By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 11th, 2018 @ 9:45pm
With another crop of five-star talent, a trio of players with Sweet 16 experience returning for a sophomore season, and two-time All-PAC-12 transfer Reid Travis joining the fold, most college basketball analysts penciled in the Kentucky Wildcats as a Final Four contender from the jump.
The hype took another leap during the team’s trip to the Bahamas, when the Wildcats dominated against professional basketball teams with four consecutive victories in eight days.
After months of giddiness surrounding the fanbase this offseason, the Kentucky basketball team has (for the most part) been a massive letdown given the overall expectations going into the year. They’ve started the year 7-2, with one loss being an absolute beatdown to Duke and the other being a head-scratcher against a “meh” 6-3 Seton Hall squad. The victories haven’t been exactly “pretty” either.
So what gives? Why is a team many assumed was the nation’s deepest and talented top-to-bottom underachieving the way they are?
Let’s break down the numbers and compare them to some of the nation’s top contenders to find out why.
You can use the latest AP Top 25 as a reference:
- Florida State
- Texas Tech
- North Carolina
- Virginia Tech
- Ohio State
- Mississippi State
- Arizona State
- Syracuse/Indiana/Kansas State
To kick things off, Kentucky comes in No. 40 in the nation in field goal percentage at 48.8 percent, with an adjusted FG% of 53.7 percent. They actually rank No. 4 in the nation with 1.47 points per shot, with Gonzaga being the only top-25 team ranked ahead of the Wildcats.
The total buckets are also coming, as Kentucky averages 84.2 points per game, good for No. 24 in the nation. Gonzaga, Duke, North Carolina, Buffalo, and Nevada, however, all score over 85 points per game, with the first three on that list averaging 93 points per game or more.
The overall efficiency is there, which is a solid sign for the future potential success of this team.
When you look at overall pace, however, the discrepancies start to show why the on-court product hasn’t been so appealing.
Kentucky takes just 57 shots a game with 514 attempts overall, good for just No. 243 in the nation. It’s a number that needs to improve, but doesn’t tell the whole story, as Kansas, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Arizona State, Kansas State, and Louisville all sit behind Kentucky in total field goal attempts.
That being said, Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Buffalo, Auburn, Tennessee, and Kansas all make over 30 baskets a game, good for top-25 in the nation for each, while Kentucky comes in tied at No. 96 in the nation with just 27.9 makes per contest. Kentucky is on-par with the elite schools in overall FG%, but trailing significantly in overall pace and shot output.
Take a look at a school like Indiana, for example. They’re No. 157 overall with 560 attempts, but they’re the No. 25 team in the nation with an 8-2 record. Why? They come in as the fifth-best shooting team in the nation at 51.4 percent on the year and defend relatively well as the No. 45 team in scoring defense, allowing just 64.7 PPG. That’s ahead of teams such as Tennessee, Villanova, and Duke.
From there, Kentucky comes in at No. 64 in total two-point field goals with 201 and No. 81 in two-point FG% with 54.8 percent on the year. Not great, but manageable. Like the other statistics, there’s obvious work to be done, but not many significant outliers and doesn’t completely explain the struggles.
And then you find the key culprit, and it’s certainly not a surprise…
Out of 353 college basketball teams, Kentucky sits at No. 322 in the nation with just 5.6 three-point makes per game, tied with Western Kentucky, Maryland Eastern-Shore, SIU-Edwardsville, and Eastern Michigan. With just 50 total makes, they sit tied with WKU at No. 319 overall.
Meanwhile, Auburn, Villanova, Buffalo, Gonzaga, and Louisville are all making 8.7 threes per game or more.
In three-point percentage, they creep a little higher to No. 197 overall with a mark of 34 percent from deep on the year. They’re actually ahead of Duke, West Virginia, Arizona, Washington, and Texas, all schools that are either first or tied for first in their conference.
It’s not that they’re a horrendous shooting team, they’re just not taking them at the rate they need to.
In overall three-point attempts per game, the Wildcats sit at No. 338 with just 16 per, tied with the likes of UC Santa-Barbara, Jacksonville State, Chicago State, and the fighting Tubby Smiths of High Point University.
Auburn, Villanova, Buffalo, Mississippi State, Furman, Marquette, Duke, Gonzaga, Nevada, Iowa Michigan, and Tennessee all shoot 21 threes or more per game. Oh, and so does Louisville.
While the modern sport of college basketball is moving toward a run-and-gun style of play with a heavy emphasis on deep shots, Kentucky isn’t falling in line, even with supposed shot makers on the team.
And it’s not necessarily something Calipari wants to shy away from. He said so himself.
“This is the best three-point shooting team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said after his team’s victory over Monmouth in November. “We need to take between 18 and 24 threes.”
But for whatever reason, they’re just not there right now.
Beyond shooting, the other offensive numbers are pretty horrendous, as well.
With just 14.1 assists per game (No. 152 in the nation) and a .93 assist-to-turnover ratio (No. 235 in the nation), ball movement and decision making has been extremely poor. There are no teams ranked ahead of Kentucky with fewer assists per game, while Tennessee, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Buffalo, Duke, and Auburn all average more than 17 assists per contest. The Wildcats also average 15.2 turnovers per game, good for No. 283 in the nation. Arizona State is the only team with a worse margin among ranked teams.
Switch things over to the other end of the floor, and it’s not much better.
