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After Action Review: Mississippi State

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Mississippi State football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cat’s need to sustain and improve:

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game.

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Lost the football game 45-7.

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS

Very little running back generated rushing attack

— Benny Snell had 7 carries for 18 yards.

— Sihiem King managed 5 rushes for 24.

— Was good to see AJ Rose: 9 carries for 30 yards.

— QB Stephen Johnson led the team with 6 carries and 54 yards.

— To be completely fair, running lanes were miniscule. RBs were given very little help.

— Mississippi State’s constant pressure and disruption significantly altered Kentucky’s running game.

Lost the Line-of-Scrimmage

— Simplistic analysis: Miss State defense racked up 3 QB sacks, 7 tackles for loss and allowed just 7-points.

— The Bulldog offense rolled up 441 total yards including 282 on the ground.

— UK defense recorded 3 tackles for loss, zero QB sacks, and gave up 45 points.

— UK managed only 260 yards of total offense.

— Miss State was largely more physical in both phases.

Ineffective 1st down offense and defense

— Far too many 2nd and long scenarios for the Wildcat offense. This came from incompletions and zero to negative gain run plays.

— Ineffective 1st down offense assisted Miss State’s defensive intent which was to pressure in sure-passing downs.

— Kentucky converted 6/14 on 3rd down (42.8%).

— Nick Fitzgerald and company gained positive yards on 1st down from both the run and pass.

— Miss State converted 12/18 on third down (66.5).

— Seemingly, Dan Mullen threw the football more on 1st down vs. UK than any other 2017 opponent. It worked. 

Pass defense

— Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday’s matchup.

— The junior connected on 70% for 155 yards and one touchdown.

— Seven different MSU pass catchers got involved in the action.

— The Cats registered zero quarterback sacks. Fitzgerald had all day in the pocket. The Wildcats also lost containment during several scrambling situations.

Run defense

— Mississippi State ran for 282 yards.

— Averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

— Scored 4 rushing touchdowns. Two of which were from 40-yards out.

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

— Matt Panton averaged 45.1 yards per punt.

— True freshman Lynn Bowden becoming an offensive focal point. Threw a pass, ran the football from the Wildcat, and caught 3 passes. Bowden was also active in the return game and finished the day as the game’s leader in All Purpose Yards with 119.

— OLB Josh Allen registered 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups.

IMPROVE

— Everything else

What does all this mean?

It’s probably been said and written about a thousand times already: Kentucky’s performance coming out of a bye week was not very good. Miss State out-everything’d its visitors.

How the Cats respond to an embarrassing road loss will have tremendous implications for the 2017 season. Butch Jones could be coaching for his livelihood on Kroger Field. Kentucky is fighting for bowl eligibility and reputation restoration. Saturday could get interesting. Both programs will enter an evening of reckoning. The old football phrase, “Whichever teams wants it the most will win” could describe Saturday’s contest.


The current state of Kentucky’s remaining opponents

The current state of Kentucky’s remaining opponents

With five games remaining on Kentucky’s schedule, the final path looks a lot different than anyone could’ve imagined before the season began. Leaving Georgia out of the conversation, the Wildcats could be favored in every game as the upcoming opponents aren’t what we expected at the start.

Let’s check in on the current state of each of those five opponents left in Kentucky’s way in 2017…

 

Tennessee
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, October 28

Tennessee is in shambles. It’s a dumpster fire down there in Knoxville as the Vols have now gone a full calendar month without scoring an offensive touchdown. Butch Jones still has his job, somehow, but if Kentucky handles its business on Saturday, he gone.

The Vols are so bad.

ESPN FPI Win Probability: 56.2%


Ole Miss
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 4

Ole Miss was a scary team for the Wildcats — until Shea Patterson suffered a torn knee ligament that will keep him out the rest of the season. Patterson is the SEC’s leading passer with 2,259 yards through the air, but he will not be making the trip to Lexington in two weeks. The Cats will now see Jordan Ta’amu, a JUCO transfer with seven career completions, at QB for the Rebels.

While the news of Patterson’s unfortunate injury likely increases Kentucky’s odds in that game, it’s worth noting that Jordan Ta’amu is a running quarterback. So, there’s that.

ESPN FPI Win Probability: 59.6%


Vanderbilt
Nashville, Tn. | Saturday, November 11

Vanderbilt had a bye this past weekend, so it did not lose a football game for a fifth consecutive Saturday, which is nice. The Commodores will see South Carolina and Western Kentucky to right the ship before hosting the Wildcats in Nashville, where Kentucky hasn’t won since 2009.

ESPN FPI Win Probability: 53.5%


Georgia
Athens, Ga. | Saturday, November 18

After watching Mississippi State run all over Kentucky for 282 yards this past weekend, there is very little reason to believe in the Cats at Georgia. Georgia’s rushing attack averages 283 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the entire nation, and the defense ranks third with only 253 total yards allowed per game.

ESPN FPI Win Probability: 5.8%


Louisville
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 25

Lamar Jackson is special. Everyone else on Louisville’s roster, is not.

Maybe he’ll fumble again?

ESPN FPI Win Probability: 31.5%


Cats Get Rolled in Starkville

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

What could have gone wrong did go wrong for Kentucky in Starkville. Saturday’s performance surprisingly came after a bye week which meant an extra week of preparation. The Cats were dominated in all three phases. Kentucky played its poorest game of the season when a victory could have clinched bowl eligibility and made a statement of belonging in the SEC East. Instead, it must now claw its way back after getting beaten up by Mississippi State 45-7.

It’s not that the Cats lost on the road. Kentucky was defeated by a good football team that was favored by nearly two touchdowns. Prior to the game I didn’t understand the point spread. Afterwards, I got it. Miss State may end up being the second or third best team in the West. It’s the manner in which UK was smacked around along both lines of scrimmage that signaled alarms. On October 21st 2017, the Bulldogs were just plain faster, stronger, smarter, more physical, better coached, and well; you get the picture.

OFFENSE

59 plays, 260-yards, 14 first downs produced just 7 points. It also gave up 7 tackles for loss and 3 quarterback sacks. Time of possession: Miss St 34:49, Kentucky 25:11.

