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Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville. They are the better team.”
Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “With so many factors working in its favor, Louisville should win at this point in the season, especially with the homecourt advantage. But I’m also confident Kentucky’s talented freshmen will start to jell as a group and if that starts to happen by Saturday, the Wildcats would have a chance to win a close one.”
Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville. They’re playing much more together than Kentucky is, and a hundred times more sound defensively. The Cards have plenty of motivation this year after what happened in April, and they’re playing at home.”
Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Kentucky will win because the Cats owns the series and Cal owns Pitino.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Louisville. At home. Play better as a team. Way more experience in games like this.”
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I think the Cardinals will win the game. If UK takes care of the ball then they can take it to the wire but if they fold under the pressure then it will be a runaway win for U of L. One thing to keep an eye on, the longer UK hangs around the more the pressure builds for U of L late in the game.”
Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “I am predicting a 50-49 win for U of L. I still don’t think UK has ‘found themselves’ yet, but they are getting closer. I think it’s going to be an ugly game, and the uglier the better for U of L’s chances to finally get a win over Cal’s Cats.”
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “I think Louisville wins this year on the fact that they have a more experienced team and have a proven outfit. They have shown that they can win on the road and also at home, which also is a plus for the Cards. Kentucky hasn’t proven it can overcome a hostile environment and Louisville will be a much-tougher place to play than Notre Dame. I give the nod to Louisville, 75-64.”
And ESPN analyst Dick Vitale is also predicting a 77-70 Louisville victory.
Question: What are the chances both Kentucky and Louisville could make the Final Four again this year?
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Somewhere close to zero. I think there’s a decent chance that neither one does. Louisville has trouble scoring from time to time. I think that could ruin them come tournament time. Kentucky just doesn’t look like any kind of threat to get that good by the end of the season. I know they didn’t look like a threat two years ago at this time, but for some reason I don’t see this team making the kind of strides that team made.”
Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “There’s a good chance because both teams are talented and well-coached.”
Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “I would think Louisville’s chances are very good–veteran team with Final Four experience, likelihood of a top two seeding. This Kentucky team will likely be in a similar position to the one two years ago, where some early setbacks left them with a number four seed so they would probably have to beat two or three higher seeds to make it to Atlanta. Logically, their prospects of making three Final Fours in a row would not be as bright–but that group two years ago should have taught us not to write this team off yet.”
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has better odds, than Kentucky. The Cardinals have a chip on their shoulder after last year’s loss to Kentucky in the Final Four and wants to prove they belong among the top four teams in the nation this year. Barring a total meltdown in the Big East, the Cardinals likely will open the NCAA Tournament at Rupp Arena and have an easier road to the Georgia Dome than UK at this point. In order to improve its chances, Kentucky needs to climb back into the Top 25 and compete flawlessly in the SEC. The room for error is a small one.”
Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “It’s so tough to get there for any team. I give Louisville the better chance. They’ve got guys who have been there before. It will be much tougher for UK to get there.”
Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think U of L’s Final Four run last year was kind of a fluke. They really weren’t very good at the end of the season last year (remember the 35 blowout loss to Providence), but they got ‘hot’ at the right time and made a good run. This year there is no denying that they are pretty good. With Dieng they are a Final Four caliber team, but they don’t have that outside scoring threat this year. So I am predicting Louisville will not make the Final Four.
“I also can’t predict a Final Four for UK. There are just too many red flags here at the midway point of the season for me to think they can make a Final Four run. I think they will have a great SEC run this year because the SEC is really down, and I think UK is going to only get better and better.
“If I had to lay odds in Vegas on either team reaching the Final Four, I would say: UK 55 percent and U of L 70 percent.”
Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville has a great chance to go far in the tournament this year, barring any season-ending injuries that just seem to have happened to the Cards over the last few years. I’ll be expecting them in the Final Four. Kentucky undoubtedly has the raw talent to make it to the Final Four again, but it all depends on how Calipari continues to develop this team mentally, as well as Ryan Harrow’s continued improvement.”
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “There’s a far better chance that neither team makes it than both teams making it. Strangely, these two programs , as good as they are, are rarely title worthy at the same time. They’ve been to the final four at the same time only twice since 1975.”
Next: Who will win the game?
Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “ Louisville. They’re going to be favored and with such a big experience edge and the homecourt, they have more things working in their favor than at any other time in Cal’s time at Kentucky.”
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “If Pitino can’t beat Calipari Saturday then U of L fans will have to wonder if he ever will. Rick is 0-4 against Cal and 2-7 in the last 9 games against Kentucky. Plus, he’s not likely to win next either with the game at Rupp and Cal poised to bring in the best class ever That means the pressure is all on the Cardinals.”
Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ No doubt it’s Louisville. They’ve lost four in a row to their arch-nemesis and arch-rival. They lost two games to them last year. They lost in the Final Four to them last season. They lost two years ago at the YUM Center to UK when it was supposed to be the big ‘christening’ of their new home. It’s Pitino’s old school. It’s Pitino’s old protege. Everything about this game puts all the pressure on U of L, but the biggest reason has to be that if Pitino doesn’t win this one, he may never beat Calipari at UK. UK is going to stay at top caliber team. U of L may never have this talent level again … ever.”
Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “ Louisville.”
Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville, no doubt. They’ve lost to Cal three straight years and are supposed to be the much better team. Pitino can’t lose this game.”
Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Kentucky. Coming off a national championship and a Final Four win against Louisville, the Cats are still seen as being the top dogs and expected by UK fans to beat Louisville (always). Louisville has almost flown under the radar this year, even with their national ranking. Kentucky has much more to prove this time around, especially after they fell out of the top 25.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I’ll say Louisville, but only because everybody expects them to win. Kentucky needs this game to prove it can beat somebody good.”
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has more to lose since the Cardinals are having what has been a banner season so far. A loss would drop Louisville in the polls, while a win for Kentucky would land the Cats back into the Top 25 going into the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. Kentucky hasn’t fared well on the road this year and a victory at Louisville would give the young squad confidence going into the SEC. Louisville has lost four in a row to the Wildcats, including twice last year.”
Next: What are the chances both teams could reach the Final Four again this year?
With Louisville and Kentucky renewing their rivalry Saturday in Louisville, oddsmakers agree that this is the year Rick Pitino’s Cardinals finally beat John Calipari. Since arriving at UK, Calipari is 4-0 against Louisville, including a win in the Final Four last year when the Cats won the national championship. However, this year No. 4 Louisville is a solid favorite over unranked Kentucky, which has already lost to Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame. Three previous times in this series when Louisville was ranked this highly and UK was unranked, the Cardinals won each time.
Various media members who cover Kentucky basketball regularly shared their thoughts and insights on the game.
Question: Who will be the best player on the court for the UK-Louisville game?
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “The best player on the court will be Louisville guard Russ Smith. Ten games into the season, Smith was averaging 20.2 points per game. Containing Smith will be a key for Kentucky to have a chance to beat the Cardinals at the KFC Yum!Center.”
Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Peyton Siva will be the best player on the court, but I believe Nerlens Noel has the best potential.”
Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “Often, in this game, the star player is someone we would not have forseen — think Josh Harrellson two years ago. If Kentucky wins, I’m thinking it will be Alex Poythress. If Louisville does indeed lack its primary shot blocker, Poythress could be hard to handle in the lane, if he brings his ‘A’ game.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I don’t think there’s ever been a harder year to answer this question. Logic says Siva, but he’s always prone to one of those two-assist, six-turnover games he has occasionally. Last time we saw Alex Poythress against a big-name opponent, he was probably the best player on the court. Will that Alex come back? So I’ll go with Russ Smith.”
Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think the best player on the floor will be Nerlens Noel, especially if Giorgi Dieng doesn’t play for U of L. I think Noel just keeps getting better and better each time out. He’s already played pretty well against some other big guys this year — Plumley at Duke, Cooley at Notre Dame and Maryland’s big guy. Just as the U of L game was Josh Harrellson’s coming out party two years ago at the YUM Center, it’s going to be Noel’s turn this year to show the world why he’s considered one of the top two picks in the NBA draft this year.”
Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Archie Goodwin.”
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I’m not sure if he’ll be the best player on the floor but I think Ryan Harrow will be the most important player on the floor. Kentucky simply cannot turn the ball over. If UK takes care of the basketball, it will create scoring opportunities for the Cats and that will limit easy opportunities for the Cardinals, who struggle to put the ball in the basket.”
Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Nerlens Noel might be the most natural talent on the court, but Russ Smith has also been playing great lately and is sure to provide some matchup issues for Kentucky.”
Coming next: Which team has the most pressure on it Saturday?
By LARRY VAUGHT
WDKY-TV news anchor Jennifer Palumbo got her start as a sports reporter and remains an avid University of Kentucky football and basketball fan despite a not so pleasant incident not long after she was hired at WKYT-TV in 1995.
When Kentucky won the 1996 national championship under Rick Pitino in 1996 for its first title since 1978, Palumbo says she was the “low man” on the staff and drew the fan celebration assignemnt. She got hit on the head with a beer bottle thrown by a fan on top of a pay telephone booth.
