Can John Calipari finally win it?

I didn’t fill out a bracket this year. I haven’t done so in years. While the NCAA tournament is still fun to watch, it’s hard to keep up on college basketball with the yearly turnover on the best teams, so each year I’m learning about the teams as the tournament progresses.

Many experts seem to think Kentucky has a great shot, again, so we’ll see if John Calipari can finally get it done.

It’s your Dance, John Calipari.

This is your NCAA tournament. All you have to do is win it – nothing more, and especially nothing less.

It’s not necessarily now or never. But it’s absolutely now. In 20 years as a college head coach, you’ve never had a better chance to win a national title.

Wednesday, you named off the great teams you’ve coached – Massachusetts 1996, Memphis 2008, Kentucky 2010 and ’11. All came close to winning it all. None finished the deal. None had the advantages this one enjoys.

You have the best team, which is the most important thing of all.

Your seven-man rotation is nothing but NBA prospects, one through seven, including a couple of top-five picks. Don’t bother with the “young team” line because every coach in America would love to be burdened with the youth of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Calipari is a loudmouth, so I’ll be rooting for an epic fail.

My Buckeyes got a break when Syracuse lost their best player, so maybe this makes up for the monster bracket they had to endure last year when they were a #1 seed and got bounced by Kentucky. I like their chances of getting to the Final Four, IF they can shoot well. This team is hot and cold, and getting hot now is critical for them and every other team. Also, I love Thad Matta as a coach. He’s an incredible recruiter. But I hate how he sticks to a tight rotation, and I haven’t seen him outcoach his counterparts in the big games. Hopefully this is his year.

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Calipari assistant allegedly broke recruiting rules

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari watches over his team during their practice for their upcoming NCAA Final Four college basketball game in Houston, Texas, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The smoke is gathering around John Calipari.

Allegations have emerged as part of an ongoing investigation that one of Calipari’s former assistants broke NCAA recruiting violations.

But a nearly two-year investigation revealed that [Bilal] Batley also broke NCAA rules by making repeated impermissible telephone calls while at both Memphis and Kentucky to recruits, such as DeMarcus Cousins, and their parents.

When approached by a reporter after his news conference on Friday, Calipari refused to address any questions concerning whether he was aware of Batley’s calls and whether or not Kentucky self-reported the violations.

NCAA rules state that all telephone calls made to or received from a recruit, his parents, legal guardians or coaches must be made and received by a team’s head coach or three countable assistant coaches.

According to Memphis and Kentucky, Batley was not a countable coach at either school.

The report goes on to quote Cousins in saying that Batley played a “big role” in his decision to follow Calipari to Kentucky.

“We stayed in contact with him frequently,” DeMarcus Cousins told

High-schooler (and top 2012 point guard recruit) L.J. Rose admitted that he spoke to Batley frequently while he was at Kentucky.

Batley has something of a checkered past, including an accident in Texas in which he was driving a van full of players. Two players were killed and five others were injured. He was not indicted.

He also worked for Kelvin Sampson at Indiana during the time when Sampson and his staff were found to have broken recruiting violations. Batley joined Calipari in Memphis about a month after one of the players) he was recruiting at Indiana (Nolan Dennis committed to Memphis. Hmm.

At best, Calipari is guilty of bad judgment in hiring Batley. At worst, he knew about the illegal contact and turned a blind eye. Worse yet, he endorsed it.

Nothing has stuck to Calipari in his college coaching career, but both of his trips to the Final Four (at UMass and Memphis) have been vacated due to NCAA violations. Marcus Camby was found to have had illegal contact with an agent while Derrick Rose had someone else take his SAT.

Is this year’s Final Four appearance next on the list?

Read the entire piece here.

Digging into the Calhoun/Calipari rivalry

Connecticut Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun gestures as his team plays the San Diego Aztecs during their NCAA West Regional college basketball game in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

ESPN’s Andy Katz outlines what has been something of a heated rivalry between Jim Calhoun and John Calipari.

The perceived breaking point between the two schools — and coaches — occurred during the recruitment of Hartford-area center Marcus Camby in 1993.

“I was responsible for recruiting Marcus and I did everything I possibly could,” Dickenman said. “I tried and I tried, and the bottom line is I was talking to a wall. We weren’t going to get him. We did have him on a visit with Kirk King and Ray Allen. We had this feeling that we weren’t in it and we never really were.”

“At the time John was an up-and-comer, a hot-shot name, and Jim doesn’t like to lose to anyone,” Dickenman said. “John has tremendous charisma and he’s a little brash. Jim had taken some things personal, but I don’t think they were necessarily directed at Jim.

Calhoun doesn’t like to lose at all, but he really doesn’t like to lose to hot-shot coaches like Calipari, so there will be a little extra juice to the UConn/Kentucky tilt on Saturday night.

2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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NCAA investigating former Kentucky player Eric Bledsoe

Per the NY Times

Two years ago, Eric Bledsoe was a star point guard without the grades to meet the N.C.A.A.’s minimum standards and needing to find a new high school. He solved both problems by moving to A. H. Parker High School and now, after one season at the University of Kentucky, he is awaiting a lucrative payday in next month’s N.B.A. draft.

The changes in Bledsoe’s academic and athletic prospects have attracted the attention of the N.C.A.A., which has sent investigators to at least three places in Alabama to ask about him. The N.C.A.A. does not talk about its investigations, and the scope of this one is unknown.

The report goes on to discuss interviews with people in Bledsoe’s life that may reveal potential violations:

Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe’s high school coach [Maurice Ford] paid her at least three months’ rent, or $1,200.

A copy of Bledsoe’s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover — a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year — for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.

A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother.

Uh-oh. If the coach’s assertions are true, and Ford did indeed demand money to “let Bledsoe sign with the university,” and Bledsoe eventually signed with John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats…well, then, you can connect the dots.

Trouble just follows Calipari around. I’m starting to think that it’s partly due to the kind of player he recruits. Calipari clearly doesn’t care about academics, so sometimes shady things go on to get his recruits eligible to play. In Bledsoe’s case, his GPA shot up after enrolling at A.H. Parker High School. Of course, this comes on the heels of the NCAA vacating Memphis’s trip to the 2008 Final Four because someone else actually took Derrick Rose’s SAT test during his senior year of high school.

This is party the NBA’s fault. The league’s age-limit rule forces kids that have no business going to college to enroll for a season, and that can lead to all sorts of shenanigans in trying to get a player eligible. We’re talking about a handful of players every year, but Rose and Bledsoe fall into that category. Both players would have been NBA draftees had they turned pro straight out of high school.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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