UK was whipped up front, dropped passes, had very little running back generated rushing attack, and threw two picks. Mississippi State should be credited for an accurate game plan, physical demeanor, and timely execution. But in my opinion, Saturday was more telling about UK’s deficits. The Cats beat this team 40-38 a year ago and defeated its defensive coordinator in last year’s Governor’s Cup. Miss State was just plain meaner and exhibited a much higher desire to win this time around. Hat tip to Dan Mullen and that cow bell toting home crowd atmosphere.

The Wildcats cannot expect to win another game this season if it doesn’t somehow, some way establish a run game. It’s not done so on a consistent basis through seven games. Perplexing given 2016 results and with a running back like Benny Snell in the backfield. Quarterback Stephen Johnson’s 54-yards led the team. The offensive line rotated personnel but has yet to establish a solidified foundation to provide satisfactory running lanes or adequately protect the quarterback. This trend was blatantly obvious on Saturday against a physical, disruptive front seven. Opposing defenses will continue to be highly talented throughout the rest of the season. Things will not get easier. UK continued to struggle on first down which led to several 3rd and unmanageable situations (6/14-42.85%). That’s not exactly a recipe for victory in the Southeastern Conference or any college football league for that matter.

DEFENSE

Totally whipped up front. Miss State ran 75 plays for 441-yards, 25 first downs, and 45 points. The Wildcats didn’t tackle, cover receivers, maintain gap integrity, or counter physical play with a great deal of fight. Mississippi State ran for 282-yards off 48 carries. The vast majority of these yards came after initial contact which was as distressing as the loss itself. Credit MSU’s state of mind for fighting through arm tackles and being mentally and physically tougher for sixty minutes.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday. Against Kentucky, the junior signal caller completed 70% of his throws for 155-yards with a group of receivers that were not known for their pass catching prowess. Again, credit Miss State. This is majorly concerning considering that UK has to face teams with elite throwing quarterbacks and pass catchers like Ole Miss, Louisville, and Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

As badly as the Cats were beaten up on the line of scrimmage, special teams really didn’t factor.

 WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

The back half of the schedule is difficult. Been saying that since Media Days. How Kentucky bounces back from Saturday’s embarrassing performance against a wobbly Tennessee team will define the 2017 season. It’s a simple as that. Tennessee played Alabama close (in context) for a half. The Tide led the Vols 21-0 after two quarters.

Listen, every team has an off day. But, Miss State’s complete line of scrimmage domination coupled with Kentucky’s continuing problems in both phases of the run game present a new perspective for Cat’s final five games. UT RB John Kelly will test the UK run defense. Kelly is one of the conference’s leaders in yards after contact and one of the best overall running backs the Cats will go against. There are also some very talented defenders along the Volunteer front seven that will provide similar challenges that were present against MSU. Plus, no outcomes can be taken for granted after this Miss State performance. Plus, the UK-UT game was once considered a rivalry. The two teams used to play for a trophy. Heated emotional games can lead to strange results. Tennessee historically is at its best against Kentucky. Or so it seems.

There were very few positives that can be construed from the 45-7 humiliation. The bigger and more telling question is what’s the ceiling for this football team? There are no sure wins in the back half of the schedule. Never has been.

An embarrassing loss can be answered in two ways. First, give up or simply throw in the towel. Second; learn from prior mistakes, circle the wagons, and become better from the experience. While future opposing teams may not have favorable win/loss records, there are still several competent individual players that are talented enough to take over a ballgame much like Nick Fitzgerald did in Starkville.

Kentucky cannot afford to lose to Mississippi State twice. Cliché and coach speak but applicable. Media and fans alike will decipher, complain about, and debate Saturday’s loss for at least a week. Mark Stoops and team will not be afforded that same luxury. Kentucky has no other choice than to go back to work and move on to Tennessee. For many and varying reasons, Saturday’s pending matchup is pivotal for both teams. Seven decisive days await the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers. Somebody’s season is about to change…….


Kentucky’s bye week lasted two weeks

Oct 21, 2017; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill (8) is tackled by Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Jones (34) during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Your Kentucky Wildcats just pulled off the first-ever double-bye in program history.

After tying the game at seven apiece early in the second quarter, the Cats did just about nothing to put up a fight on the road against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The opposition managed more rushing yards than UK’s total yardage, finished +2 in the turnover margin, and destroyed the time of possession. Absolutely nothing finished in favor of the Wildcats, and it’s best if we just move on and pretend it never happened.

But my job is to write about it. So let’s break down… whatever that was.

Kentucky had two weeks to prepare for this game

Two. Weeks.

Throughout the afternoon, many fans and media personalities made Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald out to be the most dominant force the college football world had ever seen and Kentucky had no shot at even attempting to stop this man. He dominated both through the air and on the ground, throwing for 155 yards and a touchdown, along with rushing for 115 yards and two scores. The defense looked like a deer in headlights with the 6’5, 230 lbs. quarterback lined up behind center.

A lot of people seem to forget, however, that Fitzgerald was Mississippi State’s quarterback last year. The same Mississippi State team the Wildcats took down at home.

This wasn’t some revolutionary talent that the Wildcats had no answer for. This was a player and team UK beat last year, and would have been in convincing fashion if you take away a few costly fumbles by Stephen Johnson to put the Bulldogs right back in the game.

The Wildcats had two weeks to prepare for Fitzgerald and the Bulldog offense. They didn’t attempt any trickery to throw the Kentucky defense off, they ran the same offense they had all season long. The same offense the Wildcats had six games worth of film on. And they bought into the media hype and played scared.

Stoops is now 2-3 following a bye week in his career at Kentucky, proving that the week off isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Another score before the half

When the Wildcats went three-and-out following the controversial deep throw on third and one with 3:08 remaining in the first half, Kentucky fans knew exactly what was coming.

Like clockwork, Fitzgerald led the MSU offense down the field, eventually rushing for a 40-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one where three defenders had the opportunity to bring him down in the backfield. The score pushed the Bulldog lead to 17-7, and they received the opening kickoff in the second half. At that point, we knew things could get ugly in a hurry.

And they did.

KSR friend and Depth Chart podcaster Andrew Eaton found this statistic highlighting Kentucky’s struggles before the half in recent years.

In the Mark Stoops era, Kentucky has surrendered 20 total touchdowns in the final 3:00 of the first half. In the final minute of the first half, the Wildcats have given up 13 touchdowns and 106 total points in the last five years.

To break that down even further, in 56 games, roughly one of every four teams sees the Wildcats surrender a touchdown within the final minute before halftime.

