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March 18th, 2018

BREAKING: Kentucky will take on Kansas State in the Sweet 16

© Kyle Terada | USATSI

Kentucky’s matchup in the Sweet 16 has officially been set.

Nine-seed Kansas State defeated UMBC 50-43 tonight to advance, setting up a Wildcat vs. Wildcat match on Thursday night.

Kansas State defeated Vanderbilt on the road earlier this year, along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, and Georgia. They also lost to West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas, Tulsa, and Arizona State, among others.

Time to head to Catlanta.

Let’s get this money.

Better Mean Mug? Shai or PJ?

We have seen multiple memorable celebrations after a player makes a big play. Whether it was throwing up the three goggles, Devin Booker “reloading” or Jamal Murray’s bow and arrow, memorable celebrations have become a big part of some of Calipari’s best teams.

This season, we have been introduced to the PJ Washington flex and snarl. Whenever the UK freshman makes a big play, he mean mugs the camera as seen above. Yesterday, another player joined him with a “mean mug.” After making a play yesterday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander snarled as well and then took to Twitter to say this:

He claims that his mean mug is better than PJ’s, which Washington disagrees with:

So now we, as a site, have to settle the debate. Which mean mug is better, Shai or PJ?

My vote has to be PJ. He was the first on the team to do it and has made it a consistent thing. Plus, he has the flex going with the mean mug as well, which just adds to the effectiveness.

Cincinnati falls to Nevada, Kentucky now top seed in the South

© Brian Losness | USATSI

And just like that, Kentucky’s path to a Final Four has been gift-wrapped to us.

The Nevada Wolf Pack just knocked out two-seed Cincinnati, leaving Kentucky as the top remaining seed in the South.

And the Bearcats lost in the most embarrassing way possible.

To make it to San Antonio, the Cats will have to take on either (16) UMBC or (9) Kansas State, and then (11) Loyola or (7) Nevada.

John Calipari has complained about Kentucky’s death region year after year, and it looked like the Cats were given one yet again this season.

Now, despite the Selection Committee’s best efforts, Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Arizona, and Miami are all out.

Time to capitalize, Coach Cal.

Two-seed North Carolina crushed by Texas A&M in the Round of 32

First it was Michigan State, now it’s North Carolina.

Seven-seed Texas A&M absolutely throttled two-seed North Carolina this afternoon by a final score of 86-65, knocking them out in the Round of 32.

This sequence best describes the bloodletting A&M put on the Tar Heels:

Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, and possibly Luke Maye’s careers end in embarrassment.

Should’ve gone to class, I guess.

SEC basketball: It just means more.

The Charlotte Observer: (The Hornets GM needs to) Draft Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken the college basketball world by storm. He has scored 14 or more points in 13 of Kentucky’s last 15 games, scored 20 or more points in six games on the year, and single-handedly willed the Cats to several victories this year.

Not only has he been one of the top point guards in the SEC, he has established himself as one of the best in all of college basketball.

And no one expected any of it.

Gilgeous-Alexander came to Kentucky as a four-star prospect that many Kentucky fans expected to be here two or three seasons. We heard positive news about him this summer, and many NBA scouts listed him as a sleeper player to watch out for this season, but it was all expected as a role player.

Now, the 6-foot-6 point guard has established himself as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and several beat writers are begging their teams to take a chance on him in June.

One of the main teams? The Charlotte Hornets.

With star guard Kemba Walker being placed on the trading block this past season, there’s a great chance he isn’t part of the franchise’s long-term plans. And the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell is looking for Gilgeous-Alexander to replace him.

There is nothing the Charlotte Hornets need more than a reliable backup/eventual replacement for Kemba Walker at point guard.

That guy is a Canadian, by way of a Chattanooga, Tenn., high school. He has Walker’s ability to get to the rim with ease, and he has something Walker emphatically lacks: Exceptional height and length.

If Kentucky freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is around for the Hornets’ lottery pick in June, grab him.

He’s 6-6 and has a 7-foot wingspan. And the best thing he does is play defense. What’s not to like?

John Calipari has compared SGA to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for his off-court habits and tireless drive to better himself, something the Charlotte franchise would welcome with open arms. If MKG had a jump shot, he’d easily be one of the top players in the NBA right now. Gilgeous-Alexander has a pretty smooth one, among countless other desirable traits.

Calipari has compared Gilgeous-Alexander to one of his all-time favorites, Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, for Gilgeous-Alexander’s work habits. When Kidd-Gilchrist was at Kentucky, he started the “Breakfast Club,” rousting teammates up early to scrimmage and lift weights at sun-up.