In scoring defense, Kentucky is allowing 71.3 points per game, tied for No. 176 in the nation with Lipscomb. The No. 1 team in the nation, Kansas, sits right behind at No. 178 with an allowed 71.4 PPG, while North Carolina (No. 229) allows 73.7 PPG. Washington State, Iowa, and Gonzaga are the only other ranked teams with worse scoring defenses.
Kentucky is also No. 143 in allowed FG% with 42.6, with only Iowa (No. 224) being the only ranked team with a higher rate allowed at 44.3 percent. Meanwhile, schools such as Duke, Tennessee, Michigan, and Auburn are allowing less than 39 FG% per contest, each ranked in the top-35 nationally.
Shot numbers are down, they’re relying on long twos instead of open looks from three, ball movement and decision making has been poor, and they’re not defending. Not a recipe for success, if you ask me.
Numbers don’t lie.
By KSR on ©December 11th, 2018 @ 5:45pm
Have you been struggling to find that perfect gift this holiday season? You’re in luck! KSBar and Grille gift cards are now available online. You can purchase them in $25, $50, $75, and $100 increments. Plus, you will receive $5 free for every $25 you purchase!
Simply head to ShopKSR.com, select your gift card amount, enter the address and payment info, and your special gift is on the way.
You can finish all your holiday shopping right now with these KSBar gift cards! Cards must be ordered by December 18th to arrive in time for Christmas. Tell your family and friends.
By Nick Roush on ©December 11th, 2018 @ 12:15pm
With only eight days left until the college football early signing period begins, the football recruiting world is ablaze with twists and turns. The most recent shockwave through the Big Blue Nation started over there weekend when J.J. Weaver met with Scott Satterfield on Louisville’s campus.
Since the visit, there have been a few developments. The most recent report is that Weaver will wait to sign in February. Kentucky coaches will do their best to make sure that’s not the case.
The recent memory of Wandale Robinson has incited even more Kentucky fan fear for another de-commitment. If Weaver does eventually flip to Louisville it would be even more shocking, because logically speaking, it’s UK all the way.
1. Family Connection
Playing close to home has always been a priority for Weaver. Originally from Miami, almost all of his extended family still resides in South Florida. He wants to play close to his mother in Louisville. While UofL is obviously closer than Lexington, he does have a UK connection.
One of the few members off his extended family that isn’t in South Florida is Jordan Wright, a UK outside linebacker. Weaver said at his announcement that he’s always wanted to play with his cousin. “We’ve been talking about this since we were kids.”
— Jordan Wright (@JayyDubb15) November 30, 2018
Weaver does not share a family connection with Jared Casey, but the two are close friends. Casey attended Weaver’s commitment ceremony at Moore. The potential for each to play either side of UK’s defense is just one more logical draw to UK.
2. Josh Allen
J.J. Weaver witnessed firsthand what Kentucky pass rushers can do to opposing quarterbacks. He saw Mark Stoops coach an All-American, Bednarik, Nagurski and Lott Trophy winner. The National Defensive Player of the Year told Weaver, “You can be better than me. You got this.”
Allen isn’t Stoops’ only award-winning NFL talent either. Freddie Satterfield can pitch early playing time, but he cannot compete with Stoops’ resumé.
3. It’s Been All UK for a Long Time
In the case of Wandale Robinson, Nebraska had been the overwhelming leader for quite some time. When he initially announced his commitment to UK, it felt more like retribution toward the Cornhuskers for breaking a promise, rather than an eagerness to become a home state hero. Kentucky clawed back into the picture and was at the right place at the right time…until Nebraska coaches sent an olive branch and mended the relationship.
In Weaver’s case, many believed he would pick Kentucky as early as September. Up until this week, his recruitment was quiet because it’s been an assumption that he was a UK lock. Vince Marrow played a big role in creating a solid foundation in UK’s relationship with Weaver.
“He’s the realest person I’ve ever met,” Weaver said after his announcement. “He kept it real, he kept 100 with me and told me everything I needed to know.” All the while, Weaver has known Satterfield and his defensive coordinator for only a handful of days.
In spite of the 500 previous words that lay out the logical case for Weaver to remain with Kentucky, if we’ve learned anything about Kentucky football recruiting is that it is illogical. Keeping up with the constant changes can be exhausting.
Weaver could change his mind and remain in his hometown. Until he does that, I’ve given you at least three reasons why you should not waste your time worrying.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 11th, 2018 @ 8:30am
Good morning, everyone! I hope everyone had a great Monday and got their week started on the right track.
It was certainly a wild one for me.
If you read Matt’s post last night or scrolled through social media at all yesterday afternoon, you might’ve seen that it was one of the biggest days of my life. Starting immediately, I will be joining the KSR team in a full-time capacity, meaning you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of me from now on.
I will be responsible mainly for recruiting and basketball coverage, but I’ll also be contributing on podcasts, video, analysis posts, and covering all the events you guys want to read about. Anything you guys want to read, watch, or hear involving UK Athletics, I’ll do my best to make it happen.
You’ve seen my posts as an intern and part-time writer, and it’ll only grow from here. But it’s certainly been one heck of a journey to get to this point.
When I was in 5th grade, I got kicked out of computer class for reading KSR when I was supposed to be working.
Now, I’m a full-time KSR employee, living out my dream.
