If you had told me Kentucky would have beaten Florida by ten without De’Aaron Fox, →
Basketball Season Coverage
It may be a slow news day for UK sports, but it’s not in the world of college basketball. NC State has fired head coach Mark Gottfried after six seasons. The Wolfpack is coming off three embarrassing blowouts vs. #10 North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Florida State. Gottfried is 122-82 during his time in Raleigh, but this year’s 14-13 mark — 3-11 in ACC play — was enough for NC State to cut him loose. He will coach the Wolfpack through the rest of this season.
Don’t worry, Mark; there will probably be two openings in the SEC after this season if LSU and Missouri keep their horrible basketball up.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 1:45pm
Will the Big Apple turn blue in March? Judging by the latest Bracketology from Joe Lunardi, it sure looks like it. Lunardi released his latest tournament projections this morning, which has Kentucky as the three-seed in the East Region, alongside 1-seed Villanova, 2-seed Florida State, and 4-seed Virginia. In this scenario, the Cats would play their opening round games in Indy, then travel to NYC for the regional:
NYC for the regional and a draw that doesn’t make me want to claw my eyes out? Yes, please. (Which, of course, means this will never happen.)
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 11:00am
In case you missed the news early this morning, ESPN is reporting that John Calipari will coach the U19 National Team in the FIBA World Championships this summer in Cairo, Egypt. This is huge for Calipari, who has wanted to be part of USA Basketball for a long time; however, it’s also big news for Kentucky. Why? Let’s break it down.
Calipari will have access to the top players in the sport
First, the obvious: recruiting. The under 19 squad is made up of the best rising college sophomores, incoming college freshmen and rising high school seniors in the country, meaning Calipari will have access to several members of the 2018 class. The 2015 U19 team featured Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum, all of whom were uncommitted at the time. Several top prospects in the 2018 class could be on the U19 team, such as Immanuel Quickley, Javonte Smart, Romeo Langford, and Cameron Reddish. As if Calipari needs help recruiting, having access to these guys this summer is a huge advantage. (And don’t worry, the FIBA World Championships ends just in time for Calipari to be back for the Peach Jam.)
It will basically be summer practice for a core group of incoming Kentucky freshmen (and maybe sophomores)
Even before word that Calipari will be coach leaked out, several future Cats had a great chance of making the U19 squad; Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, and PJ Washington all played for the gold medal-winning Team USA U18 squad last summer, along with Mohamed Bamba, one of Calipari’s few remaining prospects in the 2017 class. You’ve gotta assume Calipari will bring all of those guys, along with Jarred Vanderbilt, who has played in the USA Basketball system before, and any current freshmen that decide to come back. (Nick Richards was born in Jamaica, so he can’t participate.)
With Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and most of this year’s freshmen class headed out the door after this season, next year’s group could be Calipari’s youngest squad ever (and that’s saying something). We saw the impact a 10-day trip to the Bahamas had on the 2014-15 squad; Calipari being able to coach the core of his new team this summer will be the head start he’s needed now more than ever.
It puts Calipari back in the USA Basketball system
It’s no secret that Calipari has wanted back in the USA Basketball system for years. Cal dipped his toe into international basketball waters in 2011 and 2012 by coaching the Dominican Republic National Team, which included Karl Towns. With Coach K stepping down as the US Men’s National Team head coach, Calipari is now back in the system. Gregg Popovich will coach the US Men’s National Team in the 2020 Olympics, but by then, he’ll be in his 70’s. Is this step #1 to Calipari eventually replacing him?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 9:10am
Today’s a very exciting day for us here at KSR. This morning, Lukasz Obrzut will become an American citizen. The native of Jędrzejów, Poland played at Kentucky from 2003-2007 and since, has become a member of the KSR family, helping out on the radio show and now, “Hey, Kentucky!”. Matt and Ryan will be live from his naturalization ceremony in Louisville for today’s show, so tune in to hear about this monumental moment in Woo’s life. Someone bring the gummy bears or other fruity snacks.
