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Kentucky Takes Down Virginia Tech 93-86

Kentucky Takes Down Virginia Tech 93-86

As expected, Kentucky’s match-up with Virginia Tech turned into a shootout.  The Cats out-gunned the Hokies 93-86 in their most difficult challenge at Rupp Arena to date.

The secret to Kentucky’s success was the second half perimeter defense.  Playing against one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, Virginia Tech didn’t make a three from the 1:48 mark in the first half until the 2:40 mark in the second half.  The late threes made it a nail-biter, but it was too little too late.

Offensively, Kentucky’s aggressive play in the paint opened up opportunities on the perimeter.  A Kevin Knox layup in the final 1:30 was followed by Hamidou Diallo’s decisive three-pointer from the corner to take down Virginia Tech.

More from Rupp Arena is on the way.


HALF: Virginia Tech 47 Kentucky 41

HALF: Virginia Tech 47 Kentucky 41

Well, we knew it would be a high-scoring game. After 20 minutes, Virginia Tech leads Kentucky 47-41 at Rupp Arena. The Hokies came into the game with the second best three-point shooting percentage in the country (46.8%), but so far, both teams are burning it up from the outside, with seven threes each.

Quade Green leads Kentucky in scoring with ten, followed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo with seven each. And yes, Quade is still rocking those awesome shades.

Better defense in the second half, please.


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Pregame Scouting: Virginia Tech Hokies

Pregame Scouting: Virginia Tech Hokies

Today’s game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Virginia Tech Hokies marks the beginning of what will be a very telling three game stretch for the boys in blue. Virginia Tech, then UCLA next Saturday, and then Louisville the following Saturday is the heart of the non-conference schedule for Cats.

The Cats and the Hokies are facing off for the fifth time ever and Kentucky has won three of the first four, but today will be the first time since the 1996 NCAA Tournament. The Hokies come into today’s game sporting an impressive 9-1 record on the season. While their schedule hasn’t exactly been full of world-beaters, they’ve been imposing their will on most teams, with the exception of their loss to St. Louis.

Head Coach Buzz Williams is in his fourth season at the helm for Virginia Tech, following his six seasons at Marquette. Williams has the Hokies playing a very high level of basketball, as the highest scoring team in the country with 96.2 points per game and the second best three point shooting team in the country at 46.8%. Let’s take a look at the potential starting lineup for Virginia Tech today.


#10 Justin Bibbs, Senior Guard, 6’5″

Justin Bibbs is in his fourth year as a starter for this Virginia Tech program. While he’s been a solid contributor for the first three years, Bibbs has really stepped up his efforts this season, scoring the ball with extreme efficiency. Bibbs missed the first two games of the year, but has been the best player for the Hokies since he returned.

As was mentioned earlier, Virginia Tech is the highest scoring team in the country, and Justin Bibbs is the high scorer on this team with 17.5 points per game, to go along with 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Bibbs is shooting it extremely well from all over the court, hitting 60% of his shots overall, but also 47.6% of his 3’s and 94.7% of his free throws.

What Virginia Tech lacks in height across the roster, they make up for in high quality guards. Starting three guards at 6’5″ and one guard at 6’2″, the Cats will surely have the height and length advantage, but the question is who will match up with who. Essentially, the three 6’5″ guards, including Bibbs, will match up with the trio of PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and Kevin Knox today, but I won’t venture to guess the specifics.

#13 Ahmed Hill, Junior Guard, 6’5″

Ahmed Hill has been a starter since stepping foot on campus a few years ago. He started all but three games his freshman season, but had to sit out his sophomore year due to an off-season knee surgery, but he was able to use a medical redshirt that year. Since then, he’s started 38 of 43 games, and similar to Bibbs, has seen a big jump in contributions this season.

While Bibbs may be the highest scorer on the team, Hill is not far behind. Hill is scoring 16.6 points, pulling down 4.6 rebounds, and dishing out 1.3 assists per game. His shooting numbers contend with Bibbs’ numbers as well. The junior is shooting 56.7% from the field and 50% from three point range, one of the top-20 shooters in the country.

The second of three 6’5″ starters for Buzz Williams, Hill is another force from the outside that the Cats will have to try to run off the three point line. This team really presents match up problems that the Wildcats have never seen this season. Most of these young Cats have never played against a team where every player on the team can fill it up, like this Hokie squad can.

