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January 22nd, 2018

Calipari takes another shot at Duke’s recruiting pitch

In the wake of Zion Williamson’s announcement, there’s no denying Duke has passed Kentucky when it comes to landing the sport’s best stars; today, John Calipari took a shot at Mike Krzyzewski’s recruiting pitch, which he says is bogus.

“I don’t sell, ‘When you come here, the university and the state will take care of you for the rest of your life.’ You may buy that, and I’ve got some great property and some swampland in Florida to sell you too.”

Being “set for life” is the pitch Duke commonly uses to lure in recruits. In April 2016, Hamidou Diallo told the Herald-Leader that’s how Mike Krzyzewski tried to sell him on being a Blue Devil.

“Kentucky’s pitch was just the NBA thing,” Diallo said. “Duke’s pitch was just like, if you come to Duke you’re going to be set for life. It’s more than just basketball.”

Less than a month later, Calipari attacked the pitch in one of his famous “state of the program” blog posts.

“I refuse to go in a home and paint a picture saying things like, ‘If you come with us you’ll be taken care of for the rest of your life by the program and by our alums’ even though you may only be in school for a year or two,” Calipari said. “How preposterous does that sound? What if I say that same thing and the young man decides to transfer for one reason or another? Does that still hold true that we’re going to take care of them the rest of their lives?”

Almost two years later, Calipari still disagrees with Coach K’s approach, even though it’s helped Duke take the lead in the arms race.

“My concern is, whoever we get here, how do we help them to be the best version of themselves, both on and off the court? How do we send them off from here after a year, two years, three years, four, whatever, with a basis to have success both on and off the court, where they can be involved in their communities and where it’s not just solely basketball. How they can count on themselves?”

“Everyone of us in this country is based on, you’ve got to take care of yourself. And then when you make it, you make sure you’re helping. And along the way, you’re bringing other people with you. That’s what we’re trying to do. Just give these guys the best opportunity. We’re not trying to say this university and this state will take care of you the rest of your life. There’s no socialism here. This stuff is, you’ve gotta go do it and we’re going to help you do it. Some like that, some don’t like that.”

In spite of the momentum shift, Calipari said he doesn’t think the recruiting landscape has changed much since he arrived at Kentucky, taking the opportunity to remind everyone how successful Kentucky’s alums in the NBA have been.

“I don’t think it has. There are some classes that are really good classes and there are some classes that are okay classes. That’s just how it is. We don’t get every kid. I’ve said that all along. We get the ones that need to come here and others choose not too. That’s fine, that’s their choice. Obviously, the kids that have come here are worth over A BILLION dollars. Seventeen have graduated, 35 got drafted, three were number one picks. Kids that have come here have belonged here. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to come here, and they don’t. And I don’t think it’s changed much at all.”


Kentucky is the favorite over Mississippi State

The Las Vegas spread for Tuesday night’s game in Rupp Arena is live and it opened at -8 with Kentucky as the home favorite. However, the line quickly dropped to -7 in a matter of minutes, per our friends at VegasInsider.com.

As always, I will remind you that Kentucky has been crap at covering the spread as the Cats have only one cover in seven SEC games this season. Take my advice when I say proceed with caution, although I think they win big against the Dawgs.

Your thoughts?


Jarred Vanderbilt speaks for the first time since his debut

Jarred Vanderbilt was one of the two Kentucky Wildcats available to the media before Monday’s practice, his first time doing interviews since the preseason.

Obviously there was a lot to talk about since we last heard from Vanderbilt, including the decision to return to action when he did. To that, he said, “I wanted to play it safe. I wanted to make sure I was ready to play — physically, mentally. Basically, I just wanted to make sure me, my parents, and Cal were all on the same page.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his career with the mysterious foot injury, but he played 27 minutes over the course of Kentucky’s last two games. When asked about how his foot is holding up now that he is back to basketball, Vanderbilt told reporters, “It felt good. It’s getting better by the day. The main thing right now is just getting in shape.”