Life is wild, and I’m truly thankful for this opportunity. https://t.co/W0QG4OpcDX
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) December 10, 2018
Back in 2007, I got kicked out of my fifth grade computer class for reading KSR when I was supposed to be working on a graded typing assignment. (You know those dreaded finger placement, home row keyboard lessons? Yep, those gems. Can you blame me?)
In fact, her exact words were “there’s no time for games, this class is dedicated to work only.” Little did Mrs. Arnold know, 11 years later this would become “work” for me.
(Another side note: I was overwhelmed with people (including my bosses) saying I made them feel old for tweeting about the story above yesterday. Sorry about that.)
Growing up as a die-hard Kentucky fan, I’ve always had a passion for sports, and writing was always fun for me. Trying to be the world’s first official middle school sports reporter, I started a website called “Jack Pilgrim’s UK News” in the seventh grade. I obviously didn’t have a credit card at the time (or anything more than lunch money, for that matter), so I couldn’t afford to pay for an actual domain. “JackPilgrimsUKNews.yolasite.com” had quite the ring to it, and boy did it show in the traffic reports.
When I realized I was the only one reading my website and covering the entire world of UK Athletics alone was nearly impossible, I decided to make a Twitter account dedicated to all things Kentucky under an alias when I was a freshman in high school. My thought process was that no one would trust, nor care, about what a 14-year-old had to say about sports, so the only way to “brand” myself was through a silly UK fan account. (I won’t tell you the handle because I haven’t touched it in years, but it’s still live if you want to go down that rabbit hole and try to find it)
I stuck with it throughout high school, where I eventually got the opportunity to write for several small outlets, interview recruits, and work my way through as a (literal) no-name “media” guy. If nothing else, it was great practice for the real stuff later on.
Once I got to college, I gave up that page and started out at the Kentucky Kernel as a regular sports writer, eventually working my way up to the Assistant Sports Editor position. There, I covered basketball, football, volleyball, softball, baseball, and whatever else was going on at UK.
I enjoyed myself and appreciated the opportunity, but I always had my eye on the crown jewel of UK sports media: Kentucky Sports Radio. I had been a huge fan of Matt, Drew, Ryan, Tyler, and the whole gang for years, and I wanted to be a part of it one day.
And when they sent out internship applications for college students back in the summer of 2016, you better believe I was going to take advantage of it.
I applied immediately, and after a few long weeks of pacing in my room and refreshing my email over and over again, I got my golden ticket.
I came on as an intern, where I wrote just a few long columns a week and helped out however I could. No matter the game or event, I was there to cover it. Just having the “KSR” title next to my name and the opportunity to grow as a young writer with the greatest audience in the world reading my work was enough.
After grinding for a year living on ramen noodles and beenee weenees, I was promoted to a part-time role, where I spent the next year or so covering the website on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, and then throughout the day on Sundays.
During that time, I was able to cover massive AAU events, the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, sit down for a one-on-one interview with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota, and the Champions Classic in Chicago, among other adventures.
If my journey had ended there, all of my wildest dreams as a diehard sports fan would’ve already come true.
And then I got the call of a lifetime.
A little over a month ago, Matt held a KSR team meeting and told me there was a full-time opening available if I wanted to take it. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed to anything faster in my life. I wanted to keep my cool in front of all my coworkers, but are you kidding me?
Shaking and teary-eyed, I left the meeting, got in the car, and immediately called my mom and dad. Then my girlfriend. And then my grandmother.
The hobby I once had in elementary school and my biggest passion throughout life since has become my career. I still can’t believe it.
But the grind isn’t over, not in the slightest. In this position, I promise to do whatever it takes to bring you guys the best content and up-to-date information as fast as I can type. I promise you’ll never have to question my work ethic or love for this job.
I was planning on a National Signing Day-esque celebration with balloons and hats on the table, pledging my services to Kentucky Sports Radio. But this post will do the trick.
Thank you to Matt Jones and the entire KSR staff for taking a shot on this 21-year-old kid just trying to live out his dream.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 10th, 2018 @ 7:15pm
Ask and you shall receive, Big Blue Nation.
After a disappointing loss to Seton Hall on Saturday and momentum temporarily swinging away from the program a bit, Kentucky head coach John Calipari decided to make some changes… and we won’t have to wait until Camp Cal to see them.
On his weekly call-in radio show, Calipari said he has made “a couple tweaks” on offense that he feels that he thinks will help the team moving forward.
It started with a brief discussion about the grieving process following a loss and how he allows just 24 hours of feeling bad before moving on. From there, it’s about realizing these kids are hurting too and you just have to push them through it.
“When you’re me, losing just wipes you out for 24 hours,” he said. “Then you just have to come back and say “Alright, if I feel this bad, how do these kids feel?” Then I’ve got to come back and say, “Alright, what’s there, what can we do?”‘
With the tweaks, he has already told his team the changes are coming and it might be that way for the long haul.
“I made a couple tweaks in a couple of the ways we were playing offensively that I think will help us,” he said. “And I talked them through it, said “This is what we are going to do, I want to try some of this.” So this whole season is going to be that way, my guess, including who we play.”
One of those people included in the tweak? Kentucky guard Jemarl Baker, who played his first minutes as a Wildcat late in the first half on Saturday.
It’ll be a process, but he believes the sharpshooter can work his way into the rotation if he gives it his all.