#4 Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Freshman Guard, 6’5″

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the cousin and former high school teammate of Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. There’s been some friendly trash-talk going back and forth between the two freshmen, and it’ll be really fun to see the two match up from time to time in today’s game. Alexander-Walker was actually a higher ranked recruit coming out of Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Canada than Gilgeous-Alexander was.

Alexander-Walker has been about as solid of a first-year player that you can ask for out of a guy that isn’t a top 10 player. He’s averaging 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 asssits per game, while shooting 47.7% from beyond the three-point arc.

The third starter standing at 6’5″ shoots over 47% from deep like the first two do, making that three-headed monster a tough match up for any team. What I haven’t mentioned is how Virginia Tech will manage to defend UK though. The way their starting lineup shakes out, if the Hokies don’t play zone, they’ll have a 6’5″ player guarding both Kevin Knox and PJ Washington, giving a huge size advantage that the Cats should be able to utilize today.

#24 Kerry Blackshear, Jr., Sophomore Forward, 6’10”

Kerry Blackshear, Jr. was nothing more than a role player in his first season at Virginia Tech. He used a medical redshirt last season as a leg injury kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of the season. But now he’s back and he’s started every game this season for Buzz Williams. He is the son of Kerry Blackshear, who is the all-time leading scorer in Stetson history.

Blackshear is the largest player on the roster for Virginia Tech, so he’ll be manning the paint against the Wildcats. The fourth starter averaging double-figures in scoring per game, Blackshear is averaging 13 points, a team-leading 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and a team-high 1.2 blocks per game. He’s shooting over 66% from the field and can also step away and knock down a jump shot as well, hitting 3 of his 5 attempted threes on the season.

With the height and length that Kentucky brings to the table, Blackshear is going to have to shoulder the load in the paint and on the glass for Virginia Tech to be able to not let the Cats use that to their advantage. He will match up with Nick Richards, but Richards will have to avoid foul trouble, as the Hokies will most likely get him involved in some on-ball screens, forcing Richards to try to defend shorter, quicker perimeter players.

#5 Justin Robinson, Junior Guard, 6’2″

Justin Robinson is in his second year as a full-time starter for Coach Williams and Virginia Tech. He is the floor general for the most high-powered offensive attack in the country, so he is certainly a force to be reckoned with at the point guard position.

The junior guard is just shy of making every starter a double digit scorer, sitting at 9.9 points per contest. He’s the team’s leading passer with 5.8 assists per game, to go along with 2.3 rebounds and a team-high 1.9 steals per game. He can stroke from the outside, like most of the team can, hitting 45.8% of his three point attempts on the young season.

At 6’2″ and 190 pounds, Robinson comes in with a two inch height and 10 pound weight advantage to his counterpart Quade Green. Green is expected to play after being poked in the eye so badly in last Saturday’s win over Monmouth that he couldn’t open his eye for a day or two. If Green doesn’t go, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will take over, giving the Cats another size advantage.


I don’t think it could be stressed any more, how well this Virginia Tech team shoots the ball and fills it up from all over the court. They have quick possessions and will try to get fast and easy points in transition. Kentucky will need to focus on playing their own game and not let the shooters for the Hokies catch fire early. Virginia Tech is certainly a team that can come into Rupp and upset the Wildcats. With this being the first major talent that Kentucky has played, outside of the Kansas game, early struggles will not be surprising. It will be how the Cats overcome early struggles that determines how this game will play out.

Go Cats. Beat Hokies.

@BrettBibbinsKSR


AP Photo/Butch Dill

SEC Basketball Storylines: Recap of the First Month of the Season

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The College Basketball season is now over a month old, and the SEC has provided basketball with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from the first month of the season as the conference heads towards league play.

1. Collin Sexton’s World

Through one month of the season, Sexton has bar-none been the best player in the SEC, and I’m not sure if any other player has been a close second.

He leads the SEC in scoring as a freshman with 21.8 points per game while he also averages around four assists and four rebounds a game. He came into Tuscaloosa as a five-star recruit who had all the hype in the world and he has lived up to it.

Moving forward, Sexton will have to get better as every team will now be keying in on him especially once conference play begins.

His favorite moves and tendencies will be scouted out and his game will have to evolve if Alabama wants a shot at winning the SEC this season. However, as of right now Sexton is the superstar that the SEC deserved and needed to showcase to the rest of the college basketball world.