As for the position Vanderbilt expects to play most now that he is available, he said he is open to doing whatever is best for Kentucky.

“Anywhere he wants me,” he said. “1 through 5. I’m versatile. I can play multiple positions. Anywhere I can be to make the team more successful, that’s where I’ll be.”


LIVE: John Calipari previews Mississippi State

John Calipari’s Monday afternoon press conference can be see live via the Kentucky Wildcats TV stream below.

Enjoy.


SEC Seinfeld Index: January 22

Just when you thought you had a grasp on the SEC, weekends like this past one happen. The highest ranked teams in the conference, Auburn and Kentucky, both lost, leaving Florida atop the standings at 6-1. With twelve games left in the season, anything can happen, so let’s turn to our friends from Seinfeld to help make sense of what’s going on in the league.

First, a look at the current SEC standings:

TEAM CONFERENCE RECORD GAMES BACK OVERALL RECORD
Florida 6-1 14-5
Auburn 5-1 0.5 17-2
Alabama 5-2 1 13-6
Kentucky 4-3 2 14-5
Tennessee 4-3 2 13-5
Missouri 3-3 2.5 13-6
Arkansas 3-4 3 13-6
Georgia 3-4 3 12-6
South Carolina 3-4 3 12-7
Ole Miss 3-4 3 10-9
Mississippi State 2-4 3.5 14-5
LSU 2-4 3.5 11-7
Texas A&M 2-5 4 13-6
Vanderbilt 2-5 4 7-12

 

Kramer Pimp Walk

 #20 Florida (14-5, 6-1)

Last week: Won vs. Arkansas (88-73), Won at #18 Kentucky (66-64)

The Gators rebounded with a loss at Ole Miss with back-to-back wins over Arkansas and Kentucky, which vaulted them back into the Top 25. Florida usually lives or dies by the three, but thanks to Kentucky’s scoring drought, they were able to knock off the Cats in Rupp despite shooting only 20% from the outside.

This week: vs. South Carolina, vs. Baylor


“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”

 #19 Auburn (17-2, 5-1)

Last week: Lost at Alabama (76-71), Won vs. Georgia (79-65)

If not for an impressive second half rally vs. Georgia, Auburn also would have dropped two games last week. On Tuesday, they fell to Alabama, which may mean they’re not as elite as many thought, but losing to a good Crimson Tide team in Tuscaloosa is far from the end of the world in today’s SEC.

This week: at Missouri, vs. LSU


Shrinkage

 Kentucky (14-5, 4-3)

Last week: Lost at South Carolina (76-68), Lost vs. Florida (66-64)

Despite Jarred Vanderbilt’s debut and Quade Green returning from injury, it was a horrible week for Kentucky. Back-to-back losses put their weakness on full display, notably the absence of a go-to scorer. For the Cats to recapture any sort of momentum, someone must step up.

This week: vs. Mississippi State, at #7 West Virginia


Spongeworthy

 Alabama (13-6, 5-2)

Last week: Won vs. #17 Auburn (76-71), Won vs. Mississippi State (68-62)

Alabama delivered Auburn their first loss in two months last week without their best player, Collin Sexton, who is out with an abdominal injury. With four straight wins, the pieces are coming together for Avery Johnson. Hopefully Sexton is back for Saturday’s game vs. #12 Oklahoma, which could be the marquee win Johnson’s been waiting for.

This week: at Ole Miss, vs. #12 Oklahoma

  #22 Tennessee (13-5, 4-3)

Last week: Lost at Missouri (59-55), Won at South Carolina (70-63)

After a discouraging loss at Missouri, the Vols rebounded with a win at South Carolina, something Kentucky couldn’t manage last week.

This week: vs. Vanderbilt, at Iowa State


Yada Yada Yada

 Arkansas (13-6, 3-4)

Last week: Lost at Florida (88-73), Won vs. Ole Miss (97-93)

It was another ho-hum week for the Razorbacks, who lost at Florida but beat Ole Miss at home. With four losses in the last six games, Arkansas needs to pick up some road wins if they want to make the tournament.

