The 2003-2004 Kentucky Wildcats finished the regular season ranked #2 in the nation by the Associated Press and earned a #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They bowed out, however, in the second round against a motivated squad from Alabama-Birmingham. The Wildcats finished the year with an impressive 27-5 record against a formidable schedule. Kentucky won the Southeastern Conference tournament for the 25th time.
Highlights of the season includes a world-record attendance victory over Michigan State in Detroit, a 39-point demolition of long-time rival Indiana and a slew of buzzer-beating victories, including one on the road against Mississippi State.
This team continued a long tradition of great teams which represent the University of Kentucky basketball program. The Wildcats regularly play one of the most daunting schedules in the nation and utilize a system where the players work together as a unit for a common goal. UK sometimes plays at a frenetic pace but rarely gets sloppy with their play. They are always looking to execute offensively and apply defensive intensity throughout the game. Check out the Associated Press Rankings, USA Today/ESPN Rankings, the RPI Ratings or the Sagarin Ratings to keep up with the Cats.
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"Really, UCLA's a great place as well, but they don't have the kind of environment they have here. The fans here have a passion." - Dick Vitale on Kentucky fans, December 23, 1999.
"Apparently the University of Kentucky basketball dynasty is to continue forever." - Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23 1954.
"Turner ... Burner .... and one" - Jim Nantz
"Kentucky has found the secret of basketball, that it's five guys playing together." - former University North Carolina coach Frank McGuire
"I see no reason to end the basketball season in February just so some of these schools can start spring football practice early... Someday they are going to wake up and realize that basketball is here to stay." - Adolph Rupp on his Southeastern Conference brethren in 1934.
"I'd just as soon freeze to death." - Actress Ashley Judd relating a story of being offered a University North Carolina - Chapel Hill jacket on a chilly movie set. - Lexington Herald Leader, August 15, 1996.
"It's not wise to come to Kentucky and try to run them off their court. Not too many teams have ever done that." - Mississippi State Coach Babe McCarthy in 1962.
"When you see Kentucky's fans, you just wonder. You think how wonderful it would be to go to their school. You wish you could trade places for a day, just so you could experience that feeling." - UCLA player Kris Johnson
"They had it before you, they had it during you, they'll have it when you're gone"...." - Al McGuire on Kentucky Basketball Tradition
"In the next four or five years, Kentucky will be at its best. It has taken a lot of hard labor, but down the road we will be at our best." - Rick Pitino in 1995
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The 2004-2005 season finds coach Tubby Smith with a talented, deep, but young squad which hopes to continue in the phenomenal success experienced by the last two Wildcat squads in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Kentucky loses four key seniors from the 2003-04 team, point guard Cliff Hawkins, shooting guard Gerald Fitch, swingman Antwain Barbour and forward Erik Daniels. In addition, big man Bernard Cote, perhaps seeing his playing time limited in the front-court, transferred to Northwestern at the end of the season.
Despite the losses, Kentucky was able to replace these players with recruits who many believe will bring a higher level of talent to the team. But talent that will require time to develop. What can't be replaced immediately is the experience and game-toughness which the departing seniors exhibited through their careers at UK. Helping the transition will be team leader Chuck Hayes and returning junior starter Kelenna Azubuike. How quickly the newcomers can come up to speed may prove the difference in how far this team can go.
Junior transfer Patrick Sparks from Western Kentucky will be playing his first year for the Wildcats after sitting out the previous year. Expectations are high that the player from Central City Kentucky will make an immediate impact and will assume the starting point guard position. His shooting and tenacity on the floor are reportedly reminiscent of former Wildcat sparkplug (and fellow transferee) Travis Ford. Backing up Sparks will likely be junior Brandon Stockton and freshman Rajon Rondo who comes from Louisville, by way of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
The shooting guard position is once again Kentucky's most competitive area, but this time many of the competitors are newcomers. Kelenna Azubuike proved to be a reliable scorer and defender for the 2003-04 squad where he often deferred to the seniors. He will be called upon to step up considerably this year, either at the shooting guard position or the small forward slot. Surprise contributor Ravi Moss made waves as a walk-on who earned valuable minutes during the season and was a key contributor to the team. It's not out of the question that Moss could earn the starting position at shooting guard this year. Newcomers Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley are both highly regarded athletes who will also compete for time in the back-court. Josh Carrier returns for his senior year and looks to be an important substitute in the Wildcat attack. Carrier was used for short stints during critical moments in the previous year and at times flashed the long-range shooting touch that Kentucky seems to always be in desparate need of.