2. Florida’s Backcourt

The Gators have been one of the most curious teams in the conference this year. One week they are beating Gonzaga and taking Duke down to the wire, but then the next week they are dropping games to Florida State and Loyola-Chicago.

Despite their inconsistencies as a team, the backcourt of Florida has arguably been the best in all the SEC as Jalen Hudson, Chris Chiozza, and Egor Koulechov have all had great seasons thus far.

Hudson is third in the conference in scoring at 19.1 points per game, Koulechov is eighth in scoring at 16.1 point per game, and Chiozza is second in the SEC in assists per game at 6.1.

These three are the Gators top three scorers, and they are lethal from behind the three-point line where they are all shooting at least 39%.

Florida will only be as good as they are this season, but for the time being Hudson has been one of the biggest surprises of the year. Things didn’t work out for him at Virginia Tech, but his transfer down to Gainesville has done wonders for his game.

3. Kentucky’s Point Guard Play

Every season it seems that John Calipari and the Wildcats are led by a world class point guard. However, this season is a bit different for Kentucky.

I am not suggesting that freshmen Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander won’t be star point guards, but through one month of play they are still trying to find their footing as college basketball players.

Gilgeous-Alexander is a lockdown defender and Green has proven to be a capable offensive threat, however Green’s weakness is his defense and Gilgeous-Alexander’s weakness seems to be his offensive game.

It’s a peculiar situation for Calipari whose system begs for star point guards that go high in the NBA Draft, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with these two now.

However, both Green and Gilgeous-Alexander have plenty of time to mature and refine their games before the NCAA Tournament arrives. How much they will improve will determine just how far Kentucky will advance.

4. Tennessee’s Quick Start

Head Coach Rick Barnes has the Volunteers off to a surprising 7-1 start on the season. Their start has included wins over Purdue, NC State, Georgia Tech, and a close loss against Villanova.

Spearheading the Volunteer effort on the year has been sophomore big man Grant Williams. Williams currently is averaging an impressive 16.1 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Another huge reason why Tennessee has had such a successful season thus far is because of their efficiency from three-point land. The Volunteers lead the SEC in three-point shooting percentage at 41.2%.

One reason why they have been so efficient from behind the arc is due to the play of sophomore guard Jordan Bowden who is shooting 59%.

The country will see just how for real the Volunteers are this season when they play No. 7 North Carolina on December 17th in Knoxville.

5. Vanderbilt’s Rough Start

While one SEC team from the state of Tennessee got a great jump to their season, the other SEC team from the state has struggled mightily. The Commodores have the worst record in the entire conference at 3-6 with loses against Belmont and Middle Tennessee.

(Jim Brown-USA Today)

The big problem for Vanderbilt this season is that they have a very hard time scoring the basketball. The Commodores are dead last in the SEC in scoring at a paltry 68.7 points per game.

The main reason why they just can’t score is because they have a limited number of true scorers on the team. Only three players are in double digits in points per game, and Jeff Roberson leads the team in that category with an average 14.2 points per game.

In his first year as head coach, Bryce Drew led the Commodores to a respectable 19-16 record. With lesser options on this team, Drew will have to work his magic when SEC play gets here, or it will be a very long season for Vanderbilt.


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An Impending Shoot Out at Rupp

There’s gonna be a ton of points scored when Kentucky takes the Rupp Arena court with Virginia Tech today at 2:00 on ESPN2.  Virginia Tech leads the nation in scoring with 96.2 points per game.  Kentucky can keep up, averaging 80 points per game, but how will the defense respond in their first real test of the season?  Today will serve as a litmus test for the young, lengthy Kentucky defense.

What’s a Hokie?

Virginia Tech comes to town with one of the most obscure mascots in all of college sports.  Dictionary.com tells me a hokie is, “an emasculated turkey.”  There are many bad jokes I could make, but I’ll let you take care of that.  

The Best Version of Buzz Williams

The Virginia Tech head coach has been one of college basketball’s most entertaining personalities since he stepped on the scene at Marquette.  Like their coach, the BuzzCuts never failed to entertain viewers.  His best moment came after a win on the road at West Virginia.  The West Virginia students could’ve been charged with attempted murder after he danced in the middle of the court.

Now the BuzzCuts are done and frankly, it’s sad.  Buzz dropped his signature haircut to prove to the world he actually does have some hair on top of his head.  It’s a disgraceful, giant middle finger to the balding community.  Buzz, we are done with you and your luscious locks of hair.

