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(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: Top 10 Preseason Highlights

(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA preseason finished up on Friday which means the regular season tips off this coming Tuesday.

I’ve stated my disinterest in the Summer League/preseason before and how the stats that are a result of it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That being said, the dunks and highlights are still wildly exciting and easily the best thing about the exhibitions that lead up to the regular season.

With the regular season only days away, I went back and shuffled through what felt like hundreds of highlights from the 30-plus former Kentucky Wildcats who participated. I’m sure there will be highlights I missed, but there were a ton to choose from.

I could make a top-10 list just off Bam Adebayo being a ridiculous superhuman freak or off Willie Cauley-Stein alley-oops, but I spread the love and came up with this top-10 list. If you didn’t already know just how athletically gifted some of these guys are, you will soon.

Starting with the always entertaining Malik Monk.

#10 – Malik Monk crosses over DeAndre Jordan


#9 – Tyler Ulis steal/layup on De’Aaron Fox

#8 – De’Aaron Fox shakes Tyler Ulis

*Note: Fox executed this deadly crossover the play immediately following Ulis’ bucket.*

#7 – Hamidou Diallo blocks Donte DiVincenzo

#6 – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chase down block

#5 – Malik Monk 3/4 court shot

#4 John Wall nutmegs Briante Weber

#3 Isaiah Briscoe sauces the defender

#2 Bam Adebayo double bounce pass

Uhhhhh. What?

#1 Alex Poythress blocks Bam Adebayo

UHHHHH… WHAT?!?!


Kentucky basketball gets the night off to play new Call of Duty video game

Kentucky basketball gets the night off to play new Call of Duty video game

@KentuckyMBB

Do you remember back in September when the Kentucky basketball team was treated to an early look at the latest installment of the Call of Duty series: Call of Duty Black-Ops 4?

Tonight, the team was rewarded with a night off of practice to play their distributed copies of the popular first-person shooter game.

The official Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account released the following video of the team receiving their shipment of the game on both PS4 and Xbox One.

Needless to say, they were pretty excited for a night of doing nothing but having fun:

“As soon as it comes out, I’m playing it all night, every night,” sophomore forward PJ Washington  said about the new game at UK Media Day last week.

And he wasn’t the only Wildcat looking forward to it.

“We all get the new Call of Duty, I’m probably going to be on there a lot,” said Quade Green.

Kentucky center Nick Richards, on the other hand, said he’s not a fan.

“Nah, I don’t play Call of Duty,” he said.

Hmm… Footage doesn’t lie, Nick.

Neither do photos:

@KentuckyMBB

After a good week of practice and a heck of a show put on at Big Blue Madness, the kids absolutely deserve a night off.

@KentuckyMBB

@KentuckyMBB

While we’re at it, take a look at the Big Blue Madness recap video the fine folks at UK Athletics put together:

It’s going to be a fun season.


The difference a year makes: comparing Kentucky’s bye weeks

The difference a year makes: comparing Kentucky’s bye weeks

There’s not much to do on a bye week other than sit around and watch other teams play all day or look back on the first half of the season.

This time around, however, I found myself thinking about how this bye week feels different.

As a fan, you selfishly never want a bye week. I wish they could play all 52 Saturdays of the year, if possible. Last year, the BBN was desperate and thankful for a bye week. This year, though, it seems like everyone is chomping at the bit to watch the good guys step between the white lines.

Last year, Mark Stoops and Kentucky went into the bye week with the same record they have now. 5-1. Kentucky only had one point separating them from a 6-0 start, eerily similar to the 2018 start. But what’s the difference from last year’s 5-1 start to this one?

Last season, Kentucky stumbled into the bye week. After narrow victories against Eastern Michigan, Missouri, EKU, and Southern Mississippi, it felt like the Cats had a shaky foundation. Kentucky looked gassed, with seemingly every game coming down to the last possession; the Cats were desperate for a bye week.

With a back half that consisted of Louisville, Georgia, and Mississippi State, there wasn’t much confidence the Cats would reach a 10-win season.