Here’s what else is going on today…
1. Calipari will coach the USA Basketball U19 Team
If you missed in in the post directly below this one, Jeff Goodman broke some big news this morning when he reported that John Calipari will coach the USA Basketball U19 Team this summer in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo, Egypt. Calipari has been interested in getting back in to USA Basketball for a while, and this is the perfect fit. He’ll have access to the top players in the country, many of whom will have yet to choose a college. As if the guy needed any more help with recruiting, right?
2. Arkansas knocked off South Carolina
Who said SEC Basketball is predictable? Arkansas upset South Carolina last night, essentially narrowing the race for the #1-seed in the SEC Tournament from three to two. Kentucky’s chances of getting the 1-seed and playing Friday afternoon instead of Friday night became even greater when the unfortunate news broke that Florida center John Egbunu is out for the season with an ACL injury. Scroll down to my post from last night for a detailed breakdown of the race for the 1-seed.
3. Meanwhile, all eyes turn to Georgia
It’s easy to look ahead to the SEC Tournament, but first, the Cats must travel to Georgia to face the Bulldogs, who took the Cats to overtime in Rupp a few weeks back. Georgia’s had some bad luck this season, but they’re entirely capable of knocking off the Cats, especially in what will surely be a sold out Stegeman Coliseum. White out, red out, t-shirt night, cup night, ball night, you name it, Georgia will pull out all the stops. Dickie V will be there:
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) February 15, 2017
4. Trae Young announces his decision
At one time, Trae Young seemed poised to be the next great John Calipari point guard, but Cal could only wait so long to build his recruiting class and accepted a commitment from Quade Green instead. Today, Young is finally ready to announce his college decision, and it’ll be either Kansas or Oklahoma. The hometown Sooners seem to have the momentum heading into this afternoon’s announcement. Best of luck to him wherever he goes. I hope he likes the dorms.
5. UK Hoops takes on Arkansas
It’s been a week since Matthew Mitchell’s squad has been in action, but tonight, they’ll take on Jimmy Dykes’ Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena at 8 p.m. The ladies have won seven of their last nine league games after starting the season 1-2. The game’s not on TV, but you can watch on SECNetwork+ on WatchESPN or listen online at 630 WLAP or UKAthletics.com.
6. ICYMI, both football hires were confirmed yesterday
We’ve known about them for a week, but yesterday, Mark Stoops made the two additions to his staff complete. Dean Hood is Kentucky’s new special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach, while Derrick LeBlanc is the new defensive line coach. Here’s what Stoops had to say about each:
“I could not be more excited to have Coach Hood join our staff,” Stoops said. “He brings extensive experience and knowledge as a head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator. Having watched him at Eastern Kentucky, I developed great respect for him and I know he is held in high regard by the high school coaches in the state. He is a welcome addition to our program.”
“I’ve known Derrick and watched his progress as a coach,” Stoops said. “I was super-impressed with his interview, with the organization of his teaching and how good he is as an instructor. Fundamentals are important at every position but especially in the defensive line and I believe Derrick will be a great teacher of proper technique and fundamentals.”
He’s also intimidating as hell:
7. PJ Washington plays in the Kentucky Lake Showcase this weekend
Got plans this weekend? Drive on down to Marshall County High School to see future Cat PJ Washington play in the Kentucky Lake Showcase. Washington’s Findlay Prep plays Hopkinsville Friday night at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 6:30 PM (all times central). I’ll be there Saturday to interview PJ for the website, so if you’re also there, be sure to say hello.
8. Anthony Davis’ unibrow is bigger than ever
In anticipation of this weekend’s All-Star festivities, the Pelicans put Anthony Davis’ face on the side of the Benson Tower overlooking the Smoothie King Center and the Superdome. Bow to the brow.
9. Speaking of All-Star Weekend, here’s the schedule
Nine Cats will take part in the festivities:
- Rising Stars Challenge (Friday, 9 p.m.): Karl Towns, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles
- D-League All-Star Game (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.): Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress
- Skills Challenge (Saturday, 8 p.m.): Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Devin Booker
- All-Star Game (Sunday, 8 p.m.): Anthony Davis (starter), DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall
10. College Basketball on TV tonight:
- 7:00 PM: Texas A&M at Vanderbilt, ESPN2
- 7:00 PM: #11 Wisconsin at Michigan, ESPN
- 9:00 PM: #5 Arizona at Washington State, FS1
- 9:00 PM: Utah at #7 Oregon, ESPN
- 9:00 PM: San Francisco at #1 Gonzaga
- 11:00 PM: Loyola Marymount at #22 Saint Mary’s
Woo becomes an American citizen in an hour…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 8:53am
Big news for John Calipari this morning. According to Jeff Goodman, Calipari will coach the USA Basketball Under-19 team this summer in Egypt.