“It kind of hurt. I leaned forward and there was blood running down my face,” said Palumbo. “Someone gave me a towel. I walked to a fire station around the corner, but there was so much chaose going on. The fire fighters said I was out of luck getting an ambulance, so I called the station and then sent someone to pick me up.
“But 99 percent of the fans are one who love Kentucky and have all those shared memories, good and bad. The reason we come back for more is we always want to be thre. Kentucky fans are the best in the country. I can say that because I was not born one. I grew up in Ohio, didn’t go to Kentucky. I married a UK graduate from Lexington, so I married into the UK family. Kentucky fans are everywhere and I really believe there are more UK fans who didn’t graduate from UK than did. We are a big group united by our passion to see the Big Blue do well. Where else do TV stations send reporters to cover fans watching games. Not a sports reporter, but a fan reporter.”
She was also the “fan reporter” when UK and quarterback Tim Couch went to the 1999 Outback Bowl.
“I’ve been to amazing football games. At the time of the Outback Bowl, I was single and no one else wanted to be gone for two weeks. I went to Florida,” Palumbo said. “I always wanted to be a sports anchor. It did not happen because I was told I was needed as a news anchor more. But I love being able to cover fans and their stories.”
Palumbo and her husband are friends with UK coach John Calipari and his wife, Ellen. If Palumbo is not working at a basketball game, she has lower arena season tickets behind the UK bench and sat with actress Ashley Judd behind the UK bench for a game at Vanderbilt last season thanks to tickets from Calipari in Nashville.
“My husband got to know coach Calipari through a mutual friend. It has been really neat to get to know him as a person,” she said. “We have never asked him for anything. In fact, we rarely talk basketball with him or Ellen.
“He is someone who gets it. He loves it here, but he loves his family that much more. You don’t see his wife much, but that’s how she wants it. She is not a coach’s wife who wants to be out there on TV. She is all about raising her children. They have two older daughters and a son in high school who is a wonderful golfer and plays basketball. They are just a wonderful family. The children do not try to capitalize on their dad being coach Calipari.”
Want an example?
“One daughter started out at UK but transferred. The final straw came when a boy came into class, pulled up shirt and had a Calipari tattoo,” Palumbo said.
She has gone to the fund-raising gala for the V Foundation put on by Dick Vitale the last two years with Calipari.
“Last year he was one of the three coaches honored after he had just lost his mom to cancer,” she said. “It was neat to be there and be part of that experience for him to pay tribute to his mom’s memory. This year was so much fun, too. There are so many great people there and so many great stories to share and tell. I love Dick Vitale and what he does and being part of that with coach Calipari has really been fun and emotional, too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
One of my favorite summer events — the Ohio UK Convention — is coming up again July 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Eastview Baptist Church located at 4289 W St Rt 122, Franklin, Ohio 45005 (take exit 32 off I-75 and turn east on St Rt 122 for about 2 miles).
Registration cost at the door is $25 or use the contact form at www.ukconvention.com to get information about pre-registering. For more personalized registration, call convention director Jim Porter at 937-746-8758.
The UK Convention is an annual get-together of UK fans to celebrate the University of Kentucky basketball and other UK teams. It is held annually on the third Saturday in July. Various guest speakers are featured who provide current information and/or historical perspectives of UK athletics.
Porter has big expectations for a capacity crowd this year, one reason to advance register to save your spot.
Those attending will be able to have a picture taken with the 2012 NCAA championship trophy because one of the guest speakers will be Chris Woolard, UK associate athletics director who works directly with UK coach John Calipari.
Kentucky assistant football coach and recruiting coordinator Chuck Smith will again be back in Franklin to discuss the upcoming football season. He’s become a fan favorite.
An intriguing guest will be Tom Clark, a retired NCAA basketball referee who worked the epic Kentucky-Duke NCAA Tournament game in 1992. I’ll be looking forward to hearing his take on the game, including Christian Laettner stepping on UK’s Aminu Timberlake and not being ejected. It should be a rare perspective on that game most UK fans will never forget.
Finally, Porter has persuaded WDKY-TV anchor Jennifer Palumbo to be part of the program this year. She covered the SEC and NCAA tournaments for WDKY and WKYT. She’s also friends with Calipari and his wife and recently attended Dick Vitale’s gala to raise money for the V Foundation. If that’s not enough, she’s an avid UK football fan as well. Palumbo will have stories to share that the UK fans will love.
If you live in the area and have never attended this convention, do so. You won’t be disappointed. I’ll be back again — and have copies of our book, Elite Eighth, on UK’s championship season — and can’t wait to interact with Palumbo, Smith, Woolard, Clark and the die-hard UK fans who come to this special day.
