LAS VEGAS – College basketball’s all-time winningest program hits the Las Vegas Strip for two games this week tipping off on Wednesday night when Kentucky faces Utah. The No. 6-ranked Wildcats come travel west for the first time in three years boasting an 8-1 record and will face a Utes team (8-2) that owns wins over Minnesota and rival BYU. The game, benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer and presented by UK HealthCare, tips at 8 p.m. PT on Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
“We’ve got two hard games in Vegas – both of them,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari during Tuesday’s media availability in Lexington ahead of the Cats’ games vs. Utah and Ohio State on Saturday. “We could lose both and go home at Christmas and it not be a very good Christmas, but you almost have to surrender to that so we can just play. So, I surrender to it. That could happen to us. I walk into every game and say the same thing. Whatever happens, I’ll deal with. Win or lose, I’ll deal with whatever happens so that I can just coach the game.”
Kentucky and Utah have a long history in the sport, dating back to the 1944 NIT. Between 1993 and 2005, the teams met in the NCAA Tournament six times, with Kentucky winning all six games. In 1998, the “Comeback Cats” rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the Utes in the NCAA Championship game. Last year, UK beat Utah 88-61 at Rupp Arena.
The event benefits Coaches vs. Cancer, an initiative spearheaded by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (www.nabc.com) and the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). In addition to the game, Coaches vs. Cancer will be a beneficiary of GolfBlue on Friday, Dec. 20 at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. The famed course, which played host to “The Match” between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson a year ago, will be provide a challenge for golfers traveling in from the Bluegrass and local sponsors. Foursomes and individual playing positions are still available with information on www.bbnvegas.com or by emailing email@example.com.
Tickets can be purchased at AXS.com, t-mobilearena.com or by calling 888-9AXS-TIX. For complete information, visit www.neonhoopsvegas.com or on social media at @NeonHoopsLV. Kentucky fans can also visit www.bbnvegas.com or follow @BBNLasVegas for full info on the week’s events.
MEDIA: KENTUCKY OPEN PRACTICE
Kentucky will be opening up its practice today, Dec. 17, 2019, to media. Practice is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Coronado High School and is expected to go at least an hour. Practice may be delayed based on the team’s travel from Lexington.
Media attending the practice need to check-in with UK’s Eric Lindsey or Deb Moore upon arrival. There are no in-practice restrictions. Media are free to capture B-roll, pictures, etc. At this time, there are no plans for media interviews afterwards.
JOHN CALIPARI ON FORMER UTAH COACH RICK MAJERUS
John Calipari’s remarks on the late Rick Majerus:
“Well. I knew him well. I went out and spent some time with him when he was out in Utah. We had the NBA lockout and I ended up drafting one of his guys, Keith Van Horn, and I saw him in that practice and fell in love with him there and ended up drafting him. He had a heck of a year for me. Shoot, I can remember we went through LA and played the Lakers and he got 38 against the Lakers. But I went out and spent time with him – and a basketball genius and one of the biggest-hearted people you’d ever meet. Let me just tell you. I know for a fact when guys got fired in our profession, if he knew you, he’d send you a check. Like, ‘You probably need this right now.’ Like, $5,000. I’m not talking about 100 bucks. Like, if he knew, no one else knew. The only reason I know it is because two of the guys told me. Like, ‘He’s the best. Do you know what he did for me?’ He didn’t do it for any reason other than, ‘You know what? I’ve been in this. This is a tough business and if I can help you, I will.’ So, my respect for him and the guys that worked for him. Del Harris who was with him in Milwaukee with the Bucks would tell you he’s one of the best human beings ever. I’ll say it again: a basketball genius. It’s all he did was basketball. I like watching the Alaska shows and I don’t sleep in my office. This guy was basketball. He was like Kentucky Fried Chicken. We do chicken. There are no hamburgers here. Nothing. We do chicken. That’s kind of what he was.”
Representatives from all 30 NBA franchises are flocking to Las Vegas this week. Organizers for the Kentucky-Utah game have tallied 60 NBA scouts who will be in attendance at the game on Wednesday. “I have managed a lot of basketball games in my career, which now spans across three decades. I’ve never seen much more than a couple of dozen at an event,” said Brooks Downing, bdG Sports, LLC CEO.
BILL WALTON, DAVE PASCH ON THE CALL
Hall of Famer Bill Walton and Dave Pasch will call the game on ESPN2. Walton, a two-time NCAA Champion and two-time NBA Champion, has become widely recognized for his colorful commentary during west coast games on ESPN and Pac-12 Networks.