Why is that big news? That team will likely include some of the best players in basketball, many of which will have yet to choose a college. Like Coach K did during his tenure with USA Basketball, Calipari will have access to the top prospects in the sport, giving him an even bigger advantage in recruiting. Also, it puts Calipari back in the USA Basketball system, which is a pretty big deal.
Sean Miller coached the 2015 U19 Team that included Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Terrence Ferguson. This team will probably include Mohamed Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., PJ Washington, Trae Young, Quade Green, and others. The FIBA U19 World Championship is set for July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt.
KSR Summer Tour in Cairo?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
Believe it or not, three weeks from tonight, the SEC Tournament begins in Nashville, which means yours truly will be among the thousands — okay, probably hundreds — of fans in Bridgestone Arena to watch the four worst teams in the conference face off on opening night. While it’s almost certain that Missouri and LSU will be two of those teams, nothing else is really set in stone in the league right now, particularly at the top.
Here are the SEC standings with five-six games left (four teams play tonight):
|#21 South Carolina||10-2||0.5||20-5|
And the bracket:
Three teams are in contention for the #1 seed: Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina. South Carolina plays Arkansas tonight, so they’re a half game back, but assuming they take care of the Razorbacks at home, they’ll be right in the thick of it with the Cats and the Gators. In fact, if South Carolina beats Arkansas tonight, the three-way tie for first can’t even be determined via the normal tiebreaker rules. Because each team currently has a 1-1 record vs. the others (Florida beat Kentucky, but lost to South Carolina, who lost to the Cats), SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey would literally have to draw one of their names out of a hat to determine who gets the 1-seed. Yes, in the end, that’s really what it comes down to.
Thankfully, the remaining schedule pretty much ensures that three-way tie won’t last long, with Florida and South Carolina facing off next Tuesday and the Gators coming to Rupp Arena the following Saturday. With all these moving parts in the air, let’s break down each team’s case for being the 1-seed, which would mean playing early Friday afternoon and partying on Broadway Friday night, the most ideal of scenarios.
The Cats have arguably the easiest schedule left, the two most difficult games being at Georgia this weekend and vs. Florida next Saturday. According to KenPom’s Predictor, Kentucky should win out:
|at Georgia||W 79-73|
|at Missouri||W 84-67|
|vs. #15 Florida||W 80-77|
|vs. Vanderbilt||W 84-70|
|at Texas A&M||W 78-70|
That Florida game is still tricky, but I refuse to believe Kentucky’s as bad as they were when the Gators won by 22 in Gainesville. Plus, Florida just got news today that John Egbunu — who had 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Kentucky — is out for the season with a torn ACL. Add in what will hopefully be a rowdy Rupp and the good ole fashioned revenge factor and Kentucky should be able to wrap up the #1-seed next Saturday.
Kentucky’s likelihood of getting the #1 seed: 60%
Do yourself a favor and plan on arriving in Nashville Thursday night or early Friday morning for Friday’s noon central time tip.
As mentioned earlier, the Gators were dealt a huge loss last night when John Egbunu tore his ACL vs. Auburn. The redshirt junior center averaged 7.8 points and a team-best 6.6 rebounds for the Gators this season, and will be out 10-12 months to recover. One of his backups, freshman center Gorjaok Gak, is also out 10-14 days with a left foot sprain, making the Gators vulnerable on the inside. That’s not good when you look at the rest of their schedule, which includes three road trips, one to Rupp, and a date with #21 South Carolina next Tuesday. Florida’s been one of the hottest teams in country the past month, but given the injury news, I’d be surprised if they emerged from a tough three-week stretch unscathed.
|at Mississippi State||W 79-68|
|vs. #21 South Carolina||W 71-61|
|at #13 Kentucky||L 80-77|
|vs. Arkansas||W 84-69|
|at Vanderbilt||W 74-67|
Florida’s likelihood of getting the #1 seed: 30%
Something tells me we’ll see them in the SEC Championship that Sunday.