“Someone was asking about Jemarl Baker,” he said. “I said to Jemarl, “You’re the tenth man. You are. You just started practicing, you’re not moving in front of anyone yet. But here’s what I would tell you, when you get your chance, be the seventh guy, sixth guy, start. But you’re going to have to perform in games. For right now, you’re the tenth man.”
When it came to his first minutes against Seton Hall, Calipari said he thought Baker did a great job in limited time on the floor.
We went down to the bench and just said “Can we play you?” Calipari said. “(Baker) said, “Oh, yeah.” I thought he went in there and did pretty good. But it was his first time. Hopefully he gets that chance and goes in there and does some good stuff for us.”
Beyond Baker getting healthy and earning more reps, any other ideas for what the tweak could be?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 10th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
Kentucky’s loss to Seton Hall dropped them ten spots in the AP and Coaches Polls, but it didn’t do too much damage to their ratings. The Cats only fell one spot in the KenPom and Sagarin ratings and two in the ESPN BPI. After rising to No. 23 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, they’re back down to No. 33.
- AP Poll: 19 (Previous: 9)
- Coaches Poll: 18 (Previous: 8)
- Ken Pomeroy Ratings: 17 (Previous: 16)
- Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 26 (Previous: 25)
- NET Rankings: 33 (Previous: 23)
- ESPN Basketball Power Index (BPI): 17 (Previous: 15)
How about Kentucky’s opponents? Here’s our weekly look at the Cats’ foes in the rankings and ratings:
|Team||Result||AP Poll||Coaches Poll||KenPom||Sagarin||NET||ESPN BPI|
|Southern Illinois||Win, 71-59||NR||NR||90||102||62||90|
|North Dakota||Win, 96-58||NR||NR||280||285||292||246|
|Tennessee State||Win, 77-62||NR||NR||276||256||312||238|
|UNC Greensboro||Win, 78-61||NR||NR||78||84||84||63|
|Seton Hall||Loss, 84-83||NR||NR||56||63||85||64|
|North Carolina||Dec. 22||12||12||7||7||15||3|
|Texas A&M||Jan. 8||NR||NR||83||110||133||118|
|Vanderbilt||Jan. 12, Jan. 29||NR||NR||63||65||61||67|
|Auburn||Jan. 19, Feb. 23||8||8||9||8||10||8|
|Mississippi State||Jan. 22, Feb. 9||18||17||23||34||27||27|
|Florida||Feb. 2, March 9||NR||NR||22||27||48||25|
|South Carolina||Feb. 5||NR||NR||103||119||213||94|
|Tennessee||Feb. 16, March 2||3||4||10||10||5||10|
|Ole Miss||March 5||NR||NR||61||58||54||96|
A few observations:
— How good is Seton Hall? Based on KenPom, Sagarin, and BPI, they should be an NCAA Tournament team. The Pirates even got a vote in the AP Poll this week. That doesn’t do anything to make me feel better about Saturday. It was a bad loss all around.
— Utah is one of the worst teams left on the schedule and couldn’t come at a better time for Kentucky. The Cats will get one last chance to get things back on track before playing North Carolina in Chicago and Louisville at the Yum Center, this team’s first true road game. Hopefully being back at Rupp will help this team hit the reset button before beginning a brutal stretch.
— Saturday’s performance does not bode well for the SEC road schedule. If the Cats can’t keep it together vs. Seton Hall at a neutral site, how will they keep it together vs. tougher competition in a hostile gym? Cal’s teams always drop a random SEC game on the road; unless this group grows up overnight, I expect a handful of them this season.
Happy Monday, folks! I hope you all had a good weekend despite the frustrating loss. There’s no spinning Saturday’s game, but the good news is UK watched a handful of targets over the weekend and has picked up the intensity in a few recruitments.
Here are the notes.
(photo by Adam Zagoria)
John Calipari and Kenny Payne were front and center to watch five-star Jaden McDaniels. I don’t have anything new from the kid or anyone close to McDaniels. He’s a quiet kid and things are probably going to be mostly quiet until he commits.
But that doesn’t stop other folks from talking.
I know that UK feels like they’re “closing in” on McDaniels. It’s not unusual for folks close to UK’s staff to feel confident about a recruit (if you’ve followed along long enough you know they generally feel like they have a chance in every recruitment) but things may be aligning for McDaniels:
- Location doesn’t seem to be an issue. He has said it. Folks that know his recruitment say it won’t be a factor. I’ve always thought if McDaniels doesn’t pick UK it will be because of location, but no one seems overly concerned about that as of today.
- McDaniels wants to get to the NBA ASAP and no school on his list does it better than UK. The Cats aren’t fighting Duke or Kansas in this recruitment. They have a track record that UCLA, Texas, Washington and San Diego State can’t match.
- Cal has been more active and persistent in this recruitment than any other coach over the last several months. This should get you excited. We haven’t always heard a lot about it because things are so quiet with McDaniels, but Calipari has basically been the lead guy in this recruitment for months. Kenny Payne has been there, too. When those two guys are spending months recruiting you/building a relationship it helps the Cats’ position. Calipari certainly doesn’t need recruiting advice from me, but I have thought in some recruitments he showed up a little too late. Sure, assistants were there months prior, but he may take things over a little late in the game. That’s not the case for McDaniels.
I still think UK lands McDaniels but it’s an educated guess. He has said he will wait until the spring, so I guess we’ll take him for his word regarding a timeline.