With so much talent at the shooting guard position, Tubby Smith may decide at times to go small and have Azubuike, Moss or some of the other guards slide into the small forward position. Otherwise, Chuck Hayes could man the position unless he is called on to play power forward. Hayes will return for his senior year and he continues to impress with his work ethic, maturity and toughness. He should easily enter the 1000 point club and has an outside shot at grabbing 1000 rebounds for his career. Sophomores Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas will also see time. Both saw limited but valuable time as freshmen and should be well prepared to contribute with expanded minutes this season. Thomas, who is originally from Quebec, gained experience over the summer with the Canadian under-21 national team.
The front court for Kentucky is packed with outstanding size, although much of it is still unproven at this point. 7-foot-2 sophomore Lukasz Obrzut, from Gilwice Poland, received valuable experience the previous year and may earn the starting nod at center. He still is learning the position and needs to improve on capitalizing on his size and not committing the cheap foul. Newcomer Randolph Morris of the Atlanta area may prove too talented to not start however. He was a late signee with the Wildcats and may prove to be the jewel of a recruiting class which was hit hard by early defections to the NBA. Providing back-up to the pivot, unless he is redshirted, will be sophomore skyscraper Shagari Alleyne, who at 7-foot-3 if the tallest Wildcat of all-time. With Obrzut, Morris and Alleyne, Kentucky is blessed with outstanding size for the college game. All should benefit by going against each other in practice on a daily basis.
Overall, there is enough talent and experience on the roster to challenge for the SEC and national championship, although the lost experience of the four departed seniors will be difficult to recoup. As always there are a number of questions which need to be answered and a number of things which need to go right before those goals can be realized. Will Hayes continue to blossom and improve without the presence of Erik Daniels and his interior passing ? Will Azubuike step up his scoring average and give the team leadership and experience ? Will Patrick Sparks be as good as advertised ? Will Obrzut and Alleyne provide quality minutes at the center position ? Will Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas prove that they are ready for quality minutes ? Will the freshmen be ready to contribute early and often during the season ? Will one of them have a break-out season ? Will the team be able to continue the stellar defensive play which has defined the last two Kentucky squads ? Will Coach Smith be able to bring the freshmen along and keep everyone happy with their role on the squad ? All this and more remains to be seen.
The schedule for Kentucky's 102nd season of basketball has been released, and it is a mixed bag of traditional rivals, heavy-weight matchups and a slew of newcomers. With the new NCAA rule outlawing exhibition games against non-collegiate squad, Kentucky will face Kentucky Wesleyan and Northern Kentucky in exhibitions at Rupp Arena in early November. The match with Wesleyan will be the first time Kentucky has faced the Panthers in over 65 years, and the first time since Wesleyan relocated from Winchester to Owensboro. The match against NKU will be the first meeting of the two schools.
The regular season will begin November 20th with a home date against Coppin State. This signals a slew of games against mid-level or lower teams in Ball State, and Tennessee Tech. The game against Ball State will be held in Cincinnati. Kentucky will also face Morehead, William & Mary and Campbell later in the season, all at home. In all, these games represent six teams which have never faced Kentucky before. Kentucky was unable to participate in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament due to a disputed NCAA rule.
The first marquee matchup will occur December 4th against the Tar Heels of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. This will be followed on successive Saturdays by matchups against Indiana in Louisville and a rematch of Kentucky with former coach Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals, also in Louisville at Freedom Hall. The Kansas Jayhawks will invade Rupp Arena January 9th for a nationally televised showdown.
As always, the SEC race will once again be difficult. Florida will remain a major threat given their consistently high talent level. South Carolina under head coach Dave Odom and Tennessee under Buzz Peterson should be solid. Georgia is slowly rebuilding with their head coach Dennis Felton, under a four-year NCAA suspension due to the scandal under former coach Jim Harrick. and the subsequent loss of Jarvis Hayes to the NBA draft. The team is being turned over to former Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton. Despite the turbulence, there is no doubt still a group of talented players in Athens. Vanderbilt, although a mystery, should never be overlooked.