Even with the injury to Egbunu, I can’t see South Carolina knocking off Florida in Gainesville. Those trips to Vandy and Ole Miss are pretty tricky too. Frank Martin’s team has been impressive, but if they’re tied with Kentucky in the standings at the end of the regular season, Kentucky will have the tiebreaker thanks to last month’s win in Rupp.
|vs. Arkansas||W 74-65|
|at Vanderbilt||W 65-64|
|at #15 Florida||L 71-61|
|vs. Tennessee||W 70-63|
|vs. Mississippi State||W 73-61|
|at Ole Miss||W 70-67|
South Carolina’s likelihood of getting the #1 seed: 10%
It’ll most likely be a late Thursday night start for Frank Martin’s squad, and a rematch with Florida in the semis.
It may not seem like it with the three-way tie at first, but with five games left, the 1-seed in the SEC Tournament really is Kentucky’s to lose. (Confidence level: Booking a free dinner reservation on Open Table for Friday night.)
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 6:00pm
On Monday night, Cory Pitsenberger started in his first basketball game of his high school career, and managed to score the team’s first basket on Senior Night.
It was the lead-up to the event, however, that made the moment so special.
Pitsenberger, a senior at Eastern High School in Louisville, has had an exceptionally difficult life growing up. He was born with Saethre-Chotzen syndrome, a genetic condition in which causes premature skull growth and fusion of the skull bones, that required him to have major head surgery at a young age. Cory also struggles with Asperger syndrome, hyptonia, and trichotillomania, among other challenges.
His mother, Amy, was also born with Saethre-Chotzen, making the task of raising Cory a tall one. As a result, Cory has been living with his grandparents since he was a toddler.
His grandmother, Sally Pitsenberger, was diagnosed with cancer in the past year, and is still battling the disease every day. With Sally needing more individual attention, excess stress has been added to the equation for the entire family.
Cory also deals with daily struggles such as communication problems, difficulties in understanding his peers, reading and writing skills, etc., as a result of his disabilities. On top of these struggles, Cory has dealt with bullying his entire life, just adding to the list of adversities he has had to overcome.
Needless to say, life hasn’t been easy for the big-hearted senior.
On Monday night, however, all of the little struggles in Cory’s life disappeared, at least for a little while.
After spending four years as the team’s manager, Cory suited up for the first time and started for the Eagles on Senior Night, scoring the team’s first bucket against Atherton High School.
Chants of “Cory! Cory! Cory!” filled the gym at the opening tip, and didn’t stop until he put the ball through the hoop on the first possession of the game. At that point, the chants transitioned into an uproar.
In case there were any doubts, the fan support was certainly noticed.
“It was awesome to see the crowd that excited. I feel like they really supported me, I loved the chants,” said Pitsenberger.
Support around Cory at Eastern has always been high, as students see the impact he makes on all of those around him. Whether it be leading his senior class at pep rallies or being front-and-center in the student section at football games, his passion for life and the world of sports is second to none.
“When I went there, Cory was like a celebrity. He lived and breathed Eastern High School, and worked his hardest for the basketball team. His pride was contagious, ” said Ryan Golway, a former Eastern student. “There was never a day Cory didn’t give it his all.”
As the team’s manager, he has the duty of getting water and towels for his teammates, assisting coaches in practice, and hyping up the team before games. Coaches and players have rallied behind this support, playing a pivotal role in the team’s success. And he absolutely loves the opportunity.
“I just want to help out any way I can,” Pitsenberger said. “I love my teammates and want to do whatever I can to put them in position to win.”
After dedicating countless hours of his time to the program throughout his time in school, Eastern coach David Henley decided to reward Cory in the best way he knew possible. He was able to walk out with his mother and grandfather for Senior Night festivities, went through pregame warmups, and was introduced as a starter over the gym’s loud speaker.
And of course when it came to the actual game, Cory made the most of his opportunity and hit the big shot.
“They asked me about it last week, and I told them I wanted to play. When I got my jersey, I just wanted to represent my school well. I’m really glad I made my shot,” said Pitsenberger.