“This kid goes at 7 a.m. (And) he also watches tape. He’ll go up and show me turnovers. What he was missing was any kind of skip (pass, finding a teammate beyond the nearest option). He couldn’t see it,” Calipari recalled.

He’s coming to the NBA Draft. If he’s there when the Hornets select, don’t let him slip by.

Could we see a Gilgeous-Alexander, Malik Monk, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist trio in Charlotte next season?

Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the Biggest Surprise of the Calipari era?

Not counting walk-ons, John Calipari has brought in 53 players to Kentucky since arriving to Lexington in 2009. 30 of those players have been named McDonalds All-Americans. One player that wasn’t? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Wildcat freshman is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. In the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament so far, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists.

It is no secret that he has become one of the most important players on the team. The fact is, other than Jemarl Baker, he was the lowest rated recruit of the 8 total players Calipari brought in the season. This led me to ask the following question on Twitter last night:

Sure, everyone’s definition of a surprise might be different, but did you expect SGA to put up the numbers he has? That alone makes me say that he is, in fact, the biggest surprise of the Calipari era.

I posed the question to those that disagreed to name a player who was a bigger surprise. One person said Tyler Ulis.

Ulis is an interesting case. Was he necessarily a surprise? Or was his “surprise” based on people being stunned that someone with his size could have the talent he did?

Ulis was also rated as the #4 Point Guard in his class, was a five-star recruit, and was a McDonalds All-American. Gilgeous-Alexander was the #8 point guard, a four-star and wasn’t a McDonalds All-American.

Shai has been a critical part of this team’s success this season. Like the team said last night, whenever they need a big shot, he makes it. No one expected him to start on this year’s team. In fact, if you ask most fans they would tell you that he would be the man on next season’s team. Instead, Gilgeous-Alexander has played himself into a possible lottery pick. Has there been another player that fits that mold? I can’t think of one.

I now ask you the same question, is Shai the biggest surprise of a recruit in the Calipari era? If not, who is? Comment below or send me a tweet @GormleyKSR.

Michigan State falls to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament

And down goes yet another big dog.

In today’s 3-11 matchup featuring Michigan State and Syracuse, the Orange took care of business down the stretch to win 55-53 and sent the Spartans home crying.

Good news: The Spartans are done. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.

Bad news: Duke’s path just opened up for (at least) an Elite Eight run, where they will likely take on Kansas.

Syracuse was the very last team to get in the Big Dance to receive an at-large bid. Now, they’re officially in the Sweet 16.

To prove just how ridiculous the outcome truly is, check out these statistics:

With the victory, Syracuse moves to 7-1 as a double-digit seed in tournament history.


Now it’s time for the Aggies to take care of business against North Carolina.

How to Spend Your Time in CATlanta

Cats fans at STATS bar in Atlanta for the SEC tournament in 2014.

Making the trip down to CATlanta this weekend? Absolutely clueless/overwhelmed on what to do? Well, look no further. As a native Atlantian (really, 20 minutes outside of Atlanta, shhhh.) I’ve got you covered. Here’s my personal recommendations on what to do, eat and drink in the ATL.


Note: You really can’t go wrong with any food in Atlanta. The city has SO much to offer and is quickly becoming more and more “foodie” everyday. These are just a few of my faves in the interest of article length.

  • The Varsity: An Atlanta staple. Think of the greasiest food you’ve ever had and multiply it by 10 and you’ve got the Varsity. Not the nicest place but if you’ve never been, you at least need to stop in for an Orange Shake and a Chili dog.
  • Taco Mac: This is your go-to for inside the Arena food. Think pub food meets tap house. Try the wings, thank me later.
  • Hudson Grille: Hudson Grille is located over near Centennial Olympic park (we’ll get to that later on), about a six minute walk from Phillips Arena. It’s my favorite pre-concert place to eat. They’ve got makers mark barbecue sauce that’ll make all Kentuckians feel at home.
  • South City Kitchen: If you’re wanting real, authentic, southern Atlanta food, head on down to this midtown restaurant. Crab cakes, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes – they’ve got all your Georgia Staples. I’d recommend getting a reservation for this one though.
  • The Sun Dial: If you’re looking for something real fancy shmancy with a great view, head over to The Sun Dial, located inside the Westin. Don’t let this freak you out, but the Sun Dial is a spinning restaurant/bar with a 360 degree view of the city (hence the name). Even if you aren’t going to eat there, you’ve gotta at least go up for a drink. The view is unreal.