This week: at Georgia, vs. Oklahoma State

Georgia (12-6, 3-4)

Last week: Won at LSU (61-60), Lost at #17 Auburn (79-65)

Georgia led #17 Auburn by 14 points at halftime on Saturday, but fell apart in the second half, letting Auburn go on a 18-2 run. A one-point win at LSU on Tuesday saved the Bulldogs from complete embarrassment.

This week: vs. Arkansas, at Kansas State

Missouri (13-6, 3-3)

Last week: Won vs. #21 Tennessee (59-55), Lost at Texas A&M (60-49)

Missouri’s impressive win over Tennessee was dulled by a bad loss at Texas A&M. Wednesday’s game vs. #19 Auburn will tell us a lot.

This week: vs. #19 Auburn, at Mississippi State

 Texas A&M (13-6, 2-5)

Last week: Won vs. Ole Miss (71-69), Won vs. Missouri (60-49)

Well, look who changed out of their sweatpants! Texas A&M desperately needed some wins, and they got two at home last week. We all know the Aggies are talented and now that they’re finally healthy, we’ll see if they can salvage their season in back-to-back road games at LSU and Kansas this week.

This week: at LSU, at #5 Kansas

South Carolina (12-7, 3-4)

Last week: Won vs. #18 Kentucky (76-68), Loss vs. #21 Tennessee (70-63)

The Gamecocks blew a chance to make a good week great by not making their free throws late vs. Tennessee. Things won’t get any easier this week, with back-to-back games vs. Top 20 teams.

This week: at #20 Florida, vs. #14 Texas Tech

Ole Miss (10-9, 3-4)

Last week: Lost at Texas A&M (71-69), Lost at Arkansas (97-93)

The Rebel Black Bear Landsharks lost both of their road games last week, but they did beat Florida before that, so who knows?

This week: vs. Alabama, at Texas

 Mississippi State (14-5, 2-4)

Last week: Won vs. Vanderbilt (80-62), Lost at Alabama (68-62)

The Bulldogs bounced back after three straight losses with a dominating performance vs. Vanderbilt and had Alabama on the ropes in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. They’ll face an angry Kentucky team tomorrow night.

This week: at Kentucky, vs. Missouri


Eh…

LSU (11-7, 2-4)

Last week: Lost vs. Georgia (61-60), Lost at Vanderbilt (77-71)

The Tigers have lost three in a row, one of those to a bad Vanderbilt team. Things don’t get any easier, with a surging Texas A&M team coming to town tomorrow night and a road trip to Auburn on the horizon.

This week: vs. Texas A&M, at #19 Auburn

Vanderbilt (7-12, 2-5)

Last week: Lost at Mississippi State (80-62), Won vs. LSU (77-71)

After getting steamrolled in Starkville, the ‘Dores avoided a fifth straight loss by beating LSU at home on Saturday. Riley LaChance redeemed himself a little after choking vs. Kentucky, hitting a pair of free throws to put Vandy ahead for good in the final minutes; however, the Dores still aren’t good, especially without Matthew Fisher-Davis (shoulder).

This week: at #22 Tennessee, vs. TCU


Kentucky is unranked for the first time since 2014

With two losses in its last two games, Kentucky is unranked in this week’s AP college basketball poll, as expected.

It marks the first time the AP poll has been Kentucky-less since the final regular season rankings of the 2013-14 season, when the Cats finished the year at 29-11 and 12-6 in conference play. Of course, that team went on to reach the title game in Aaron Harrison’s “great story.”

But back to the present, the updated poll has three SEC teams in Auburn (19), Florida (20) and Tennessee (22), plus a top-10 team ahead in West Virginia (7).

RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Villanova (63) 18-1 1,623
2 Virginia (1) 18-1 1,537
3 Purdue (1) 19-2 1,499
4 Duke 17-2 1,439
5 Kansas 16-3 1,338
6 Michigan State 17-3 1,243
7 West Virginia 16-3 1,217
8 Xavier 18-3 1,180
9 Cincinnati 17-2 1,087
10 North Carolina 16-4 1,014
11 Arizona 16-4 974
12 Oklahoma 14-4 917
13 Ohio State 17-4 787
14 Texas Tech 15-4 763
15 Gonzaga 17-4 610
16 Saint Mary’s 19-2 571
17 Wichita State 15-4 547
18 Clemson 16-3 474
19 Auburn 17-2 470
20 Florida 14-5 366
21 Arizona State 15-4 353
22 Tennessee 13-5 260
23 Nevada 18-3 190
24 Rhode Island 15-3 189
25 Michigan 17-5 123

Don’t panic.


Tyler Herro gets five-star bump in new ESPN rankings

Kelly Kline/Under Armour

ESPN Recruiting released its new rankings for the 2018 high school basketball class on Monday, and one of Kentucky’s three signees earned a new star by his name.

Tyler Herro, the shooting guard out of Wisconsin, got bumped up to a five-star prospect in the new update. Herro climbed two spots from No. 27 to No. 25 overall, but remained the fourth-best shooting guard of the group.

Keldon Johnson is the highest ranked recruit in Kentucky’s class, coming in at No. 6 in the rankings; while Immanuel Quickley climbed from No. 19 to No. 17 and is considered the third-best point guard.

Duke’s R.J. Barrett, Zion Willamson and Cameron Reddish are the top three players in the class.

RK PLAYER POS GRADE SCHOOL

1

R.J. Barrett

SF

96

DUKE

2

Zion Williamson

PF

96

DUKE

3

Cam Reddish

SF

96

DUKE

4

Bol Bol

C

95

OREGON

5

Romeo Langford

SG

95

Uncommitted

6

Keldon Johnson

SF

94

KENTUCKY

7

Anfernee Simons

SG

94

Uncommitted

8

Quentin Grimes

SG

93

KANSAS

9

Darius Bazley

PF

93

SYRACUSE

10

Nassir Little

SF

93

NORTH CAROLINA

See the entire list here.


Positive Monday: Five Reasons To Smile After The Weekend

The world didn’t end on Saturday, though it may have felt that way to some of you.

Yes, Zion Williamson threw his popularity out of a top floor window by picking Duke for his destination of choice for his one season of college basketball. It was an unfathomable decision if you ask me, but it was also the worst case scenario for Kentucky fans.

Soon after Williamson slapped us all in the face, Kentucky lost a home basketball game in Rupp Arena to the unranked Florida Gators. It was the second straight loss for the Wildcats and it snapped a 30-game home win streak in the SEC, while pushing the league’s regular season crown farther away from reach.

The world didn’t end on Saturday, though it may have felt that way to some of you.

Here are five reasons to be positive on the Monday after:

 

1. The recruiting class is still good.

Is it Reddish/Williamson/Barrett? No. It is not. But Quickley-Herro-Johnson is still a very good trio of signees with a ton of potential, and they will be a nice addition to whoever returns from the current roster.

Also, how the hell are the Duke guys going to play together? Coach K had a “super-team” with three star wings last year and didn’t reach the second weekend of the tournament.

2. Jarred Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt is the missing piece Kentucky needed all year. He played well in his brief debut at South Carolina and then again in Saturday’s loss at home. He is still figuring things out and getting his body used to playing college basketball, and he will only get better as his playing time increases.

3. They’re finally at full strength.

Remember, Saturday was the first time the team has played together. In years past, this would be the point in the season when the lineup comes together. This year, they’re only beginning to play with each other as a healthy and cohesive unit, so it’ll be a little longer before they find their rhythm.

4. Nick Richards is showing some promise.

Missed dunk aside, Nick Richards played two good games in the two losses. The Cats have been meeting their potential one by one (Gilgeous-Alexander, Gabriel, Washington…), and now Richards looks to be the next player on the list to find his role/game, if he keeps it up and doesn’t revert back. He can be a big difference-maker because he’s the biggest guy on the floor every night, and one of the most athletic.