Basketball has been Cory’s escape from the outside noise since his childhood. He has been extremely involved in Special Olympics and Unified sports for years now, along with being a devout fan of the NBA, college basketball, and high school basketball in the state of Kentucky. Whether it be staying up late to watch LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers play on ESPN, or reading up on the Eagles’ next opponent, Cory is constantly surrounding himself with the game he loves most.
For Special Olympics, Cory has been the leader on his team for several years, averaging a double-double over the course of his entire basketball career. In a recent game, Cory scored 38 points in a victory for his team, the Louisville Wizards. He will be competing in a tournament for Special Olympics this weekend, and eventually the SOKY State Tournament from March 10-12 in Louisville.
After graduating with honors at Eastern this spring, Cory will be attending Ahren’s Learning Center in Louisville in the fall. It comes as no surprise, but he plans on pursuing a career in sports management, hoping to eventually work for a college basketball or NBA team after graduating.
Eastern may have suffered a tough loss to Atherton on Monday, but the night will always hold a special place in the heart of a kid that deserves it more than anyone.
De’Aaron Fox has a great head of lettuce. Last night, to much of my dismay, he decided to forego his usual “do” and rock a man-bun instead. While I appreciate his willingness to experiment with different styles, the man-bun doesn’t hold a candle to the floppy hair he normally sports. It’s unique and fun. In appreciation of De’Aaron’s awesome hair, I think it’s time we finally honor UK basketball’s “All Hair” team.
I took some time to search for the former players with the most worthy hairdos to complete the “All Hair” roster. I tried my best to incorporate players from all different eras, but prior to Cal, not many of our guys got too creative with their lettuce. I decided to take facial hair into consideration because good and unique facial hair can be just as impressionable as a wacky head of hair. It also, helps in making the roster more diverse than just having a bunch of Calipari-era guys. With that said, here is the University of Kentucky Basketball “All Hair” Team.
PG: Richie Farmer (#32)
I know, I spent the first paragraph gushing over how cool De’Aaron Fox’s hair is but RICHIE FARMER HAD A DANG MUSTACHE. Richie didn’t choose to have a mustache, his mustache chose him. Two types of people choose to grow a mustache: the chosen ones and frauds. It isn’t hard to tell a fraud from a chosen one. A chosen one’s mustache is genuine and profoundly organic, to the point that the mustache itself seemingly becomes its own entity with unique thoughts and emotions. Richie’s mustache appeared as if it had always been there, like an old oak tree in the middle of a bustling city, if it were to be removed, something just wouldn’t be right.
SG: James Young (#1)
James Young often times seems to be overlooked in UK basketball lore. He had, if not in the event of a crushing loss, probably one of the nastiest dunks in Kentucky history. I also remember him for the strange combinations of highlights he would use in his hair. I never particularly liked any of his styles, but with the frequency he changed them, it would be a crime not to make him the starting SG. Also, the tips of his hair reminded me of a cup of Rally’s fries one time, and I love Rally’s so it was a pretty easy choice.
SF: Winston Bennett (#25)
I wasn’t alive to see Winston Bennett play, so I could be completely making this up but from what I’ve gathered it appears Bennett had a Jheri curl at one point in his career. As time goes on, popular fashion trends from the past, seem to reemerge in the mainstream. The jheri curl, however, seems to be extinct and that’s a shame because, man, those things were bananas. Even more shocking, Ice Cube, one of the hardest public figures of the 90’s is famous for having one. People took him seriously and respected him, while that damp, curly, network of chaos was growing out of his head. I would hope Bennett got the same kind of respect on the court because he’s certainly got mine.
PF: Patrick Patterson (#54)
The starting five of the “All Hair” team could not be legitimate without the presence of an afro. P-Pat rocked the ‘fro for a while before switching to a more conservative haircut later in his tenure. Countless former players have had mini-fros but few ever had the guts to grow that sucker out, Ben Wallace style. While Patrick’s may have never been on Wallace’s level, it was still respectable in the afro realm. He was able to grow his out because he had the game, and tree trunk, rock-crusher arms, to back it up. It was also flawless. Perfectly shaped, and well maintained. It’s disappointing he didn’t keep it for his whole UK career. Sad!