  • STATS Brewpub: KSR’s Atlanta Headquarters. I have a feeling STATS will once again be the Kentucky HQ this year.
  • Park Bar: If you’re looking for a hipster hangout with craft beer and unique bourbon cocktails, Park Bar is your place.
  • Meehan’s Public House: Not an exposed brick and beard oil fan? Skip Park Bar and head to Meehan’s for a good ole fashioned Irish pint.
  • The Vortex: Think Biker bar meets Kurt Cobain. The Vortex is quirky and fun with tons of beer and over the top loaded burgers. If you’re looking for a late night place to get drinks AND drunk munchies, you can’t go wrong with The Vortex.
  • Sidebar: Another sports bar like atmosphere with pool tables, bar games and tons of TV’s.
  • Joystick Gambler: Known for its numerous pinball machines and interesting burgers (try the Lamb burger, just trust me), Joystick Gambler is a great bar for those of that want a little more fun and games than classy cocktails and conversations.

What to see and do

  • The Georgia Aquarium/World of Coke: Something everyone always recommends. If you have kids, I say go for one or both of these attractions. If not, I’d skip them. Sure, the Aquarium is cool (I had my prom there, it was a blast) and sampling coke from all over the world is fun, but with only one off day in Atlanta, there are better things to do.
  • Ponce City Market: Looking for a unique food hall, rooftop terrace, mini-golf, and boardwalk style arcade? Here’s a one stop shop for all of those, plus more. Ponce City Market, though new, is quickly becoming the best Atlanta hangout. Ponce City is great place to spend a couple of hours during the day playing min golf or skee ball.
  • Centennial Olympic Park/Skyview Ferris Wheel: Towering about 20 stories above the park, take a ride in the Skyview Ferris wheel to really see the whole city (and the metro area too). Be warned, it’s a little pricey – one ride is about $13.00, but the view is worth it.
  • Sweetwater Brewery: Take a tour and see how the famous 420 beer is made. Or don’t tour and sit in the tap room. Either way, you have to check out the Sweetwater Brewery.
  • College Football Hall of Fame: All sports fans should visit this place at least once in their lives. Located almost right across from Phillips Arena, the CFB Hall of Fame is something kids will LOVE too. It’s a quick tour loaded with history and memorabilia. Definitely worth your time.

Other tips, tricks, and hacks

  • Uber/lyft everywhere. Between the confusing streets (we have about 20 streets named “Peachtree”), the traffic, and the parking I’d really recommend leaving your car at the hotel and paying for a ride. What you’ll spend in money you’ll save in headaches and frustration.
  • MAKE RESERVATIONS! There’s always about 800 things going on in downtown Atlanta, so if you’re short on time or really set on eating at a certain place, make a reservation.
  • Tweet me with any questions you may have! Need to know a great breakfast place? Where the best shopping is? Did I miss something you want to know about? Tweet me @savannahpattKSR, I’m happy to help.

Have fun, be safe, and let’s all turn my hometown blue! Go Cats!

CJ Fredrick leads Covington Catholic past Scott County 73-55 for Sweet 16 State Championship


KHSAA has crowned a new Sweet 16 State Champion.

Covington Catholic has defeated powerhouse Scott County to take home the title trophy by a final score of 73-55.

Cov. Catholic, led by CJ Fredrick with 32 points in the victory, finishes the year with a 35-4 record.

Scott County, the heavy favorite going into the tournament, ends their season with a 37-2 final record.

With just over three minutes to go in the first quarter, Scott County led Cov. Cath. 9-11, but an 8-0 run led by two big baskets from Fredrick pushed the Colonels out in front 17-11.

Midway through the second, Scott County was able to cut the lead to just three points, but Catholic continued to bounce back, extending the lead to seven at halftime.

Three big baskets to start the third quarter extended the Colonels’ lead to 13 points, and from there, the Cardinals were unable to cut the lead to anything less than eight points. For every response Scott County had, Covington Catholic came right back with their own punch in the mouth, pushing the lead to as many as 21 points late in the fourth quarter.

FINAL: 73-55

Here are the game highlights:

CJ Fredrick once again put on a show, matching the tournament-high point total yet again with 32 on 9-15 shooting, 4-6 from three, and 10-11 from the line. He also added three assists, two rebounds, and zero turnovers on the day.

