The final score doesn’t reflect it, but there were times in this game that it seemed →
Basketball Season Coverage
Trippie Longstocking is back at it again. A year ago against Louisville was his most blatant trip, knocking down Ray Spalding in the open floor at Cameron Indoor. This one against Quentin Snider is a bit more subtle.
GRAYSON ALLEN WITH YET ANOTHER TRIP pic.twitter.com/PFmj0cvxlk
— Matthew Gadd (@themattgadd) January 14, 2017
In return, he got smacked in the face.
Couldn't have happened to a better guy. pic.twitter.com/Pppl6FhHyn
— Shannon The Dude (@ShannonTheDude) January 14, 2017
Allen simply can’t stop, won’t stop.
Before last season’s loss to the Auburn Tigers, the Kentucky Wildcats had won 18 straight match ups. Last season, Tyler Ulis put up near triple double numbers (17 points, 10 rebounds, 8 rebounds), but it was in a losing effort as only two other Cats scored more than 8 points.
This year, Bruce Pearl brings an 11-5 Auburn team to Rupp Arena missing their second leading scorer, Danjel Purifoy, who injured his ankle a few games back. Today will be the second straight game that Purifoy has missed because of his ankle.
The Wildcats are 91-18 all time against the Tigers and are looking to extend that lead even further today. Let’s take a look at the projected starting lineup for Bruce Pearl’ squad:
#5 Mustapha Heron, Freshman Guard, 6’5″
Mutapha Heron is one of four freshman starters for the Auburn Tigers this year. He was a big time commitment for Bruce Pearl, ranked as the 25th best prospect in the Class of 2016. He is the first consensus five star prospect in Auburn basketball history. So far this season, he’s lived up to the hype for the Tigers.
Heron is leading the team in scoring and rebounding, at 16.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s a knock down shooter at 41.4% from 3-point land and almost 80% from the free throw line. With Purifoy out for today’s game, even more of the offensive load will fall on the shoulders of Heron.
At 6’5″, Heron is taller than all three guards that start for the Cats. He’ll most likely draw a defensive assignment from Isaiah Briscoe. If you read these match up posts before every game, you know how much I stress than Coach Cal likes to move Briscoe onto the bigger scoring guards from the opposing team, such as Justin Jackson from UNC, Miles Bridges from MSU, and Matthew Fisher-Davis from Vandy.
#1 Jared Harper, Freshman Guard, 5’10”
Jared Harper, another freshman starter from Bruce Pearl’s really talented recruiting class, was a top 100 prospect in the Class of 2016. Harper has out-performed his ranking so far this year, starting all but one game so far for the Tigers. He’s the true point guard for Auburn and does a good job of scoring as well.
Harper is putting up solid numbers in his freshman campaign, averaging 13.5 points, a team-leading 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He’s a solid on-ball defender too, and his quickness creates issues for opposing guards. He leads the team with 1.7 steals per game.
The freshman is not the typical guard that starts right out of high school. He’s 5’10” and 165 pounds, which is similar size to Tyler Ulis. De’Aaron Fox will match up with Harper in this one. I know Harper has been able to handle the opponents the Tigers have played this season, but Fox will be the fastest and most talented guard he has defended this season.
#50 Austin Wiley, Freshman Center, 6’11”
Austin Wiley has only been with the team since the middle of December, but he was the highest rated recruit in Pearl’s recruiting class. Ranked as a consensus five-star and top-20 prospect, Wiley committed to Auburn over the likes of Kansas and Duke, among others.
He played in his first game after having only practiced two days with the Tigers, and he’s getting better in each of the seven games he’s played this year. He’s averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, along with 1.3 blocks. Wiley’s size will draw fouls, but his percentage from the stripe is very poor, shooting only 46.4%.
Wiley is a good offensive rebounder, and actually has more offensive boards than defensive boards on the season. Bam Adebayo will have his work cut out for him, as Wiley will be one of the few guys that he shouldn’t be able to muscle around easily all year. Wiley’ inexperience will lend to Bam’s success in the post in today’s game.
#23 TJ Lang, Junior Forward, 6’7″
TJ Lang is the only non-freshman starter for this Auburn Tiger team. He started almost every game last season, so his experience is huge on the court for Bruce Pearl. Last year in the game versus the Cats, Lang finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds in 32 minutes.