C: Nerlens Noel (#3)
Not sure if there is anyone more deserving of this prestigious honor than Nerlens Noel. He wasn’t the first of his peers to bring back the retro, high top fade, but he definitely mastered the look. He stuck to the true meaning of “high-top.” Most high-top fades you see players around the country growing are only an inch or two high, Nerlens went full on Gerald from Hey Arnold with his, which is the best decision he could’ve ever made. His hair was such a part of him that he shaved an oddly shaped, UK logo in the back of it when he announced his commitment. I’ve never wanted UK to get a recruit more than Nerlens, solely because I thought his hair was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Nerlens embodies what it means to be part of the All Hair team.
G: De’Aaron Fox (#0)
I’ve already addressed how awesome his hair is. Great bench player.
C: Willie Cauley-Stein (#15)
He had blonde hair once and it was such a distraction that he ended up being an All-American
F: Gimel Martinez (#44)
Another mustache guy. You can never have too many mustache guys.
C: Anthony Davis (#23)
I suppose eyebrows count too, or should I say eyebrow.
You can’t find a team playing better basketball than the Florida Gators right now and that only makes today’s unfortunate injury news even more devastating to the Gators’ hopes for a big run in the postseason.
The injury is to John Egbunu, Florida’s 6-11 center, who left last night’s game at Auburn with a knee injury. Today it was announced that Egbunu suffered a torn ACL and will be out 10-12 months, thus ending his junior season in Gainesville.
Egbunu was averaging 7.8 points, 6.6 boards and 1.5 blocks this season, putting him among the top-1o players in the SEC in both rebounds and blocked shot. He had eight points and seven rebounds in the win over Kentucky.
Justin Leon and sophomore Kevarrius Hayes will see expanded roles down low in his absence.
Thanks to the good people over at Bleacher Report, we now know John Calipari’s dream starting five from his former Wildcats in the NBA.
In an interview following the win at Mississippi State last month, Cal was asked to name his hypothetical starting lineup, to which he responded, “Well, Anthony Davis. John Wall. Karl Towns. I’d probably play DeMarcus Cousins and let Anthony be a 3. And what would the last position be? Shooting guard? I’d probably say Devin Booker.”
So, that lineup would look like this:
G – John Wall
G – Devin Booker
F – Anthony Davis
F – Karl-Anthony Towns
C – DeMarcus Cousins
He then said, “But you still have Brandon [Knight]. You still have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is the X-factor, and he would be included on that team. You still have Eric Bledsoe, who, there may be games that he starts, just because of who he is. You still have Julius [Randle]. You still have Trey [Lyles].”
“But as I’m telling you all these names—Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Julius Randle. They’re all max guys. You’d have a team of 10 or 12 max players. It can’t happen. But here’s what I’d like to have: My goal before I retire is 12 guys in the All-Star Game.”
Now let me ask you, Big Blue Nation: Who is your starting five? We’ve done this several times before, but now that Cal has opened it up to position-less basketball, it is a whole new debate.
It’s lame to agree with Cal, but that’s the same five I would take as the players are in their current form. If I have to divert from Cal’s roster for the sake of the discussion, give me Eric Bledsoe for Devin Booker. Other than that, it’s tough to disagree.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 1:16pm
The last month of basketball didn’t go as planned at Kentucky, but at least one national college basketball analyst believes the Wildcats are fine and there was never a need to worry about the future.
“There probably was never any need to panic,” writes ESPN’s Peter Keating. “A flu bug had hit half of Kentucky’s roster, and anyone could lose to Kansas and Florida.”
Today, Keating named Kentucky one of five “upset-proof” teams heading into March, determined by his “Giant” ratings.
“These are the Goliaths who are safer than they look, both from traditional and standard analytical viewpoints. In other words, these are the Giants who can make chalk pay,” Keating explains.
UK has a 95,3 Giant Rating, meaning an estimated 95.3 percent chance of beating an average NCAA tournament “Killer.”