Calipari watched Isaiah Stewart and Keion Brooks of La Lumiere on Saturday and things remain intriguing in both recruitments.
Wouldn’t it be a great surprise if Stewart shocked virtually everyone and picked UK? The Cats once had momentum in this recruitment but that hasn’t been the case for months. There have now been three (by my count) times UK has reached back out after things seemed to cool. I’ve heard that Stewart and his immediate family like UK, maybe even the family more than the kid. Those outside the family aren’t as high on UK because they hadn’t been recruiting him as long as the other schools. At least that’s what I’m told. Every time UK has reached back out or made contact it’s been trying to pitch to the family and to the kid. I’m unsure how those pitches have gone or how receptive the family is to UK, but the fact there isn’t much buzz tells me it may be too big of a hurdle to overcome. Never say never, but I don’t see it happening and I hope I’m wrong because Stewart would ease any frontcourt concerns for next season just like that. I think he’ll land at MSU.
Nothing new on Brooks. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds in a win with UK watching. I still believe UK is running second but Kentucky’s staff has spent a lot of time building a relationship with Brooks’ family and I wouldn’t be shocked if he picked the Cats. Someone that covers IU to me there’s a lot of pressure for Brooks to pick Indiana. He’s the missing piece, he hears about IU everyday and they keep driving home the idea of representing his state in college. The sense is that will be too much to pass up.
Again, I wouldn’t be shocked if UK upset the Hoosiers for Brooks (it’s not impossible), but no reason to jump off my IU prediction at this point.
He had a huge game over the weekend in a losing effort (highlights above). I don’t have anything new regarding his recruitment but he’s fun to watch and could be a major difference maker for the Cats next season.
The plan is for him to checkout UNC this weekend (where he’s being told he can play like Luke Maye, how exciting) and then there’s a tentative Duke visit set for the UVA game in January. It’s unclear when/if he will checkout Kansas or Memphis for official visits.
I had Jake Weingarten on my podcast this week and he thinks it could come down to UK or Memphis for Hurt. Click HERE to listen. I’m not as high on Memphis on this recruitment but it seems like most experts think the Cats are right there at or near the top.
Joel Justus watched Edwards over the weekend as he finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds in a loss. Edwards has officially visited UGA and said FSU, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State will also receive official visits.
So, that means as of today UK’s not landing an official, and I can’t say I’m surprised.
I don’t think UK lands Edwards and the fact he’s not planning an official isn’t’ going to change my mind. UK hopes and thinks they will be able to get him on campus for an unofficial visit in January, but I think it’s somewhat telling that he mentioned those other schools for official visits.
It’s an Occam’s razor situation in my opinion.
Joel Justus watched plenty of young talent this weekend. Here’s a list of guys I’ve confirmed UK watched:
Jalen Johnson– There were reports that UK missed Johnson. Not the case. They watched him yesterday. One of the best scorers in high school basketball he’s going to be one of UK’s top 2020 targets.
N’Faly Dante– It’s a name I’ve been throwing around for nearly a year and over the last few months the Cats have really been going after him. From a body/talent standpoint he’s one of maybe two 2020 guys that I think could make the 2019 jump and be successful. No indication that he’s planning on doing that, but UK does need frontcourt players for next season. Assuming he stays 2020 he will be UK’s big frontcourt recruit for that class.
Cade Cunningham- His name has been thrown around and UK watched him, but as of right now he doesn’t appear to be a serious Kentucky target. The Cats will continue to watch him as they like his game, but just need to see more of him. Versatile player that’s well coached. My guess is he ends up with an offer at some point, but just a guess as UK still wants to see more.
Hunter Dickinson- Here’s a player that I’ve really liked since watching him go toe-to-toe with Wiseman and Carey over the summer. Talent wise he’s not going to blow you away with his moves or jumper, but he plays incredibly hard and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’ll be a fun piece for whoever lands him and should be a two year college player. UK’s interested.
There were obviously several other players that played in games UK watched this weekend, but I think those were the bulk of the players Kentucky was really intrigued in seeing. UK’s doing a really nice job getting out and seeing a lot of these 2020 kids and I’m guessing that cycle goes better for UK (although the 2019 class could still be really good).
This will be my last Monday Insider Notes as it’s my last week at KSR. Covering UK recruiting for the last six years has been a blast and talking with you all about the future of Kentucky basketball here at KSR for the last 8/9 months was the best part of the gig.
Two years ago I started taking real estate appraising classes. It started off just about 2-4 hours a day for the first year but now it’s about eight hours daily and a full-time job. It’s a long process but I’m eligible to become certified early in 2019. There’s sadly just not enough time in the day for me to work towards that goal while also being full-time at KSR.
I told Matt when I accepted the position that I was doing appraising on the side and I would be eligible to be certified in 2019. In October I notified him that I was still planning on making the transition and he has been nothing but great and helpful throughout the process. Everyone at KSR has been amazing. But the readers deserve someone that can keep an eye on recruiting 247 while traveling to the best events throughout the year and sadly I won’t have the time, but KSR has a great plan in place and I’m confident that the recruiting news will only continue to improve.
I’ll still be doing radio and will follow UK recruiting, so I look forward to continued discussions. Heck, find me in the KSR comment section.
I’ll be here working away the rest of the week before saying a final goodbye, but thanks for reading.