I would say that’s unbelievable, but at this point, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Eddie Gran called his worst game of the season

So. Many. Missed. Opportunities.

I think a lot of it had to do with the pressure of “playing not to lose” critics. Fans have been on Gran for conservative offensive play calls for the past several weeks. Last night he wasn’t “conservative” by any means, but he overcompensated at the wrong times.

Mark Stoops threw in a subtle jab in his post-game presser, saying he and the Wildcat offense “played to win” yesterday afternoon on the controversial third-and-one play call.

That being said, there’s a difference between playing “not to lose” and playing smart.

Why not try out that play on first or second down? Why wait for multiple third-and-short opportunities to throw the ball 30+ yards down the field? Especially when Stephen Johnson had been underthrowing his deep balls throughout the first half, and that continued throughout the game.

The run game hasn’t been working, but that doesn’t mean you have to take deep shots downfield when you only have to go 36 inches to move the chains.

Guys like CJ Conrad, Charles Walker, Juice Johnson, and Lynn Bowden could absolutely dominate in the dink and dunk game. This doesn’t have to be a boom or bust offense, nor is that what it’s designed to be. You have a talented finesse quarterback, use him as a finesse quarterback.

Eddie Gran is an unbelievable football mind and he has done a phenomenal job in his time at Kentucky. That being said, his stubbornness is a kick in the gut sometimes.

Benny Snell has to be Benny Snell again

Seven rushes for 18 yards, with a long of five yards is unacceptable for Kentucky’s premier back. There’s no other way to put it. Snell is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, but he has yet to prove that this season against a legitimate defense.

Could it be opponents zeroing in on him, knowing he’s a power back without the speed of Boom Williams tiring the defense to start the game? (Yes.)

Could UK’s use of only two backs be finally coming back to haunt them? (Yes.)

The opposition is stacking the box with eight or nine defenders, just daring the UK offense to run the ball up the middle on them. And sadly enough, they do.

The Wildcats’ inability to convert via run on third and short is absolutely killing this offense. If the passing game struggles like it did yesterday, we’re getting zero production with the ball in our hands.

I’m no Kirk Herbstreit, but you won’t win many football games like that.


For the sake of all that is good, let’s move on to Tennessee.


How Kentucky Plans to Bounce Back from Devastating Loss

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s 45-7 loss on the road was an unexpected smack in the face for a Kentucky football team that appeared beyond embarrassing losses like this.

“You never think you’re going to get your face waxed, not in this game,” said Eddie Gran.  “Obviously I didn’t get our guys prepared well enough.  We weren’t physical enough.  We didn’t execute.  I didn’t call good plays.  We gotta come back and show our leadership, where coaching begins.  We gotta come back and go to work.”

I was not in the locker room after the game, but it did not sound like a fun place to be.

“We was hurt.  We didn’t put all our effort.  We didn’t execute,” Josh Allen said.  “We just gotta get better next week.  This can’t be the game that loses us the season because that was only one game.”

Since Stephen Johnson took over the Kentucky offense, Mark Stoops’ program has been defined by their ability to overcome adversity, no matter the circumstance.  That will be put to the test this week, but Courtney Love knows these Cats are capable.   “I think we just need to respond, regroup, and tomorrow we have to get back to work.”

Benny Snell had his worst game as a Wildcat.  The powerful running back had just 18 yards on 7 carries.  It was bad, but Snell knows one thing for certain, “We won’t quit.”

The most captivating message came from Kentucky’s most important player, Stephen Johnson.  Like Snell, the quarterback had one of his worst days in a Kentucky uniform, undoubtedly the worst this season.  He’ll learn from this film, then look forward.

“We can’t take a step back and be like the Old Kentucky, we gotta be like the New Kentucky.”

Nobody misses the old Kentucky.  Today was a reminder of how far the Cats have come over the last year under Mark Stoops.  Once again, Kentucky is against the ropes, right where they are at their best.


Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Cats Throw a Clunker, Fall to Fitzgerald and Miss. State 45-7

Jim Brown | USA Today

Ouch.

Kentucky looked like they never returned from the Bye Week.  The Cats traveled to Starkville and played their worst game of the 2017 season.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Nick Fitzgerald could not be stopped on the ground.  He ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.  To make matters worse, it was arguably his best game through the air this year.  Normally a 54 percent passer, Fitzgerald completed 18-of-26 passes (69 percent) for 155 yards and another touchdown.

It wasn’t always that bad.  Kentucky trailed 10-7 with 3:14 left in the first half.  They had a chance to score and stay in the game, but Stephen Johnson missed Greg Hart on a third and one pass.

Fans are still angry Kentucky didn’t run the ball on third down, probably because of what happened next.  Fitzgerald ran right on fourth and one and was stuffed…until he cut it back for a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a ten-point halftime lead and put a dagger into Kentucky.

Stephen Johnson had one of his worst days as Kentucky’s starter.  Inaccurate on deep balls and crossing routes, he only completed 13-of-28 passes and threw two interceptions.  One pick was on a screen pass, the other was returned for a touchdown.

Today’s game in Starkville sucked.  That’s the only way you can describe this loss.  However, it’s important to remember it’s just one loss.  The Cats were 13-point underdogs on the road.  They weren’t expected to win.  With four winnable games remaining on the schedule, Kentucky still has an opportunity to win eight regular season games for the first time since 1984.

Today’s game was bad, one that’s best forgotten, but there’s still plenty of football to be played in the 2017 season.


Ten immediate reactions from the Blue-White Scrimmage

Ten immediate reactions from the Blue-White Scrimmage

We saw a quick preview of the team during Big Blue Madness, but tonight was our first in-depth look at the 2017-18 Wildcats.

Kentucky held their annual Blue-White scrimmage tonight, producing a lot of good things to be excited about, and some bad to keep an eye on.

Here are my ten immediate reactions from the scrimmage:

This team is a work in progress

The potential is there for a big run in March, but don’t expect this team to be world-beaters from game one.

Spacing issues, careless passes, and missed shots at the basket were just a few of the glaring problems we saw in the Blue-White scrimmage.

But that is expected this early in a season, especially for a team this young.

For as many SportsCenter Top 10 highlight plays we see early, there may be just as many head-scratchers.

What shooting concerns?

One of the biggest knocks on this team going into the season was their inability to shoot from beyond the arc.

Tonight at the Blue-White game, however, they flipped that narrative.

