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February 8th, 2016

Ranking UK’s 8 Remaining Games from Easiest to Hardest


Believe it or not, there are only eight games left in the regular season. Kentucky is currently 17-6 overall and 7-3 in conference play, which is good enough for a 4-seed in the SEC Tournament; however, there’s a LOT of basketball still to play, and with trips to South Carolina and Texas A&M on the horizon, the Cats are still in control of their own destiny.

With that in mind, I spent the day ranking the last eight games in terms of difficulty. In addition to my own gut feelings and analysis, I factored in the Sagarin ratings for probability. Without getting too geeky, that means taking each team’s current Sagarin rating (Kentucky’s is 87.28, 21st in the country) and comparing it to their upcoming opponents using the “home edge” variable. Sometimes, I agreed with Sagarain’s predictions, other times I didn’t.

Here’s the rest of Kentucky’s schedule, ranked easiest to hardest…


7 p.m., Rupp Arena, ESPN/ESPNU/SEC Network

Kentucky handled Alabama easily in Tuscaloosa, and, although Avery Johnson’s squad rebounded from that loss with a win over South Carolina, they’ve lost four of their last seven. We’ll know more about the Crimson Tide after they host Texas A&M on Wednesday, but for now, I feel very confident about Kentucky’s chances against them in Rupp.

Sagarin says… KENTUCKY by 13 points


7 p.m., Rupp Arena, ESPN

Yes, Tennessee beat Kentucky less than a week ago, but as we’ve discussed ad nauseam, the Cats’ collapse was due more to their own demons than the Volunteers’ strong play. No offense to Rick Barnes’ group, but before said collapse, Kentucky was up 21 points, and after seeing UK dismantle Florida, I’m willing to allow myself to believe the loss in Knoxville was just a fluke. Not only is the rematch in Rupp, something tells me the Cats will be out to avenge their most humiliating loss of the season.

Sagarin says… KENTUCKY by 13 points


9 p.m., Rupp Arena, ESPN

Georgia beat South Carolina, but they also lost to Texas A&M by 34 points. At home. Yikes. Mark Fox’s team is led by veteran guards JJ Frazier and Kenny Gaines and they’ll use a zone against the Cats, but Kentucky’s guards are pretty decent themselves. With Isaac Humphries expected to play more, I have a feeling UK will build on a big win over Florida tomorrow night.

Sagarin says… KENTUCKY by 10 points


7 p.m., O’Connell Center, ESPN

Here’s where I start to disagree with the Sagarin ratings, which say Florida will win this game by two. While I’ve witnessed first-hand that the O-Dome is nuts, it’s hard to look past Kentucky’s 19-point shellacking of the Gators in Rupp. Yes, Kentucky is notoriously terrible on the road, but, as we saw on Saturday, the matchups are in the Cats’ favor. In my mind, it really is a toss-up as to which game is tougher between this and LSU.

Sagarin says… FLORIDA by 2 points


2 p.m., Rupp Arena, CBS

The Cats fell hard in Baton Rouge, and even then, Ben Simmons only scored 14 points. Since then, LSU’s lost at Florida, at Texas A&M, and to Oklahoma after leading the #1 Sooners by as many as 14 points. If this game was in Baton Rouge, I’d give the Tigers the nod again, but in the friendly confines of Rupp on Alex Poythress’ Senior Day, I have to go with the Cats. Nine points seems like a pretty big margin right now, but we’ll see what happens over the next month.

Sagarin says… KENTUCKY by 9 points 


Noon, Colonial Life Arena, ESPN

The Gamecocks are out of the AP poll, but ranked one spot higher than Kentucky in the Coaches’ Poll. Similarly to Kentucky, South Carolina’s either looked great or atrocious this year, beating Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday a few days after losing at Georgia by 13. Another head-scratcher: their 23-point loss to Alabama back in January. If you follow of Kentucky’s (loose) pattern of great game, great game, dud, the Cats could be due for a clunker in Columbia, especially when you consider Drew Franklin will be in the house. In fact, that could make this the hardest game left.

Sagarin says… KENTUCKY by 1


4 p.m., Memorial Gymnasium, CBS 

Yes, Kentucky beat Vandy by almost 20 points at home a few weeks back, but you have to take their stupid gym into consideration. As UK has learned over the years, they don’t call it “Memorial Magic” for nothing, and if there’s an environment in which this Jekyll/Hyde team could fall apart, it’s the opera-house-come-gym on West End. 

Sagarin says… VANDY by 2 points


6:30 p.m., Reed Arena, ESPN

Texas A&M is the only team ranked higher than Kentucky (in the AP poll) left on the schedule, and as recently as two weeks ago, they were considered a top-five team. The Aggies have lost three of their last four games, the most puzzling being Saturday’s loss at home to South Carolina; however, Kentucky being Kentucky, you know the atmosphere at Reed Arena will be insane when the Cats come to town. Given Texas A&M’s talent and depth, I consider this Kentucky’s biggest challenge left in the regular season.