5. This is not the year to write any team off.

One of the most ignorant statements is “this team won’t get passed the second round of tournament.” Unfortunately it’s pretty common to hear that around the fan base these days, but have those people ever seen the NCAA tournament, or watched one other game in college basketball this season? I’m not saying Kentucky won’t lose in the second round — they very well could — but it’s absurd to set a ceiling on any team. Nobody is great this year, and nobody knows what Kentucky will be a month from now, and definitely not two months from now. UK’s path will be a little more difficult since the seed will be a little worse than we’re used to, but there is too much parity in college basketball this year to be guaranteeing anything in March.

 

The world didn’t end on Saturday, but Saturday really sucked.


Larry Warford is a Pro Bowler

Parker Waters

Former Kentucky offensive lineman Larry Warford is going to the Pro Bowl.  The New Orleans Saints offensive guard became an alternate after Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks clinched a Super Bowl berth.

The Pro Bowl appearance is the first for the Madison Central product.  A five-year NFL veteran, he spent his first four years in Detroit.  In his NFL debut, the fourth round pick earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors from Pro Football Focus for not allowing one sack all season.

You can see Warford wearing No. 67 in the Pro Bowl from Orlando this Sunday at 3:00 on ESPN.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Sorry, this isn’t 2014…..

I posted a few weeks ago that John Calipari has earned the right for fans to stand behind this team for the remainder of the season.  He has multiple examples of teams struggling well into February and bringing it together in time for the NCAA Tournament.  I still believe that.  College basketball is not the greatest this year.  If Duke and/or Villanova are the best teams in the country, then Kentucky has enough talent to get to the Final Four.  They don’t have the toughness or togetherness at all for that right now, but the talent is there.

Some fans have already given up on the team.  That’s their choice but they can’t come back on board if things go well in March.  For the rest of the fanbase still trying to figure out a legitimate way this team could pull it together, there is one team that they constantly try and compare this team to: 2014.  At the most basic of surface levels, I get it.  That team had high expectations and did not seem to play well together, suffered serious freshman mistakes, had complete no-shows up and down the roster, and lost a few games that were unexpected.  But the reality is that comparing this team to 2014 is fool’s gold.

It starts with the stars and this is the most glaring difference between the two teams.  There is absolutely nobody on this roster, nor will there be anyone on this roster, that compares to Julius Randle.  Despite that team’s struggles, Randle played at an All-American level for most of 2013-2014.  He was nearly unstoppable in many games and he had something that nobody in the frontcourt has on this team: toughness.  I understand that Aaron Harrison hit all of the memorable shots during the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but it was Randle who was the go-to guy on that team.  We don’t have a guy like that on this squad.  We have no beast in the post.  PJ Washington is a damn good player, but I don’t trust him as the go-to guy in the clutch — nor do I trust him to grab the key rebounds or make the key free throws.  Kevin Knox is one of the softest players in the Cal era.  Nick Richards is the epitome of a raw player.  There is not a tough basket around the rim in any of those guy’s repertoires.

What about James Young?  Young disappeared in games much like the guys on this squad but he was an absolute assassin from the perimeter.  If the Cats needed a big shot, I trusted Young to take it just as much as Aaron Harrison.  There isn’t a soul on this squad I trust to make a clutch shot.  That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t  hit a few big shots at points in this season; it simply means I don’t trust any of them to be the clutch guy when it matters the most.  Diallo probably wants to be that guy, but I don’t see it happening.  I’m not sure anybody else even wants that shot.  During the 2013-2014 season, James Young wanted that shot.

If you are looking for your strongest reason this team could get it together, citing 2014 just doesn’t match up.  That team had certain qualities, even during their low points, that exceed this team.  If this team is going to get anywhere near where the 2014 team got in March, they’re going to have to do it in their own way with their own strengths.  There is no Randle or Young on this team, so it’s time we stop trying to find one.