By Nick Roush on ©December 10th, 2018 @ 12:15pm
Two Kentucky Wildcats have earned First Team All-American honors from the Associated Press. Only Alabama and Clemson have more first team selections.
It’s no surprise that less than 24 hours after Josh Allen won his third National Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Kentucky outside linebacker earned AP First Team All-American honors. It’s Bunchy Stallings’ second First Team All-American selection. The UK offensive guard also earned the honor from The Athletic.
Kentucky’s last First Team AP All-American was Randall Cobb in 2010. Before Allen and Bunchy, the UK football program had just ten AP First Team All-Americans. Bob Gain and Babe Parilli (1950) are the only other UK teammates to accomplish the feat in the same year.
Benny Snell did not go overlooked. The powerful back chasing Sonny Collins’ all-time rushing record was a Third Team All-American selection by the AP. A look at the first team selections:
Quarterback — Kyler Murray, junior, Oklahoma
Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, sophomore, Wisconsin; Darrell Henderson, junior, Memphis
Tackles — Jonah Williams, junior, Alabama; Mitch Hyatt, senior, Clemson
Guards — Beau Benzschawel, senior, Wisconsin; Bunchy Stallings, senior, Kentucky
Center — Garrett Bradbury, senior, North Carolina State
Tight end — Jace Sternberger, junior, Texas A&M
Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, sophomore, Alabama; Marquise Brown, junior, Oklahoma
All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, freshman, Purdue
Kicker — Andre Szmyt, freshman, Syracuse
Ends — Clelin Ferrell, junior, Clemson; Sutton Smith, junior, Northern Illinois
Tackles — Quinnen Williams, junior, Alabama; Christian Wilkins, senior, Clemson
Linebackers — Josh Allen, senior, Kentucky; Devin White, junior, LSU; Ben Burr-Kirven, senior, Washington
Cornerbacks — Deandre Baker, senior, Georgia; Julian Love, junior, Notre Dame
Safeties — Grant Delpit, sophomore, LSU; Deionte Thompson, junior, Alabama
Punter — Braden Mann, junior, Texas A&M
Click here to see all three AP All-American teams.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 09th, 2018 @ 11:14pm
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has won the Lott IMPACT Trophy for National Defensive Player of the Year.
The four finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy were Allen, Ben Burr-Kirven of Washington, Ben Humphreys of Duke, and Christian Wilkins of Clemson.
The award, named after USC All-American and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Lott, recognizes the best defensive player in the nation who best exemplifies the IMPACT acronym: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
Past winners of the award, which was announced during the 15th Annual Lott IMPACT Trophy Award Show this evening in Newport Beach, California, include Luke Keuchly, JJ Watt, and Jabrill Peppers.
With the award, the University of Kentucky will receive $25,000 for its general scholarship fund, while Washington, Duke, and Clemson will receive $5,000 for finishing as runner-ups.
Also winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, Allen is now considered the consensus National Defensive Player of the Year.
The Kentucky linebacker was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous AP All-SEC first-team selection.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 10, 2018
Here is the list of Allen’s career statistics:
- 28.5 career sacks (Kentucky record)
- 14 sacks this season (Kentucky record)
- 11 career forced fumbles (Ties Danny Trevathan for UK record)
- Leads the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss (18.5) and forced fumbles (5)
- Team-high 84 tackles
And his list of accolades:
- Lott IMPACT Trophy (National Defensive Player of the Year)
- Chuck Bednarik Award (National Defensive Player of the Year)
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (National Defensive Player of the Year)
- SEC Defensive Player of the Year (AP, Coaches)
- First Team All-SEC (AP, Coaches)
- First Team All-American (Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, Pro Football Focus)
- Finalist for the Walter Camp National Player of the Year, the Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker), and Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end of the year).
Despite committing to Kentucky just nine days ago, four-star defensive end commitment JJ Weaver took a visit to Louisville this afternoon.
The Moore High School product posted the following picture on his Instagram story:
He followed it up by saying “it’s a business decision,” only adding to the suspense:
According to Rivals’ Dave Lackford, however, Weaver is “100% committed to Kentucky” and only visited as a favor to Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra.
JJ Weaver tells https://t.co/0dJ31hTR9b’s Dave Lackford that he is 100% committed to Kentucky and he visited Louisville today as a favorite to Vince Tyra
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) December 10, 2018
Sources tell KSR that Kentucky isn’t concerned with the visit and still feel “very good” about Weaver signing with the Cats.
If he’s making a “business decision,” he might want to look at what Mark Stoops has done with former two-star recruit Josh Allen. As a top-ten draft pick, the senior pass-rusher is going to be a very, very rich man this spring.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 09th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
Last night, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray took home the Heisman Trophy, winning the award over Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
The big debate was between Murray and Tagovailoa, but most assumed throughout the season the most prestigious award in college football would come down to those three finalists. From there, the other contenders at various points of the year have been fluid, including Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Josh Allen finding their way into the conversation. Snell started the year with the momentum, and then Allen finished as the far-and-away best Wildcat contender.
We knew he wasn’t going to win, as Charles Woodson is the only defensive player to ever win the award. But everyone expected the most dominant pass-rusher in college football to receive at least a few votes.
After the dust settled last night, the final top-ten list with votes was released, and Josh Allen was nowhere to be seen.
To make matters worse, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was on the list, finishing No. 8 overall.