The Wildcats knocked down 13 total threes, finishing roughly 45% on the night.

Quade Green hit a few contested jumpers, Kevin Knox hit several jumpers, Diallo, Calipari, Gabriel, etc.

Kentucky has two guys 6’9 or taller that can knock down threes on a consistent basis. PJ Washington can knock them down from mid-range, and an occasional three. Even Sacha Killeya-Jones knocked one down for good measure.

They’re not an elite team from deep, but they’ll hit a whole lot of them.

Speaking of shooting…

Jonny David hit a three

If Kentucky needs a spark of the bench, Jonny freaking David is your guy.

That is all that needs to be said on the matter.

Kevin Knox is a different breed of basketball player

Coach Cal said Knox made a big step up in the days leading up to UK Media Day, and it was easy to see tonight.

At the half, the star freshman finished with 18 points in 20 minutes of action, and then finished the day with 22 points and seven rebounds.

He opened the game with a beautiful mid-range jumper, followed it up with a big rebound on the opposite end, and immediately took off with the ball. Two plays later, he ripped Gilgeous-Alexander, and took it coast-to-coast for a bucket in transition.

Oh yeah, and then he dunked all over multiple defenders. And then he threw down a nasty putback dunk.

Knox just does everything right, and I think he’s easily the best player on the team right now.

He’s a hybrid if I’ve ever seen one.

Hamidou Diallo is a freak athlete, but you already knew that

On one occasion in the first half, the backboard shook for 30 seconds following a nasty dunk by Diallo.

And then he did it again. And again.

If Diallo finds an open lane on a fast break, be prepared to be on the receiving end of a facial.

Aside from disgusting dunks and ridiculous length, Diallo knocked down a contested three, along with some impressive shots around the rim.

I do believe Diallo will have a bad tendency of forcing things at times this year, but he’s going to be a dynamic scorer in Calipari’s offense.

Wenyen Gabriel is a completely different player

There were times last year Gabriel looked so uncomfortable on the floor, and if he wasn’t in a shooting rhythm, he really struggled.

Now, the sophomore has his feet under him and looks like a stud.

He can still catch-and-shoot, but his game is far more developed. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and driving to the basket. When contact comes, he doesn’t get thrown around like a rag doll like he used to. He can grab a rebound and just go, and you don’t feel like it’s a turnover waiting to happen.

Calipari said Gabriel is one of the best three players on the team, and I think he’s right. If he can produce 19 points and four boards on a consistent basis, the Wildcats will be just fine.

PJ Washington is a bully

His teammates call him Charles Barkley, and it’s for good reason. This kid is a force on both ends of the floor.

Jonny David tried guarding him in the paint on one play, which ended about as you’d expect. Quade Green found himself matched up with Washington in the post, and the big man absolutely dominated on him.

Washington finds the mismatch and takes advantage. He’s a bull, and there won’t be many people in the country able to slow him down.

Oh, and he can shoot from mid-range. Really well.

He’ll be a fan-favorite from day one.

Quade Green is not Tyler Ulis… yet.

Green finished with 18 points, seven assists, and four turnovers, highlighting both the positive and negative that came with his performance.

He started the game with several sloppy passes, and got the ball ripped from him once or twice. And when he made a mistake, he let himself know about it.

After finding his groove, he looked like the floor general we all expected him to be. He was loud, directed traffic, and found the open man more often than not. He showed the ability to knock down shots from all over the floor, including some contested buckets at the rim.

The game came so simply to Ulis, and it’ll get that way with Green in the future. But those expecting the second coming of arguably the greatest point guard in Kentucky history will be a bit disappointed early on.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t afraid of anyone

Throughout the game, Gilgeous-Alexander took the ball straight to the rack and went right at whoever was in his way. He didn’t shy away from the contact, he embraced it, and it paid off in a huge way.

On defense, his length showed, jumping the passing lanes and deflecting (or stealing) balls throughout the contest.

Similar to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist when he was here, SGA is going to do it all for the Wildcats this season.

Nick Richards is a defensive force

Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nick Richards. The freshman out of New York is next in line.

With a final statline of 10 points, 13 rebounds, and eight blocks, it’s impossible to not get excited about UK’s newest center.

Richards swatted away eight shots, and altered even more. When he wasn’t in position to defend, he was a couple feet above the rim to grab the rebound. He has that aspect of his game down to a science.

That being said…… Kenny Payne needs to be in the gym all day and night working on his offensive game.

When Richards puts the ball on the ground, defenders immediately swarm to him. He fumbles the ball around, and forces uncomfortable shots up under pressure. Even on some alley-oop attempts or hard passes thrown to him under the basket, he has a hard time controlling the ball.

He’ll miss a ton of shots and turn the ball over in the paint early in the year, but make up for it on the other end.


They’re raw, and they made a lot of mistakes, but I love my team.


9 Things I’m Excited To See With This Year’s Kentucky Basketball Team

Photo by UK Athletics

It’s late October, and college basketball season is so darn close I can taste it. The leaves are changing (at least I think they are, I live in California), the air is cooling and half the national media is already crafting their excuses for Duke’s first loss of the year. So you know the games are right around the corner!

It really is a wonderful time of year, and as usual Kentucky enters the season about as intriguing as anyone. With the Blue-White scrimmage tonight, exhibitions coming and the season around the corner, what is this outsider curious about with this Kentucky team? Here are nine thoughts:

Is Hamidou Diallo ready to be a star?

If you’ve followed me on Twitter for any period of time, you know that I have actually been pretty critical of Diallo over the last year. I saw him a bunch in high school and when he declared for the draft, I just didn’t see what everyone did. Sure, Diallo had all the physical tools – size, athleticism, wingspan – but lacked a feel for the game of basketball. That’s also why I insisted he should come back for another year of college, even as all the “experts” said he was a lock for the first round. As it turns out, I was right and the experts were wrong. Never doubt your boy Nostra-Torres.

That’s also what made Diallo’s performance at Kentucky’s Pro Day so awesome: It really looks like he has taken the feedback he got in the NBA Draft process last year constructively, and really does seem like he’s evolved as a basketball player. Diallo isn’t just about running and jumping and breathtaking play in the open court, but showed improved ball-handling and a much improved jump shot as well. Sure it was just one day of practice, but it felt like a major step in the right direction.

