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Kentucky fans should be happy about growing Duke hype


If you turn on ESPN at any given moment, odds are pretty solid the Duke basketball program and the coming season will be brought up in some form or fashion. On their current international trip to Canada, the Blue Devils won all three of their games, and the worldwide leader of sports has made them the center of attention.

Highlights of Zion Williamson’s electric dunks and RJ Barrett’s elite scoring ability have been put on loop over the course of the week, specifically on SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays. And when the season starts, specifically with Cam Reddish back in the fold, that’s only going to continue.

And Kentucky fans should be happy about that.

Back in 2014-15, Kentucky was the No. 1 team in the nation from the second they arrived on campus until they fell to Wisconsin in the Final Four. They had the perfect mix of talent, leadership, and depth, and it led to a near-undefeated season. As arguably the most impressive and dominant team in college basketball history, they had the target on their backs every night, and they overcame it every game right up until the end. They were the ones with non-stop ESPN/media coverage from start to finish.

This year, as we saw in the Wildcats’ trip to the Bahamas, UK has something similar. Maybe not as top-heavy in talent, but their depth is something no one in the country can top. Maybe not as elite defensively, but you could argue they fair better on the offensive end of the floor. Former South Carolina Gamecock and Team Toronto player Duane Notice, who has now played both teams, said there were obvious similarities in 2014-15 and 2018-19.

“I think they’ve very long,” he said following his team’s loss to Kentucky in the Bahamas. “Obviously, I played against Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, those guys. These guys are long, from one to five. That’s the difference. Even their wing players are very aggressive and they’re very long. They can get on the offensive glass and they really know how to move the ball.”

But unlike the 2014-15 season, the media attention is on Duke’s “greatest recruiting class of all time,” featuring the nation’s top three recruits. They get the crazy hypotheticals and debates to drive up clicks, listeners, and viewers. Kentucky has the opportunity for a special season without the hoopla. Obviously the spotlight will be on the opening game, but from there (even if/when the Cats steamroll the Devils), Duke’s impressive dunks and highlights will still be the center of attention. Kentucky will be able to develop as a team throughout the season without the pressure. It’s the perfect storm.

After watching all three of their games in Canada, I came away very impressed with Williamson and Barrett, but there’s a significant dropoff from there. Reddish will be able to shoot at a high level and Tre Jones will be a solid game manager, but there are major issues in the paint and with depth. As the team’s starting center, Marques Bolden struggled against players not even close to the caliber of athletes he will be facing in the season. And the players behind him were worse, although I was a fan of David Robinson’s son, Justin.

Beyond Jones at point guard and Reddish at shooting guard, the team’s backcourt has major holes, as well.

In these games, Williamson was getting winded midway through the second quarter. He put up crazy numbers against horrid competition, but when he battles real Division 1 frontcourt players, the fatigue of a 6-foot-6, 285-pound player is going to set in. What happens then? Will Barrett, who I firmly believe can average 25 points per game this year, be able to win games by himself? What if there’s foul trouble? How will a team dominated by freshmen playing the same position fair under the spotlight?

Who knows, and that’s not Kentucky’s problem. They’ll be able to enjoy all the success without the same baggage. They’ll talk about Kentucky, but it won’t be remotely close to what we’ll see from the other shade of blue.

The Duke slob-fest is real, and though it’ll be annoying, the Cats will end up with the better end of the deal.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

22 responses to “Kentucky fans should be happy about growing Duke hype”

  1. herm89

    The slob fest has also spilled over to this site. “But they are our first opponent!” The game is over two months away.

  2. Parker_UKFanNC

    Outside of Barret and Zion it looks like they don’t have a whole lot of production. I’ll gladly take our balanced depth over two players carrying the team. I still feel confident about this game.

    1. mashburnfan1

      you do know they were missing 2 starters and had a 3rd guy get hurt u there and miss last 2 games. Reddish will score for them as well and the whole trip was to showcase Barrett in front of his home Country.

  3. Luether

    Hope you’re right, Jacky boy. I’ve seen all Ky’s game and Dooks’. Ky has no one that matches up with either Williamson or Barrett – and Reddish and Jones haven’t yet played. Looking forward to the Nov 6 match-up. It should be a good one. Dook’s unparalleled starting 5 talent against Ky’s solid 5 and better depth. Would like to see Cal run a 40 minutes of hell pressing game to maximize that advantage…

    1. KYcats11

      Reid Travis matches up with Zion. You literally have to crowd the paint, that’s it.

    2. unbridled

      Do we even know if Zion Williamson can actually play basketball? He’s a high flier no doubt….but is that the extent of his game?

      I like my team. In cal I trust

    3. UKWildcatNation

      You do know that Keldon Johnson has played against RJ Barrett and did a dang good job of getting up on him, taking away any space which made him very uncomfortable. I’m not say he is going to shut RJ down (I don’t think anyone will) but he is more than capable of slowing him down. And you can throw Hagans on him too. Although he’d be outsized, he’s disruptive enough to speed him up into mistakes

    4. KentuckyFan232

      Do you know anything about basketball?

    5. 4everUKblue

      Luether every time you open your mouth your ignorance becomes more and more apparent. Go back to cardschronicles.

  4. Headhurts

    Let dook be the fav, gets our teams attention, makes the cats hungry.

  5. CatManDo

    Watching Sharknado 6, ’nuff said.

  6. Wildfelinebeeline

    Media is king these days in recruiting. I’ve been watching how ESPN writes articles for different teams and there is no comparison of how good a light they paint dook in. If everyone is wondering how they’re beating Cal in recruitment, look at how much good publicity they get versus us. I was told once there’s a long term contract between dook and ESPN that involves a ton of money. If there is any truth to that, it would be in ESPN’s interest to keep dook on the top as much as possible. I believe we beat them this year and take the ship, but they’ll come out on top again in the media if ESPN had their way.

    1. TPACAT

      So what you’re saying is it’s almost like dUKe is Hillary and we’re Trump as far as media coverage goes? #MABA!

  7. CoachCat

    Lmao. I haven’t heard anyone but trump use Hillary’s name in like 8 months.

    1. CombatMedic_98

      Hillary used her name…

  8. Sentient Third Eye

    Bottom line is it’s easier to be the hunter than the hunted. If Duke is getting the spotlight, they’ll be the hunted.

  9. KYJelly

    Kentucky will also have a chip on their shoulder if Duke keeps the attention and hype all year. I’d much rather have that chip when tournament time comes over. Nothing scary than a group loaded with talent that’s out to prove their the best.

  10. CombatMedic_98

    They only have RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson…right now Zion is a man amongst boys and the only college athlete capable of Defeating a defense by himself. He is truly dominating and many opponents will not stop him to the paint.

  11. CombatMedic_98

    Oh minus UK… I think we will absolutely embarrass dUKe

  12. sardiscat

    A certain columnist needs to learn the difference between “fare” and “fair.”

    1. CombatMedic_98

      English teacher alert…????

  13. CombatMedic_98

    English Teacher Alert ?…???