Take a look:
So the National and SEC Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t receive any votes, but the player Allen beat out for both awards did?
McKenzie Milton? Jonathan Taylor? Darrell Henderson? Come on now.
Yesterday’s loss to Seton Hall brought a wave emotions across me. When the Pirates took the three point lead in the closing seconds, I prepared myself for the worst. Knowing that the chances of making a shot were slim. We all know what happened next in what will go down as one of the more improbable shots in recent Kentucky history.
That brought us to overtime. Seton Hall hit, another, three pointer to take the one point lead in the closing seconds of the game. John Calipari decided to not use one of his two timeouts and instead play through with a play that was supposedly drawn up earlier.
Obviously, it didn’t work and in the now infamous words of Shannon Dawson, “if it would have worked, you would have loved it.”
This isn’t the first time that Calipari has decided against using a timeout in late game situations. In fact, in a lot of ways, he is against the principle altogether. I definitely disagree, but then again there is a reason I am sitting on my couch typing instead of on the sidelines coaching.
All of this led me to look into Cal’s theory of taking timeouts in late game situations. During his time at Kentucky, his teams have been in 26 situations where they could have taken the lead or tied the game in regulation or in overtime. He has called a timeout in 11 of them.
In fact, here is an entire chart I put together that shows just that.
|Date||Game||Timeout?||Player Who Took Shot||Did He Make It?||Result|
|November 16, 2009||Miami Ohio||No||John Wall||Yes||Win|
|December 6, 2009||North Carolina||No||John Wall||Yes (FTs)||Win|
|January 19, 2011||Alabama||Yes||Terrance Jones||No||Loss|
|February 2, 2011||Ole Miss||Yes||Doron Lamb||No||Loss|
|February 6, 2011||Florida||No||Brandon Knight||No||Loss|
|February 23, 2011||Arkansas||No||Brandon Knight||No||Overtime|
|February 23, 2011||Arkansas||Yes||Brandon Knight||No||Loss|
|March 17, 2011||Princeton||Yes||Brandon Knight||Yes||Win|
|March 25, 2011||Ohio State||No||Brandon Knight||Yes||Win|
|March 9, 2013||Robert Morris||No||Kyle Wiltjer||No||Loss|
|January 14, 2014||Arkansas||No||Andrew Harrison||Yes||Overtime|
|January 14, 2014||Arkansas||No||N/A (Turnover)||N/A||Loss|
|February 22, 2014||LSU||No||Julius Randle||Yes||Win|
|February 27, 2014||Arkansas||No||Andrew Harrison||No||Overtime|
|March 18, 2014||Florida||Yes||No Shot||N/A||Loss|
|March 30, 2014||Michigan||Yes||Aaron Harrison||Yes||Win|
|April 6, 2014||Wisconsin||No||Aaron Harrison||Yes||Win|
|January 10, 2015||Texas A&M||Yes||Aaron Harrison||No||Overtime|
|March 13, 2016||Texas A&M||Yes||Tyler Ulis||No||Overtime|
|January 31, 2018||Vanderbilt||Yes||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||Yes (FTs)||Overtime|
|January 31, 2018||Vanderbilt||No||Quade Green||Yes||Win|
|February 6, 2018||Tennessee||No||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||No||Loss|
|March 23, 2018||Kansas State||No||Quade Green||No||Loss|
|March 23, 2018||Kansas State||Yes||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||No||Loss|
|December 8, 2018||Seton Hall||Yes||Keldon Johnson||Yes||Overtime|
|December 8, 2018||Seton Hall||No||Keldon Johnson||No||Loss|
As you can see, in the 11 situations where Cal has called a timeout, his players have only made the shot 4 times.
In the 15 situations that he hasn’t called a timeout, a player has made the shot 7 times.
What does all of this mean? Well, it shows that Cal’s theory on letting players go does at least have some stats to back it up. In most of these situations, I was probably, like many people, yelling at him to call the timeout and in some instances I was proven wrong.
The common thread that I see though, is that during almost all of the seven times where Cal’s theory was proven, he had an elite college player to take the shot. Whether it was John Wall, Brandon Knight, Julius Randle or even the Harrison twins, that is the common point that I see. It is hard to tell whether this team has that or not.
Shawnkel Knight-Goff is one of Louisville’s best kept secrets.
A jack of all trades, Knight-Goff has done it all for Doss High School. Labeled as an outside linebacker by scouting services, that’s not a fair description. Over the last two years, the 6’4″ 210-pound athlete has played wide receiver, tight end, running back, defensive end, safety and outside linebacker.
Recruited by Kentucky as an athlete, Knight-Goff committed to UK in October. Shawnkel will have multiple position options when he arrives on campus, but he will likely begin his career as a pass-rushing ‘Sam’ outside linebacker. After watching Kentucky attack opposing quarterbacks throughout the 2018 season, Knight-Goff liked what he saw.
“Seeing how their system works and seeing how Josh Allen was available to adapt to his environment and how they played, I can see where it would attract a lot of players, especially me and J.J. (Weaver),” Shawnkel told KSR earlier this week.
A friend and foe on the basketball court with Weaver, they are two of six 2019 commits that can play outside linebacker. Allen’s successful season and Brad White’s expertise are too attractive to turn down.