With the fresh batch of prospects brought to Auburn this year, Lang has seen his production diminish during his junior season. He’s putting up 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He shoots 34.7% from the 3-point line, and just over 65% from the charity stripe.
TJ Lang is the verbal leader on the court for the Tigers and without Purifoy, he may be asked to take on some more of the offensive responsibilities. The junior has a reputation of a lock-down defender, and will probably try to shut down Malik Monk’s scoring for the Cats.
#24 Anfernee McLemore, Freshman Forward, 6’7″
Anfernee McLemore is starting in place of the injured Danjel Purifoy, and last game was only his first start of his young career. He was a four-star prospect out of Sylvester, Georgia, and he was the 12th best player in the state. He’ll play the 4-position for the Tigers today.
McLemore is averaging 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. He won’t be a huge statistical factor in today’s game, but the same can be expected of any normal back up in the country. McLemore is a good defender though, and has the most blocks of any current starter.
McLemore will play the four position for the Tigers today, drawing a matchup with the Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis position for the Cats. This is a game where I really think Gabriel can have a coming out party, as he won’t be oversized for one of the first time this season.
Auburn’s losses this season have come to Purdue, Boston College, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss. Their best win is over Oklahoma in an early season tournament. Oklahoma had some key guys out with injury, but still a good win for Bruce Pearl’s squad. Look for the Cats to try to push the pace, per usual, and try to get the Auburn freshmen off of their game. I think De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo should both have big games today against fellow members of the class of 2016. Bruce Pearl is a really good coach though, so don’t be surprised if Auburn comes out with a strong game plan to try to slow down the Cats’ transition offense.
Go Cats. Beat Tigers.
By Nick Roush on ©January 14th, 2017 @ 10:00am
Normally gamedays begin by discussing the game, but today is different. Yesterday I woke up to Ryan Lemond’s laugh. The roster news didn’t end there. We might even receive more football roster news before the day is done. Here’s what happened and what could happen before the day is done.
1. Jeff Badet to Graduate, Transfer
Kentucky’s leading wide receiver is leaving the program. Badet caught 31 passes for 670 yards and 4 touchdowns. At 21.6 yards per catch, he led the SEC in yards per catch and was sixth in the nation. What’s most problematic: Kentucky’s two fastest players on the 2016 team, Boom and Badet, left with a year of eligibility remaining.
It stinks, but it makes sense. Badet was recruited into an Air Raid offense. He struggled with injuries until his talents were finally validated this year, but in a run-first offense. Even as Kentucky’s greatest homerun threat, getting 10 caches in a game is improbable. The most any receiver had in a single game this season was when Badet caught seven passes against Miss. State.
It stinks, but it makes sense, and we wish him the best.
Moving forward, Kentucky has plenty of receivers ready to fill his spot. Tavin Richardson, Jabari Greenwood and Kayaune Ross have adequate experience on the outside, and Garrett Johnson can be a speedy deep ball threat (just ask UofL). Also, the highest-ranked recruit in the 2017 class, Javonte Richardson, plays his position.
2. UK Announces Seven Mid-Year Signees
Fifteen minutes after breaking the Badet news, Kentucky announced the addition of seven early enrollees: QBs Danny Clark and Walker Wood, WR Clevan Thomas, RB Bryant Koback, OLB Jamin Davis, and DBs Cedrick Dort and Lonnie Johnson. Of the seven, JUCO safety Lonnie Johnson is the only one guaranteed to play immediately, filling the holes left by Blake McClain and J.D. Harmon.
Jamin Davis is Freddie’ favorite, but mine is Bryant Koback. Koback’s play is reminiscent of Benny Snell’s. He doesn’t run over people like Snell, but he plays with a low pad level, carrying his momentum forward whenever he’s hit.
Koback could have attained some HUGE offers, but was injured in just the fifth game of the season. Prior to the injury, Koback rushed for 1,096 yards on 93 carries (11.78 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns in just four games (more than 5 scores per game). His highlights are not too shabby.
You can see highlights from of all seven early enrollees here.
3. Lynn Bowden Announcement
Before the craziness of yesterday, I planned on leading off with Bowden’s announcement. Even with a home basketball game, the potential addition of Bowden is the biggest news of the day. He’s that good.