Should we talk about it? (Monday Show Thread)

We all took Sunday off to concentrate on other things. But it has been well over 24 hours, so now it’s time to gather around in a circle to address what happened on Saturday.

Let’s get through this together.

Join in on the grief counseling by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.

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Today on KSR: A Monday to Move on from a Bad Weekend

It’s been two days since catastrophe struck the Big Blue Nation and it still stings.  It rained until it poured.  It started with Zion’s decision to become the devil, a Duke blue devil that is, and ended with a painfully close loss to Florida.

Normally you can take a day to let the loss marinate away.  If that didn’t work, I don’t blame you.  However, today is the day to change that.  The Cats play Mississippi State tomorrow night.  Let this Monday get all of the bad vibes out of your system so that one catastrophic Saturday does not ruin an entire basketball season.

Hear from Coach Cal

The Kentucky head coach will be back at the podium this afternoon around 2:00.  If I know Cal, he will remain optimistic, go crazy at practice , then tease a “tweak” on tonight’s call-in show.  Plan accordingly.

The Only Good Thing from Saturday

@UKFootball

The Cats get a Commit

Kentucky didn’t get Zion, but the BBN still got one new member.  Three-star Alabama receiver LiAllen Dailey rolled the dice at the conclusion of his official visit in Lexington.  Mark Stoops now has 22 players in his 2018 recruiting class that is ranked No. 33 in the 247 Composite rankings.  The Cats have room to add two or three more before National Signing Day.

Flea Flicker SZN

NFL Championship Sunday was one exciting flea flicker after another.  This double pass put the game in Jeopardy for the Patriots.

Blake Bortles let one fly.

This one set up the Pats’ penultimate score to kickstart their comeback victory.

The Eagles saved the best for last en route to a blowout victory over Minnesota.

Another L for UK Hoops

Maci Morris returned to the starting lineup, but it wasn’t enough to beat No. 10 South Carolina.  The Kentucky’s women basketball team lost 81-64 to fall to 9-11.  The Cats have just one win in their last 11 games, a skid that started December 8.

An A+ Interaction

College Basketball on TV

Time Game Network
7:00 #15 North Carolina at Virginia Tech ESPN
7:00 Maryland at Indiana FS1
7:00 Iowa State at Texas ESPNU
8:00 Nebraska at #22 Ohio State BTN
9:00 #6 West Birginia at #24 TCU ESPN
9:00 #9 Michigan State at Illinois FS1
9:00 Kansas State at Baylor ESPNU

January 21st, 2018

What does Zion Williamson’s decision mean for Kentucky?

@ESPNU

Let’s just get it out of the way now, last night sucked.

Five-star forward Zion Williamson did the unimaginable by committing to Duke, giving the Blue Devils the No. 1, 2, and 3 prospects in the nation. Absolutely no one had Duke even remotely on their radar in this recruitment. They were “technically” on Williamson’s final list, but the only perceived contenders were Kentucky, UNC, Clemson, and South Carolina. The decision shocked everyone.

And for Kentucky, the ramifications are massive.

Here’s what Williamson’s decision means for the Wildcats:

James Wiseman is a priority

The No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019, James Wiseman, is reportedly considering a move to 2018.

And Kentucky desperately needs it to happen.

It’s no secret the talented big man favors the Wildcats, but when he eventually suits up in blue and white is extremely important. He has told reporters a reclassification isn’t possible, but we’ve heard the same with elite prospects in the past. Marvin Bagley said he wasn’t going to reclassify this summer, and just weeks later, he announced he would be suiting up for Duke this season. Despite public denial, the whispers are growing louder that a reclassification is not only possible, but likely for Wiseman.

Without Williamson, Kentucky has no “it” factor guys committed for next season. Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro are all stellar prospects, but there is no superstar headliner. There is no one to single-handedly take over a game and dominate.