According to the Herald-Leader’s Josh Moore, Fredrick’s 32 points is ninth-best all-time in title games, and his 111 total points in the Sweet 16 has pushed him past Dominique Hawkins (107) and just behind Chris Lofton (112) on the leaderboard to 12th overall.

To no one’s surprise, Fredrick took home Sweet 16 Most Valuable Player honors:

Cov. Catholic’s Aiden Ruthsatz also added 16 points (5-8), five assists, and two rebounds in 31 minutes of action.

For Scott County, starting guard Cooper Robb finished with 22 points, four rebounds, and two assists in the loss. Teammate Michael Moreno wasn’t too far behind with 21 points of his own, eight rebounds, and an assist.

Photo: @CityofPalms1

The Covington Catholic students came out in full force throughout the tournament, but took it to a whole new level in the title game. From the opening tip through the final buzzer, the Colonel student section put on a show:

This is Cov. Cath’s second state championship in the last five years, with the first coming in 2014.

With buzzer-beater victories, triple-overtime battles, and ridiculous scoring outputs each day, this was certainly a Sweet 16 for the books.

Congratulations to Covington Catholic on their incredible run!

BBNBA: Pelicans Head Coach Defends Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis goes at Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker as the New Orleans Pelicans fall 107-101 on Saturday night. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)


Anthony Davis’ head coach, Alvin Gentry, had some choice words about the officiating following the New Orleans Pelicans loss to the Houston Rockets Saturday night. Most of them were in defense of his star player. Gentry was arguing that Davis is constantly fouled but the officials were swallowing their whistles. Take a listen to what he had to say.

There has been a ton of tension between players/coaches and officials this season and Gentry’s words will definitely earn him an expensive fine from the league office, but there is truth in those words. Now, Davis does complain about calls (literally everyone does), although he’s one of the least vocal about it, which is respectable. Gentry is really just trying to protect his All-Star and the passion in his words is evident in that. Davis still finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds because he’s Anthony freaking Davis.

Aside from Davis, eight other Wildcats scored in double-figures Saturday night. Most notably, Karl-Anthony Towns dropped in 23 points along with nine rebounds for Minnesota and Darius Miller added 13 points on four made threes for New Orleans.

We’re also at that point in the season where teams with no chance of reaching the playoffs are experimenting with younger players. If you want to get a taste of what Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are doing for Charlotte and Sacramento, now would be the time to do so. Monk scored 12 points in a loss, shooting 3-12 from deep (get those shots up, young fella) while Fox scored 11 points in addition to four steals.

Check out the rest of the stats below.


PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Anthony Davis (NOP)101-107 L vs. HOU2611-18 (0-2)131012-1236
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)101-117 L @ SAS238-15 (2-2)92015-839
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)122-117 W vs. ATL195-10 (1-2)39215+230
Jamal Murray (DEN)94-101 L @ MEM165-18 (1-8)33202-835
Darius Miller (NOP)101-107 L vs. HOU134-7 (4-6)11000-430
Malik Monk (CHA)101-124 L @ NYK124-16 (3-12)50111-1023
Trey Lyles (DEN)94-101 L @ MEM125-10 (2-5)42000+219
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)97-103 L @ UTA114-13 (0-1)42404-1827
Enes Kanter (NYK)124-101 W vs. CHA94-990201014
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)97-103 L @ UTA93-9 (0-0)43221-1529
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)101-124 L @ NYK82-5 (0-0)41120-1323
Skal Labissiere (SAC)97-103 L @ UTA72-6 (1-1)32102-1421
Jodie Meeks (WAS)109-102 W vs. IND41-4 (0-2)34101-1320
DeAndre Liggins (NOP)101-107 L vs. HOU31-4 (1-3)30111-1519
Alex Poythress (IND)102-109 L @ WAS00-1 (0-1)10000+75
Tyler Ulis (PHX)109-124 L vs. GSW00-000001-23
Andrew Harrison (MEM)101-94 W vs. DENDNP-Wrist----------------
Rajon Rondo (NOP)101-107 L vs. HOUDNP-Rest----------------
John Wall (WAS)122-117 W vs. ATLDNP-Knee----------------
Devin Booker (PHX)109-124 L vs. GSWDNP-Hand----------------
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP)101-107 L vs. HOUDNP-Achillies----------------
Nerlens Noel (DAL)106-113 L @ BKNDNP----------------


Today in the NBA

1:00: Thunder (Patterson, Johnson) @ Raptors

6:00: Celtics @ Pelicans (Davis, Miller, Rondo, Liggins)

7:00 (NBATV): Rockets @ Timberwolves (Towns)