I’ve ranted and raved about Bowden before, but you can’t say enough about Youngstown’s finest. The No. 5 athlete in the nation is a program-changing player. Just like Boom Williams, Bowden has the potential to bust open a big play on any given snap. Bowden is set to choose between Penn State, West Virginia and the Cats. If Ohio State stays away, Bowden will be in blue next fall.
Bowden said he’ll announce “around 1:45ish.” Don’t wait around on your computer for the announcement like last Saturday. Just download the KSR app (Google Play and iTunes), turn your notifications on and I’ll let the sound of Ryan Lemond’s laughter bring you joyful news.
4. Bruce Pearl Returns to Rupp
The former head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers is in his third season at Auburn. This year the Tigers are 11-5, but I’m more focused on the coach than the players. Pearl has a 2-7 record against John Calipari. He’s never won at Rupp Arena, but the Tigers enter with a one-game winning streak over the Cats after last year’s win at Auburn Arena.
Even though he’s been a Tiger for three years now, this is still the first thing that comes to mind every time I hear Pearl’s name.
5. Quick-Hitters on Today’s Game
- It tips-off at 4:00 on ESPN with Tom Hart, Kaylee Hartung and Kara Lawson Barling on the call.
- The KSR Pregame Show begins at 1:30 on 630 WLAP.
- Auburn is led by Mustapha Heron, a fourth team preseason All-SEC selection. Heron averages 16.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
- Auburn has two signature wins. They beat Oklahoma by four and defeated UConn by three in overtime.
More on the Tigers later today.
6. Go Behind-the-Scenes for Today’s Game
Drew Franklin is busting out the Snapchat machine to take you behind-the-scenes for today’s game at Rupp Arena. From watching warm-ups on the floor to the City BBQ nachos, Drew will show you what it’s like to cover a Kentucky basketball game for KSR. Take a pic of the pic below or add him at drew_franklin.
7. Watch Bamba Play Ayton After UK
After you watch your Kentucky Wildcats, grab a meal, then head back to your TV to see the two best post players in the country face off at 8:00 on ESPN. DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 player in the nation, is committed to Arizona. Mohamed Bamba, the No. 3 player in America, first entered Cal’s radar after dominating Ayton in the first event of this year’s EYBL. The 247 Composite gives UK and Duke a 50/50 shot at landing Bamba.
The Cats are also recruiting Bamba’s teammate, Cameron Reddish. The No. 4 player in the 2018 class, John Calipari watched the Westtown teammates play on Wednesday.
8. Today’s Sports Schedule
With the NFL Playoffs beginning at 4:35, it’s a front-loaded college basketball schedule.
- Noon: Trippers vs. Strippers on ESPN
- Noon: UGA at No. 23 Florida on ESPN2
- Noon: UConn at Georgetown on Fox
- 2:00: No. 9 Florida State at No. 11 North Carolina on ESPN
- 2:00: Oklahoma State at No. Kansas on ESPN2
- 2:00: No. 15 Xavier at No. 12 Butler on FS1
- 4:00: No. 10 West Virginia at Texas on ESPN2
- 4:30: No. 1 Baylor at No. 25 Kansas State on ESPNU
- 4:35: Seahawks at Falcons on Fox
- 8:15: Texas an Patriots on CBS
- 10:00: No. 21 St. Mary’s at No. 5 Gonzaga on ESPN2
9. You Need to start Watching Taboo
This week FX debuted Tom Hardy’s new show Taboo. I will not geek, but let’s just say I’m glad I used my DVR.
Without providing spoilers, I’ll set the scene. It’s London in 1814. Many thought Hardy’s character was dead, but he returns from Africa for his father’s funeral. His inheritance causes a split between Hardy and the East India Company. Hardy’s badassery and the wonderfully created setting will make this show one of the best this year. Hurry up and start it before you get too far behind.
10. Ali’s 75th Birthday Celebration Begins Today
Muhammad Ali would have turned 75 this upcoming Tuesday. The Center bearing his name will host a four-day celebration beginning today. There will be a service project with Ali Center staffers, a new Ali Art Tribute exhibit and free film screenings in the auditorium. Today’s lineup features a documentary I’m ashamed I’ve yet to see, When We Were Kings. Ali Bomaye!