This season, however, Kentucky has the same record but has looked much more dominant. The Cats have fought through the toughest part of their schedule and beat every team by more than 10. Their one loss? An overtime defeat in one of the toughest places to play in college football. The fans don’t have the traditional letdown of another close loss to Florida, Kentucky has run all over dominant defenses, and if Snell gets the ball more in College Station, I believe we beat them too.

The fans and players are anxious to see these guys on the field again. Guys like Benny Snell, Jordan Jones, Kash Daniel, and Josh Allen are frantically waiting to come out setting the world on fire. We can sense it.

Here’s how last season’s bye week compares to this season’s.


Comparing the offense

Through six games last season, Benny Snell was solid, but he was nowhere near the running back he was capable of being. The Benny Snell we’ve seen this year is leaps and bounds better, and that shows in the rushing yard discrepancy.

Rushing

2017 -138.1 yards per game

2018- 227.8 yards per game

Nearly a 100-yard-per-game difference from this year to last year. Sure, that stat gets a little pad with A.J. Rose’s explosiveness being put to use this season and the addition of Terry Wilson. But no one can question that Kentucky’s rushing attack is thriving through six games. Last year it kind of struggled. Not only is that a testament to Benny Snell’s improvement, but a testament to how well the offensive line has played through the first half of the season.

To further legitimize Kentucky’s running attack, they have played two teams that experts have raved over having top rushing defenses in Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Last season, Kentucky played their tougher defenses on the back half. This time around, Georgia looks like the only team that can legitimately shut down the Wildcats rushing attack in the remaining six games.

Passing

2017-211.1 yards per game (QBR 147.5)

2018-145.5 yards per game (QBR 43.3)

It’s no secret that Terry Wilson was going to have a hard time comparing to Stephen Johnson in his first year in blue and white. We typically looked at Stephen Johnson as the game manager who did what it took to win games, but through six games the yards per game difference is pretty significant. That’s not even mentioning the QBR.

With that said, I don’t think Terry Wilson has played necessarily bad through six games. He’s managed the game well, and just like Stephen Johnson, he’s done what it takes to win the game, a la Florida. While last week wasn’t the best performance for Wilson, I think he’s done an excellent job of not doing too much through six games. Gran knows this is a run first team and that’s what the offense has been true to. I have no complaints with Terry Wilson to this point.


Comparing the Defense

We knew this Kentucky defense was going to be good, but I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted this defense was going to be THIS good. When you factor in the departure of Denzil Ware, Jordan Jones’ shoulder injury, and Josh Paschal’s illness, the Wildcat defense hasn’t only lived up to expectations, they’ve exceeded them.

Rushing Defense

2017-97.2 yards per game

2018-120.2 yards per game

This is a stat I wouldn’t look much into when it comes to comparing last years defense to this one. Last season’s rush defense was top five in the country in yards per game heading into the bye week. This year’s Kentucky defense may give up more rushing yards, but they’ve had the bend but don’t break mentality. You can run as much as you want to, but this defense refuses to let you score, only giving up 14.6 points per game. That’s third best in all of FBS.

There’s also another reason Kentucky has allowed more rushing yards per game this season…

Passing Defense

2017-288.7 yards per game

2018-185.5 yards per game

It’s because no team can pass on them.

Kentucky’s Secondary is allowing 100 yards less per game this season compared to last. Yes, you read that right. Granted, last season Kentucky faced off against two quarterbacks on NFL rosters in Tim Boyle and Brogan Roback. Then, of course, they faced off against Drew Lock, who they will see in two weeks.

But Kentucky has gone up against familiar faces in Jake Bentley, Feleipe Franks, and Nick Fitzgerald. Let’s not forget how dominant Nicky Fitz looked against this defense last year. This year, not so much.

Going forward, Kentucky’s most significant tests on defense will come from Missouri and Georgia. Missouri is a team who is 0-3 in the SEC, and a quarterback who Kentucky was able to manage last season. Georiga’s offense got exposed against LSU yesterday, so Kentucky’s defense should look just as strong the rest of the way.