And Kentucky has zero offers out to any remaining uncommitted prospect in the class of 2018.

For Calipari’s one-and-done system to thrive, you have to have superstar talent layered in with quality role players. As we’re seeing this season, when you struggle to find the “guy,” the team falters. According to ESPN, UK’s highest-ranked signee in the class of 2017 was Kevin Knox at No. 10. In 2016, the Cats had three signees ranked in the top-ten, and five in the top-25. ESPN lists Keldon Johnson as the No. 7 prospect in 2018, Quickley at No. 12, and Herro at No. 27.

Again, excellent recruiting class, but something is obviously missing.

EJ Montgomery, Jordan Brown, and Moses Brown are three five-star prospects Calipari could still offer and make up ground with, but they wouldn’t be game changers for the Cats next season.

Barring any surprise graduate transfers or reclassifications, Wiseman is the only realistic shot at finishing the class with a truly elite prospect. Calipari needs him. Bad.

Kentucky needs some key returnees

Duke’s class of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones is easily one of the best in college basketball history.

If the Cats finish with some surprise returnees, however, Kentucky can absolutely beat them with depth.

Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox are near-locks to enter the NBA Draft, but beyond that, no one knows.

Despite having the measurables, Nick Richards is absolutely not ready to go to the NBA. Quade Green will almost certainly return. PJ Washington is improving, but he doesn’t look like an NBA player yet. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has moved up on the draft boards, but he could return to UK and become one of the top point guards in the nation. Will Jarred Vanderbilt enter the draft after just half a year of play? Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Jemarl Baker, and Tai Wynyard are all likely back.

If just two or three players leave, next year’s team has the potential to be absolutely loaded. Add in Wiseman or another surprise, I’ll take my chances on another Final Four run.

If some or most of the fringe guys leave, Kentucky could be in for a very rough year while watching Duke coast to a National Championship.

UK’s path to a title just got that much harder

There’s no debate anymore, Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils have taken over the recruiting world.

If Williamson committed to Clemson, South Carolina, or even North Carolina, fine. When Kentucky not only loses out on the star freshman, but Calipari’s biggest recruiting rival snags him, it’s a punch in the gut. When that same recruiting rival wins the lottery with the nation’s three top recruits in an unbelievably top-heavy class, now that’s brutal.

When Williamson threw on that horrid Duke hat last night, it felt a bit like Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors two years ago. The rich got richer, and it seemed like the 2018-19 National Championship was decided before the season even began. When Kentucky desperately needed a superstar, not only did they miss out, but they lost him to the direct competition. It made Kentucky’s road to a title next season unbelievably difficult.

Remember, however, Calipari and Coach K have won the same number of titles in the one-and-done era. Duke has four of the top eight prospects in the nation this season, yet have lost games to Boston College and NC State. They had two of the top three recruits, and three of the top ten in 2016, yet lost in the second round to South Carolina. In just two of the last seven years, Duke has made it past the Elite Eight. In Calipari’s first year at Kentucky, Duke won a title with mostly upperclassmen. It took a massive upset in 2014-15 for Duke’s freshman-heavy roster to hang a banner.

If there’s a team that knows how to crumble in the tournament, it’s the Blue Devils.

But it would take a major choke job from Mike Krzyzewski to screw this up.

It goes without saying, but Calipari has his work cut out for him in the next few months in both recruiting and figuring out what to do with his current team. The sky isn’t falling because of Zion Williamson, but it certainly isn’t sunshine and rainbows.


With Vanderbilt and Green back, along with defensive improvement, Calipari is optimistic going forward

When everyone else was worried about the sky falling, John Calipari was the calmest person in the media room following Kentucky’s disappointing loss last night to Florida.

The phrase “we’re fine” was uttered several times, with Cal saying the team’s turnaround on defense, along with overall improved health makes him feel confident going forward with this team.

One of the newest additions to the lineup, Jarred Vanderbilt, has the Kentucky head coach excited. He has averaged five points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in nearly 14 minutes per game in his first two outings, and that’s with little to no conditioning, scrimmaging, or plays set up for him.