10:00 a.m.: Ali Rap
11:00 a.m.: When We Were Kings
1:00 p.m.: The Trials of Muhammad Ali
3:00 p.m.: Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World
Unfortunately, it will not be as star-studded as his 50th birthday celebration.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
Here we go, folks! After arriving in Lexington on Tuesday night, Hamidou Diallo is now practicing with the team. Check out this sneak peek of Diallo in practice, which @KentuckyMBB tweeted out minutes ago:
Our newest additon, Hamidou Diallo, getting his first on-court work in. That jumper looks 👌 pic.twitter.com/ICvVItZZc0
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 13, 2017
How perfect is it that they showed him hitting a jumper? Diallo is the best shooting guard in the 2017 class, but isn’t exactly known as a great shooter BUT MAYBE WE’RE WRONG. Predictably, John Calipari talked a lot about Diallo in today’s press conference, and when asked if he would play Diallo if Kentucky’s guards got into foul trouble, Cal said no, stressing that Diallo will only play this season if it’s in HIS best interest, not the team’s.
“I wouldn’t do it for me or the program. The only way that would happen is if it’s in his best interest. The situation wouldn’t matter. Up, down, sideways, it wouldn’t matter. It would be about him. What I know is what’s in his mind, and what I see, he needs to get squared away, let’s get your base set, and then come back and do your thing. That would be my recommendation if he asks me.”
Diallo will travel with the team but he will not dress, meaning his biggest impact will be in practice, where he can go against Kentucky’s guards.
“He can guard them, he can make them come every day and have to bring it because he’s a long, athletic player,” Cal said. ” I get to split up the group a little bit so we get a little six rotation on both sides, which is gonna be good. It’s his first time, he’s probably anxious and nervous. We gave him a couple of things that we’re doing so when we go up and down he can play those things and we can go against him, but if I had to imagine, he’ll look a little lost.”
Cal said he thinks any player that’s in Hamidou’s situation and can go to college early should because it will give him an extra semester to develop with the best training staff in the country.
“He’s going to get to work out, all the stuff that he needs personally, we can be about. You can really focus on what he needs and then kind of shove him into this stuff, let him have a feel for it and go from there.”
And now, for the $64,000 question: how does Diallo look so far?
“I don’t know, let me coach him one day and let you know.”
By Drew Franklin on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
No one hits the in-season recruiting trail harder than John Calipari and one of the reasons he is able to leave Lexington so often is because his team can handle it. (And because he has unlimited access to private jets.)
Yesterday, Calipari called for a 7:30 am practice before his players’ second day of spring classes, so he could spend the afternoon and night in Missouri watching PJ Washington, Marvin Bagley and RJ Barrett.
The practice went very, very well, he told reporters today.
“We practiced yesterday morning and (Isaiah Briscoe) had them so ready to practice,” Cal said, when asked about Briscoe’s leadership. “My worry was that we cannot waste a day.”
“If we can’t practice in the morning then I won’t travel. I’d like to get a travel day done because then I can see three kids and it saves me two or three days. When I walked in that morning at 7:25 a.m., the guys were clapping for me like I was late. He had them ready and we had a great practice, which shows me a lot about the team and his leadership.”
As for Briscoe, he is “getting closer” to being that floor general Calipari needs him to be, and yesterday’s practice was an example of that.
The two programs Big Blue Nation hates more than anything will meet on one floor tomorrow afternoon when No. 14 Louisville hosts No. 7 Duke in Bankrupt Arena. Louisville is currently a four-point favorite in the game, but Grayson Allen’s legs will be flailing around, trying to trip up the Cards as each team seeks a much-needed ACC win.
Game time is set for noon o’clock, so Kentucky fans can watch the game before Kentucky and Auburn tip-off later in the day, should they choose to do so. This brings me to ask you, dear members of Big Blue Nation: Who the hell are we supposed to root for? Is it Go Cards to hurt the Blue Devils? Or is it Go Blue Devils because Louisville sucks?
As much as it pains me to say this, Go Louisville. A Louisville win only makes Kentucky’s resume look better at this point.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 5:00pm
It’s Friday and that means John Calipari invited his favorite media members and Jerry Tipton into the Craft Center basement for a little conversation about the upcoming game. This time Calipari looked ahead to Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers, who the Cats will meet for a 4 pm tip-off in Lexington tomorrow afternoon.