I always thought Diallo could be good for this team, but I questioned if he could become a “star” in his one year of college. Based on what I saw at the Pro Day, I’m not questioning that any more.

(more…)


A Look Back At The Misleading Blue-White Games Under John Calipari

matthews-blue-white

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Blue-White games over the years, it’s that, though fun to watch, they can be very misleading. Fans should not take tonight’s game as a sign of what’s to come in 2017-18. Too many times we’ve seen guys explode for a ton of points, only to disappear within the offense during the regular season.

That’s just how it works: the Blue-White game is merely a dress rehearsal to showcase what weapons Calipari has at his disposal for the upcoming run.

And, unfortunately, the game has a history of being a very inaccurate indicator of how individual players will perform when the score matters.

Take a look back with me, if you will.


2016


Last year’s game was the appetizer to what was ahead from Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. The two guards combined for 57 points, while Isaiah Briscoe led the way with 39 points on 14-of-30 shooting and a game-high 10 assists.

Mychal Mulder’s night was the most misleading (if there was a misleading performance last year) with 18 points on 4-for-5 shooting from outside.

Watch the highlights:


2015


The 2015 Blue-White game saw the White team snap a 13-year losing streak to the Blue. Starting for that White squad were Tyler Ulis, Mychal Mulder, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere; and for the Blue we saw Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress and Isaac Humphries.

Labissiere led both sides with a game-high 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. We never in a million years thought his season would go the way it did, with the hype surrounding him after that first scrimmage.

Alex Poythress, Charles Matthews and Jamal Murray weren’t far behind in scoring with 17 points each, then Isaiah Briscoe with 16, Derek Willis with 14 and Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis with 10 apiece. It was the most evenly distributed scoring in a Blue-White scrimmage under Calipari.

Other notables:

— Poythress hit 3-of-4 three-pointers.

— Tyler Ulis’ 15 assists gave us a preview of what was to come.

— Attendance of 15,007 was the second-highest in Blue-White history.

Watch the highlights:


2014


The 2014 Blue-White game was, without question, the most competitive of its kind. That one featured the two “platoons” and came after the Cats had already played games against professional teams in the Bahamas. You could say it was one of the toughest games they played all season, and it was against each other.

Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, said afterward, “It’s just scary to think that the other team is actually part of our team.”

Devin Booker was the leading-scorer with 22 on 9-of-11 shooting, with his only two misses coming on his only two three-point attempts.

Other notables:

— The Harrisons combined for 34 points for the Blue team in the win.

— Dakari Johnson showed off a new, leaner physique. He had 13 points and 14 rebounds playing for both sides, but missed eight of his nine free throw attempts.

— Brian Long went 1-for-1 from outside for his three points.

Watch the highlights:


2013


The Cats opened our eyes in the 2013 edition of the Blue-White game and had several fans (me included) thinking absurd thoughts about what that team was capable of doing. Of course, things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped during the regular season, but the end result was a trip to Dallas for the Final Four.

James Young led all scorers in the 2013 intrasquad scrimmage, tallying 25 points for the Blue squad in a dominant offensive performance. Defensively, he gave us all false hope with several hustle plays and a game-high seven steals.

For the White team, Derek Willis took MVP honors with 21 points and eight rebounds. The Kentucky boy was 5-for-6 from downtown, leading everyone to wonder if Kyle Wiltjer would be missed at all. Willis hit one three-pointer in the regular season.

Other notables:

— Julius Randle matched Willis’ 21-point, eight-rebound outing.

— Aaron Harrison added 19, including 3-of-4 from downtown

— Dakari Johnson recorded a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 11 boards, playing for both the Blue and White teams.

— The Blue team started four freshmen: Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young and Julius Randle, alongside Willie Cauley-Stein.

Watch the highlights:

 And how can we forget E.J. Floreal dunking on Julius Randle? Play of the Game:

 Randle said, “He got me.”


2012


2012 gave us the UK debuts of Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays, the only Kentucky team to not reach the NCAA tournament under John Calipari. Goodwin was the game’s leading scorer with 32 points, but he needed 22 shots to do it. That selfishness was a taste of what we’d see from Goodwin that season, although he was the only one trying to make something happen at times, as you remember.

Other notables:

— Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel combined for 12 blocks in the game.

— Jon Hood scored 17, exposing the poor defense of a sophomore Kyle Wiltjer.

— Wiltjer scored 28 points with nine rebounds.

— Alex Poythress scored 25, while Ryan Harrow posted 20 and a game-high six assists.

— Goodwin missed a free-throw to send the game to overtime.

Watch the highlights:


2011


Terrence Jones stole the show in 2011, a game that included six future NBA players, by scoring a record 52 points and hauling in 16 rebounds. After the scrimmage, Calipari told reporters, “Terrence Jones right now, I’ll tell you, if there’s a better player in the country, I’ve got to see him. Maybe that guy’s in our gym. I don’t know. But if there is somebody better than Terrence, I’ve got to see it.”

Little did Cal know — or maybe he did — Anthony Davis would soon become the best player in the country and lead Kentucky to the national championship the following spring. Davis scored a quiet 27 points opposite Jones with 13 rebounds and four blocks for the White team.

Other notables:

— Doron Lamb scored 31 points for Jones’ Blue team, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

— For the White, Kyle Wiltjer chipped in 17 with five three-pointers to go with 24 from Darius Miller and 19 from Marquis Teage.

Watch the highlights Jarrod Polson dunk:


2010


One year before Terrence Jones made history for the most points scored, Brandon Knight set the record with 37 points. Knight out-shined the freshman version of Jones in the 2010 Blue-White box score, but Jones still put up big numbers with 29 in the win for Blue while showing off incredible versatility in his game. It was Knight who was the record-setter, but Jones was the talk of the state after their UK debuts.

Lost in the excitement of the new freshmen: Josh Harrellson hauled in 26 rebounds and earned a Twitter suspension a few days later. Jorts tweeted, “Just amazing to me I can’t get a good job or way to go.”

You may remember, the tweet almost sent him home from the Lodge. Cal was very close to kicking him off the team and the 2011 Final Four run never would’ve happened.

Other notables:

— Apparently no one had a YouTube account in 2010.

— Enes Kanter was not free; he sat courtside in an Undertaker t-shirt:


2009


The first Blue-White scrimmage under John Calipari gave us the most shocking individual Blue-White performance of Cal’s era, and maybe ever.