In the west, Mississippi State
will again be tough, as Lawrence Roberts has returned to the team after
flirting with the NBA. However beyond that it's unclear who will
emerge from among Alabama, Mississippi and LSU
among others. As always seems to be the case, there is a ton of talent
to be uncovered in the division which will emerge with experience. Arkansas will still be interesting to watch develop under head coach Stan Heath. The 2005 Southeastern Conference Tournament will be hosted by the city of Atlanta March 10-13 at the Georgia Dome. The 2005 Tournament will have regionals in Chicago IL, Syracuse NY, Austin TX and Albuquerque NM. The Final Four will held April 2 and 4 in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome.
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Here you will find the most complete statistical site devoted to any one college basketball program. Check it out, and let me know if there are any corrections or additions that should be made. - (Continually Updated)
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I believe most every home page should bring something new to the internet rather than recycle the same information. In that vein, I have included my thoughts on some of the misconceptions that surround Kentucky basketball. Some have questioned me as to why someone would want to concentrate on what is sometimes negative or hard-to-defend areas rather than relive the many good aspects of the Kentucky Basketball program. My main answer is that while I generally don't like to dwell on the negative, I attempted to cover these topics because many of these issues simply are not covered anywhere else and some of the stories are important to tell. I could have put together material which illustrates the amazing accomplishments of such a storied program that is Kentucky Basketball, however much of this has been covered before in books, special edition memorabilia and videos spanning many decades. Most of this information is off the top of my head although I have gained much information from the Lexington Herald Leader Library along with other newspaper archives, magazines and books. If you have any facts or statistics to support or disprove me, I would appreciate
Some Oldies but Goodies
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From time to time, I might have something I want to write about which doesn't fit into the 'detractors' format as above. So here is that place.
Every great program will attract its share of detractors and Kentucky has plenty of them. Whether they think UK is a bunch of cheaters, they don't like the coaches, the fans, the style of play or they just think UK wins too much, there's always going to be someone who roots against the Cats. I've put a list together of the top ten detractors of the basketball program. This page is intended to tell a little about the background of each person, the apparent reason for their dislike of the program and includes some anecdotes and quotes about the subject. All in the name of fun. A nationally known sports columnist loved it so much he was moved to pronounce it as "quite a list. An amazing list in fact." (More is available about that also.) Contributions to the Top-10 page are greatly appreciated.
I've also written two book reviews which I believed unfairly criticized Kentucky. The first review is of Raw Recruits from the perspective of a Kentucky fan. The second review is of a recent book And The Walls Came Tumbling Down which attempts to drag former coach Adolph Rupp's name through the mud.
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From time to time, I will write up a short history of the rivalry between Kentucky and some of their historic foes in preparation for an upcoming game. The ones which are done are highlighted below. Hopefully someday the rest will be filled in.
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While not directly related to Kentucky
basketball, I do have a definite opinion about how to run an office pool
when NCAA Tournament time rolls around. In the past, I've run a pool that is easy to maintain, fun and doesn't
require that you buy any software you don't already have.
General UK Information Links
Wildcats in the NBA
Talking about the Wildcats has been a tradition in Kentucky for over 100 years. With the internet, this tradition has taken on new forms with many different sites and formats popping up through the years. For fun, I put together a rough timeline of the various discussion groups, many which are included below.
The Best - Most serious fans can be found at one of the below.Cat-Chat - The oldest UK discussion site on the net
The Rest - Some of these sites were popular once but fell from grace due to a lack of attention by the hosts. Others basically have a terrible signal to noise ratio.Courier Journal UK Hoop Forum
J.L. Weil's Bogans' Heroes
General College Basketball Links
UK Merchandise Links
Miscellaneous UK Merchandise
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Below are some home pages of other Wildcat Fans. If you think your page should be listed or know of others,
More Pages - Mainly Links or not updated
This site and others can be searched through the UKFans.net site at this link.
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Sometimes if the Cats aren't on TV and you can't get onto their radio site, you can catch them through their opponents broadcasts. For Kentucky, that would be the nasty Southeastern Conference.
Athletic Home Pages
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