First, a brief statement about Bruce Pearl to lead things off.
The first question for Calipari was about his relationship with Pearl, to which he said, “We coached against each other a few times when I was at Memphis and then coaching here. (He) does a great job, mixes up the game. (Auburn) plays hard. They battle and fight. He’s good at what he does.”
Hamidou Diallo won’t play in dire situations, such as the early foul trouble at Vanderbilt.
No matter how bad Kentucky may need him one day, Cal will not throw Diallo into action to simply help the team in a time of crisis. Take for instance the early foul trouble at Vanderbilt last Tuesday night; Cal would not have turned to Diallo for help in the backcourt with De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Dominique Hawkins in foul trouble. If Diallo ever plays, it will be for his own benefit.
“The situation wouldn’t matter,” Cal said. “It would be about him. What I know, what’s in his mind, and what I see – he needs to get squared away, get his base set, and come back and do his thing. That would be my recommendation if you ask me.”
Diallo will not dress for games.
When asked if Diallo will suit up and travel for games this season, Calipari said he will go on trips but he will not dress.
If that is indeed true, there’s the answer to whether or not Diallo will play. It’s tough to get into games in blue jeans.
Calipari likes Bam Adebayo switching on guards.
“He is really good,” Cal said of Adebayo’s ability to switch on defense. “He bounces. He stays in the stance. He can guard every position.”
Cal also said of his big man, “He is getting fouled like crazy when he catches the ball. Like fouled. The last game was worse than this game, this past game. But, you know – and he is keeping his cool. He never changes anything. By the end of the year, he will be that guy. That is my prediction.”
In practice yesterday, Cal asked his team who is the hardest worker and all of them turned and pointed at Bam.
He told them, “There you go. My point is made.”
Auburn is a dangerous team to play.
“It’s just like Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt had some shots that they could’ve made, but they missed, and the game could have been different. I don’t think Auburn will hold the ball and then try to shoot it. He might – he’s done it in the past – but I don’t think he will. You knew Vandy was going to come down and take 20 seconds, move the ball and try to get a shot that way. They’ll probably press us some. One game I watched today they played all zone. They got in the zone and they stayed in the zone. They’re good. They’ve beaten teams, like Oklahoma. They lost to Georgia; had them down 16. They lost to Mississippi; had them down 15 or 16 and lost. They’ve been up big. They play active and they’re aggressive. It’s going to be a hard game. We lost to them last year, had to watch that game again and wanted to throw up.”
Kentucky opened up as a 22.5-point favorite in tomorrow’s game against a Danjel Purifoy-less Auburn team in Rupp Arena. Purifoy, the Tigers’ second-leading scorer, was ruled out for tomorrow’s game with a sprained ankle suffered last weekend.
Fun fact for those of you considering wetting the beak on this one: Kentucky has covered in five of the six games in which it was favored by 20 or more points this year. Do with that information as you please. It’s on the house.
The Cats are 11-2 against the spread at home this year.
Good luck, everyone.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 3:50pm
The college basketball world has been dying to hear John Calipari’s podcast with Rick Pitino ever since Calipari announced its existence almost two weeks ago.
Two new Cal Casts — one with Dan Patrick, another with Geno Auriemma — have hit the interwebs since news broke of Pitino’s special guest appearance, as Calipari sits on the highly-anticipated interview a little longer.
Today, Calipari said he may wait another week if people continue to complain about the wait (looking at you, Matt and Ryan on KSR).
“Anybody else says, ‘When he’s doing it? I’m mad,’ then I may wait another week,” Cal said.
Whenever it does go out to the world, it has a lot of hype to live up to; hype that Cal has brought on himself.
Today he raised the bar a little higher, telling reporters, “There are some things that are around it that you’re going to want to hear. Everybody thinks, ‘Ah, it’s a love fest.’ Okay, okay. You’ll want to hear it.”
He also joked about a scuffle the two had while recording it.
NOW GIVE IT TO US!!!!!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 2:00pm
We all joke about the SEC being bad at basketball, but man, the SEC is really bad at basketball. This morning, Jon Rothstein tweeted that the SEC is a combined 1-30 against teams ranked in the Top 25 of the RPI. That one win? Kentucky’s over North Carolina last month. Ouch.