Particularly from a Giant Killers perspective, Calipari’s crew is still primed for a deep NCAA tournament run. Four Wildcats regulars are shooting better than 55 percent from inside, and with few turnovers and top-30 offensive rebounding, Kentucky is scoring 119.6 adjusted points per possession, the seventh-highest rate in the country. They allow opponents to shoot just 32 percent on 3s (ranking 43rd). And they play very fast, averaging 74.1 possessions per game, 13th-most in the NCAA. So they just run away from the kinds of teams they are likely to see early in the tournament. On their way to attempting 71 field goals, amassing 21 offensive rebounds and forcing 19 turnovers against Valparaiso in December, the Wildcats led 23-4 after 10 minutes of play. That’s what Kentucky can do to a Killer. [ESPN]
West Virginia and North Carolina rank No. 1 and 2 in Keating’s upset-proof teams; Kentucky is the fifth safest from a surprising defeat, per the Giant Ratings.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
It is time we address the fact that Malik Monk is on a record-setting pace from beyond the arc.
Through 26 games this season, Monk has 83 made three-point field goals which is already the eighth most in a single season at the University of Kentucky. With five more, he will pass Brandon Knight for second best in a freshman season.
At his current pace of 3.2 three-balls per game, Monk will finish the regular season in a tie with Derrick Miller for fourth with 99 on the year. Then he will have the SEC and NCAA tournaments to hit 18 threes to reach Meeks’ record of 117 made in the 2008-09 season. Let’s assume Kentucky plays three SEC tourney games and at least another three in NCAA, he is well on his way to setting the new all-time mark if he continues on the path he is on.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 11:00am
According to Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, stopping Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel was the key to the game last night. Those two contributed absolutely nothing from the four-spot in the first game in Knoxville, so Barnes tried to force them into nonexistence again, in hopes of finding a similar result in the end.
That plan did not work.
Because Willis balled.
Read the full quote from Barnes’ postgame press conference:
“We felt it was really important in our gameplan not to let Willis or Gabriel get going and they did what we thought early. They came out, I think Gabriel shot it two of the first three possessions and then Willis came in and got it going and gave us some separation and our gameplan was not to let that happen. We were willing to let the other players pretty much do what they had done. Adebayo, Fox, Monk do what they do. We just didn’t want that fourth guy to really step in there. I think John (Calipari) with his team has worked hard to get that guy going. They got it going tonight. I think from your vantage they got done what they wanted to get done with him.”
“Our key was to not let their fourth shoot the ball and make good shots. I don’t think you’re going to stop Monk from getting his on a night in and night out basis because he’s going to shoot the ball and he’s going to make some tough shots. One thing we did, we go back to our game at Knoxville, he and Gabriel were nonfactors and we talked about it all week. That’s what we can’t allow happen and we let it happen. Give them credit. I think John always has a great pulse on his team and you can tell that he’s tried to get those going because it does make them a different team because now you’ve got stretch these guys a little bit but they made shots and got going. I thought we gave them some room to breathe. We had some ridiculous turnovers and they converted those. We were just awful. We didn’t deserve a win tonight because we didn’t do the things we talked about from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint.”
As we’ve said all year, if the Cats get anything from Willis or Gabriel at the four, they are going to be tough to beat.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 10:15am
Who up, New York!
That is where we will be going should two things happen: the Cats win their first two games in the NCAA Tournament and these new projections from USA Today hold true.
In the new USA Today Bracketology, Kentucky is the No. 3 seed in the East Region. That title comes with two first weekend games in Indianapolis and then a potential trip to the Big Apple for the second weekend of Madness. (Sign me up for that.)
Joining Kentucky in the East Region, you will find (1) Villanova, (2) Florida State, (4) West Virginia and (5) Notre Dame. Those are some of the last teams we want to see in March, but nobody said hanging a ninth banner would be easy.
Me right now:
By Drew Franklin on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 9:00am
Kentucky got its revenge against Tennessee last night in Rupp Arena with the blowout win fans have been craving for a month. You can say it was the Cats’ best performance since the South Carolina game when they beats the Cocks by 16, or some of you may even want to go further back to the 100-58 win against Texas A&M on January 3.
Either way, it was the dominant shellacking (that’s a word, right?) Big Blue Nation needed to see to feel confident about the team as March approaches. It took us back to some of those games we saw before Christmas, when the Cats were firing on all cylinders and had us chugging the Kool-Aid.