Last year, I had a post that set an outlook for the next six games, talking about what Kentucky would have to do to corral every team’s best player. This year, outside of Georgia, I’m asking myself what would other teams have to do to beat the Cats?

There is no doubt this team is better than the 2017 team. This year, Kentucky’s 5-1 record feels legitimate and they’re now in control of their own destiny.


Who is the Cats’ most consistent receiver? They may still be looking

Kentucky’s offense has Benny Snell. Kentucky’s defense has Josh Allen. Yes, there are obviously other major contributors, and guys like AJ Rose, Mike Edwards, Kash Daniel and Jordan Jones deserve recognition and respect. But, at the end of the day, Kentucky leans most heavily on its greatest strengths: No. 26 and No. 41.

The Wildcats can feel safe with their run game. No, the Texas A&M game wasn’t pretty, but Snell has fought his way to nearly the top of the Cats’ all-time leading rushers, and his eight rushing touchdowns are the most by any player in the SEC. It’s the passing game that is a different story.

UK’s passing offense is ranked as No. 14 – or dead last – in the SEC and No. 122 out of 129 across the country. And while that’s obviously disheartening, it’s not necessarily one player’s fault. In fact, there simply isn’t that “one” player.

Lynn Bowden is the obvious option for the Cats’ most consistent catcher – he has 27 catches for 273 yards (10.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns this season. He’s had explosive moments and could be developed into a great receiver if the circumstances present themselves, but he’ll need to work to make that happen. He needs Terry Wilson to get him the ball, he needs good blocks and, perhaps most importantly, he needs to control his hot-headed tendencies. His inexperience creates inconsistencies and his youth can create drama.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky fans have been waiting for (and looking forward to) senior CJ Conrad’s breakout season for what feels like decades. He’s shown moments of brilliance – the pass he caught against Mississippi State was nothing short of perfection – but for whatever reason, he has not been utilized as much as we all hoped he would be. Whether that’s a Terry Wilson issue, an Eddie Gran issue or the team simply needing his talents elsewhere, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is he’s averaging less than three catches per game and has zero touchdowns on the season.

Dorian Baker was another player the team was happy to have back this season. After two years of injury, the hype around Baker had finally returned and the BBN was ready to see him in action.  And yes, like Conrad, Baker has had a few memorable catches throughout the season, but he simply hasn’t been that consistent force the offense needs him to be. So far this year, Baker has nine receptions for a total of 100 yards and zero touchdowns.

Tavin Richardson, Ahmad Wagner, Zy’Aire Hughes, Josh Ali and Isiah Epps are all familiar names around the football program, but none of these players have emerged as the team’s main receiver this season. Next year, the Cats will be without Conrad, Baker and David Bouvier, so one of the younger guys will have to step up. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to start going to that guy, whoever he may be, now?

Even if the Cats aren’t able to find that one go-to guy, that could work in their favor. If opponent defenses aren’t sure where the Cats are going or who they’re going to, more options open up. The only issue? Someone has to be able to catch it.

Whether or not you believe the Cats are exercising all of their options on offense, it’s undeniable Kentucky must find a more consistent receiver in order to improve their passing game. Who do you think it should be?


@MaggieDavisKSR


(Via Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls have claimed Tyler Ulis off waivers

(Via Getty Images)

Former Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis didn’t have to wait around too long for a new home.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Ulis has been claimed off waivers by the Chicago Bulls, and will likely be on the team’s opening-day roster.

It’ll be a chance for Ulis, who played at Chicago’s Marian Catholic and lived in the area throughout high school, to play in front of friends and family at the United Center.

On Friday, Ulis was waived in the final cuts by the Golden State Warriors just a few weeks after being signed to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Ulis was released by the Phoenix Suns earlier this summer, and it took quite a while before a team was willing to take a chance on the 5-foot-9 point guard. The Warriors brought him on for training camp and the preseason to see how he’d develop behind Steph Curry, but felt he would be better suited for the G-League.