Curious where the league’s teams rank in the polls, RPI and KenPom? I was too, so I made this chart:
Coming in to this season, Malik Monk was ranked 15th on Chad Ford’s Big Board of 2017 NBA Draft prospects. Midway through the year, Monk has soared all the way to number four thanks to his ability to take over games and hang 47 on elite opponents, such as North Carolina. Yesterday, Ford and fellow draft guru Kevin Pelton debated the top picks in the draft, and both agreed that Monk should be in the top five come June.
“He has been the best scorer in college basketball as a freshman, averaging 22 points and shooting 41 percent from 3 on nearly eight attempts per game,” Ford said. “He’s one-dimensional, which I think probably affects his statistical projection, but Monk can score from everywhere. He’s shooting 74 percent at the rim and 49 percent on his 2-point jumpers. He’s possibly the best athlete in the draft as well.”
“As compared to the other top prospects, Monk figures to be a more efficient scorer even with his projected 3-point percentage regressed heavily to the mean (35.0 percent). The effective shooting inside the arc you mention helps offset that, and rebounding is Monk’s only huge weakness statistically.”
I think John Calipari would agree with both of them that Monk needs to improve his rebounding. To read more, including a debate over who should go first in the draft (Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball), head on over to ESPN Insider.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 13th, 2017 @ 9:00am
Greetings, everyone, and happy Friday the 13th. If you believe in such things, I advise avoiding black cats, ladders, and opening umbrellas inside. According to the ever reliable internet, 17 million people suffer from “friggatriskaidekaphobics,” aka fear of Friday the 13th, which is an actual thing, I swear. If you’re one of them, we’re here for you. Just check out how happy our fans of the day look. They’re reppin’ the Cats atop a glacier in the New Zealand Southern Alps. Not bad, guys. Hope you enjoyed the helicopter tour.
Here’s what’s on today’s agenda…
1. John Calipari will preview Auburn
Fresh off the recruiting trail (more on that in a minute), John Calipari will meet with reporters at the Joe Craft Center this afternoon to preview tomorrow’s game vs. Auburn. Check the site around 2 p.m. for a live stream of his and select players’ comments, and shortly after for a full recap.
2. Yesterday, Calipari went recruiting
Cal went to the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Missouri to check in on UK signee PJ Washington and the top players in both the 2018 and 2019 classes, forward Marvin Bagley and wing RJ Barrett. The visit wrapped up a busy week of recruiting for Cal, who checked in on future UK point guard Quade Green on Wednesday, along with 2017 target Mohamed Bamba and 2018 star Cameron Reddish. That visit with Bamba must have gone well, because recruiting guru flipped his pick for Bamba from Duke to Kentucky, noting that Bamba’s friendship with Quade Green and the rest of UK’s 2017 class has put the Cats in a very good position.
3. Ellen went recruiting, too!
Can we talk about how much fun Ellen’s having this season? Not only is she in the stands to see Brad play every game, she’s even going on recruiting trips, which was unheard of in years past. Calipari joked on his podcast (for which Ellen helps him read ads) that before this year, Ellen was “Mrs. No” and now, she’s “Mrs. Yes.” The Caliparis even brought Ellen’s parents (pictured with them above) with them on this trip to Missouri.
You go, Ellen. Cute boots, too.
4. A quick glance at what Auburn’s been up to this season:
Auburn started its SEC slate with a three-game losing streak before getting back on track with a five-point win over Missouri, although anyone who’s seen Missouri play this year will tell you that’s not much.
5. How much will UK be favored by?
Despite Bruce Pearl’s best efforts, Auburn is not good, so I’m going with a lot. As in 17+. After a hard-fought win over Vanderbilt in which the Cats never really looked in sync, I’ll think they’ll come out on fire and cover, maybe even double up if Malik Monk’s hot. Sorry, Bruce.
6. Lynn Bowden announces tomorrow
Plenty of football recruiting to go along with basketball as we inch closer to Signing Day. Tomorrow, four-star athlete Lynn Bowden will announce his decision and all signs point to Kentucky. Yesterday, Freddie Maggard said Bowden is the most Randall Cobb-like prospect he’s evaluated since Randall Cobb, which is high, high praise. A source close to Bowden told me that Saturday should be huge for the Cats, barring a late offer from Ohio State. Stay away, Urban Meyer!