More from the game to start your Wednesday morning on the internet…
1. Malik Monk played a complete game.
We know he can score in bunches, but last night we saw the rare all-around good performance from Monk.
The career-high eight rebounds are all the talk in day-after conversations in offices around Kentucky right now, considering he had only eight rebounds in the previous five games. Monk said he was on a mission to hit the boards against Tennessee because he had been feeling the heat from his coach, who threatened to bench him for his lack of effort in that aspect of the game, and he was out to prove he can crash the glass as well as anyone. Monk admitted in his postgame interview that he had been guilty of trying to run out on fast breaks rather than fighting for boards, and that the staff had shown him tape of him missing opportunities to snatch the ball off missed shots.
And then, lost in the excitement of his rebounding, there is Monk’s defense and shot selection. Sure, the rebounding is great, but he improved in those areas too, at least for a night. It was a really complete game for the best scorer in college basketball and those 7-to-1 odds for AP Player of the Year could change if he continues to do more for Kentucky.
2. Calipari thought De’Aaron Fox was “unbelievable.”
Here are some of Coach Cal’s comments on the others guys…
Derek Willis: “Derek Willis was ridiculous and he spaced the court… I thought Derek played really confident today.”
Isaiah Briscoe: “Isaiah, six assists and no turns and–or six assists, one turn.”
Malik Monk: “He did good. He played better, he played within himself. He had a couple shots, the first shot he had was a better shot than the second and we’re working through it.”
Bam Adebayo: “I thought Bam was playing, he got tired. When he gets tired he stands behind people. We just got to see it and get him out and then get him back in.”
Dominique Hawkins: “He is a fierce competitor, he’s tough as nails, he will come up with — any 50/50 ball, he’s getting — and offensively he’s gotten better each year. So, yes, he’s like old reliable. You know you can go to him, he can play point guard, he can play off guard, if you want him to guard a big man he’ll go rebound… How about ball pressure? If we’re not pressuring, you put him in. He’s going to be energy. He’s going to be on the ball.”
Mychal Mulder: “Mychal we’re still trying to figure out. Now I started Mychal playing some four today. I hate to tell you, he did pretty good. He did pretty good at four. Like he fought the post, he went in and rebounded. So we’re trying to figure that situation out.”
3. Ball movement!
How pretty was the passing last night? On several occasions they made the extra pass around the perimeter to find a wide-open shooter or driving lane, which resulted in better shot selection and, in turn, a much better offense in the halfcourt.
UK’s assist-to-turn ratio looks pretty damn good, too: 17 assists, seven turnovers. And a couple of those turnovers came late in the blowout when cars were already leaving the parking lot.
Great night offensively by the team as a whole.
4. Butch Jones was in attendance.
Tennessee’s head football coach made the trip up from Knoxville to see the Volunteers take an L. But that’s okay because they’re champions in life, as Jones likes to say.
5. See more photos from KSR.
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6. De’Aaron Fox explained that new hairdo.
Fox told Mike Pratt on the Wildcat Wrap-Up, “My hair has a process of doing — trying to get it spiky like how I have it. And sometimes I’m just lazy, so I washed it, and my hair is really long so I just put it in a bun and kept moving.”
He doesn’t know if he’ll keep the look or not, but his mom told him to “do something with it.”
7. Did Malik Monk shoot an arrow?
I think he did, Big Blue Nation. I think he did.
8. Florida scored 114 points on Auburn.
Not a lot of defense played down in Auburn last night where the Gators beat the Tigers, 114-95. That only supports Bruce Pearl’s belief that Florida is the only real NCAA Tournament contender in the Southeastern Conference, although Kentucky did a good job of proving it is still a threat.
9. Taveion Hollingsworth broke Lexington scoring record.
Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Taveion Hollingsworth is your new all-time leading scorer in Lexington boys’ high school basketball history. The Western Kentucky commit scored 42 points in a heartbreaking, last-second loss to West Jessamine last night. He now has 2,422 career points, 14 better than the previous record of 2,408, set by Mike Allen at Bryan Station in 1989.
10. How in the world did LeBron James pull off this no-look, nutmeg assist?