laemmle, 1 Dana Evans
Back Row – Video Cordinator LaMont Russell, Executive Director of Player Relations Adrienne Johnson, associate coach Sam Purcell, assistant coach Sam Williams, 3 Sam Fuehring, 32 Loretta Kakala, 21 Kylee Shook, 33 Bionca Dunham, associate head coach Stephanie Norman, Director of Operations Kate Tucker, Assistant Strength & Condition Coach/Special Advisor to the Head Coach Beth Burns, Asst. Athletic Trainer Keressa Ackles, Sports Performance Coach Kaitlynn Jones

Since winning the NIT, Louisville has been smashing opponents like they are driving an armored tank through a pumpkin patch. This well-oiled machine has enjoyed a school record run of victories that include a 22-point win over Vanderbilt, a 13-point victory at Indiana, a 24-point victory at Kentucky, a 6-point win over Duke and highlighted by a 100- 67 win over then second ranked Notre Dame.

With that victory over Notre Dame, Louisville climbed to the second ranked team in the country, which is the highest regular season ranking in school history. Also with that victory, the Cards improved to 19-0 that extended a program record for consecutive wins to start a season, which previously stood at 15.

All the winning is fun for the Cards but looming ahead is a date with top ranked UConn. On Feb. 12, Louisville will travel to Storrs, Connecticut, for a 7 p.m. battle that will likely be the barometer of how close they are to being the best.

UConn is, and has been, the gold standard in women’s college basketball. Over the past 10 seasons, they have made it to the Final Four each and every year, winning six national championships, including four straight championships from 2012-16. They have won 11 total national championships since 1995. From Nov. 23, 2014, to March 31, 2017, UConn put together a 111-game winning streak where 108 of those were won by double digits and 61 of those were victories of at least 40 points.

This season, UConn is undefeated and still holding that No. 1 spot that they were voted to during the preseason. UConn and Louisville have one common opponent that is worth noting if you are trying to find some way to compare these teams. Both have played Notre Dame. UConn won by 9 and Louisville won by 33. While I don’t put a ton of stock into that comparison, it’s all we have until they clash in February.

If both teams win out until they meet, as expected, it should be No. 1 (24-0) vs No. 2 (25-1).

As epic as this confrontation sounds, the outcome will not make or break either team’s season. The winner of this game, barring any late season bad losses, should set themselves up to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. The loser should be in line to receive one of the three remaining No. 1 seeds.

While UConn has plenty of NCAA tournament success, Louisville has done pretty well themselves. Under Walz, Louisville has made 10 straight NCAA tournament appearances. During that span, Louisville has finished as the NCAA runner-up to UConn twice (2009 and 2013).

In both of those runner-up years, Louisville had one of the best players in the country leading their team. In 2009, Angel McCoughtry led the Cards, and in 2013, Shoni Schimmel was their leader. This season, Louisville has, in my humble opinion, the best player in the country in Asia Durr. But the difference between this team and the two runner-up teams is that Louisville has Myisha Hines-Allen, who would be the best player on about 98 percemt of every other team in the country. Yes, Louisville has an amazing 1-2 punch, as well as a very good supporting cast that seems to keep getting better as they gain experience. Also, the development of junior Sam Fuehring and sophomores Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook really makes them a deep team. That depth makes Louisville a team that just wears you down over the course of a game.

Could the star power balanced with the great supporting players be the perfect formula that takes the Cards all the way to the National Championship? I’m not sure, but I definitely wouldn’t bet against it.

Regardless of whether they win it all or not, the Cards have marched their way straight to the top and given themselves the opportunity to see if they have what it takes. It should be very fun and interesting to witness. Stay tuned.

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The Endless Story of Tom Jurich

By Zach McCrite

It never ends.

Every month, I am given carte blanche to write about whatever I want to write about in this space. My goal, obviously, is to write about what people in the community want to read about when they open a Kentuckiana-based sports magazine.

And every month, seemingly, here I am, finding myself writing more about the ongoing sagas (plural) that are going on at the University of Louisville.

Some of you may be as fatigued by my writings in this space as Cardinal fans are by the ostensibly-boundless stories portraying their favorite school, former athletic director and former basketball coach in a negative light – in part by their own actions.

Since I last penned a column for this space, those stories continued.

It can be fatiguing for fans and writers alike. But, it’s the story.

Courier Journal (formerly known as The Courier-Journal) and ESPN released exhaustive stories that focused on Tom Jurich, the much celebrated, much debated, fired AD at UofL. I was one of a handful of local media members interviewed in Tim Sullivan’s Courier Journal article about Jurich’s business tactics.

I could’ve used this space to give my loyal readers the inside scoop before anyone else got it. In fact, I should have.

But, up until last month, I had vowed to never speak of it publicly. There were numerous reasons I never did up until recently. First, shortly after the meeting, I felt like Jurich was doing what he felt he had to do in helping keep me from a potential job opening. After sulking in my new reality as it pertained to missing out on a great opportunity, I realized it was business. It affected me massively, but that was his prerogative. I just didn’t know he had that power at the time.

And, if we’re being real, there was a part of me that was proud of it. And it was newfound pride. I was proud that, before the age of 30, Jurich thought I carried a big enough stick in the market to sway public opinion—an opinion he apparently with which he did not agree. Up until that point, I never thought that much of my own ability. Jurich considered me credible.

But, the much more important reason I never went public with this story, a story that dates back over seven years ago now, is this: had I gone public, listeners would take every opinion I had from that point forward and would perceive that I had a bias against UofL athletics that simply did not exist.