Sagarin says…TEXAS A&M by 3 points

Agree? Disagree? Rank UK’s remaining games from easiest to hardest yourself below:

Wendy’s KSR Top 10 Tweets of the Weekend


We’ve partnered with Wendy’s for the Pic & Roll at Rupp Sweepstake! Visit a participating Wendy’s in the Lexington, KY area, take a pic with the in-store Pic & Roll At Rupp sign, and post to Instagram or Twitter using #WendysRuppVIP for your chance to win!
– – – – – – –
Sweepstakes open only to legal residents of Kentucky, 18 years of age & older. Sweepstakes begins at 9:00:00 am EST on February 5, 2016, and ends at 11:59:59 pm EST on March 7, 2016. Void where prohibited. For full prize details, go to

You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:

#10 Alec Stout




#9 Trey Minton

That boy reeeaaallll good.



#8 Zachary Mockbee

Woman: Yes hair dresser, I’d like the UK secondary logo.



#7 Ken Gatton

Seems about right.



#6 Julia Ritchie

I’m not saying, I’m just saying.



#5 James Martin

Adidas to announce new Louisville logo on Friday.



#4 Zachary Mockbee

The official Valentine’s Day card of UK Athletics.



#3 Trevor Stine

KSR being sneaky having the interview at the last place Louisville fans would think.



#2 Hayley Minogue

Louisville doesn’t need another Scandal. *slaps knee*



#1 Stewart Mandel

Or he’d blame the speed limit signs for being hard to read.




How ESPN Ranked the 2015 Kentucky Football Team

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Even though we want to move forward into 2016 and “Finish,” it’s interesting to see how Kentucky’s 2015 performance looked through the lens of an outsider.  The guys at ESPN’s SEC Blog spent the last few weeks ranking each position group in the SEC.

It’s no surprise that none of them are ranked that high, but some of the rankings might surprise you.

Quarterback – #11

The quarterback position was supposed to be a strength for the Wildcats, but returning starter Patrick Towles struggled with turnovers, throwing an SEC-worst 14 interceptions, and eventually gave way to redshirt freshman Drew Barker. The former ESPN 300 recruit showed flashes, but he too was inconsistent.

Running Back – #7

The Wildcats’ passing game might have been inconsistent, but they were typically effective on the ground. Leading rusher Stanley “Boom” Williams (855 yards) averaged 7.1 yards per carry and Jojo Kemp (555 yards) nearly averaged 6 yards per attempt. Mikel Horton complemented those two shiftier backs, adding a between-the-tackles element to a rushing attack that averaged 162.7 ypg.



Wide Receivers and Tight Ends – #8

Even with consistency issues on offense, the Wildcats still had two receivers — Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker — who ranked inside the top 20 of the SEC in receiving. Johnson led Kentucky with 694 yards, while Baker had 608. They combined for five touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Jeff Badet caught another 29 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman tight end C.J. Conrad could blossom into a solid player.

Offensive Line – #10

The Wildcats were right around the middle of the pack statistically running the ball in conference play: 151.5 rushing yards per game (eighth in the SEC), 4.4 yards per rush (seventh) and 2.3 yards per rush before contact (seventh). Quarterbacks were pressured 25.7 percent of the time (seventh) in SEC games, and Kentucky was seventh in total sacks allowed in SEC games (18).

Defensive Backs – #12

Despite starting a pair of true freshmen at cornerback (Chris Westry and Derrick Baity), the Wildcats got better against the pass. They surrendered 14 passing touchdowns (14th nationally) and 198.1 ypg (28th) although opponents generally passed the ball effectively against Kentucky.

Front Seven – #13

The loss of Bud Dupree and ZaDarius Smith was greater than most people expected as the Wildcats struggled to generate any pressure on the quarterback, ranking lasts in the SEC in sacks (17).



Karl Towns’ Jaw-Dropping Dunk on the Pelicans



Anthony Davis is one of the best defenders in the NBA, but tonight he couldn’t stop his fellow former Wildcat and #1 overall pick.  Dante Cunningham had to pay for Davis’ mishap.  The Brow should apologize to Cunningham after the game.  Watching Karl abuse the backboard is painful.


SEC Week 5 Power Rankings: Tigers Take Charge

One month from tomorrow the SEC tournament will be tipping off in Nashville. But before we can get down to Music City, 8 games still remain to decide who will be resting until Friday. LSU has made a charge to grab first place but you have 5+ teams still in contention. Who has a shot at the crown? Find out in this week’s edition of the SEC power rankings:


Derrick Ansley’s Potential Replacement


After being turned down by Ed Reed, Mark Stoops is now turning to a former SEC assistant.  According to Justin Rowland, former South Carolina defensive backs and special teams coach, Grady Brown, is in Lexington to interview for Derrick Ansley’s old job.