Though he likely won’t win a ring out of it, Ulis will have an opportunity for solid minutes with the Bulls on the main roster. They have Kris Dunn and Murray State’s Cameron Payne at point guard, but he could eventually work his way above the former Racer on the depth chart.

The Athletic reports Ulis will sign a two-way deal with the Bulls, meaning will be able to spend 45 days on the active roster this season, unless the team decides to convert him to a full roster player. The NBA changed the rules on two-way players this offseason to where travel days won’t count toward the 45-day allotment, meaning Ulis can play 45 games with the team this season.

In four preseason games with the Warriors, Ulis averaged 3.0 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game.

Best of luck to Ulis in the Windy City this season.

(KSR’s Zack Geoghegan also contributed to this report)


Kentucky volleyball SWEEPS Ole Miss

@KentuckyVB

Get your brooms out – Kentucky volleyball just swept Ole Miss. The No. 16 Wildcats remain as one of just two SEC teams still undefeated in conference play. They’ve extended their winning streak to nine straight games, making their record 12-4 for the season.

The win came inside Memorial Coliseum, where Coach Craig Skinner and the Cats came out firing early and never looked back. Kentucky jumped to a quick 5-0 lead during the first set and eventually won 25-21 after recording an impressive six aces. The Cats really came alive in the second set, with middle blocker Brooke Morgan and hitters Leah Edmond and Avery Skinner serving as the team’s standouts. In the back row, libero Gabby Curry and setter Madison Lilley were consistent forces for the Wildcats. The Cats won the set in a dominating fashion: 25-14.

Kentucky closed out the third set in the same way – a methodical attack on Ole Miss. UK won the final set 25-17, sealing the sweep for the Commonwealth. The win was extra special for the Wildcats, as several former Cats were in attendance.

Kentucky volleyball now goes on a road-game spree, traveling to LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia over the next two weeks. They’ll return to action in Lexington Oct. 28 to take on South Carolina in the annual “pink match.” The game is set to begin at 1:30 p.m.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Kentucky opens as 13-point favorite over Vanderbilt

Kentucky opens as 13-point favorite over Vanderbilt

The fine folks out in Las Vegas like Kentucky’s chances against Vanderbilt next weekend.

OddsShark has released their opening lines for week eight, and your No. 14 Wildcats have opened as 13-point favorites over the Commodores.

Vanderbilt (3-3) lost to No. 11 Florida by a final score of 37-27 on Saturday, and lost to Georgia the week before 41-13. Their only victories this season have come against Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, and Tennessee State.

Kentucky (5-1) is coming off a bye week, with Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Georgia coming up on the schedule in the next three weeks. With a victory next Saturday, there’s a solid chance they move into the AP top-10.

Go Cats.


Why do we keep overlooking Immanuel Quickley?

Believe it or not, basketball season is already upon us. And, believe it or not, the Kentucky Wildcats have a battle for starting point guard on their hands. Throughout most of the pre-season and even leading into the Bahamas, Ashton Hagans was the man most thought would be best-suited for the job. But while both Hagans and Quickley had solid performances down in the sun, it was Quickley who shone the brightest.

Over the course of four games, Quickley averaged 24 minutes of playing time per game. He went 7-23 for 30.4 percent from the field and 4-10 (40 percent) from behind-the-arc. Quickley grabbed 18 rebounds, 16 of which were defensive boards, while dishing out 18 assists and committing just two turnovers. He was also credited with five steals and averaged 7.3 points per game. He showcased his defensive intensity, his competitive nature and his determination to get his teammates the ball and make a play while still acting as a calming presence.

While some of Hagans numbers (21.5 mpg, 17 rebounds and five ppg) are very comparable to those of Immanuel Quickley, there are other areas with large discrepancies. Hagans shot the ball more efficiently from the floor (8-15 for just over 53 percent), but he didn’t have the same long-range as Quickley (0-2 from the three-point line). Most notably, Hagans had 10 assists (eight less than Quickley) and seven turnovers (five more than Quickley). Both point guards had excellent stat lines, but it’s hard to ignore Quickley’s abilities and demeanor on the court.