Whenever Knight-Goff has talked chalk with White, it’s all about technique and hands. “I see a lot of drills that people might think they’re little, but it’s really the little stuff that counts,” Shawnkel said. “Whenever we’re in the meeting room, he shows me techniques and stuff that I usually don’t work on but I should, especially angle-wise or how you should lean.”
Knight-Goff is excited to learn under White, so excited that he’s taking online classes to graduate in December. Departing Doss early would preemptively end the basketball player’s exceptional career, but a broken right ring finger suffered in his final football game has already forced him to press pause on the hardwood.
If Knight-Goff arrives on UK’s campus in January, he could be in the middle of an incredibly crowded outside linebackers’ meeting room. If White’s room is too crowded, it’s fine with Knight-Goff. It’s not even his favorite position to play. That would be safety.
“I like the atmosphere when you’re playing free,” he said. “You get a mixture of everything. You can get an interception, catch a pick, run downhill, hit a man. You’re all the way in the back and everything’s in front of you.”
Back and Forth
Like most recruits in the 2019 class, Knight-Goff’s first commitment was not his last. He initially committed to UK in May, but publicly reopened his recruitment just two weeks later.
“I decided to take my time,” but at its core, something else was more important.
“How the situation went down really, my friends felt like it should’ve been more of a celebration with them. That’s why I had to de-commit, but I knew Kentucky is where I wanted to go.”
Instead of making the announcement on Twitter, he had to do it big on Senior Day. Rain forced him to change plans at the last minute, but he was still happy to share that moment with his friends and family.
You can watch his commitment at the four-minute mark below.
Shawnkel grew up cheering for the Wildcats with his father and brother. Just because he was a fan, doesn’t mean he was a locked in to playing at UK. That happened after extensive conversations with Kentucky’s coaches.
“It feels like a comfortable atmosphere. I feel like I can talk to them about anything. I feel open to them.”
Knight-Goff also considered Louisville. Playing for his hometown team had plenty of appeal, but that could not compare to what Kentucky offered.
“I was either going to be a hometown hero or play for the home state. The SEC is bigger than the ACC. It’s way bigger. You’re playing for your whole state. I guess you could take it as more power, more responsibility.”
Kentucky’s record-breaking 2018 season only reinforced Knight-Goff’s belief in the big blue. He enjoyed watching some of the 9-3 season from the stands. Now he’s prepared to help the program take the next step from the Kroger Field turf.
“In the next few years, more history will be made for Kentucky.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 08th, 2018 @ 5:30pm
The first half between Kentucky and Seton Hall may have set the game of basketball back a century, but both sides apparently hopped in the DeLorean to bring things right back up to speed after the break.
Seton Hall’s Myles Powell hit a jumper with 10:14 remaining in the game, and then followed it up with five of six makes from beyond the arc by the end of regulation. On Kentucky’s side of things, Keldon Johnson drilled a half court heave at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, and then hit another three in the corner to take back the lead with just 44 seconds remaining in overtime. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough, as Seton Hall’s Myles Cale drilled an open three on the wing to win with just over nine ticks remaining.
The game didn’t end in Kentucky’s favor, and there’s plenty to be frustrated about as a fan. Even throwing all of the offensive struggles in the first half and defensive mix-ups in the second out the window, the Wildcats had a chance to win it at the end and couldn’t convert.
But for that brief stretch of time where both teams hit clutch shot after clutch shot, the Kentucky players couldn’t help but be wowed by the competitiveness.
“(The best way to describe it is) crazy,” sophomore forward PJ Washington said after the game. “Some shots you don’t expect to go in, and they go in. And you’re just like “wow.” Once our shot went in, we were just ready to go into overtime and come back and win this game.”
As for his shot specifically, Keldon Johnson said he knew he could drill it if he got some open space. He just wishes the highlight led to a victory, not a crushing loss.
“I knew if I got the shot off, I had a pretty good chance of making it,” he said. “That’s just my confidence in myself. When it went in, I was just thinking we needed to go get it in overtime, move on to the next play. We can’t be stuck on the half court shot, we need to focus on overtime and get the win. … It was a big shot, it was pretty big. I mean, it just hurt because we lost.”
When it came down to Powell’s big performance from the perimeter, Washington is proud of the way they guarded him in the first, but he just found a way to hit big shot after big shot after the intermission.
“We played great defense on him in the first half, but in the second he got going a little bit,” Washington said. “He just started making tough, contested shots over us. He played his butt off, they’re a good team. We’ll watch the film and learn from it.”
The Kentucky sophomore forward said the team wanted to make sure Powell didn’t have an opportunity to hit the game-winner in overtime. With a double-team, it allowed Cale to find some space and add a game-winner to his career highlight reel.
“We didn’t want No. 13 to shoot the ball, so we sent two people out on him,” he said. “I kind of hedged over just in case they threw it to the guy next to them. They threw the skip, we closed out, jumped at it, but unfortunately he made the shot. Sometimes they make those, sometimes they don’t. We just need to learn from it and keep pushing on.”
Is the team worried about their performance? Washington said not in the slightest.
“Not at all, we fought this game,” he said. “We got better, obviously from the first game. We played a lot better on the defensive end. As long as we play like we did in the first half (and keep the offensive success from the second half), things are going to be great for us.”
But how, exactly?
“We’ve just got to finish, we’ve just got to make shots,” Washington said. “That’s the biggest thing. We feel like we can play great on the defensive end, but we’ve got to make open shots. We’ve just got to have confidence on both ends of the floor.”