***Before he took the solemn vows of initiation at The Brown Tweed Society, Evan Hilbert and I enjoyed some good times at WildcatBlitz.com and here at Kentucky Sports Radio. I liked the way he laughed, his firm embrace and, mostly, his preview of the starting lineups of opposing basketball teams. So, just like the bat signal, I'll be posting these each game, hoping that it brings Evan home. Actually, scratch that. This is the third year I've been doing this without so much as a telegram. Evan, you're dead to me.
Layovers suck. They're miserable in every way. Expensive food, magazines you've already perused and the inevitable case of the runs make any pit stop pure torture. So, give Coach Cal credit. Instead of making his team sit in LAX for a few hours on their way to Maui, he found an alternative. The Cats packed up the Conestoga Wagons with supplies, fed the oxen and made their way cross-country to the land of Terrence Jones (thanks to Cal for not making it the land of Enes) for a little basketabll showdown with WCC foe Portland at The Rose Garden.
But, it's not just a tiny little game for either program as the Pilots have publicized this game for months and Kentucky faces a team that's as dangerous as typhoid fever. Coach Eric Reveno, the 2009 WCC Coach of The Year, introduces four new starters into his lineup this season, but they remain the type of team that can present major problems for any team on any given night. They shoot the ball as well as anyone in the country, which helps make up for what is essentially a two-man frontcourt, and, as a team, have connected on over half (28-55) of their long-distance attempts this season. Thanks to that efficiency and three blowout wins to start the season, the team that was picked to finish sixth in the WCC now has a vote in the AP poll and a 6.5 spread against Kentucky. I'd say Coach Reveno, who just landed a top 150 recruit, is doing a pretty solid job. Tonight, though, he has a chance to take another big step forward and get a signature win for a program that didn't look too hot the only other time they played host at the Rose Garden. In 2000, they were the slow-moving deer that Duke picked off and took back to their family in the wagon to the tune of 97-64. Let's hope history repeats itself.
Let's meet the guys who will die of dysentary...
#1 Eric Waterford, 6-1, G, Junior
: 8.7 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.0 rpg, 73% from the field, 50% from three
Despite being a junior and hailing from a city known for churning out program-changing point guards (Modesto, California), Waterford enters the season with little college experience, appearing in only 33 games over the past two seasons. Some attribute the lack of playing time to Waterford being stuck behind two-year starter T.J. Campbell, while some believe that defeating John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election just sucked the life out of him. Logged career highs in points (13), rebounds (2) and minutes (22) in Sunday's win over Florida Atlantic. Played at Thomas More Prep with West Virginia's Devin Ebanks and eight-other D1 players. Also, basketball is his passion
. But, based on his first two years in office, I'm sure you've noticed.
#20 Jared Stohl, 6-2, G, Senior
: 17.3 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.7 apg, 57% from field, 57% from three
Stohl has made quite the name for himself this week in getting more coverage from the Herald-Leader than Hubby's plates on moving day. He's a great shooter. In fact, he was the best in the nation last year. Someone probably ought to guard him. If not to keep the points off the board, then to keep these guys from getting face time
#33 Nemana Mitrovic, 6-5, G, Junior
: 9.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 56% from field, 58% from three
Teammates call him the Serbian Sensation. Girls on campus call him "that guy who looks like Jason Schwartzman with a buzz cut". Tonight, John Calipari is going to call him "that guy you better get out on". Mitrovic is off to a hot start shooting the ball this season, connecting on 7 of 12 threes and 10 of 18 overall. Mitrovic's father, Miki, played for the Yugoslavian national team in the 1980s, which means he was probably kissed by Vlade Divac at some point. I'm not sure how that is going to factor into tonight's game, but I thought you should know. They're very affectionate people.
#43 Son of Sikma, 6-8, F, Senior
: 11.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.0 bpg, 56% from the field, 67% from three
Son of Sikma, who starred in high school alongside Son of Schrempf, brings all the blonde hair and versatility to the forward position that you'd expect from Jack's seed. Last season, Sikma led he WCC in field goal percentage and topped the Pilots in rebounds, steals and blocks. He also finished second in assists. Son of Sikma enters the game on the heels of one of the best peformances of his career - a 15 point, 19 rebound, 5 assist and four block outing against Florida Atlantic. There will be no jokes about Son of Sikma. But you can read his blog
#45 Kramer Knutson, 6-8, C, Senior
: 8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 75% from the field
Knutson has started in 89 of the 91 games he's appeared in during his Portland career and, I'm happy to announce, has finally topped that vaunted "4 rebound per game" threshold this season. He has one more double-digit rebound game in his career than Bryan The Intern and has shot higher from the field than the free throw line in all three of his years with the Pilots. The KSR staff has voted him as "The Face Most Likely To Be Sprinkled". Also. sources say his middle name is Kraig, which makes it very awkward when he buys monogrammed bed sheets.
He's not going to shoot any jumpers or grab any rebounds, but when Portland's mascot is in the building, everyone knows who's the star. For some reason or another, Portland forced mascot Wally Pilot out the door back in 2004, siding instead with the "school spirit sucks" movement. After some soul-searching
and some world traveling
, the riverboat captain is back and ready to accept your emails
or be your Facebook friend
. Just don't ask him for a ride from the Greyhound station.
- Tim Douglas (G): Freshman who relieves Waterford at the point and actually logs more minutes per game. Terrible shooter. Tiny.
- Tanner Riley (G): Reserve freshman guard who is the team's third-leading scorer at 10.7 ppg. Scored only 3 against FAU last week. His first and last name ranked number one and two as the most prevalent baby names for former sorority girls turned soccer moms in 2008.
: Portland is undefeated all-time against Calipari, having never faced UK's head man...Meanwhile, UK is undefeated against Portland, thanks to 80 points from their starters and only 7 from Portland's Erik Spoelstra in their only meeting (1989)...Kentucky's 13 threes against ETSU were their most in a season opener since 1991...Terrence Jones' 25 points and 12 rebounds against ETSU made him the first freshman to debut with a double-double since Jules Camara...Anybody seen Jules lately?...Wally Pilot is a river boat pilot, not an airplane pilot...Notice the lack of wings on his lapel and the noticeable absence of douchey smugness?...Portland does not offer a riverboat piloting program...Of course, Fayette County requires all cats be domesticated and kept indoors...It's enough to blow your mind...Former Japanese wrestling champ Jumbo Tsuruta taught law at Portland...They should have called him "Riverboat"...The game is on ESPNU...That means I think Miles Simon might call it...Sat next to him on a flight from San Diego to Tucson once...Made it clear I didn't like him...He was probably texting Lute Olsen's wife, so he didn't care...Damn, just saw we got Carter Blackburn...I was hoping it was past his bedtime...Why didn't we get Rebecca Haarlow?
...Anybody wanna live blog?