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Sutton Brings New Excitement To Big Blue
Now, let's see. Just where do we start?
You've got the electricity, which surrounds Eddie Sutton's arrival on the University of Kentucky campus You've got the excitement about the return of the SEC postseason basketball tourney to Rupp Arena next March. You've got the thrill of a sparkling, on-campus multi-million dollar sports medicine clinic project in the making and you've got All-Amer ican Kenny Walker confirming he will return to UK for his senior year.
That's the good news. The bad?
Well, for starters it will be the absence of Kentucky football and basketball over the airwaves of 50,000-watt clear channel WHAS Radio in Louisville.
Then there seems to be a controver sy brewing concerning just how many tickets should be allotted to UK basketball and football coaches in the future.
In the good or bad news category which is yet to be seen is the on-going recruiting efforts of high school basketball stars Kenny Payne of Mississippi, Tommy Lewis of California, Tony Kimbro of Louisville and Lance Blanks of Houston, Texas.
Early reaction to Sutton's selection as successor to Joe B. Hall has been practically unanimous in support of the man who made Arkansas a big-time basketball name.
Media and fans throughout the state have awarded UK administrators an A plus for naming Sutton to guide Kenny Walker and Company next season. There are more than a few who believe Sutton can be the ingredient to take the Wildcats to a Final Four as early as next season.
Perhaps that's being a little too unrealistic, but Sutton's predecessor (ole Joe B.) learned to accept that kind of expectations long ago.
Still, there are those who feel that with an extra year of maturity and with four starters returning, UK will win at least two more games in the NCAA tourney in 1986 than the Cats did this March.
Without question, Sutton will bring a new wave of enthusiasm and excitement to the program. Joe B. did his thing with the Big Blue, but there were always those UK followers who felt Hall wasn't "loose" enough, wasn't "in" enough with today's young people to get the most out of UK's talent. Whether that philosophy is true is not yet known.
Sutton will certainly generate a new-type atmosphere around the Wildcat camp. What may not be
different is the style of basketball which will be displayed by Sutton's future teams. As Eddie says, it's wins which are important.
You will see a Kentucky team which will apply more defensive pressure out front from the guards and if the guards are successful in swiping a few erratic passes, you'll see some fast-breaking early offense.
Otherwise, you probably won't notice a great deal of difference in Sutton teams and past Hall teams. Both played a solid, half-court offense, usually looking for the high percentage shots and often pushing the ball to the middle for the big men.
Sutton does have a tendency to involve his guards more in the offense than Hall in the past. Likewise, Hall tended to rely more on forwards for offense than Sutton's teams.
Neither coach will be mistaken for a Jerry Tarkanian or runnin'-gunnin' high-scoring machine. There are some wbo may be shocked to learn that neither Kentucky nor Arkansas averaged 70 points per game over the past five seasons.
During that period, Kentucky scored 10,700 points in 154 games for a per game average of 69.4 points. At the same time, Arkansas scored 10,862 points in 158 games for a 68.7 points per game average. Kentucky's record over the period was 114-40 while Arkansas under Sutton was 120-38.
Arkansas made it to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA twice during the past five years while UK made the "Sweet 16" three times, including the final eight in 1983 and the Final Four last season. The bottom line is talent.
Some interesting facts, to say the least.
During his first two press conferences since his arrival in the Bluegrass, Sutton has emphasized his first crop of recruits could range anywhere from so-so to very good.
Sutton noted that one of his finest groups, perhaps his best, at Arkansas was his first year headed by Marvin Delph and Ron Brewer.
Kentucky's success this spring could be public knowledge by the time you read this, then again, it could be a few weeks. Florida's Irving Thomas is already in the fold.
Sutton and assistant Leonard Hamilton were out beating the bushes last week and indications are that the two had an extremely good visit with Mississippi superstar Kenny Payne. He's one of the top forwards still remaining uncommitted in the country-
And don't count out Tony Kimbro yet. Reports out of Louisville have the state's Mr. Basketball practically locked, sealed and delivered to the Cardinals, but he still has a couple visits left. If Kimbro should decide to wait a couple weeks, anything could happen.
Word has it Kimbro has taken a more serious look at the Wildcats since Sutton's arrival.
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A few weeks ago I said, in so many words, that it would be a long, long
Cliff Presents Joe Fishing Gear
time before the post season SEC Basketball Tournament would return to Rupp Arena in Lexington. Wrong againl
The SEC site selection committee last week announced the 1986 tourney will be played at Rupp because the 25,000-seat University of Tennessee arena won't be ready. The committee also voted to play its 1987 tourney in Knoxville.
But the real news coming out of Birmingham is the general feeling the tourney just may have played its last act in that city. Our sources say the SEC schools now believe the best place to host the tourney is at campus sites where there are sufficient facilities and seating capacity.
One source told us the change in philosophy had nothing to do with the less than capacity crowd which watched state rivals Auburn and Alabama battle it out in the championship game last month.
Nevertheless, it's apparent SEC athletics directors are taking a second look at the tournament revenue. When the big bucks were rolling in from television the last few years, those same people weren't concerned about the tourney receipts. With the television bucks now fading fast, SEC officials are being forced to seek new avenues of money.
In Lexington and Knoxville the next two years, it's a safe bet that each tourney will provide more money than Birmingham.
With that said, now it's time for the Lexington community and UK's fans to put up or shut up. In other words, fill up Rupp Arena for the 1986 tourney! With All-American Kenny Walker returning for his final shot and Eddie Sutton in his first campaign at the helm, Wildcat fans should close the ticket office down early.
As we've said before, there is an obligation of the host city and university to make every effort possible to promote and sell out the event. Lexington is no different than Binning ham and if Lexington can do no better than - Birmingham, then the tourney should be taken someplace else.
Perhaps the biggest sports news around the University of Kentucky didn't even make the sports pages in many newspapers.
What has so many UK coaches excited right now is the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees' -approval to implement plans to build and operate a sports-medicine program at UK which would involve education,
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