@TeamCoachBuzz

Two Cats Return

Last week against Monmouth, an ankle injury forced Sacha Killeya-Jones to the sidelines.  He was joined halfway through the game by Quade Green after the point guard got poked in the eye.  John Calipari expects both players to return to the court today.

A New Rupp Arena Gameday App

Fans who appear on the Rupp Arena jumbotron can get that video moment sent directly to their phone with a free app called 15 Seconds of Fame (15SOF). Once you have the clip in the app, you can share it instantly across all social networks.  Just download it on IOS, Google Play and find more information at www.15sof.com.

Congrats Graduates!

Thousands of University of Kentucky students celebrated a remarkable accomplishment yesterday at Kentucky’s Commencement ceremony.  Thirty-five former and current student-athletes — from Gerald Fitch and Garry Williams to Stephen Johnson and Alex Montgomery — made the wonderful walk across the stage.  Congratulations graduates and good luck.

Bowl Season Begins

In 2017 we have zero weeks off of college football season.  A week after Army-Navy, it’s time for more college football.

  • Noon on ABC: Celebration Bowl, Grambling vs. North Carolina A&T
  • 1:00 on ESPN: New Orleans Bowl, Troy vs. North Texas
  • 2:30 on CBS Sports Network: Cure Bowl, Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
  • 3:30 on ABC: Las Vegas Bowl, No. 25 Boise State vs. Oregon
  • 4:30 on ESPN: New Mexico Bowl, Marshall vs. Colorado State
  • 8:00 on ESPN: Camellia Bowl, Middle Tennessee State vs. Arkansas State

You may not be that interested in some of these matchups, but you can add a little incentive into your bowl season by playing in the Free Money Bowl Pick ‘Em Challenge.  Put in your picks before noon to have a shot at winning tickets to Kentucky-Florida.

Join the Free Money Podcast Bowl Pick ‘Em Challenge

College Basketball on TV

  • Noon: Louisville vs. Memphis on ESPN2
  • Noon: Butler vs. No. 17 Purdue on Fox
  • 12:30: Syracuse at Georgetown on CBS
  • 2:00: Virginia Tech at No. 8 UK on ESPN2
  • 2:30: Indiana vs. No. 18 Notre Dame on Fox
  • 3:30: No. 25 Cincinnati at UCLA on CBS
  • 4:00: Oklahoma at No. 3 Wichita State on ESPN2

You Gotta See the New Star Wars

The Force Awakens was filled with too many traditional Star Wars conventions.  The Last Jedi spun all of those conventions upside-down to create a masterpiece.  A return trip to the movie theater is in-store for me in the near future.


LOOK: Several Kentucky athletes graduated this afternoon

This afternoon, the University of Kentucky had 35 student-athletes walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, marking the end of a long journey at the school.

There were several current stars and popular past names that all deserve applause on such a big day.

First up, we had UK quarterback Stephen Johnson with a few other football players posing after graduation:

Kentucky receiver Garrett “Juice” Johnson with his family:

Former basketball players Erik Daniels and Gerald Fitch came back and earned their diplomas today, as well:

Current WNBA star Makayla Epps donned her cap and gown after walking across the stage:

Here was Matthew Mitchell’s video of Epps walking across the stage and receiving her diploma:

Yesterday, we shared the story of UK basketball manager Kevin Massey’s inspiring story and his tough journey to graduation.

Today, he got up on stage and received his diploma. He also got a visit from President Eli Capilouto:

Congratulations to all University of Kentucky graduates and good luck in their future endeavors!


TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari previews Virginia Tech

TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari previews Virginia Tech

On student manager Kevin Massey’s graduation …
“First of all let me tell you, I’m getting a lot more credit than I deserve. I did go see (him). I went back up to see him. I did tell him, ‘You get healthy (and) you come here.’ We helped him with the school, but the day-to-day stuff is what John Robic did. If I’m John, this is one of my best accomplishments, if I’m John Robic. I look it as though, he’s willed himself, Kevin Massey but he couldn’t do it himself. He needed his cousin. He needed his sister. The daily care and he needed someone like John that can be on top of it and I didn’t have that kind of time. Now I was always there to perk him up and grab the dog, see him at practice and I prayed for him every day. But John did an unbelievable job for him. He’s a miracle, Kevin Massey and a blessing because if you ever feel down or if you have been wronged or fate has intervened in a negative way in your life, go sit with him for an hour. You’ll be mad at yourself. Haven’t told him yet, but he already has a job offer. Somebody watched the video. It’s sitting on my desk, you get emotional with it, it’s in another city but they may be able to do something in Indianapolis. But, it’ll be neat when he gets it and when I see what his face and his family (looks like). You know it’s how this is supposed to be. This program is bigger than me. It’s bigger than any of you in this room. Why not leverage what we are doing here to help other people, not just basketball players, others? And I say it all the time, you cheat this position, whoever is in it, whoever is in this seat, you cheat this position if all you worry about is game tape, basketball, social media and news. You just cheat the position. This thing is a juggernaut that can be used for good.”