Quickley showed his dominance in the opening game of the trip, and he ended up starting in three of the four August games. But, the Cats’ time in the Bahamas wasn’t the first time Immanuel Quickley showcased his talents. A 5-star recruit and a McDonalds All-American (and the winner of the McDonald’s game three-point contest), the point guard was the first recruit who committed to John Calipari from the 2018 class.

But then other big names started signing. Fans got excited about players like Keldon Johnson and EJ Montgomery; fans got excited about the return of PJ Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards; fans got excited when Ashton Hagans not only de-committed from Georgia but then reclassified to begin playing with the Cats immediately. And, somewhere in all of that excitement, Immanuel Quickley got lost.

The hype surrounding Quickley briefly re-appeared during the Bahamas trip, but following the conclusion of the final game, the BBN’s attention turned to football, returning Quickley to the background. But that’s alright with him – it just meant he had to get back to work.

“Individually I’m just looking forward to getting better everyday,” Quickley told KSR during media day. “I enjoy that part of the process of just getting better [and] working on my game.”

And he’s been putting plenty of time into that process, according to John Calipari. The head coach compared Quickley to Brandon Knight and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, two players notorious for their time spent in the weight room and the gym after-hours.

Quickley stole the show at Big Blue Madness, starting with a spectacular dance and ending with him winning the three-point contest. With a combination of grit on the court and personality off of it, he has once again been thrust into the spotlight and is poised to become a fan favorite. But will it last? Or will he have to once again prove himself once games officially begin? Either way seems fine by him.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Wenyen Gabriel Makes Sacramento Kings Roster

(via NBA.com/Kings)

A gigantic round of applause is in order for former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel, who made the final cut for the Sacramento Kings’ opening day roster.


Gabriel was undrafted after playing only two seasons at Kentucky and received his fair share of criticism for deciding to leave school early in favor of the NBA.  It was assumed by many – myself included – that, while Gabriel clearly has NBA potential, it might be a couple years before he could make the jump and truly establish himself in this league.

Well, he wasn’t having any of that. The Kings cut their roster down to 15 (the minimum) and one two-way player, Gabriel.

Gabriel won’t be an impactful role player to start and might find himself with the King’s G League affiliate, the Stockton Kings, more often than not. But on a Sacramento team expected to be one of the worst in the entire league, there will be no shortage of opportunities for the 21-year old.

In five preseason games for the Kings, Gabriel averaged just under nine minutes per game to go along with 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the field.


Kentucky comes it at No. 14 in AP Poll, No. 17 in Coaches Poll

Kentucky comes it at No. 14 in AP Poll, No. 17 in Coaches Poll

The latest AP and Coaches polls are out, and despite not playing this week, your Kentucky Wildcats have moved up in both.

In the AP Poll, Kentucky jumped four spots, going from No. 18 to No. 14 in the nation.

As for the Coaches Poll, the Cats, moved from the No. 18 team in college football to No. 17, just a one-spot leap.

With the jump in the AP, Kentucky sits pretty as the fifth-best team in the SEC, and the third-best team in the East, behind just Georgia (No. 8) and Florida (No. 11). Texas A&M (No. 17) and Mississippi State (No. 22) close out the SEC representatives in the top-25.

Despite slightly different overall rankings in the Coaches Poll, the Cats also come in as the No. 5 team in the SEC and the No. 3 team in the East.

Here’s the AP Poll in its entirety:

And the Coaches Poll:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Clemson

4. Notre Dame

5. LSU

6. UGA

7. Michigan

8. Texas

9. UCF

10. OU

11. Oregon

12. UF

13. WVU

14. Washington

15. NC St

16. PSU

17. Kentucky

18. A&M

19. Wisconsin

20. USF

21. Cincinnati

22. Iowa

23. Washington St

24. Stanford

25. Colorado

With a victory over Vanderbilt next week, there’s a great chance the Cats move into the top-ten in the AP Poll next Sunday.

Not too shabby.