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NPR on Derby Favorites

NPR’s piece on bourbon balls is getting a lot of attention on Derby day, but there has also been news about the actual horse race on public radio.

Yesterday, Melissa Block talked with the Courier-Journal’s Jennie Rees about the Derby field, Rees’s favorites and women in horse racing.

“With just the sixth female jockey ever and two female trainers, Saturday’s 137th running of the Kentucky Derby is taking on something of a “year of the women” theme,” says Block.

Locally, you can listen to WFPL’s discussion on handicapping this year’s Derby, get a quick update on the race or check road closings and weather at the last minute. We’ll also cover today’s race online and on air.

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Local News

Kentucky’s Knight, Jones, Liggins Declare for NBA Draft

University of Kentucky players Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins have declared for the 2011 NBA Draft.  The school announced the players’ decisions Wednesday morning.

Freshmen Knight and Jones are projected first-round draft picks. However, none of the three will sign with an agent, so they may return to the school if they withdraw before the May 8 deadline.

Terrence Jones was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, while Knight was named the NCAA Tournament East Regional Most Outstanding Player.  DeAndre Liggins, a junior, struggled early in his college career but finished this season as Kentucky’s most important defender.

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Bellarmine Celebrates First National Championship

Fans and students celebrated the Bellarmine University men’s basketball team Tuesday night, for winning the NCAA Division II national championship last weekend.

The championship is the school’s first. In a ceremony on campus, Mayor Greg Fischer presented the players with a plaque recognizing each of them as distinguished citizens.

The theme for the night was trust. The word was the team’s mantra throughout the season. What was said most Tuesday night, however, was thank you. The coach and the team thanked the city and fans for their support.

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Local News

Bellarmine Men’s Basketball Team Arrives Home

The Bellarmine University Men’s Basketball Team arrived home Sunday morning after winning the NCAA Division II National Championship Saturday.

A crowd of supporters gathered on campus in 30 degree weather and chanted “We are BU” as the players emerged from their bus holding the championship trophy.

Mayor Greg Fischer was on hand to commend the team. “We won a basketball game yesterday,” he said “but we learned a little bit about the game of life yesterday as well. I got to tell you, this team, this coach it represents everything good about our city and about our country.”

Then, senior and Louisville native Forrest Smallwood addressed the crowd.

“This is a very special group of young men, very humble, and it couldn’t have happened to a better group,” he said “But it took everybody and as you can see, this is very special and this doesn’t happen to too many people and it takes everybody, it takes the whole BU community and this is one for Knights Nation.”

A city-wide celebration will be held Tuesday for the team. Mayor Fischer says the details are still being worked out for the event but it will end with a gathering at Knights hall at 7:30 PM.

When the team arrived, there was a parking ticket on Coach Scott Davenport’s car.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer honors Bellarmine Knights

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer proclaimed Saturday, March 26 to be “Scarlet and Silver Day” in honor Bellarmine Knights men’s basketball team, which will compete for the NCAA Division II championship in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Coached by Scott Davenport, the Knights advanced to the title game with an 81-74 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato on Thursday.

“We are very proud of Coach Davenport’s team, what they’ve accomplished and how they will represent our city in this national championship game,” Fischer said in a news release. “The Knights play hard, with a lot of teamwork and are a true hometown team, with six players from Louisville and others from around the region.”

The Knights will play BYU-Hawaii for the national championship Saturday at 1:00pm

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Local News

Louisville’s Soccer Market Growing

The owners of Louisville’s professional indoor soccer team are hoping to bring an outdoor team to the city.

Louisville Lightning co-owner Ted Nichols says attendance at games has been high, and it’s a sign that soccer has potential in Louisville. U of L was last year’s national runner-up in men’s soccer, and more than 40,000 people attended a 2004 women’s national team game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Nichols says the next step is to establish an outdoor team in the United Soccer League. USL is a tier below Major League Soccer, but Nichols says it’s an early step toward attracting a major league team.