On if Sacha Killeya-Jones and Quade Green are able to play …
“I believe so. I believe so. Yes, but until game time – something could happen today. It’s funny they both got better and everything was going good and then they got to take a step back. The good news is we saw that Tai (Wynyard) can play, that Tai is good enough to do what he needs to do. And then the other thing is we went small and it didn’t look bad. So, we were able to see that. Quade’s ability to score – without him it hurts us. It is more than everybody understands. He is a consistent guy that can get buckets, it’s just in his DNA. That and not being there puts us in a tough position going into this game. Virginia Tech first of all, Buzz (Williams) does an unbelievable job. He’s been a good friend for a long time. Second thing is this team is the best 3-point shooting team we will face all year. Third thing, they draw fouls because they put their head down and they go at that basket. The other thing they do is they are going to press us. They are not going to come in here with all this respect and go back and play a zone or sag. They are going to press us. They are playing fast. Now we have been in these kind of games and two teams playing fast and it’s pretty fun to watch. They want to stretch the court. We aren’t walking it up, ‘here we come’ and that’s how they’ll play. They beat Washington by 30-20 somebody will give me the exact score. Twenty-five maybe, 26? And Washington beat Kansas on the road by 16, I believe. They went and beat them pretty good. So, you are talking a really good team. They beat Ole Miss on the road, down at Ole Miss. This will be a hard game. Look we are at that stage with this team, we win or we learn. That’s where we are. I’m not taking it any other way. We win or we’ll learn. And we are going to learn as individual players where guys are and as a team where we are.”

On how Virginia Tech can be in the top ranks in the country of getting to the free throw line, but also shoot a lot of threes …
“They drive the ball and they space out. They have three or four guys that can absolutely make threes. They’re looking for layups and kicking it out for threes and they’re getting to the line because of it. They have veteran guys. They have one freshman, but this is a veteran team that has done this in the ACC. They’re not afraid. They go on the road in big games. Their home games are craziness. This is plugged into our schedule at a time where we need to learn about us, and we will.”

On Jarred Vanderbilt’s workouts with Kenny Payne and the progress he’s making …
“He (Kenny) said he is (making progress). I saw Jarred yesterday. We didn’t really speak. I’ll just say it again – he’s not playing to help us win. We’re not going to do that. If I don’t think he’s capable of playing to the level he needs to play, then I won’t play him, whether he begs me to go in. We’re not just trying to put a guy in that’s going to damage him to win more games. I won’t do that. He’s going to have to be able to prove to me that he’s going to be able to go. I’m not saying he’s 107 percent, I’m just saying that he can go and compete at a high level and not damage himself.”

(more…)


Calipari says Kevin Knox’s progress is like…golf?

Calipari says Kevin Knox’s progress is like…golf?

Kevin Knox played his worst game of the season vs. Monmouth, scoring only four points off 1-9 shooting and committing seven turnovers. Today, John Calipari compared Knox’s rough day to…golf?

“It’s kind of like golf,” Cal said. The minute you think you have this thing licked, then all of a sudden, ‘I can’t make a putt. I made every putt last week. I can’t make …’ And then all of a sudden you look and you’re like, ‘Uh oh, I’ve got a tap-in,’ and your partner says, ‘Why don’t you just tap that one in. Just go ahead, you’ve got it. It’s one foot, you’ll make that.’ And all of a sudden you pull the one-footer. Now all of a sudden you’re like wigging out. Well, this game is that way, and that’s why you always respect the game. And if you’re going good, you fight like heck and try to get better.”

So, basically, this was Knox on Saturday?

Calipari said Knox had plenty of reminders of his performance in New York this week in practice.