7. UK Hoops got a win last night
The ladies easily knocked off Alabama 71-54 in Tuscaloosa, thanks in part to a big night from Evelyn Akhator, who had a career-high 29 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. It was a much-needed win for Matthew Mitchell’s squad, who dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since February 2010 on Monday. They’ll return to action on Sunday when they host Georgia at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff’s at 3 p.m. ET and the game will be televised live on the SEC Network.
8. Alex Poythress scored 35 last night
Poythress continues to do good things in the D-League, and last night, scored 35 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Check out his first-half highlights below:
— NBA D-League (@nbadleague) January 13, 2017
9. Have you voted for your NBA Cats today?
If not, stop what you’re doing and get to it. Fan participation make up 50% of the vote this year. Here’s how:
- Go to NBA.com/vote and select your favorite players (you can vote once per day)
- Vote through the NBA app (once per day)
- Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle with the hashtag #NBAVOTE. You can vote for up to ten players per day using this method.
- Do the same thing on Facebook
- You can even just Google search “NBA Vote All-Star” and it will pull up a special ballot.
10. KSR is live at Comedy off Broadway this morning
Matt and Ryan will hang out with The League‘s Steve Rannazzisi this morning and it’s open to the public, so start your weekend early and get down there. You’ve got one hour.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 12th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
There was a moment in the final minutes of Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt in which Isaiah Briscoe proved to me that he’s a leader. It wasn’t just his play on the court, although that’s a big part of it; Briscoe had a career-high 23 points, 13 of which came in the second half when the sophomore guard put his team on his back and answered every advance Vanderbilt made, bullying his way to the basket. Without Briscoe’s points, Kentucky would surely have lost the game; however, I was most impressed by his leadership.
After Vandy missed a desperate three attempt, Malik Monk drove the ball down the floor with less than four seconds left only to be fouled hard by Nolan Cressler. Both Cressler and Monk crashed to the floor, and Monk popped right back up and turned to get in Cressler’s face. Briscoe sprinted over to Monk, slung an arm around his shoulders and turned him around to walk the opposite way. From there, Monk sealed the win with two free throws.
It was a small moment, but a meaningful one, especially to me, because I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.
Leadership in the John Calipari Era is a tricky thing. When you recruit the best of the best, more often than not, you end up with more than one alpha dog on your squad; whereas the Calipari era began with those alpha dogs exiting stage right after one season (John Wall, Brandon Knight), in the past few years, there’s been at least one elite guard that stays an extra year (Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe). Calipari always builds his squads around those guys, and usually, it pays off; I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure it would this season.
As reporters and fans, we’ve been spoiled with some “great talkers.” Karl Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein come to mind as the obvious examples, with Karl constantly giving the “too good to be true” quote while Willie delivered thoughtful, unique answers that turned our keyboards golden. Given all the media training UK does, most players are polite during interviews, albeit a bit boring. Briscoe is a totally different animal. Maybe it’s the New Jersey in him, but Briscoe has no filter. If you ask a dumb question, he’s not only going to give you a look, he’s probably going to call you out. If you ask a question he doesn’t want to answer, he’s not going to answer it, something I learned first-hand and SEC Basketball Media Day earlier this year:
Note to self: don’t ask Isaiah Briscoe about the freshmen dominating practice. pic.twitter.com/chzjj7mLM6
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 20, 2016
I wasn’t alone in this:
There are countless examples of Briscoe “being real” in interviews, and reporters even joked with him last month about how he occasionally gives them the same look he reserves for his teammate after stupid plays. Briscoe’s frankness rubbed me the wrong way for a while, but as I’ve seen his play elevate and been around him more often, it’s one of the things I’ve come to love most about him. Case in point: this answer to a question about how he keeps sight of the rim when driving to the basket.
See, there was that look, but instead of shutting down, Briscoe delivered a quip. Hilarious.
I realize that talking to the media has very little to do with leading your teammates, but I do think it’s important to point out that Briscoe’s just a different type of dude. At first, I thought that abrasive attitude might not carry over well to a bunch of five-star freshmen; however, as I’ve seen this team grow in recent weeks, I’ve also noticed that it’s Briscoe keeping them in check, even if it means holding them accountable for a dumb play, a potentially dumb decision (see above with Monk), or poor effort. In his own way, Briscoe is leading.