In a game that showcased three current NBA max deal players and five other future leaguers, the leading scorer was none other than one Darnell Dodson. Dodson scored a game-high 26 points, one better than John Wall’s 25 and two better than Patrick Patterson’s 24. He went on to average just under six points per game before transferring to Southern Miss after the season.

Other notables:

— Wall added 11 assists to his 25 points.

— DeMarcus Cousins fell just shy of a double-double with 16 and 9.

— Eric Bledsoe scored 14 with nine assists, splitting time between the two teams.

— A record 14,060 fans showed up for a first glimpse at the new Cats and Cal’s Dribble-Drive offense.

Darnell Dodson, ladies and gentlemen.


Hamidou Diallo: Calipari has “fallen in love” with the zone

Mark Zerof | USA Today

John Calipari famously hates the zone defense, but according to star guard Hamidou Diallo, he’s fallen in love with it after watching his team in practice.

“We’re definitely playing zone this year,” Diallo said. “Definitely. The length is ridiculous and we’ve been playing it great in practice and he’s just fallen in love with it.”

How can Hami tell?

“Every time we start playing in it and he just sees the length when we open our hands up and we just start covering different spots on the court so easily and he just starts smiling.”

Judging by the way Calipari casually dropped in a reference to that zone during his remarks, I’d say Hami is right.

“By the way, I put in a zone and it was 6-7, 6-6, 6-10, 6-9, 6-10 and it was so big,” Calipari bragged. “But we won’t play zone.”

Right.


Photo by UK Athletics

Shai Alexander building case to start at point guard

Photo by UK Athletics

No player has garnered more positive buzz in the preseason than Shai Alexander. The 6-6 combo guard was recruited to play the two at Kentucky alongside Quade Green, but he’s been so good in practice as of late that’s he’s making a case to start at point.

“Oh yeah,” Cal said. “He could start [at point guard]. Quade’s doing fine, too, but they’re competing for [the starting job]. I would say, they’re both going to play.”

Part of the reason Shai stands out is his seven-foot wingspan, second only to Hamidou Diallo among guards in the Calipari era. Calipari says that wingspan is a game-changer on defense.

“With his wingspan and all that stuff, he’s really disruptive. Really disruptive.”

Wenyen Gabriel agrees.

“I’ve said it before. Shai, I really thought he surprised me over the summer and he just kept it rolling ever since. He’s really into this. His focus is right. He’s got the length, all you need. Cal tells him every practice, ‘You have a 7-foot wingspan.’ He’s a talented player and he can shoot the ball. He’s learning the game like the rest of us. We’re still putting the pieces together but I think Shai’s going to be a really good player. Whether he starts or not, he’s going to have a big role on this team.”

Like Calipari, Gabriel said Shai’s wingspan can be a catalyst for the Cats on defense.

“It’s an advantage, definitely, for the rest of us. He’s bothering the point guard, which makes it really hard for the other team to get into it. Our defense really starts with the point guard in that aspect. We all feed off of that.”

Hamidou Diallo agreed that Alexander’s competitiveness has stood out in practice.

“Shai can definitely play point guard,” Diallo said. “He’s a great player. He can play multiple positions, one or two. He’s been bringing it everyday. He’s very competitive. He and Quade have been battling it out everyday. Two great point guards going after each other. Both of them, I feel like, want to see each other play and they’re fighting for minutes.”

Solution: Quade plays point on offense, Shai guards point on defense.

For fun, check out a chart of the wingspans of the guards of the Calipari Era below:

Player Height (with shoes) Wingspan
Hamidou Diallo 6’5.5” 7’0.25”
Shai Alexander 6’6″ 7’
James Young 6’6.75″ 7’
DeAndre Liggins 6’6.25” 6’11”
Archie Goodwin 6’5.25” 6’9.5”
John Wall 6’4” 6’9.25”
Mychal Mulder 6’4.5” 6’8”
Isaiah Briscoe 6’2.5” 6’8”
Aaron Harrison 6’6.25” 6’8”
Andrew Harrison 6’6” 6’8.25”
EJ Floreal 6’4” 6’7.5”
Eric Bledsoe 6’1.5” 6’7.5”
Marquis Teague 6’2” 6’7.25”
Doron Lamb 6’4.75” 6’6.75”
Brandon Knight 6’3.25” 6’6.75”
Jamal Murray 6’4.25” 6’6.5”
Devin Booker 6’6.25” 6’6.25”
Dominique Hawkins 6’0.25” 6’5.5”
De’Aaron Fox 6’3.25” 6’4.5”
Malik Monk 6’3” 6’3.5”
Quade Green 6’ 6’2.5”
Tyler Ulis 5’9” 6’1.25”

10 Leftovers from SEC Basketball Media Day

10 Leftovers from SEC Basketball Media Day

© Christopher Hanewinckel | USATSI

Yesterday was “SEC Basketball Tipoff,” aka SEC Basketball Media Day, here in Nashville, and now that I’ve churned through the majority of the Kentucky content, I’m ready to reflect on the event as a whole. Simply put, it was a hot mess.

1. The setup was horrible

I had planned on bringing you guys a rundown of each team in the league; however, once I walked in the tiny meeting room they had us in, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. The room was split in half, with one side set up as a “work room” and the other as the main media area, with small high top tables stationed around the perimeter. Throughout the day, coaches and players came through the room at staggered times, meaning at least two or three people were talking at once, leading to crowding around the small tables and mass chaos on the open floor. TV cameras, cords, tripods, microphones, and large, grumpy reporters were just a few of the obstacles you had to face while switching from one interview to another, and unless you were the height or an actual basketball player or could squeeze through gaps like Benny Snell, there was no getting close to anyone worth talking to.

Media gonna whine, I know, but being smushed up next to a total stranger with a photographer’s hot, smelly breath in your ear is not an ideal way to do anything (legal, at least). When you compare the setup to the palatial spread at SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, it is obvious that, to the league, basketball does not “just mean more.”

2. There was a literal stampede when Calipari walked in

As the day went on, it became painfully obvious how chaotic it would be once Calipari walked in. With no indication from the staff on where Calipari would be placed, reporters and photographers staked their claim around one of the open tables in hopes it would encourage officials to bring him to us. NOPE. At the last minute, they decided to put him across the room, leading to a literal stampede. TV cameras came crashing down as reporters scurried to get a front row spot. Like the nice dufus I am, I stopped to help a camera guy get his tripod and microphone off the floor, which meant I couldn’t even see Cal most of the time he spoke. As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, I ended up watching most of it on John Clay’s iPad (thanks, John!).