“This week he heard it maybe 15 times. ‘That’s how hard you go. Do you understand you were 1 for 9 and seven turnovers? It was against Monmouth. I’ll give that to you. But you were 1 for 9 and seven turnovers.’”

Bad days like Knox’s give Calipari the opportunity to give his players the tough love he knows will prepare them for the next level.

“Here’s the thing about what I love about coaching where I am: Like, these kids are held to a high standard here and these kids are held accountable and they’re called out and we keep it real. We protect them. If they lose a game, you know I’m not going to blame a player. You guys know how I am. But, to be able to really go right to the jugular and say, ‘You better start changing.’ When they leave us, that’s not how this stuff works. Either you’re good enough or you’re not, and if you’re not good enough it’s somebody else. Their chance right now to be absolutely challenged amongst each other.

“My thing is, if you care about the team you’re going to push your teammate. If you don’t care about the team you’re going to try to joke around and make everything light because you don’t understand. If you care about the team, you’re going to push each other.”

I have a feeling Knox will bounce back in a big way tomorrow.


Kentucky a 5-point favorite vs. Virginia Tech

Kentucky a 5-point favorite vs. Virginia Tech

Vegas has spoken and Kentucky is a five-point favorite in tomorrow’s game vs. Virginia Tech at Rupp Arena. Considering the Hokies lead the nation in scoring with 96.2 points per game, that’s probably fair.

ESPN’s matchup predictor still gives the Hokies a slight edge:

Either way, it should be an entertaining day at Rupp.


Calipari: Kevin Massey already has a job offer

@UKBasketball

UK Basketball student manager and brain cancer survivor Kevin Massey graduated from UK this morning, and, according to John Calipari, job offers are already rolling in.

“I haven’t told him yet, but he already has a job offer,” Cal said in today’s press conference. “Somebody watched the video. It’s sitting on my desk, you get emotional with it, it’s in another city but they may be able to do something in Indianapolis. But, it’ll be neat when he gets it and when I see what his face and his family (looks like).”

Calipari was asked about Massey first thing in today’s presser and immediately gave John Robic all of the credit for helping him be a part of the UK Basketball family.

“First of all let me tell you, I’m getting a lot more credit than I deserve. I did go see (him). I went back up to see him. I did tell him, ‘You get healthy (and) you come here.’ We helped him with the school, but the day-to-day stuff is what John Robic did. If I’m John, this is one of my best accomplishments, if I’m John Robic.

“I look it as though, he’s willed himself, Kevin Massey but he couldn’t do it himself. He needed his cousin. He needed his sister. The daily care and he needed someone like John that can be on top of it and I didn’t have that kind of time. Now I was always there to perk him up and grab the dog, see him at practice and I prayed for him every day. But John did an unbelievable job for him.”

@UKBasketball

Calipari said Massey’s journey is an inspiration and a much-needed reminder that being the head basketball coach at Kentucky is bigger than just sports.

“He’s a miracle, Kevin Massey and a blessing because if you ever feel down or if you have been wronged or fate has intervened in a negative way in your life, go sit with him for an hour. You’ll be mad at yourself.”

“You know it’s how this is supposed to be. This program is bigger than me. It’s bigger than any of you in this room. Why not leverage what we are doing here to help other people, not just basketball players, others And I say it all the time, you cheat this position, whoever is in it, whoever is in this seat, you cheat this position if all you worry about is game tape, basketball, social media and news. You just cheat the position. This thing is a juggernaut that can be used for good.”

@UKBasketball

For more on Massey, check out the stories below:

UK Basketball manager, brain cancer survivor set to graduate

Reading Assignment: Gregg Doyel’s story on Kevin Massey


What questions need to be answered this weekend against Virginia Tech?

Photo by UK Athletics

Man, is it just me, or does it feel like a lifetime since the last time Kentucky played a home game at Rupp Arena? And maybe I’m crazy, but I’m pretty sure that at least two Star Wars movies have come out since the last time the Wildcats played a legitimately good team.

Thankfully that will change starting this weekend, as Kentucky enters what might just end up as their toughest three-game stretch all season. That three game stretch – Virginia Tech, UCLA, Louisville – involves three Top 25-ish type teams and three teams that should make the NCAA Tournament this year. Therefore, as much as we think we know about the Wildcats right now, we’ll learn a heck of a lot more between now and the start of the New Year.