Brown previously worked at LSU and was a cornerbacks coach for Southern Miss, before taking the South Carolina job in 2012.  After spending two seasons coaching the DBs and special teams, he as demoted to quality control assistant when Spurrier re-organized the defensive staff by adding Jon Hoke as a defensive coordinator.

What could set Brown apart from other candidates?  He has strong recruiting ties to South Florida.  Arguably his best recruit is one you can’t forget from his matches with UK — All-SEC linebacker Skai Moore.

Even though Brown’s name has popped up quickly, don’t expect Stoops to have a quick trigger with this hire.  We’ll keep you updated as more names surface throughout the process.

The Matt Jones Podcast: E14 Terry Meiners & Tony Vanetti on UofL’s Postseason Ban


After UofL announced a self-imposed postseason ban for the men’s basketball team on what is now being dubbed as “Black Friday,” fans turned to Terry Meiners and Tony Vanetti to help them get through their difficult time.  Now, they’re talking to Matt Jones about what led to the decision and what’s next for the basketball program.  Some highlights:

—  Did Rick know what was going on?

—  Was Andre McGee a lone wolf, or did somebody else on the staff know?

—  How Terry’s relationship with Pitino has affected his job.

—  Ramsey, Jurich, Pitino: are they all still at UofL in 2017?

You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.”  It doesn’t get much easier than that.  If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay.

Notes and Quotes from Calipari’s Call-In Show

UK Athletics

UK Athletics


—  Isaac Humphries is helping himself, and the other Bigs.  The play from Isaac Humphries was a pleasant surprise on Saturday, contributing solid minutes in the absence of Alex Poythress.  “He didn’t know if he would have an opportunity, and when he got his chance he grabbed it by the throat,” Calipari said.

The best part for Cal: Isaac’s play forces Skal to either step up, or sit down.

“You know the great thing about Isaac playing that way, who’s he putting pressure on?  Skal.  ‘You better start my man.’  It now is, ‘(If) You don’t get it done Skal, I’m playing Isaac.’  He’s proved it.  He got six rebounds and made a basket.  I’m trying to win, I don’t play favorites.”

With that being said, Calipari described Skal’s performance over the last two days, “as good as I’ve ever seen him.”  With Poythress’ status considered day-to-day, all of the post players must seize the moment.

—  Cal used the Super Bowl as a teaching moment.  Because of course he did.

The old “defense wins championships thing” rang true last night, with Denver’s DLine suffocating Cam Newton.  Cal’s best teams have been great defensively.  He believes this team is capable of playing great team defense, with an emphasis on “team.” After all, it worked for the Broncos.

“They counted on their line and their linebackers to really put pressure on the quarterback so he could not see the open guy.  That’s team.  You do your job, I’m gonna do my job,” Calipari said.

If he can get all five on the same page, the improvements will speak for themselves.

—  Cal is pumped to watch his former Cats during All-Star Weekend.  He is proud of the numerous accolades his players received, even though he doesn’t understand how some were left out of the Rising Stars Challenge.  He was quick to brag on his three post players in the Skills Challenge, listing the competitors by name: ” Karl Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and someone else who’s not going to win.  I don’t even know who the fourth guy is, nor do I care.”

—  Tyler Ulis is the Team’s Most Valuable Player.  I think it’s pretty obvious too.

“If you’re comparing anybody to Tyler Ulis, you’re not giving anybody any justice here, because this guy is so unique,” Cal said.  “He plays with that energy that entire time he’s out there, and a will to win, and a fight to win and an emotion to win that is just not normal.”

The energy he plays with is becoming more infectious.  He sees Briscoe and Murray giving more fight, yet they’re still learning how to play without taking possessions off.

—  How Jamal Murray can build off a career-game.  Like every Wildcat fan, Calipari wants to see him play better defense, bringing energy to both ends of the floor.  Offensively, he knows that hitting eight threes isn’t going to happen every time he hits the floor.  To make up for that, he wants to see Murray be more aggressive by attacking the basket and drawing fouls.  “He should be a guy that get’s to the line 8 to 10 times a game.”

Living by the Three

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

So, taking a look at Kentucky’s stats this year and a couple things are jumping out. Most notably, Jamal Murray and Derek Willis are absolutely relying on the three and that’s not a bad thing. Murray is shooting a 3 on 50% of his shots while Willis is shooting a 3, 64% of the time.

This isn’t necessarily shocking with the value of the 3-point ball and the evolution of the game. This is especially true in both of their styles of play. Willis being a stretch four is made for this and he’s frankly not going to beat a ton of people off the dribble to the hoop. Murray’s number is a little shocking considering he can get to the hoop and is crafty at finishing around the elbow/in the paint.