By LARRY VAUGHT
The recent Dick Vitale Gala again was a huge success as it raised about $1.6 million for the V Foundation for cancer research.
Jennifer Palumbo, FOX 56 (WDKY-TV) news anchor, was at the gala along with her husband Joe to cover the event that Kentucky coach John Calipari is part of.
“Recently you asked me my celebrity crush, and I said Dick Vitale. The gala is why. Seeing him crying on stage about the children suffering from cancer treatments and the families who’ve lost children is powerful. That’s why I’m such a fan of Dick Vitale,” said Palumbo. ‘Sports fans love him for his work on ESPN, but he is just as dedicated to using his fame and wealth to help others in need. You can tell he would do anything to rid the world of cancer. In our celebrity-obsessed society, Dickie V. is one who is using it the right way. ‘That’s awesome, baby!’”
Palumbo shared a few insights of her trip to Florida with Calipari to cover the event for WKDY and WKYT.
Question: What were your impressions of the Dick Vitale gala?
Palumbo: “This was the second year my husband Joe and I were invited to the Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota with coach Calipari. Last year he was one of the honorees along with North Carolina coach Roy Williams and tennis great Nick Bolletieri. We had a big group that included Vince Calipari, Josh Hopkins, Joe Craft and Rick Corman just to name a few. In his speech, Cal honored his mom who had recently died from cancer and his close friend Rick Corman who’s batting cancer. As usual, Cal gave an amazing speech.
“This year I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go. May is a big month for TV stations because it’s one of four months when ratings are measured. My boss didn’t want me to be off the air, even for one night, so he said I could go if I fed back a story for the FOX 56 Ten o’Clock News. So I worked with someone from our sister station in Tampa. Before the gala, I interviewed Dick Vitale, coach Cal and Rick Pitino. It was hectic having to work, but it was a lot of fun.
“The story aired that night on FOX 56. Then I took on the job of taking photos of Cal for his Twitter account. As he worked the crowd I snapped pics on my phone of him with everyone from gala honorees Lou Holtz and Villanova coach Jay Wright to Jacob Raleigh, the tennis player from eastern Kentucky who lost an arm to cancer.
“The gala was at the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton. It was a sold-out crowd of more than 800 people. The party raises money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research named after his friend Jimmy Valvano who lost his battle to cancer. The celebrities pay all their expenses. The V Foundation doesn’t fly people in and pay for their rooms like some charities. Donations pay for travel expenses for the families. It shows the power and popularity of Dick Vitale; he can sell out the party and then get guests to give even more.”
Question: How emotional was the event for you even though you were working?
Palumbo: “After I finished my story I was able to experience the emotions of the event. Last year we met Tatum Parker, a cancer patient from Indiana who created a charity called Tatum’s Bags of Fun. She reminded me a lot of my friend Jarrett Mynear who started Jarrett’s Joy Cart; the Jessamine County boy lost his long battle with cancer at the age of 13. Joe and I have kept in touch with Tatum and her dad and were excited to see them again. They’re also big Indiana fans who enjoy reminding us that IU beat UK this past season.
“The most emotional part of the night is when they honor the children fighting cancer and those who’ve lost the fight. To see parents on stage and hear about their loss is heartbreaking. It was also special to have the Kentucky connection with Jacob Raleigh and thinking of all the Kentucky children with cancer and the ones we’ve lost.
“Sharing the stories on stage is how they are able to show the crowd why it is so important to give back. Dick Vitale said someone went up to him and said they were so moved they wanted to give $500,000.”
Question: How did Caipari handle the event?
Palumbo: “Coach Cal was in his element at the party. Since I was responsible for taking photos of him, I had to keep up with him as he interacted with the coaches, players and families touched by cancer. The funniest moment for me came from ESPN’s John Saunders, who was the emcee. He was talking about his daughter going to college, and he took a jab at our coach and the number of players he’s had leave after one season for the NBA.
“Here’s the tweet I sent out about it : ESPN’s John Saunders: I would’ve sent my daughter to Kentucky but she’d only have been there a year. Cal: She’d be a millionaire! Saunders repeated Cal’s comeback to the crowd, and they loved it. He definitely knows how to work a crowd.
Question: What was it like for you to see the story of Jacob Raleigh, a tennis player who showed so much courage after losing his arm to cancer?
Palumbo: ”The gala raises money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Each year they honor children fighting cancer. Last year I mentioned to Dick the story of Jacob Raleigh who plays tennis despite having lost an arm to cancer. I said I thought Jacob would be a great young person to honor because he has overcome so many odds and still plays the game he loves. Dick asked me to send him more information, and I did. It was an honor to meet Jacob and his parents at the gala.”
