BOZICH | Bigger hurdle for Hampton Pirates: Kentucky or I-71 rus - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Bigger hurdle for Hampton Pirates: Kentucky or I-71 rush hour traffic?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Kentucky basketball team is booked at the landmark, four-star Seelbach Hotel during its visit for the 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament, a five-minute trip from the KFC Yum! Center.

The Wildcats earned those luxurious accommodations by playing the best basketball in America this winter.

The Hampton University Pirates, UK's opponent Thursday night, are bunked at the Hilton Garden Inn, on Brownsboro Road, near the Gene Snyder Expressway.

The Pirates earned their rooms and meal money by defeating Manhattan Tuesday night in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio.

I noticed several yawns when the Hampton players entered the arena late Wednesday afternoon. The Pirates did not cross the Jefferson County line until 2 a.m. Wednesday, riding a bus from southwestern Ohio.

Then, after a late afternoon practice at Kentucky Country Day, Hampton endured another 75-minute rush-hour bus ride downtown. They were trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-71.

Welcome to Louisville, guys.

Kentucky is favored by 34 ½ points, a substantial increase from the opening Vegas line of 31. The Wildcats have already won the media battle, 132-6.

At least 132 media members have been credentialed to note every syllable that John Calipari's UK basketball team utters.

A half-dozen folks are covering the Pirates, including the team's radio announcers.

Kentucky has produced a glossy, thick, post-season media guide that outlines the achievements of this team and history of the UK program.

Hampton has seven black-and-white pages of media notes that indicate the Pirates do not have a starter taller than 6 foot 8 and that they lost 17 of their first 29 games.

At the top of their own notes, the Pirates' record is listed at 16-17, although they actually won their 17th game Tuesday night.

If you need one more note that captures the inevitable one-sided nature of this game, this one works:

Calipari was asked 10 questions during his media session Wednesday afternoon. Not one was about Hampton.

He was asked about the 1991 UNLV team, Larry Brown, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks and LeBron James. But not Hampton.

Of course, his players were asked about their opening opponent. In fact, the first question posed to UK freshman point guard Tyler Ulis was about his impressions of Hampton after the Pirates' Tuesday night victory.

“We actually have not watched them yet,” Ulis said.

A questioner from ESPN asked UK freshman Trey Lyles if he could name any Hampton players.

Lyles could not. (Neither could I.)

Question two for Lyles was to name the Pirates' conference affiliation.

Lyles could not. (MEAC, Trey, but I've covered the NCAA Tournament since 1975.)

Question three was to identify the state where the Hampton campus (enrollment 4,768) is located?

“Virginia,” Lyles said. (He nailed that one, and the questioner moved on to the next Kentucky player).

Here is the rest of the story: I asked Brian Darden, one of Hampton's starting guards similar questions about Kentucky.

How many of the Wildcats' 34 victories have you watched?

“I watched one or two of their games,” Darden said.

Your impressions?

“They're just like us, just any other team in the country,” Darden said. “Everybody puts on the same jerseys, just different colors, different names.”

Some people are arguing the Wildcats are unbeatable.

“They're not unbeatable,” Darden said.


“I wouldn't say that,” Darden said. “No, sir.”

They've got five first-round NBA Draft picks, three seven-footers.

“That's good,” Darden said. “That's good. We're just ready to play. We're anxious.”

Do you know what conference Kentucky won?

“SEC,” he said.

How many Kentucky players can you name?

“None, probably,” Darden said. “I don't really know everybody's name like that. “

Not one Wildcat?

“The Harrison twins,” Darden said. “I don't know their first names though. I just played against them in AAU.”

Karl-Anthony Towns? Might be the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft?

“Towns?” Darden asked. “No, I don't.”

Willie Cauley-Stein? He's a finalist for the Wooden Award, which goes to the best player in America.

“I know his last name,” Darden said. “I don't know his first name.”

Should be an interesting night – if the Pirates don't get stuck in I-71 traffic again.

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