That close proximity made it easy for Calipari to reach out and jokingly pat down a few reporters for a wire, much to their enjoyment:

Enough complaining. Some good things…

3. There was free sparkling water!

And, like at any SEC event, all the Sunkist and Dr. Pepper you could dream of. I hear the lunch was also excellent (I’m still “eating clean,” which meant an unwich from Jimmy John’s down the block).

4. Andy Kennedy is a treasure

The only thing that makes this event worth it? Andy Kennedy. The longest tenured coach in the SEC always entertains, and yesterday, cracked several jokes about how dumb Media Day was (TRUTH!), how Kentucky’s always good, and Jerry Tipton. The best was when he was asked about Ole Miss’ beautiful new arena, the Pavilion, which replaced the old, dark “Tad Pad.”

“It is well lit. The AC works. I kind of like the darkness at times. I’m better in the dark. Bada Bing!”

LOL. Never change, Andy.

5. Pat Bradley’s accent fascinates me

The former Arkansas Razorbacks guard is now an analyst for the SEC Network, and, as we discussed a little last season, has the most bizarre accent. He was born in Massachusetts and lives in Little Rock now, so he’s got this weird Yankee twang that he turns on and off while on camera. He occupied an entire corner of the tiny room we were in, so we got to hear lots of his questions, which ranged from challenging Cuonzo Martin to one-on-one in Birkenstocks to how many times Ben Howland has seen Godfather and Godfather Part II (80 times). Unfortunately, this video doesn’t do it justice:

The best part when Bradley asked 21-year-old Riley LaChance how often he shaves. If you’ve forgotten, this is what Riley LaChance looks like:

Speaking of accents…

6. Admiral Schofield’s British accent needs work

The Tennessee big man was born in London, England (at the same hospital where Princess Diana gave birth to Princes William and Harry, in fact), but his British accent could use some work:

Kudos to him for being a good sport. He was the funniest kid we talked to all day.

7. Michael Porter, Jr. is a vegetarian

The first player I got to meet was the preseason pick for SEC Player of the Year, Mizzou’s Michael Porter Jr. Considering all the hype around him, I expected him to be a little cocky, but he couldn’t have been nicer. The most interesting thing about him? He’s a vegetarian and always has been, and is now in the process of becoming a vegan. Thanks to some help from a chef from England, Porter and his family — including younger brother Jontay, who reclassified to join Michael at Mizzou — are switching to a raw vegan diet in hopes it will help their on-court performance.

Whenever you hate on Porter this season, remember that, unlike other college kids, there are no late night Taco Bell runs for him. Or real cheese. Have you had fake cheese? For your sake, I hope not.

8. Bruce Pearl couldn’t comment on the FBI investigation

Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person faces six federal charges in the FBI’s investigation into bribery in college basketball. Not surprisingly, Bruce Pearl was asked about it, but couldn’t offer much comment.

“Under normal circumstances, if we weren’t a part of this ongoing investigation, you’d get a lot of comments from me about it,” Pearl said. “But I think because we’ve got something that’s ongoing right now, I just can’t offer my thoughts or opinions, and I hope you understand that.”

9. Everyone else did though

Kyle Tucker made it his mission to ask every coach if their program has been contacted by the FBI, and some took kinder to the question than others. The most annoyed? Frank Martin, who practically went after Kyle.

“Who are you? From? I don’t know if you followed what I said before: We are not under investigation, so since we’re not under investigation, we have no conversations with the FBI. I don’t want to be lumped into something that we have nothing to do with. Lamont worked for me. Lamont is under investigation. Lamont has not worked for me for over a year. We are not under investigation. So I don’t — I did all this; I’m not going to keep talking about the FBI when we have nothing to do with that.”

Yikes. Check out Kyle’s rundown of the other coaches’ responses by clicking here.

10. Wenyen Gabriel hasn’t been to Keeneland

I shared the most ridiculous observation for last. As Kentucky’s session wrapped up, a reporter who covers another team asked Wenyen Gabriel how he liked Lexington, specifically Keeneland. To our astonishment, Gabriel said he’s never been.

“I haven’t gone. Everyone tries to get me to go, but I just feel like I’m going to get bombarded right now. I’m going to wait until I’m not an amateur anymore so I can sit up in a box and do it right.”

Fair enough.


Where to Eat, Drink and Tailgate in Starkville

Where to Eat, Drink and Tailgate in Starkville

There’s not a whole lot happening in Starkville, Mississippi but the town will be buzzing for homecoming this weekend.  The last time I went to Starkville, I could only find fast food joints.  Now, I have some help from KSR fan and MSU grad school student Ethan Stewart to make sure your trip to Stark Vegas isn’t as miserable as my last adventure.

Food

A Taste of Kentucky — Start your day the right way at Aunt Marti’s Bakery.  Ran by a Fleming County native and less than a mile from campus, they are bringing out their best for the Big Blue Nation.

The Best Burger —  When you want a burger and you’re attending a game at Mississippi State, it only makes sense to try the Bulldog Burger.  If you’re really feeling froggy, throw some pulled pork on top with the Hogwild burger.

“Hey, I’ve been there before.” —  The KSR headquarters in Hattiesburg was at Mugshots.  The sports bar also has a home in Starkville.  If you missed it at Southern Miss, it’s something you can’t pass up at Miss. State.

A Taste of the Gulf — Starkville isn’t on the Gulf Coast.  To make it feel like you’re not in the middle of nowhere, try a Po’Boy at Oby’s.

A Name Perfect for BBQ — The Little Dooey sounds like a great place for BBQ.  If that doesn’t convince you, this logo should.

If that’s not enough to convince you, they’ve served Alabama, Garth Brooks, Kirk Herbstreit, Charlie Daniels and John Micheal Montgomery.

Sit Down and Enjoy — If you’re in the mood for a big, delicious sit-down meal after a Kentucky victory, Restaurant Tyler has the Southern fixens to cap off a wonderful win.

Applebee’s —  I hear they’ve got a two for $20 deal that’s to die for.

Brunch It —  The Veranda will fuel you for your drive back to the Bluegrass with a bountiful brunch that includes my personal favorite, chicken and waffles.