It couldn’t have been easy to follow in Tyler Ulis’ footsteps. Not only is Ulis one of the greatest point guards in UK basketball history, he’s easily one of the most beloved. Add in the fact that Briscoe, a point guard in high school, hasn’t even been the primary point guard or shooting guard since he’s been here and you can appreciate not only the sophomore’s adaptability, but his team-first attitude. You may remember Jerry Tipton trying to make that a story last year, asking Briscoe what it was like to be “the lesser of the three lights,” referring to Ulis and Jamal Murray.
“I don’t look at it like that. I think I contribute everywhere on the court. If I’ve got to score, if I’ve got to rebound, play defense — I just do everything. Like I said, Tyler and Jamal have been shooting the lights out of the ball and my assists have been going up, so I ain’t mad at that. I enjoy seeing my teammates shine. I think they deserve it, they work hard, so other than that, I’m just happy to be a part of what they’re doing.”
It’s no secret Briscoe wanted to join Ulis and Murray in the NBA Draft last year. Per the new rules, Briscoe tested the waters, received feedback, and despite reported offers from some teams to take him, decided to return to school to work on his shot. I’ve always thought one of the cruelest things about the one-and-done rule is the perception that if you don’t go to the draft after your freshman year, you’re not as successful as your peers that do; however, instead of sulking, Briscoe came back with a purpose, even if it meant sharing the court with two five-star freshmen. Briscoe’s feedback was to improve his shot, and he has. Check out his averages compared to last season:
Briscoe’s shooting has improved by almost eight percent. His free throw shooting may be the most remarkable improvement, going from 46% to 74%. Even his outside shot has gotten better, something few of us could have dreamed of; Briscoe’s been 5-7 from behind the arc since the North Carolina game. Few people may have guessed this, but Briscoe actually has a higher field goal percentage than Malik Monk (51.3% to 50.4%). Who would have imagined that at the beginning of the season?
Briscoe’s improved shooting does three things: it improves his draft stock, it makes Kentucky even more dangerous, and it gives Calipari an example to point to of hard work paying off. Selfishly for Briscoe, that first one is great, but between now and April, the final two are the most important and he knows it. After watching Briscoe hit three three-pointers en route to Kentucky’s 42-point shellacking of Texas A&M, Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy said Briscoe’s shooting could be the key to the Cats winning the national championship.
“When he is making shots, that’s what we game planned to live with. When he’s doing that, they can win it all. I know Coach Cal doesn’t want to hear that, but when he’s a weapon offensively like he was today, I don’t know how you defend it.”
Coming off the crucial Camp Cal stretch, Briscoe said he spent hours of extra time in the gym with De’Aaron Fox working on shooting. Fox had one of his best shooting nights of the year at Vandy, connecting on 65% from the floor. This team may not have a conventional “Breakfast Club” ala years past, but Briscoe is doing his best to drag his teammates along with him.
Briscoe had one of his worst games of the season vs. UCLA. He missed ten shots, including all five threes he attempted, and turned the ball over three times. His lackluster energy prompted Calipari to call him into his office to talk, and whereas last year, Calipari likened such talks between the two to “pulling teeth,” Briscoe not only listened this go around, he accepted the blame.
“After the game, Coach called me into his office and he just told me like, ‘What happened today? You weren’t yourself. I didn’t see the energy or anything like that.’ Me, being the leader of the team, I had to accept it. I told him, ‘Yeah, I didn’t bring energy.’ I felt like that one was on me.”
Briscoe feels so comfortable in his role as leader that he often suggests ideas to Calipari, such as using Mychal Mulder in a four-guard lineup as a solution to the tricky four spot. Calipari’s experimented with it off and on, but Briscoe continues to be both Mulder’s advocate and mediator when it comes to Cal; for a freshmen who bristled at criticism at times last season, that is incredibly mature.
“I’m the leader of this team,” Briscoe said. “I’m trying to keep everybody on board and trying to get Mike better.”
In turn, he has Calipari’s full trust.
“He’s not the issue. He gets it and he knows,” Cal said of Briscoe’s leadership after the Vandy game. “He has a will to win. He’s—all the stuff that he needed to work on, he has. From his free-throw shooting to his 3 to his handle. His assist-to-turnover ratio is ridiculous. So I’m proud of him.”
As someone who has happily been proved wrong, so am I.