I was determined not to let it dictate my opinion on matters of which listeners turned on the radio to hear me. I had gained the trust of many listeners in the area. In the media business, there is nothing more valuable than your listeners’ trust. Why would I want to betray that by telling a story that would make people think I am now anti-UofL even though I wasn’t?

Sure, people inside the media knew of my run-ins (plural, I got calls from his department many times over the years along with many other media members) with the University of Louisville and Jurich, in particular. But, I always thought it would look like sour grapes if I ever told the story publicly.

AN EXAMPLE OF JURICH’S POWER OVER LOCAL MEDIA

Here’s what happened: I met with Jurich in his office after hearing he was, perhaps, being a roadblock to a job I thought I already had – new afternoon show co-host on WKRD 790 AM back in 2010. I was accused by Jurich, mainly, of being too critical of Steve Kragthorpe, the coach who had, by that time, already been fired by Tom, himself.

My basic rebuttal was that it was basically impossible not to be critical since, you know, Kragthorpe took a program fresh off an Orange Bowl victory and promptly went 15-21 in three years as head coach of the Cardinals including the most embarrassing loss I, to this day, have ever seen at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, a 38-35 defeat to Syracuse. At that time, that was the biggest upset, according to Vegas sports books, in college football history. Louisville was a 39.5-point favorite that day. How could I not be critical?

“Besides, Tom,” I recall asking him, “you’re firing of Steve validates my criticisms of him, does it not?” Jurich responded by implying that I helped shape the public narrative of a coach that didn’t deserve it. Whatever.

After more sparring, I walked out of that meeting knowing that I wasn’t going to be the host of a show I had already been tabbed by radio station management to co-host.

It was my first real sniff of how much power Jurich had when it came to local media coverage. Of course, if you were a diehard, Louisville-never-needs-to-be-criticized-because-I-simply-love-them-that-much sort of Cardinal fan, Tom loved you. That meant he didn’t love me. Oh well.

In the interest of fairness, Jurich’s side of this story is that he doesn’t remember this meeting.

And, for the record, I don’t consider Tom being a ‘bully’ to me. I guess it was just his prerogative to not have me on airwaves for which he had at least some level of control. I was just a 29-year-old who was too dumb to understand that this is how it works in some markets where the media entity has to make nice with one of their highest-paying customers or else face the consequences.

Jurich and I were always respectful of each other in public after that – shaking hands when we saw each other. But, Jurich made his feelings about me well known just in that simple handshake. Either that, or he regularly shakes hands with the strength of a wet newspaper.

Luckily, the people in power at iHeartRadio (which was Clear Channel at the time), while wanting to keep their client (Jurich) happy, also felt me valuable enough to keep me around.

And thanks to them and Matt Jones, who was starting up a new radio show on a different station in the same building, I was still able to secure a radio gig without much downtime, becoming Matt’s first partner on “Kentucky Sports Radio.” Not long after that, I was tabbed as a radio host for ESPN St. Louis.

In hindsight, it was a blessing.

I only put that story here in the interest of giving you my version of what went down in more detail than what was penned in the Courier Journal story. And my story is tame compared to others that have had less-than-favorable run-ins with the guy who many thought was the most powerful man in the city of Louisville for the better part of two decades.

JURICH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS GO UNMATCHED

That, however, does not preclude me from applauding Jurich on many fronts.

He was undoubtedly the head man in turning Floyd Street from a road known for its ugly silos to a road full of beautiful sports-hosting facilities worth well into the nine-figures in total.

He also was aware before many others in his position all over the country, that women’s sports not only mattered in the grand scope of college athletics, but he was also successful in making it known to companies who donated to such endeavors that it was the “long game” to which they would see their return on investment.

The fired athletic director also gets a bad rap for how he handled the initial negotiations in the lease that secured UofL as the anchor tenant at the KFC Yum Center. The deal he helped negotiate for the university, according to ESPN, meant UofL kept “88 percent of premium seat licensing, 97 percent of suite sales, all program revenue and half of concessions.”

This was a deal to which both the city and the university agreed. A sweetheart deal. And isn’t that what you’d want if you had a negotiator working a lease for you? That’s what Jurich did for the University of Louisville.

Where Jurich misses is claiming in the same ESPN story that Louisville “took all the risk.”

Please. Where is that risk? Were you afraid that the three percent of suite sales you had to give away was going to cripple your program?

I also don’t blame him for being, at the very least, a massive obstacle for the city of Louisville ever being home to an NBA team. Jurich’s sweetheart deal with the KFC Yum Center came with priorities that effectively left the NBA zero options to place a team in Louisville.

According to the original lease, the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball programs had control of the KFC Yum Center not only on days of home basketball games, but also on the day before and the day after each game.

In other words, for every UofL game at “The Bucket,” UofL had reserved the arena for three days. That meant that there was absolutely no way that an NBA team could effectively schedule 41 home games at the KFC Yum Center.

Access denied. A win for Jurich.

Jurich and the school both wanted to keep an NBA team from dipping their proverbial hands in the UofL cookie jar full of donors and sponsors that Jurich and his team had filled up to the brim.

And, again, who can blame Jurich for making that deal. He was hired to fill up that once-empty cookie jar. And keep it full.

There was so much money falling out of that cookie jar thanks to Jurich, in fact, that former president James Ramsey was sliding that money, seemingly under the table, to Jurich in deals that were probably less than forthcoming to the taxpaying public.

Of course, that story is child’s play compared to all the other shady dealing’s the former school president had, which all came to light when an audit of the university’s finances became public earlier this year.