Question: What will be the one memory you will bring back from this that stays with you for a long time?
Palumbo: “The memory that will stay with me most had to do with coach Cal. He had all these coaches and athletes wanting to talk to him and get their photos. But the one person he really wanted to meet was Jacob Raleigh. So I was on a mission to make it happen. I took Cal to Jacob and his parents, and they were thrilled. Jacob told us his dream was to play at UK. Of all the friends and fans Cal had in that room, he was determined to find the boy from Kentucky in the fight of his life.”
Follow Palumbo at facebook.com/jnimepalumbo twitter.com/JPalumboFOX56.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Jennifer Palumbo is a WDKY-TV (Fox 56) news anchor, but sheâ€™s also a huge sports fan, especially when it comes to the University of Kentucky.Â She goes to many UKâ€ˆgames with her husband,â€ˆJoe (a UK graduate), as a fan and often at tournament time covers the Kentucky fan angle for the Lexington TV station.
Palumbo was at Saturdayâ€™s game in Nashville with her husband sitting on the first row behind the Kentucky bench and next to actress Ashley Judd and admits it was her best UK experience ever.
â€œWhen you consider how fantastic that game was, my answer has to be no.Â We have great seats in Rupp Arena, but I had never sat right behind the bench.Â Joe and I are friends with John and Ellen, and he was so kind to give those great seats for the game,” Palumbo said. “It wasÂ incredible to be that close to the action, under the basket where we could see the players and even hear what coach Cal was saying to the team.Â I have lived in Kentucky for two national championships but wasn’t at either of the wins.Â I’m sure if I get to witness national championship number eight, it will replace the 2012 Vandy experience at the top of my list.
â€œJoe and I went to Newark last year for the NCAA Tournament. All the â€˜expertsâ€™ said Kentucky couldn’t beat Ohio State, and then they said we couldn’t beat North Carolina. Of course, we thought it could happen but figured if UK lost, we still got a great getaway to NYC. We were there for both wins and said it was the greatest UK road wins we had every experienced. But it didn’t have the atmosphere of Memorial Gym. We were completely outnumbered by Vandy fans, yet I could still hear â€˜Go Big Bluâ€™” chants. If you add in the amazing game, UK at Vandy 2012 is now at the top of my list.â€
I wondered if sitting by Judd, another die-hard UK fan, or perhaps getting to see ESPN’s Erin Andrews was the bigger thrill. Palumbo had a different take.
â€œActually my biggest thrill was getting to be at the game with Joe. I knew how tough it would be to get tickets. We are blessed to be friends with John and Ellen, and I asked for the tickets to take Joe for his birthday. What a birthday present!” Palumbo said.
“I met Erin at coach Cal’s women’s clinic in 2010 when we emceed it together. I also got to see her again when he was honored by the V Foundation for Cancer Research in Sarasota last May. I didn’t even get to say hi to her in Nashville because she was working. We met Dick Vitale in Sarasota as well. You may laugh, but he is actually my celebrity crush. I love his passion for sports and for making a difference. Some in the media seem to enjoy trying to knock down Kentucky and John Calipari, but â€˜Dickie Vâ€™ doesn’t. He understands who John Calipari is and how much he loves the players and the program.
â€œI was really excited to sit by Ashley Judd at the Vandy game because I love how much she enjoys the games. I’ll never understand fans who go to games and never stand up and cheer. If I made a fool of myself on national TV, so be it. I had a blast at the game and wouldn’t trade that game experience for anything! I love that we did high-fives and talked about the game. My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture with her.”
No picture? Why not?
“I am superstitious and don’t like to take photos until the game is over and UK has won. I took one of my husband and her but said I wouldn’t ask her for one until the game had ended. When it did, I asked her for a photo. She was moving fast toward the exit, and she said she would do it if I walked with her,” Palumbo said.
Now comes the part any true UK fan, including Judd, has to love.
â€œIn that split second I decided I would rather stay with the fans and watch the team celebrate the big win. I didn’t want the fun to end even if it meant I didn’t get a photo with Ashley,” Palumbo said. “So if anyone finds a good photo of Ashley and me cheering, please let me know. But it was worth it to see the players and coach Cal enjoying their memorable moment in Memorial! At least I did get my photo taken with Dickie V.â€
* * *
You can follow her on Twitter at @JPalumboFOX56. There will be more with Palumbo Tuesday that you won’t want to miss, either, as it will give you a chance to get to know a lot more about the p0pular news anchor.