10:30 (NBATV): Trail Blazers @ Clippers

Player to watch

Today’s player to watch is none other than Mr. Anthony Davis. The Western Conference continues to be a confusing cluster of absolute nonsense and the New Orleans Pelicans currently sit at the number eight spot. They’re a game and a half ahead of the Denver Nuggets (who are either tanking or just love losing to bad teams) and the Los Angeles Clippers, but if this season has shown us anything, it’s that even the most unlikely teams can go on big winning streaks (or losing streaks). A matchup against the injured riddled Boston Celtics shouldn’t be as tough of a matchup as the team records might indicate, but Celtics head coach Brad Stevens always brings a team prepared to win no matter who they put on the court. The Pelicans have lost four of their last five after their 10 game winning streak and a win tonight would be huge going forward. Look for Davis to have another big game for NOLA and also keep an eye out on Darius Miller, who is shooting 50 percent from three over his last five games.


A Potential Path to the Final Four for the Cats Features Only Double-Digit Seeds

As improbable as it may have seemed after an initial glance at the South Region, it is now possible that UK could only face double-digit seeded teams all the way to the Final Four.

The Cats have already taken care of business with Davidson and Buffalo, who were 12 and 13 seeds, respectively. The next step in this scenario would see this year’s biggest Cinderella story, the UMBC Retrievers, pull off another big upset over Kansas St. tonight at 7:45. While many would scoff at the idea of the kids from Baltimore County making it to the Sweet Sixteen, I prefer the mentality that if they can beat the number 1 overall seed in the tournament, they can certainly compete with the 9-seed Wildcats.

If this were to happen, the March 22 showdown in Atlanta would feature the ultimate underdog Retrievers taking on the gatekeepers of the Big Dance in UK. That sounds pretty cool.

Loyola-Chicago also locked up a spot in Atlanta yesterday when they took down Tennessee on an absolute miracle of a shot. The 11-seed Ramblers await the outcome of today’s Nevada/Cincinnati game at 6:10. If all goes well for both teams, it could be Kentucky vs. Loyola-Chicago this Saturday… in the Elite Eight.

If all of the remaining chips fall into place, the Cats’ path to the Final Four would see them defeat a 12, a 13, a 16, and an 11 seed. March is insane, folks.

Can Kentucky emerge unscathed from the Cinderella South? We’ll have to wait and see.


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Could Tony Barbee be headed to Memphis?

Barring a catastrophic breakdown of events, Memphis East High School basketball coach and former NBA great Penny Hardaway is set to become the next head coach at Memphis.

We’ve discussed the impact Hardaway’s hire will make on Kentucky in the recruiting department, specifically centered around 2019 No. 1 James Wiseman. Hardaway is Wiseman’s head coach in both high school and AAU ball, and there is certainly mutual respect between both parties.

Now it looks like there are even more Kentucky connections in this hiring.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken is reporting UK assistant coach Tony Barbee is a major candidate for an assistant position on Hardaway’s staff.

Barbee was an assistant under Calipari at Memphis from 2000-2006, where he then became a head coach from 2006-2014 at both UTEP and Auburn. After being fired at Auburn, he joined Calipari’s staff at UK as an assistant.

There have been rumors that the Kentucky coaching staff may see some changes this offseason, specifically when it comes to the recruiting department. After missing out on elite prospects such as RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Marvin Bagley Jr., Mohamed Bamba, etc. over the last few years, Coach Cal may be looking for fresh faces on staff to flip that momentum back Kentucky’s direction.

Could this be step one of that scenery change?

Hamidou Diallo finally had his One Shining Moment. Now it’s time for Nick Richards to break through.

Throughout the regular season, Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards were massive question marks in terms of what kind of production you’d see on any given night. Each of them had their moments, but not once did the term “consistency” go hand-in-hand with either of their names.

Diallo had the Virginia Tech, Monmouth, Harvard, and Texas A&M games, among others, where he showed an impressive combination of athleticism and efficiency. The game slowed down for him, and it looked like things were clicking.

But then you saw the 13 conference games he failed to reach double-figures, lack of energy, arguing with teammates and coaches, and pure frustration.

For Richards, he had his ridiculous 25-point, 15-rebound performance against IPFW, the clutch putback dunk against West Virginia, and seven total games with ten or more points. He showed the ability to block shots, run the floor, convert on alley-oops, and rebound. He was always raw offensively, but the potential was there, and he did enough elsewhere on the court to make a positive impact.