JURICH’S FIRING IS STILL JUSTIFIED

Tom’s contract reads like that of a made mafia man. That is, if the mafia ever put anything in writing.

Jurich’s contract leaves the university with basically no route to not pay him at least a very hefty portion of his remaining contract – a sign of the lockstep in which Jurich and Ramsey regularly danced.

The contract addendum, agreed upon in 2011, says UofL has to pay Jurich a full year’s salary even if he’s fired “for cause.” Translation: It’s more than likely going to be a seven-figure payday for Jurich. Just for being fired.

I bet if you look close, you can still see the marks Ramsey left on Jurich’s back and vice versa. They scratched each other’s backs constantly, it seemed.

That’s not Tom’s fault. In fact, I applaud him for getting that installed as part of his contract. Some might even say he earned it.

But that doesn’t mean his firing wasn’t justified.

The new Board of Trustees at the University of Louisville, led in part by one of the university’s biggest donors and supporters, Papa John Schnatter, put into place checks and balances that didn’t appear to be in place before their arrival.

Part of those checks and balances included being held accountable for what employees underneath your jurisdiction may have done to harm the school’s financial wellbeing and image.

In other words, a good portion of the reason Pitino was fired – hiring people who didn’t have the university’s best interests at heart – is one of the main reasons Jurich was fired as well. He hired Pitino and is now on the hook for having, potentially, two major NCAA violations happen under his watch.

This is where Jurich’s leadership seemed to cease. As scandals mounted and things seemed to be spiraling out of control at UofL, plenty of opportunities arose for Jurich, the usually-unabashed leader, to take over a contentious press conference or a rocky board meeting.

Instead, Jurich took a back seat, leaving people like Ramsey, Postel, Pitino or contracted NCAA compliance expert Chuck Smrt to take the lead role, interjecting only when asked a specific question and, even then, sharing only brief responses, mostly.

But hey, if it was a press conference about a Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion update or UofL’s now-ill-timed announcement of a $160 million apparel deal with the school, there was Jurich, front and center, salivating over a hot microphone, accepting rounds of applause and appreciation.

And, make no mistake, the fearless leader should be there telling us all about the good times.

The fearless leader should also be front and center when the university is in turmoil. The fans should have heard from him in those times before anyone else. They needed to.

Regardless, there are many out there who believe that Jurich has done nothing wrong, including many of the same media members who sold out to be mouthpieces for the university in exchange for job security.

Nevertheless, all the positive things that Jurich accomplished at the University of Louisville should, over time, supercede the damage he was, at best, complacent in helping prevent.

And I think they will. Down the road, when time heals the wounds, they’ll build a statue of him. And they should.

The constant reminder of Jurich’s footprint on this university is all up and down Floyd Street.

It never ends.


NEVERTHELESS, ALL THE POSITIVE THINGS THAT JURICH ACCOMPLISHED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE SHOULD, OVER TIME, SUPERCEDE THE DAMAGE HE WAS, AT BEST, COMPLACENT IN HELPING PREVENT. AND I THINK THEY WILL. DOWN THE ROAD, WHEN TIME HEALS THE WOUNDS, THEY’LL BUILD A STATUE OF HIM. AND THEY SHOULD.

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.

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‘It’s Not Right, But It’s OK’

Padgett and the Cards making the best of an unfair situation

By Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD

To borrow a line from the legendary Whitney Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s OK….”

David Padgett and the Cardinals are going to make it anyway.

The situation Padgett and the Cardinals were handed wasn’t right – in fact it was extremely wrong: A 32-year old assistant coach being thrust into the head coaching spot, alone, at one of the most powerful programs in the nation? And the Cardinals were just days away from starting full-time practice for the season?

Oh, and by the way, he didn’t have a single other assistant coach for a week and didn’t have a full coaching staff until just a couple of weeks before the first game.

Padgett flew back to Louisville from an Orlando recruiting visit the day the scandal broke. He had to deal with coaching the team, talking to the press, encouraging his team during one of the most frustrating moments of their lives and trying to figure out who would help him moving forward. He did all this while trying to figure out the details of an unfolding FBI investigation that seemed to suggest a large portion of college basketball has a pay-for-play system.

With so much thrown on his plate, Padgett’s first thought had to be just get through the end of the day. He called on seniors Anas Mahmoud and Quentin Snider to help. The pair unfortunately had been through a scandal before.

“Unfortunately, they have experience dealing with adverse situations,” Padgett said. “… These guys have the unbelievable ability to not worry about what doesn’t really concern them. It’s amazing to see. It really is. Their concern is coming to practice and working and games.”

Padgett and the Cardinals focused on what they could control: themselves. In fact, the day after the FBI mess came down, the day that Rick Pitino was suspended, you might find it surprising that the team had a workout. But that’s what they did.

“Those were the toughest days,” Mahmoud told Courier Journal (formerly known as The Courier-Journal). “The first week overall was really tough for us to handle. You hear a lot of stuff from outsiders, and then you have to face what you know and what you think you know. … You read all the stories and you don’t know what’s true or not.”

Padgett focused the players in those early days after the scandal. He told them to work on their game. He established the Yum! Center practice facility on campus as a safe place where they could be sequestered from the cameras and reporters.

“Basketball is our escape,” Snider said.

“The way they’ve handled this whole thing has been unbelievable,” Padgett said. “I have a special group here. They want to work. They want to be good. I always tell them: I’m not going to get on you guys unless you give me a reason to. I just coach them according to how they’re playing that day.”

The team made it through those early days by sticking together. They started practicing, added a veteran coach to the staff in Trent Johnson and focused on their work. New assistants Greg Paulus and R.J. Evans were added about a week later and the routine of games helped bring some normalcy.