So what should every UK fan be watching over this three-game stretch? Here are a few things I’ll be keeping my eye on with Kentucky, starting Saturday against Virginia Tech:

Can Hamidou Diallo be the second scorer this team needs?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Kevin Knox is this team’s single most gifted scorer, in the same way I don’t think it’s a stretch to call The Big Bang Theory the single most overrated, unwatchable show currently on television (both are such certainties that they need no further discussion). The question for Kentucky is “Who is No. 2” behind Knox? And the answer I think most fans are hoping for is Hami Diallo.

It makes sense when you consider that Diallo is second in scoring on this year’s club, but what’s been a little surprising is that he’s been inconsistent while putting up those numbers. On the plus side, Diallo is averaging 14 points per game, and has tallied at least 19 points in each of his last three games. Keep in mind however that he also didn’t hit double-digits in any of the three games before that, against what wasn’t very good competition overall (Fort Wayne, Troy, East Tennessee).

Also here’s another worth tracking with Diallo: How is his outside shot looking? After starting the year red-hot (3 of 6 in his first two games) he’s cooled down considerably, shooting just 3 of 13 behind the arc. For Hami to reach his potential as the No. 2 option on this team behind Knox, he can’t rely solely on his athleticism to get to the rim. He’s got to start hitting deep shots too.
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Gilgeous-Alexander talking trash with cousin ahead of tomorrow’s game

Gilgeous-Alexander talking trash with cousin ahead of tomorrow’s game

When Kentucky meets Virginia Tech tomorrow in Rupp Arena, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have the opportunity to play against his cousin, Virginia Tech freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker, for the first time.

Gilgeous-Alexander admitted he’s been doing a little trash talking this week in their daily conversations, but said he hasn’t taken it too far as to not hurt his cousin’s spirit.

“Mostly stuff like we’re going to win, nothing too — I don’t want to hurt his spirit,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I’ll let the game hurt his spirit.”

Shortly before Gilgeous-Alexander took questions from the media, John Calipari noted that Canadian players are always smiling; to that, Gilgeous-Alexander got in another playful jab at his cousin, saying, “After the game, he will not be smiling.”

Hear more from Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel in this clip from today’s interviews, courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV:


Calipari again says he will not rush Vanderbilt to benefit the team

After Jarred Vanderbilt gave fans hope for his debut with an Instagram post earlier this week, we expected a major update regarding his status from John Calipari’s Friday press conference. Turns out, it was more of the same from Calipari, who said he will not play Vanderbilt unless it benefits Vanderbilt.

“I’ll just say it again: He’s not playing to help us win; we’re not going to do that,” Calipari said. “If I don’t think that he’s capable of playing to the level he needs to play, I won’t play him; whether he begs me to go in — I’m not. We’re not just trying to put a guy in that’s going to damage him, to win more games. I just don’t do that. He’s going to have to prove to me that he’s going to be able to go. I’m not saying, you know, he’s 107 percent — I’m just saying he can go and compete at a high level and not damage himself.”

To me, this says Calipari is protecting Vanderbilt long term and it’s almost identical to the Hamidou Diallo situation last year, although Vanderbilt’s is injury related. Last year fans were dying to see Diallo play, but Calipari knew the late arrival had Diallo behind everyone else, and he would risk being exposed by playing too soon. I think it’s the same for Vanderbilt once he is fully healthy and ready to go. Vanderbilt is already so far behind, he could look terrible if he were to play too soon, which would have a major impact on his long term goal. Cal wants to know Vanderbilt is ready to play at a “high level,” as he said, before throwing him into the fire when he’s at a disadvantage by missing many months of important practices and game experience.

If this goes on another two or three weeks, I don’t think we see Jarred Vanderbilt all season, and maybe ever if he decides to roll the dice in the NBA draft.


Green, Killeya-Jones expected to play tomorrow

Some good news on the injury front: Kentucky will have its starting point guard, Quade Green, in the lineup for Saturday’s game after he suffered a severe eye injury in Madison Square Garden last weekend. Green couldn’t open his right eye earlier in the week, but he has returned to practice and John Calipari expects he’ll go against Virginia Tech.

And in other positive injury news, Sacha Killeya-Jones is also expected to play against the Hokies. The sophomore big man sat out the last game with a sprained ankle, but he too returned to practice late in the week. Calipari said Killeya-Jones could get “Wally Pipp’d” by Tai Wynyard if he missed too much time.

It’s good to hear both guys will be back for the big challenge ahead.