But then you saw the 15 conference games (including the SEC Tournament) he scored just five points or less, fumbled balls, opponents dominating him in the post, and a massive decline in minutes.

It has been a roller coaster ride for both players this season, but you know the one thing that has remained consistent in the process?

John Calipari’s trust in each of them.

If you were to scroll through social media on any given gameday, especially during the conference schedule, questions of Coach Cal’s neverending and tireless habit of starting Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards were guaranteed to pop up on your timeline at least once. And rightfully so. Why not start the players you expect to see thrive night in and night out?

Half the time, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to yank one or both players from the lineup. If they struggled, Calipari had options on the bench to replace them with, and he never hesitated to utilize them.

Yet Calipari started both Diallo and Richards in every single game this season. Every one.

Was it so he could “whine” about starting freshmen and easily having the youngest starting lineup in the nation?

No, it was for the moment Diallo had yesterday afternoon.

This moment.

“The team absolutely mauled him when he walked in,” Calipari said after the game. “Every guy was standing on chairs, hugging him. It was neat to see.”

Diallo finished the day with  22 points on 9-12 shooting, eight rebounds, two blocks, and several jaw-dropping highlights. His energy was remarkable, he made game-winning plays, and his smile shined brighter than we’ve ever seen in his time at Kentucky.

In the wise words of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Wildcats would not be Sweet Sixteen bound if it weren’t for Hamidou Diallo.

Personally, I don’t think we win tonight without Hami,” Gilgeous-Alexander said afterward. “He played huge for us down the stretch. We went to him a little bit in a set, and he had like four baskets in a row that were really big. He works really hard, and when you work hard, good things are going to happen for you.”

For all of the comments Calipari has made throughout the season about Diallo being someone’s son, not giving up on him, taking it one game at a time, etc., it finally all made sense. The puzzle pieces finally came together and it was truly special to see.

While Diallo is being celebrated for his big break in the Round of 32, the latter half of the duo in question still has a lot left to prove. In fact, he might be the only guy left in the regular rotation that hasn’t broken through that rookie wall, if you ask John Calipari, at least.

Nick is the only one that’s not breaking through right now,” said Calipari. “For him personally, I want to see him block and play…I want him to break through.”

In Kentucky’s 95-75 victory over Buffalo, Richards finished with just two points, two rebounds, and two fouls in eight minutes of action. It was the fourth game in a row and sixth of the last seven he had seen less than ten minutes of playing time. He has been virtually unplayable at times late in the season, and that holds true even in the NCAA Tournament. Missed defensive assignments, being just a hair late on nearly every play at the basket, foul trouble, scoring opportunities lost at the basket, etc. have held him back. Unfortunately, it has been a snowball effect that ultimately always leads to Richards finding his way back to the bench.

But Diallo had been deemed unplayable, too. He almost always found himself on the bench, as well. In the last game of the regular season in Gainesville, Diallo managed just one point on 0-7 shooting, a turnover, and a foul in 23 minutes of action. With the lineup of Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington working so well together, fans begged for Calipari to continue with that core group of guys going forward.

And then Diallo broke through, just like Calipari knew was going to happen sooner or later. Just like he knows Richards will, too.

“It’s like I was with Hami (Diallo), with Nick (Richards) and I just—we need (Nick). So starting him, maybe he gets going in a game and it’s like Hamidou and he has a breakthrough. Before you can worry about conquering somebody else, you gotta conquer yourself,” Calipari said earlier this month.

Everyone else on the team is having their taste of the pie, with some even going back for seconds, all while Nick Richards is left craving his first serving.

“I’m just letting him know he has to stay prepared because we’re going to need him,” Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones told the media following their opening round victory against Davidson. “There’s going to be a game very soon, it could be tomorrow, we don’t know when it’s going to be, but we’re going to need him to step up. I think he’ll be ready.”

With Jarred Vanderbilt nursing an ankle injury and Wenyen Gabriel, PJ Washington, and Sacha Killeya-Jones in regular foul trouble, Richards has a massive opportunity to take advantage of down low. Like Diallo, Richards has to slow down and allow the game to come to him.

“I saw him go from playing 30 minutes to less than five,” Diallo told the media. “It’s really tough for him. I love him as a teammate and I just keep telling him to stay prepared and stay focused. Everybody hits adversity. I hit it. Almost our whole team hit adversity this season. Just stay in the gym, stay physically and mentally prepared.”

After months of tough criticism, Hamidou Diallo finally had his day, and it was special to see.

Now it’s time for Nick Richards to have his moment in the spotlight.

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