“What we end up doing is saying when he’s in, we’re only going to run these three for four things, and then we try to figure out what they should be,” Calipari said. “I need his energy and his rebounding and his toughness and his ability to pass balls.

“He scrimmaged like two times with us, so now we play again Tuesday. So, what do we do tomorrow, and we’re off Wednesday, and then we practice Thursday, fly Friday, play Saturday. It’s hard to get him acclimated.”

With Vanderbilt and Quade Green back, Kentucky now has the healthiest roster they’ve had this season, and Calipari feels that will motivate those on the floor to put forth their best effort. If not, there’s someone itching on the bench to replace him.

“The good news right now, I’ve got a full roster,” Coach Cal said. “So, if you are really not giving it this game, I can play somebody else. So, there’s no arguments on the bench, no back and forth. You don’t have to. Out. Next.”

Even with guys playing winded and extremely rusty, the Cats were in position to win right up until the end. Because of that, Cal said he feels better about this game than he did with the team’s road win vs. Vanderbilt and the tough loss at South Carolina on Tuesday.

“We had a full roster (Saturday),” Calipari said. “Quade doesn’t shoot the ball first game back. If he makes a couple 3s, the game’s different. But you know what, first game back, what do you expect? I thought Jarred did some good stuff but he got winded again. But like I said, this is very, very much encouraging, and we went 1 out of 11 attempts to end (the first) half. Think about that. And we still had a chance. It’s because we guarded and we did some good stuff.”

Aside from the game itself, the Big Blue Nation did their part. Roughly 3,500 fans showed up to the College GameDay morning show yesterday, and then a season-high 24,394 fans filled Rupp Arena for the game last night.

Check out KY Wildcats TV’s recap of the event:

We’re on to Mississippi State.


Ohio recruiting analyst likes Kentucky’s chances with Peters and Oats

We are just a few weeks from college football’s second National Signing Day on February 7, and with four scholarships remaining, the Kentucky Wildcats have the opportunity to finish the class of 2018 strong.

Two of the most crucial pieces remaining for the Cats are four-star commitment Xavier Peters and four-star outside linebacker Chris Oats, but questions surrounding their recruitments have been a worry for UK fans.

Peters has been committed to Kentucky since July of last year, but after failing to sign during the early period, and recent scheduled visits to Florida, Florida State, and Miami, it looked like a decommitment was inevitable.

For Oats, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, there was a time Kentucky seemed like the consensus favorite in his recruitment. KSR reported just a week ago that UK safety Mike Edwards was actively recruiting Oats to Kentucky, and Oats was extremely interested in playing with the fellow Winton Woods product.

After Ohio State confirmed Oats as a “take” for the Buckeyes this week, and contact heated up between both parties, many felt the talented four-star would play for the local powerhouse school.

According to Ohio recruiting analyst and insider Bill Greene, however, Kentucky is still in great shape with both prospects.

“I think Kentucky is in really good shape to sign (Peters),” Greene told Derek Terry of the Cats Pause. “If there is a threat then it’s definitely Florida. I think (Florida State and Miami) are just window dressing.”

Greene believes Peters’ relationship with Kentucky commitments also plays in UK’s favor.

“I think he has better relationships with the kids in the Kentucky program. There’s a lot of guys on that roster he knows and guys coming in with him that he knows,” he said.

As for Oats, there’s always pressure for recruits from Ohio with offers from OSU to become Buckeyes, but his relationship with Kentucky assistant Vince Marrow may win out in the end.

“I just did an interview with Chris earlier this week where he called that relationship like a father-son relationship and talked about how much he trusted Coach Marrow,” Greene said. “Just going off past history I think (Ohio State) can clip him, but if he does go ahead and sign with Kentucky that would not shock me at all because of the relationship he has with Coach Marrow.”

Getting one or both of these guys to sign in February  would be massive.

Bring em on home, Stoops.