After Padgett and the Cardinals survived those first few weeks, they faced their first road test: a showdown at notoriously tough Mackey Arena vs. Top 25 Purdue. And it was brutal.

The team took the court for warm-ups as a crew of students in FBI t-shirts shouted jeers. The student section screamed insults about hookers and strippers and bags of money throughout the next three hours.

Louisville didn’t get a win at Purdue – too much foul trouble assured that, but they survived. And they went back to work. They won some home games, dropped a tough game to Seton Hall, but then they won their next road test vs. Memphis in Madison Square Garden.

And along the way, Padgett and the Cardinals shifted from survival mode to having fun again.

Padgett explained, “However long the season is, I want our players to enjoy it more than anything. Because I remember being a college basketball player; you only get however many years: four, sometimes five. You need to enjoy your season. This one, obviously, got off to a bit of a rocky start, but I just want to be sure they enjoy it however they can.”

And a funny thing happened to Padgett along the way. He found his voice as a coach.

Padgett joked early on that he couldn’t hack the acerbic, cutting style of Pitino. The players talked about him being more laid back, more fun in practice.

But about mid-December, Padgett told Paul Rogers, the play-by-play voice of the Cardinals, that he is more “intense” than he ever thought he would be. And Rogers confirmed that he and broadcast partner Bob Valvano started to see Padgett evolve from an assistant to an intense head coach as Louisville pushed through its December schedule.

Padgett, who even in late December was telling media he had no thoughts about trying to win the Louisville head coaching job long-term, was becoming his own style of coach.

“I mean, Coach Pitino’s one of a kind,” Padgett said. “And his style was obviously extremely successful, but with that being said, there’s more than one way to coach a basketball team, and I just need to coach this team the best way I see fit. Now, does that mean I’m going to be their best friend and Mr. Nice Guy every day? No, not even close. If I don’t think they’re doing what I expect or I demand, I’m going to let them know about it. And that’s been the biggest transition so far, me just going from the assistant coach, good-guy role to all of a sudden now, you know, and I don’t like the cliche ‘good-cop, bad-cop,’ but now, I’m not going to be their best friend every day anymore, because that’s what the assistant coaches are for.”

As Padgett found his style, the Cardinals found a new motivation in the doubts of others. They still believe they can be a great team.

“There’s nothing wrong with us,” Mahmoud told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello. “We lost our coach. I completely understand that people don’t know how good our team is going to be. It’s motivation for us to show people this team is still a national championship contender.”

To get there, Louisville will need to survive one of the toughest conference slates in Louisville history. The ACC could have eight, nine or even 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament this season.

But the good news is that perhaps no team in recent Louisville memory has had more potential than this one. Deng Adel could become every bit the star his former roommate Donovan Mitchell became last season. Ray Spalding has the potential to be a first-round draft pick with his incredible athleticism and length. Anas Mahmoud’s agility for a center of his height is incredible. And VJ King and Quentin Snider have the ability to score on every possession. And that’s not to mention the vast potential of Louisville’s strong freshman class.

We don’t know yet how good this Louisville team will be. But we do know that it is extraordinary that they are still together after all the grief, scandal and upheaval they have been through.

It’s not right, but it’s OK.

These Cardinals believe they are going to make it any way.


IN FACT, THE DAY AFTER THE FBI MESS CAME DOWN, THE DAY THAT RICK PITINO WAS SUSPENDED, YOU MIGHT FIND IT SURPRISING THAT THE TEAM HAD A WORKOUT. BUT THAT’S WHAT THEY DID.


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KENTUCKY HOOPS SAYS GOOD-BYE TO EPPS AND AKHATOR, HELLO TO A YOUNGER BUNCH 

BY STEVE KAUFMAN 


Matthew Mitchell will start from scratch this year, without star power but with a lot of depth


John Calipari loses – and replaces – key players every year on his Kentucky men’s basketball team. But for Matthew Mitchell, coach of the UK women’s team, losing key players can be extremely disruptive.

And that is the case for this year’s squad. Gone by graduation from last year’s nationally ranked team that won 22 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament are Makayla Epps, the dynamic floor leader and shotmaker, and Evelyn Akhator, the imposing inside presence.

Epps scored 17.7 points a game and shot 35.5 percent from three-point range. Akhator added 16 points and nearly 11 rebounds a game. She was the third pick overall in the WNBA draft, by the Dallas Wings. The fiery Epps was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Sky.

So, in other words, much to replace.

The burden falls on two double-figure scorers from last year, juniors Taylor Murray and Maci Morris. Both are sweet-shooting backcourt players, and Murray, in particular, is as fast a player as anyone in the country. She also was a McDonald’s All-American (a reference all of Big Blue Nation is familiar with) while in high school in Odenton, Md.

Of all returning players from last year’s team, Murray carries over the most points per game (12.2), rebounds (4.9 a game), assists (3.9 a game) and steals (2.0 a game). Morris averaged 11.8 a game and led the team with 53 made threes.

Whether either one has the dynamic, aggressive floor leadership abilities that Epps brought to the court will have to remain to be seen. But the early season has produced a 3-0 record and a national ranking. And the two veterans combined for 34 points in the third win of the season, 71-54 over the University of Montana. Murray added 12 rebounds in that game.

Another returner, senior Jessica Hardin (a transfer from Bellarmine), was leading the team in three-point average a year ago before suffering a concussion that ended her junior season. Mitchell regards her value as more than just shooting. She’s an energetic hustler, as well.