“We absolutely have a motivation and desire and a passion to bring professional outdoor soccer to the city of Louisville, not only for the fans,” he says “but quite frankly we are producing some high level talent amongst the men and women in the city of Louisville.”

MLS vice president Dan Courtemanche says Louisville is not in the running for a new team soon, but could support a team in the future.

“So Louisville could certainly support, at least on an event basis, you know soccer at a high level,” says Courtemanche “so clearly we would have to conduct more research on the market, but at least on the surface it would be one that could be under consideration for sometime beyond that 20th team.”

MLS is currently expanding to 20 teams with additions Montreal in 2012 and possibly New York City shortly after that. Courtemanche says Louisville is comparable to Salt Lake City, which has a successful MLS franchise.

Nichols’ partner Wayne Estopinal recently invested in Orlando City, a USL team in Orlando, Florida.

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Local News Politics

Political Bracketology

Adept NCAA brackets can win you money in an office pool, respect among your friends or…political capital. At least, that’s the thoughts of some observers.

Last year, the candidates for U.S. Senate sniped at each other over their bracket choices. And this year, there’s no shortage of coverage of President Barack Obama’s NCAA picks. Some outlets have questioned the President’s choices (too safe–he has the number one seeds in the final four). Others have dug for political meaning (where does he rank schools from 2012 battleground states?). And other outlets have said there’s too much happening in the world for the President to bother with college basketball (we could say the same about some news outlets).

The best coverage, though, comes from the Awl, which parses Mr. Obama’s choices on politics and stats, then compares his picks to the national averages.

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Local News

Bellarmine Basketball Headed To First NCAA Elite 8

For the first time ever, the Bellarmine University Men’s Basketball team is headed to the elite 8 of the NCAA Division II championship.

The Knights defeated Ferris State Tuesday night in the Midwest regional final to advance. Knights Hall was sold out with a crowd of 2,400.

The team fell short of making the elite 8 in 2009. They lost in the regional final in a controversial ending when a tying 3 point shot was waved off and changed to a 2 pointer.

The Knights finished the regular season ranked 2nd in the nation among Division II schools. They will play in the Elite 8 on Wednesday, March 23 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Pitino Says Team Is Healthy Heading Into Cincinnati Game

Several University of Louisville men’s basketball players have recovered from injuries, and the team hits the road Wednesday to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats.

The Cardinals have been plagued with injuries since the beginning of the season, with ten players missing games. Coach Rick Pitino says the team is as healthy as it has been all season.

“I really don’t have any worries about this basketball team now that we’re healthy. I was worried about the injuries going into each game because they were so abrupt you know it wasn’t planned for, but now that we’re healthy I don’t have any worries about this basketball team,” says Pitino.

Sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles returned to action last weekend for the first time in six weeks after breaking his finger.

The Cardinals are ranked 16th. Tip-off is 7 pm Wednesday.

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Strong Says He’s Committed To U Of L, Looks Toward Bowl Game

by Graham Shelby

University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong addressed the media yesterday for the first time since the Cardinals received a bowl bid following their season-ending win at Rutgers. Strong talked about his future and the nature of his commitment to U of L.

The key phrase is one and done. It’s one of the most widely used expressions in college sports today. “One and done” usually refers to players who leave school for the pros after their freshman year. But it can also refer to coaches.

Recently, there’s been speculation in the press that University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong could be going one and done.

The first-year coach was mentioned as a potential candidate for head coaching jobs at Miami and Florida. Strong has impressed the college football world by leading the Cardinals to six wins and their first bowl bid since 2007.

But in a press conference, Strong said he’s not done at U of L.

“I don’t see myself walking out on this program in one year,” he said. “I have a really good job here. I have a coaching staff, we’re totally committed to building this program.”

Strong said he’s focused on getting the Cardinals ready to play Southern Mississippi in the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl next Tuesday.