A couple of Knicks have a unique motive this week for going wild for the Cats throughout this 12 months’s March Insanity.

Obi Toppin’s youthful brother, Jacob, is a 6-foot-9 senior and beginning ahead on the present Kentucky squad. He got here off the bench one 12 months in the past, when John Calipari’s second-seeded group shockingly was bounced within the Spherical of 64 by No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s to begin the Peacocks’ charming Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.

Kentucky, the No. 6 seed within the East Area this 12 months, will face No. 11 Windfall on Friday in Greensboro, N.C. If the Wildcats advance to the Candy 16, they’d play at Madison Sq. Backyard on March 23, although the Knicks play that evening in Orlando.

The Knicks have an off evening at dwelling on Sunday, March 25, nevertheless, in the course of the Elite Eight.

“It’s actually cool. They need to have received the SEC event, however I blame Fast for that one,” Toppin mentioned jokingly to Sports activities+ after Tuesday’s win in Portland, referring to teammate Immanuel Quickley. “I’ve a sense they’re gonna do very well.

After three years of enjoying off the bench, Jacob Toppin is averaging 12.5 factors and 6.9 rebounds as a starter for Kentucky this season.
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“I really feel like Cal [Kentucky coach John Calipari] is making ready these guys — and with slightly further time to organize due to the loss [to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament]. It’s time for them to step up and win this 12 months. And for positive, they might play within the Backyard, proper? So that they gotta be on the Candy 16. However one sport at a time and simply play with confidence.”

The Knicks group resembled Kentucky’s Northeast satellite tv for pc campus a couple of years in the past for boasting a number of former UK gamers — Quickley, Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox amongst them — in addition to assistant coach Kenny Payne, who now runs the Louisville program, and longtime Calipari confidante William “World Broad Wes” Wesley within the entrance workplace.

The 22-year-old Jacob Toppin, who performed one season at Rhode Island earlier than transferring to Lexington in 2020, ranks second on the Wildcats (21-11) in rebounding (6.9 per sport) and third in factors (12.5), assists (2.2)  and minutes performed (31.5) over 31 appearances. Senior huge man Oscar Tshiebwe leads the group with 16.5 factors and 13.1 boards per sport.

“I in all probability speak to Jacob greater than Obi does,” Quickley mentioned. “I speak to Jacob from time to time, early within the season when he was going by slightly tough patch, I FaceTimed him, talked to him slightly bit.

Obi Toppin #1 and Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks point during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden on October 21, 2022 in New York City.
Although Obi Toppin has an apparent motive to observe his brother’s NCAA journey, Immanuel Quickley, who performed at Kentucky for 2 seasons earlier than being drafted by the Knicks, thinks he might maintain even nearer tabs on Toppin’s brother.
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“However I do know Coach Cal completely could have these guys prepared.”

You’d actually suppose so, particularly on the heels of final 12 months’s large upset loss.

“I don’t know in the event that they’ll be caught off guard, all you are able to do within the event is go on the market with confidence,” Quickley added. “That’s the secret, go on the market with confidence and depart all of it on the market.”

Obi Toppin missed out on the March Insanity expertise with Dayton in 2020 when the event was canceled as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. He was the collegiate participant of the 12 months that season, and the 29-2 Flyers possible would have been a No. 1 seed.

“It was robust again then, however we’re sooner or later now,” Toppin added. “Now I’ve received to observe my brother win it with Large Blue.”

No-go for ’Nova

Villanova's Mark Armstrong (2) sits on the bench as the clock runs out in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game during the quarterfinals of the Big East conference tournament, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in New York.
A season that noticed Villanova miss the NCAA Match for under the second time in 18 seasons ended rapidly with a loss to Liberty within the NIT.

There is also a determined Villanova Wildcats faction within the Knicks’ locker room with Josh Hart becoming a member of former NCAA championship teammate Jalen Brunson following a deadline take care of Portland. (Ryan Arcidiacono, part of the bundle the Knicks despatched to the Blazers for Hart, is also a ‘Nova alum).

These Wildcats endured a tough rebuilding 12 months within the first season after Corridor of Fame coach Jay Wright retired, ending 17-17 and lacking the Large Dance for under the second time in 18 seasons, not counting the scrapped 2020 event.

“Yeah, canine, I don’t know what the hell to do now,” Hart informed Sports activities+ after Tuesday’s sport. “Not within the event after which we simply misplaced to Liberty [Tuesday night in the NIT]. I’m simply sitting right here ready for subsequent 12 months, man. I’m not even doing a bracket. I ain’t doing nothing.”

Hart mentioned a tough first 12 months below new head coach Kyle Neptune was “disappointing,” however he famous that even Wright’s first three Villanova groups posted a mixed 52-46 report and didn’t attain the NCAAs till the fourth 12 months after he was employed away from Hofstra in 2001.

Former Villanova Wildcats player Josh Hart of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with head coach Jay Wright, Jalen Brunson #1 and Phil Booth #5 after defeating the Michigan Wolverines during the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. Villanova defeated Michigan 79-62.
Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson helped Jay Wright win, and have a good time, his first nationwide crown in 2016.
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“I feel you’re by no means going to be good yearly. You gotta notice the whole lot wasn’t sunshine and flowers with Jerold over there his first a number of years at Nova, both,” Hart mentioned, utilizing Wright’s given first identify. “So typically it takes slightly bit to get used to a brand new job. I feel they should proceed to play good basketball and clearly form of construct on the final three weeks. However the whole lot isn’t all the time sunshine, you already know what I imply? However there will probably be extra success there, I’m assured in that.”

Postcards from the highway

Tying up a couple of free ends from a wet week out west:

• Brunson was not made obtainable to the media all through the four-game West Coast journey. He performed the primary two quarters within the opener in Sacramento after which sat out the ultimate three video games attributable to a bruised left foot that required a protecting strolling boot.

The Knicks traveled Wednesday and received’t maintain apply on Thursday, so we’ll see whether or not the three extra days off earlier than Saturday’s sport in opposition to the Nuggets can speed up his return.

• With wins over the Lakers and the Blazers — after losses to the Kings and the Clippers — the Knicks improved their highway report for the season to 22-14, which is tied for probably the most highway wins within the league. It additionally marks their first profitable report away from MSG since 2012-13 — after they completed 23-18 — and simply their second over the previous 26 seasons.

RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks in action during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on March 14, 2023 in Portland, Oregon. The New York Knicks won 123-107.
With a 2-2 highway journey out west, RJ Barrett and the Knicks secured the franchise’s greatest highway report in a decade.
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• At one level on Sunday at Crypto.com Enviornment, I used to be standing behind the Lakers’ model of Celeb Row after I observed Spike Lee inside arm’s attain. I didn’t notice instantly, nevertheless, that Denzel Washington additionally was standing proper subsequent to him. It was the evening of the Oscars a couple of miles away, but they had been courtside collectively at Knicks-Lakers as an alternative.

“Keep in mind the Titans” is amongst my favourite all-time sports activities movies, by the way in which, even when we didn’t see any “Sunshine” throughout our complete weeklong keep out west.

The day past, one movie star seated close by who stopped by to say hi there to the New York scribes in the course of the sport in opposition to the Clippers was Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame. He additionally informed me The Put up is his “favourite sports activities part,” so now we have that going for us.