Would you like to see those numbers go down? Not necessarily. Murray has upped his 3-point shooting to almost 40% – that tends to happen when you go 8-for-10 in a game – but, if he can continue to shoot around 40% the value is just too great.

The other stat that sticks out? Alex Poythress has just eight assists on the year. Tells me he’s looking for his shot, which is something fans have always wanted him to do.

Keep an eye on UK’s field goal percentage tomorrow

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Which statistic are we looking at ahead of tomorrow night’s game?

Kentucky’s field goal percentage.

Georgia is one of the best teams in college basketball at making its opponent miss shots. Mark Fox’s squad leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense. All but two of its 21 opponents shot beneath their season field goal percentage while facing the Bulldogs.

Kentucky, on the other hand, has been been on fire from the field lately. UK shot 53 percent in four of the last five games, well above its average of 46 percent entering that stretch. The Cats currently rank second in the conference in field goal percentage, trailing LSU by three-tenths of a percent.

Want more? Another stat to keep an eye on is rebounding. Georgia is undefeated this season when winning or tying its opponent on the glass. A perfect 11-0 on the year when not losing the rebounding battle.

Kentucky’s Movin on Up According to Joey Brackets


I thought the Rocky Mountains would have been a little more rockier than this.

Get used to hearing a lot of Dumb and Dumber jokes if Joe Lunardi is right with his latest bracketology. He’s got Kentucky moving up a spot – and a team on the rise – to a No. 4 seed in the South Region.


Getting Arizona in Denver would be tough, but if Kentucky makes it to the second weekend on this bracket, getting Oklahoma in Louisville would be a complete home court advantage. Oh, isn’t that cute to have Indiana, Duke and Wichita State in the same bracket as Kentucky too?

Tomorrow’s show with Katina Powell may be KSR’s best ever


Katina Powell, author of Breaking Cardinal Rules and the thorn in Louisville basketball’s side, will be a special guest on Kentucky Sports Radio radio tomorrow morning. It is our most anticipated show ever and it will be must-hear radio for fans on both sides of the rivalry.

The interview will be conducted in person at an undisclosed location due to security concerns. The suits at iHeart Media are taking the KSR show away from the studio and into a super-secret warehouse to avoid complete mayhem surrounding Powell’s appearance.

You can hear it all on tomorrow’s show in Matt Jones’ Super Bowl.

Get your popcorn ready.

Ulis and Murray challenge UK fans to a game of HORSE


Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have challenged Big Blue Nation to a game of HORSE. Simply tweet a video of your best shot to @KentuckyMBB with the hashtag #HorseWithTheCats, then sit back to see if Ulis and Murray can match your bucket.

Kentucky’s two All-American candidates kicked the game off by hitting two deep three-pointers on their first take of the Horse With The Cats video:

More Isaac Humphries in the Georgia game?

Joel Auerbach | Getty Images

Isaac Humphries was terrific in his unexpected role in Kentucky’s win over Florida. The freshman big man played 15 minutes and matched his career-high in rebounds and blocks while helping make up for the loss of Alex Poythress prior to tip-off.

Afterward, John Calipari said, “He earned his space, and I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn’t had the opportunity, and what he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you’ve got to stop waiting on some other guys, you’ve got to say, hey, he deserves it.”

Now we ask, will Humphries see an increase in minutes moving forward?

The opportunity is there with Georgia up next on the schedule, and Alex Poythress possibly out for that game and more. John Robic said it will depend on the flow of the game, but the Bulldogs present a challenge in the frontcourt that may require Humphries to do more of what he did against the Gators.

“This would be a good game for Isaac because of post players,” Robic said today. “They actually have size in the post. If it was an undersized, say a Tennessee, where they really don’t have a true post, that would be a tough game for Isaac. This is a matchup-type game that benefits all of our bigger players.”

Robic couldn’t put a number on how many minutes Humphries will play, saying, “It just depends on the flow and how he’s actually playing.”

John Robic expects Alex Poythress to play


Alex Poythress’ status for tomorrow night’s game is undetermined, but assistant coach John Robic thinks he will be able to go.

While filling in for John Calipari at today’s press conference, Robic said of his senior forward, “He is doing okay. Right now he is day-to-day, expecting him to play tomorrow. Just one of those things, he just felt sore and he’s getting treatment on it right now.”

When asked once more if he thinks Poythress will play, Robic said, “I do, yeah.”

Me, I’m not so convinced. I’ve heard it will be a little longer before Poythress makes his return. Hoping I’m wrong, but Robic’s optimism may be more of a strategic move to make Georgia plan for Poythress inside.

Either way, Kentucky needs him back. And soon.