As is Jaida Roper, a 5-6 sophomore whose slim statistics last year probably weren’t an indication of how much Mitchell hopes she’ll bring to the court this year.

And then there’s replacing Akhator. In early season play, 6-3 freshman Dorie Harrison has been asserting herself. She had nine rebounds in 20 minutes in the season opener, a 101-point effort over Sacramento State; and another eight rebounds against Montana.

But the team suffered a severe loss, even before the season began, with a knee injury to Ogechi Anyagaligbo, a 6-1 junior who transferred to UK from SUNY Stony Brook, where she was the America East Conference freshman of the year, averaging 10 points and nine rebounds.

Other bright spots in the season-opening win over Sacramento State were Makenzie Cann, a 6-1 senior guard who scored 17 points, making six of nine shots, four of six from three; and Tatyana Wyatt, a 6-2 freshman forward, who scored 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench.

Cann had another double-figure game against Gardner-Webb, scoring 10 points (with four-of-seven shooting) and with seven rebounds in the team’s 72-34 route. Last year, Cann played inside a lot, because of her height. The feeling is, the deeper talent on this year’s squad will enable her to roam the floor, where her height will make her a tough matchup for most teams.

And Roper, making the most of her off-the-bench opportunities, came in against Sacramento State and threw up six shots in 21 minutes, scoring nine points. She scored another 10 against Gardner- Webb, and 14 against Montana.

But the season’s early non-conference games in November are just that. Early games in November. Coach Mitchell will remind you it’s a long season, especially in the SEC, arguably the strongest women’s basketball league in the country. South Carolina is the reigning national champion, last year ending the Connecticut Huskies’ four-year reign. The Gamecocks beat another SEC school, Mississippi State (who knocked off the Huskies in the semifinals), in the national championship game.

Last year, Texas A&M, LSU, Missouri, Auburn and Tennessee also made the tournament (as well, of course, as Kentucky and the two championship finalists). And Tennessee, when coached by the late, legendary Pat Summitt, was probably the country’s most elite program, with eight national championships and five other losses in the championship game. Summitt’s gone, but Tennessee still brings the weird-colored magic.

But Kentucky is not looking in from the outside. Mitchell can do much more than dance like Elvis. His Kentucky teams have won 71 percent of their games. He has led them to eight straight NCAA tournament appearances, developing the games of such UK superstars as Victoria Dunlap and A’dia Mathies. His teams have reached three Elite Eights. He’d probably laugh at the notion, though, that this might be his toughest rebuilding year. He’d probably say that every year is tough and challenging.

Calipari’s teams are always loaded with promising freshmen. Mitchell is not without the same on his team this year. Keke McKinney, a 6-1 frosh from Knoxville, Tenn., is learning a new role. She played the 1 or 2 in high school, but Mitchell wants her out on the court, probably in the 3 position. Even as a freshman, though, on a team dominated by upperclassmen, she has shown the vocal, aggressive personality that made Epps such a compelling presence during her UK tour.

Ten players played double-figure minutes against Sacramento State, eight more against Gardner-Webb, and seven against Montana. That’s a preview of the depth Mitchell expects to get from his team this year. Of course, minutes on the floor tend to condense as players’ strengths and weaknesses emerge and the level of competition gets tougher. Kentucky basketball fans have become used to seeing every year how Calipari goes from 10 or 11 players early to a nucleus of seven or eight in the cauldron of the real season. But Mitchell has indicated just the opposite tendency, especially with this team.

Without a breakthrough, dominant player – like Dunlap, Mathies or Epps – he’s counting on the strength of this team being its depth. The ability to bring in fresh legs without losing competitiveness. It’s a factor that always plays well against less-deep teams, who begin gasping for breath and tugging on their shorts, especially in up-tempo games. It’s what he expects to see this year.

But is that how it will play out? Coaches who preach depth and balance are always hoping that somebody steps up and claims superstar status, providing the bulk of minutes, points and leadership to take their teams deep into the NCAA tournament.

Does Mitchell have that superstar? Might it be Murray, or Morris, or maybe Wyatt, or Cann, or Harrison? The beginning of every season is always rife with unknown possibilities. The fun of the season is seeing how all that plays out.

Even more fun than one of Mitchell’s stank legs or hammer-time dances, baggy Hammer pants and all.

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LOUISVILLE CITY FC LAUNCHES “LOUCITY BOURBON BRIGADE”

New supporter volunteer group seeking people willing to assist.

Louisville City FC has launched a new volunteer group for supporters who wish to assist in the growth of the United Soccer League club and soccer throughout the region.

Christened the LouCity Bourbon Brigade in honor of the region’s rich bourbon heritage, this new supporter-led volunteer group will have the opportunity to work directly with the LouCity front office and team by helping grow the soccer club’s supporter base.

LouCity Bourbon Brigade members will be invited to:

• Become a Lou City ambassador and assist and help staff LCFC events

• Use their own contacts and networks in the community to help expand the LouCity season ticket base

• Use their experience to assist LouCity in generating new season ticket sales leads, season ticket renewals and assist with promotional events and campaigns throughout the year

• Support the club’s charitable and community-oriented efforts

• Assist in the club’s efforts to have a new stadium built in Butchertown

Fans who join the new volunteer group will be rewarded for their time and efforts with recognition, great rewards and prizes and unique money-can’t-buy LouCity experiences including:

• An opportunity to meet the team and coaching staff at an exclusive event

• Attend a closed-door team practice and a team talk from Coach James O’Connor

• Earn exclusive club merchandise

• Have their photo taken with their favorite LouCity player

• Earn a chance to travel with the club to a road game and be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a trip to an English Premiership match

• Help introduce the team as part of the Bourbon Brigade Tunnel on match day

Supporters interested in joining the new group can apply at the club’s website: www. louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade. Membership of the group is by application only and open to anyone 18 or over. Interviews for successful applicants will take place in November.