Tailgate Time

For those who do not want to prepare their own tailgate, the UK Alumni Association has you covered. They’ll be setup on the old intramural fields on Stone Boulevard just south of Bully Boulevard from 12:30-2:30 CDT.  The pregame buffet is just $20, $15 for Alumni Association members and $10 for students.  You can register ahead of time here.

For a little bit rowdier crowd, I’ve received a few messages from Cats who will set up shop down the road in the Mississippi Horse Park RV Lot.  If you don’t head there, I’ll be honest, the parking situation is spread out all across campus.  To help you find your way around, check out the parking map below (click to enlarge).

Fine Establishments

Does Starkville have a night life?  Kinda, sorta, in a way.

You won’t find anything like what Lexington has to offer, but a good place to start is the Cotton District.  Here you’ll find a handful of places to enjoy a cocktail or two, including a place that may feel familiar, the STAGerIN Sports Grill.

Outside of the Cotton District, The Guest Room and Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern should tickle your fancy.  The Dark Horse Tavern also has pretty good pizza to help soak in all of the alcohol you’ve consumed throughout your college football Saturday.


More details on the UK-Morehead State charity game

Earlier today we told you Kentucky will be playing Morehead State in a special exhibition game for charity on October 30.

UK has since released more details on the game and we now know it is the inaugural “Kentucky Cares Classic” to raise funds for those affected by the devastating hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico and wildfires in California:

“People around our country are facing some trying and tragic circumstances,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “I am thankful for the leadership of John Calipari and our men’s basketball program and the partnership of Morehead State in putting this game together to make a small but important impact. I look forward to seeing the members of the Big Blue Nation unite behind their Wildcats, as they always do.”

Net proceeds from the game will go to Team Rubicon, a non-government 501(c)(3) organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Team Rubicon is currently active in Florida in response to hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico and is soon to begin work in response to wildfires in California.

“I want to thank Morehead State and its staff for coming together on this so quickly,” Calipari said. “This was an opportunity for us to do some good that we just couldn’t pass up. With everything that’s happened in and around our country the last couple of months, I felt like we needed to do more to give back and make an impact on the countless number of people who have suffered at the hands of the recent natural disasters.”

The game WILL NOT BE TELEVISED, so you will only be able to see it if you buy a ticket, which will go on sale Friday at 10 am online at Ticketmaster.com and by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Fans may also purchase in person at the Rupp Arena box office. Tickets will range from $10 to $100 with net proceeds going to victims of the recent natural disasters. A full breakdown of the ticket pricing is below:

  • Lower premium – $100
  • Lower sideline – $50
  • Lower corner/end – $30
  • 200-Level sideline (first 12 rows) – $20
  • 200-Level standard – $10

Season ticket holders and UK students will have access to a special pre-sale that begins on Thursday at 10 am and runs through 10 pm online on Ticketmaster.

The UK Sports Network will broadcast the radio call of the game.

 


Calipari: No matter changes to the sport, “You’re helping Kentucky”

Calipari: No matter changes to the sport, “You’re helping Kentucky”

Earlier this week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the one-and-done rule’s days are numbered, but regardless what happens, John Calipari says Kentucky will be just fine.

What could take the one-and-done rule’s place? A likely solution would allow players to go to the NBA or the D-League directly from high school or to college for two years. In a lengthy rant, Calipari outlined several issues with that scenario: 1) it would lead to NBA scouts preying on high school players; 2) it would devalue high school academics; and 3) most high school kids aren’t cut out for the D-League.

“I believe these kids should be able to go out of high school,” Cal said. “The problem with that is, the NBA then has to go back into putting scouts in high school gyms when kids are juniors. Then I ask you, how healthy is that for these young kids?”

Calipari actually praised the NCAA for raising academic standards a few years back, which forced recruits to get their academics up to come to college. If the rule changes to where players can go directly to the D-League/NBA, he fears all of that progress will go out the window, and 98% of the players that would go to the D-League wouldn’t make it.

“If you send high school kids to the D-League, how many of them will make the NBA? Give me a number. Five percent? You know that’s too high. Probably two or three percent. What do we do with the ones that don’t make it? Tell me.” 

“We just had the highest graduation rate of basketball players in the history of our sport, the highest African-American graduation rate in the history of our sport. Let’s not throw all this out. Let’s figure out how we tweak this. If there are issues we want to deal with, let’s deal with them.”

Calipari said the D-League should remain a training ground for players who want to get back into the league, not kids who are fresh out of high school.

“My thing is, there’s going to be unintended consequences if we don’t think of these kids. The D-League is unbelievable. I have five or six kids in it right now fighting to get back in the NBA. That’s what it should be for. To have a kid out of high school, on his own, getting up on his own, when mom was waking him up every single day. I don’t know if they’re built for that.”

Back to the one-and-done rule. Calipari wondered who it is actually failing: the players or the coaches who can’t land them?

“Who is this not working for? Is it individual schools? Then don’t recruit these kids. If it’s not working for you, don’t recruit them. Recruit who you want to recruit. You have a choice. If it’s not working for the NBA, tell me what’s not working for the NBA. If it’s not working for universities, tell me what’s not working for the universities. I just need to know. You can’t say it’s not working. Tell me what’s not working. Why, for ten or twelve kids, would we change this whole thing? Just throw it out? Now, I’m saying there are things we can do if we come together.”

One suggestion Calipari had is giving the top 15-18 players every year a loan so that their families could travel to see them play.

“The NBA cares about these kids. So there’s 15, 18 of them, meet with them and their families, and let them have a loan. Let those families have a loan for expenses for families to travel back and forth to games. Let them have a loan. Let the loan go through the university. We can do this kind of stuff.”

No matter what happens, Calipari said Kentucky will eat first.

“I’m going to make everybody mad, so listen closely. If they say, either go to the D-League/NBA or to college, we’re benefitting. [Players] are going to say, do I go to the D-League, am I ready to be on my own? Or do I go to Kentucky for two years and build my brand and win and be a part of this? I’m going to Kentucky.”

He even fit in a dig at Jerry Tipton.

“We’re benefitting. So, you want to go that route? And — Jerry, you won’t be here by then — I will have teams for two years now. I wouldn’t know what to do. I would be whistling and skipping in every practice. I’d have teams for two years. Are you kidding me? The unintended consequence of doing some of this, you’re helping Kentucky. That will change it, so that ain’t happening now.”

Swag.