“This is a unique opportunity for our most dedicated fans to get even closer to the club by dedicating their time, effort and contacts in the community to help LouCity and soccer in general in our region grow and flourish,” said Louisville City FC Chief Operating Officer Steve Livingstone. “If you love Louisville City and soccer, and have some time to spare, we’d love to hear from you by applying at the LouCity website. There are some great rewards, experiences and recognition for those supporters who get involved.”

Supporters can apply to join the volunteer group at www.louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade or call Jon Davis at 502.384.8799, ext. 114 or email him at jdavis@louisvillecityfc.com.

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What’s Next? MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS THESE DAYS IN LOCAL SPORTS

By Howie Lindsey | 790 KRD

What’s next?

THAT’S THE QUESTION MOST EXASPERATED LOUISVILLE FANS HAVE BEEN ASKING OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. IT’S ALSO A COMMON QUESTION AMONG THE ARDENT BASKETBALL FANS IN INDIANA AND KENTUCKY AS THE CORE OF COLLEGE HOOPS SEEMS TO BE IN QUESTION DUE TO THE ONGOING FBI INVESTIGATION. 

WHILE I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, LET’S ATTEMPT TO BREAK OUT THE CRYSTAL BALL TO DETERMINE WHAT MAY BE NEXT FOR A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND ENTITIES IN OUR SPORTING LANDSCAPE. 

What’s next for Louisville Basketball? 

In the short term, David Padgett and his new trio of assistant coaches — longtime veteran head coach Trent Johnson, eager assistant Greg Paulus and former program assistant R.J. Evans — will man the ship until a head coach can be hired. This year’s team has so much talent and athleticism that it just might surprise people on the national landscape who viewed Louisville as a lost cause after Rick Pitino’s firing.

Fans are going to love the new and improved Deng Adel with his incredible defense and improved jumpshot. Fans will like the smooth confidence of VJ King and the bouncy athleticism of Ray Spalding and more consistent play from Anas Mahmoud. And the freshmen? Darius Perry will be a sparkplug at guard and Malik Williams is a quiet, rebounding machine.

What about long term? 

I recently spoke with Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra who said they were flooded with candidates when looking for assistant coaches. I think it will be the same when the Cardinals go looking for a head coach next spring. Louisville is still a Top 10 program with a Top 3 arena and competitive pay. It’s an elite job and — as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams once said — many coaches would crawl over broken glass to get to Louisville.

Williams, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Dayton’s Anthony Grant will all be on the short list of candidates.

What’s next for Rick Pitino?

Louisville’s Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino isn’t fighting for his job any more — that part of the fight is over. Now, he is fighting for his reputation.

Pitino and his lawyer, Steve Pence, filed a lawsuit against Adidas over its handling of the recruiting scandal that rocked the University of Louisville and four other universities last month. Pitino told Jay Bilas that Adidas “robbed him of his love of basketball.”

Through lawsuits against Adidas and the University of Louisville, Pitino will attempt to prove he didn’t know any of the alleged activities were going on. And he just might do that.

Regardless if he wins or not, it is difficult to imagine him coaching college basketball again at age 65. So what’s next? TV, of course. Rick Pitino would be a smash hit as a television analyst – breaking down games for ESPN or CBS. It’s a natural fit.

What’s that you say? No way a network hires him with the NCAA issues. Ahem, Lou Holtz left NC State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina on NCAA probation. That’s FIVE schools, and the TV networks love him. He’s even in rental car commercials. Pitino will follow that same path.

What’s next for the Yum! Center? 

The specter of a possible NCAA Death Penalty is a worst case scenario for the Yum! Center and the city of Louisville. Without a season of men’s basketball games, the Yum! would have 20 more dates to fill and no real way to make up that kind of income.

The good news? Very few believe the NCAA will ever enact the Death Penalty on a program again. More likely, the NCAA will enact more post-season bans or perhaps the same kind of media blackout that hit Kentucky basketball during the “Kentucky Shame” days of the late 1980s.

The Yum! Center is restructuring debt and is also getting an extra $2.5 million per year from Louisville, it’s primary tenant, as well. Hopefully, that will keep it viable for years to come.

What’s next for Romeo Langford? 

The New Albany superstar guard was once thought to be leaning toward Louisville. Not anymore. After recently visiting Indiana for Hoosier Hysteria, many people think his choices are Kansas, Indiana, Vandy, UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina. The trouble is — with the FBI still investigating every major program in the nation — committing to ANY college at this point is fairly perilous because of their involvement in possible recruiting violations. Well, except maybe Vandy.

So what’s a recruit to do? At the very least, it’d be best to wait until the spring to make the pick and even then, I wouldn’t advise him to sign a binding National Letter of Intent to any school. Romeo’s good enough that colleges will hold a spot for him if he tells them he’s on his way. [Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.]

What’s next for college basketball?

While some coaches have issued statements noting their “shock” and “surprise” at the allegations of rampant payments in college basketball, don’t believe them.

While individual coaches can be shocked that their actual assistant coaches were involved (see: Pitino, Rick), the fact that some recruits were getting paid is not news to anyone in the business.

And it’s not just an Adidas issue.

The assistant coaches ensnared in the first wave of the FBI probe worked for schools represented by Nike (Arizona, USC and Oklahoma State), Adidas (Louisville and Miami) and Under Armor (Auburn).

How big will the FBI’s net get? On the day the initial indictments were filed, the FBI told college basketball coaches, “We have your playbook. You will be better off contacting us before we contact you.”

In the weeks since then, some have suggested the initial estimates of 50-80 coaches involved, have been diminished, but others have said this issue is just getting started.

“There are some problems that are baked in that are perhaps a little more prevalent because of the structure of college basketball,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “but you don’t have to have too vivid an imagination to see this showing up in other sports.

“As a result, this is going to be around for a while, and we’re likely to be in the same situation we’re in now We don’t have very much information and we aren’t going to get a heads up before something happens, and as a result it’s a period of discomfort.”

So how big could this get? What happens next to summer shoe-circuit basketball? My guess would be the Blue Ribbon panel the NCAA convened to talk about the issue will shut down shoe-circuit basketball tournaments and camps in favor of NCAA-led summer efforts. Will that stop the cheating? No, but it should slow it down some.

What’s next for Tom Jurich?

In addition to firing Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville fired Athletic Director Tom Jurich during its cleanse of all things athletics in mid-October. Jurich, who likely stands to land a bundle of money from the university in a lawsuit over how his termination was carried out, could certainly take another athletics director job at another university. He has had many options over the years, offers from many of the top traditional programs in NCAA sports, but he has never left Louisville.

He could certainly say yes to one of those offers now, but my guess would be that he doesn’t.

Instead of finally taking one of the southern California schools up on their consistent offers, my guess would be he creates and chairs a search firm where he can be hired by schools all over the country to help hire coaches in major sports.

We all know he has a knack for hiring effective coaches, and this would allow him the flexibility to work outside the typical athletics framework to land the right candidates with the right jobs. He’d be a smashing success at it.

What’s next for the Louisville Athletics?

Interim President Greg Postel may have struck gold in Vince Tyra. The life-long Louisville fan whose father, Charlie, is one of the greatest players to ever don a Louisville uniform, Vince hit the ground running as acting AD and hasn’t looked back.

Tyra met with every coach on campus in the first two days of his hiring, he met every team on campus in the first three weeks and he seems intent on keeping his focus on exactly the right thing: the student-athletes on campus.

One of Tom Jurich’s most-effective leadership traits was focusing on the student-athlete experience and making sure they had everything they needed to be successful. Tyra seems intent on continuing that tradition, asking the athletes he meets, “What can I do to make you successful?” That’s such a powerful question when executed with the right intent.

Is Tyra the long-term solution? No one is sure, including Tyra.

His pay structure — $100,000 per month of his employment — is set up to be fairly indefinite.

Much like Louisville basketball, Louisville athletics will have no shortage of elite candidates who would crawl to come to campus to run athletics in the future. With the nearly $400 million in facility assets on campus and a primo spot in the ACC, the future of Louisville athletics looks strong as long as athletics isn’t diminished under a future UofL administration.

What’s next for other Louisville coaches? 

One of the most common questions over the last several weeks has been what happens to the other coaches that Tom Jurich brought to campus? Let’s start with this: None of the coaches will leave immediately. They have seasons to coach and have very lucrative contracts in place with compensation to boot. But the long-term success of UofL will depend on the board of trustees finding an athletic director who can continue Louisville’s upward trajectory.

Certainly, Tom Jurich could be a firebrand, but the board would be making a mistake if they overcorrected and brought in a milquetoast, meager manager to replace Jurich.

Someone with a lack of vision could derail the forward progress in many of Louisville’s 23 sports and could cause Louisville’s current set of all-star coaches to start listening to other offers.

What’s next in local sports media? 

UofL is building a new $8 million TV and production studio on campus. The new studio is part of the ACC’s contract requiring every school to have its own production studio up and running by the end of 2018 before the launch of the new network in 2019. So what does this mean for local sports media? Well, with schools and leagues taking over more production and shows, the amount of access granted to local media outlets may diminish. Conversely, the amount of options for fans to learn about their favorite team will be at an all-time high, with much of the slickly produced video content coming from the school directly.

As a side note, the new studios and production team will allow UofL students the ability to leave college with real broadcast experience for the first time in decades. That could be a nice feeder system of young talent for local TV and radio stations.

What’s next for Adidas and Louisville? 

A common question over the last few weeks has been what happens to the 10-year, $160-million deal between Louisville and Adidas. It was, after all, an Adidas employee who was involved in the FBI scandal.

While no one knows for sure what will happen with the deal, my guess is that Tyra and UofL will do everything they can to make sure Louisville gets that money. Even though Interim President Greg Postel said he wanted “no part” of the money “if it’s tainted,” the agreement is so key to Louisville’s Athletic development that it would be prudent for Louisville and Adidas to implement more oversight and continue working together.

On Oct. 24, Tyra said “I’ve been through that thing quite a bit. The contract itself does not raise concerns for me. … We’ll go through that and flush out more details this week as we move along. But today I don’t have a report that there’s anything negative tied to that contract.”

The deal included an innovative Create Space on Louisville’s campus that would allow for product innovation and creation with the aid of athletes and trainers. It also established funding for internships and Sports Administration major opportunities that would give Louisville’s SPAD program a leg up on every University except perhaps Oregon, who has a similar partnership with Nike.

What’s next for local sports? 

This is perhaps the most interesting question. Could Jurich’s firing at Louisville open the door for proponents of professional basketball at the Yum! Center? Possibly, but I still don’t think the city has enough corporate donors to make it happen. Of course, all that could change if Louisville’s bid to become Amazon’s HQ-2 is successful. Now THAT would revolutionize this region.

What’s next for the Louisville and Southern Indiana sports landscape likely includes the new stadium for LouCity FC and continued rise for that fan base and franchise. The location there in Butchertown could be a stellar spot, and the renderings the ownership group have proposed would make the stadium a showpiece on the highly visible I-64 corridor just east of downtown.

On the college level, newly signed deals for long-term rivalry games between Louisville and Indiana will be good for our area, plus the NCAA’s new charity basketball game legislation will allow for Kentucky and IU to arrange a new preseason basketball game in the Yum! Center each year to benefit a charity of John Calipari’s choosing. Won’t that be fun? Well, we can dream, can’t we?

[Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.] 

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Predictions

We asked a panel of “experts” to weigh in on the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball season. Here’s what they said.


HOWIE LINDSEY, 790 KRD 

SURPRISE TEAM: Virginia Tech. I think they will be much tougher than people realize and it wouldn’t shock me if they are a Sweet 16 team this season.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: North Carolina. They seem to be a preseason Top 10 team with a lot of question marks.

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Florida, West Virginia, Kansas

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bob Huggins, West Virginia


JIM BIERY, Extol Sports Columnist

SURPRISE TEAM: Northwestern. First trip ever last year & majority of team coming back.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: UK. Top returning scorer just 4.6 PPG.

FINAL FOUR: Arizona, Michigan St, Villanova, Duke

PLAYER OF YEAR: Ethan Happ (Wisconsin) complete game defense & offense

COACH OF YEAR: Tom Izzo. Team is loaded and he is one of top teachers of the game.


ZACH MCCRITE, Extol Sports Columnist

SURPRISE TEAM: I’ll go with the homer pick for me: Indiana. Archie Miller went right to work in recruiting and, by all national accounts, really did well. Combine that with a new energy around Bloomington and why wouldn’t they return to the NCAA Tournament in 2018?

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Louisville. With Rick Pitino not roaming the sidelines, I can’t imagine the expectations for this season being met. That’s no knock on new head coach David Padgett, it’s just a testament to my respect for Pitino as a coach.

FINAL FOUR: Shot in the dark: Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia and Florida.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jalen Brunson – Villanova. That’s off the board a little, but his effective field goal percentage was 61.9 last season. That sounds like a number a seven-footer would have. He’s a point guard!

COACH OF THE YEAR: Give me Bill Self. He’ll continue to run the Big 12 and will do it with more ease than in recent seasons.


STEVE KAUFMAN, Extol Sports Writer

First of all, anyone who tries to predict pretty much anything is a fool. So I do not stand behind any of these picks – unless I’m right!

SURPRISE TEAM: Missouri; great freshman class, especially the Porter brothers

DISAPPOINTING TEAMS: Duke, preseason No. 1 – I don’t think they’ll finish No. 1; Louisville, preseason No. 16 – just way too much turmoil, loss of a great coach, replaced by an inexperienced rookie coach, simply unfair to him; Minnesota, preseason No. 15 – not a good year for the Pitino family

FINAL FOUR: Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida (or some other four teams)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri or Kevin Knox, Kentucky

COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike White, Florida (for no particular reason, except he’s done good things there and I think will continue to do good things); second choice – Archie Miller, Indiana


REX BEYERS, Professional Oddsmaker/SoIN native

SURPRISE TEAM: Penn State

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Kansas

FINAL FOUR: Xavier, Villanova, West Virginia, Arizona

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Mack, Xavier


ADAM KLEINERT, Extol Sports Art Director & Sports Fan

SURPRISE TEAM THIS SEASON: Alabama

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Gulp…Louisville

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Wichita State, Michigan State, Kansas

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marvin Bagley III, Duke

COACH OF THE YEAR: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State


JEFF NUNN, CardinalSportsZone.com

SURPRISE TEAM: Xavier

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Villanova

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Michigan State, Arizona, Xavier

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grayson Allen, Duke

COACH OF THE YEAR: Sean Miller – Arizona


 

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Schooling Romeo | High School Spotlight

screen-shot-2017-11-06-at-4-25-10-pmSure, Romeo Langford is a basketball star but his education is key, says dad Tim Langford.

By Angie Fenton | Photos by Steve Squall

It’s been nearly a year since we caught up with New Albany High School senior basketball star Romeo Langford, whom we featured in the inaugural issue of Extol Sports.

From an outside observer, life has looked like a constant whirlwind. Not so, said Romeo’s father, Tim Langford. “It’s been really fun.”

While fans have continued to debate where Romeo will end up going to college (and who knows, by the time this is published that debate might finally be settled) Tim said the teen and his family have remained focused on enjoying the ride. “The whole family is doing good,” said the elder Langford. “We stay under control. It’s not overwhelming as long as you keep everything in perspective and take it one day at a time and enjoy as we go.”

How do you stay grounded under a national spotlight that continues to intensify? In part, the daily morning phone father and son have shared since Romeo was in elementary school. Since Tim Langford goes to work very early, every morning when Romeo wakes up “we talk 3 to 5 minutes just on how he’s doing. We focus in on his school and classes. We can focus in on the sports part later after school.”

Regardless of where Romeo chooses to go to college, it’s the education aspect that is most important, Tim Langford said. “Education is the number one goal. Basketball is just a platform to get him a scholarship and get him an education. He’s going to whatever (school) he decides to, to get that degree.”

In the past, Romeo considered working toward an engineering major, but his dad says he’s now interested in studying communications, but there will be plenty of time to decide all of that later.

In the meantime, said Tim Langford, “we’re really excited about Romeo’s senior year (at New Albany) and looking forward to the whole season.”