By TJ Walker on ©August 20th, 2018 @ 2:58pm
University of Louisville tight ends coach Chris Klenakis was arrested early Sunday morning after being pulled over for reckless driving. Klenakis will face four charges after blowing a .165. He was pulled over and booked in Shelby County, and according to the police report nearly struck a wall that construction workers were working on at the time. The police report also states he had to be forcibly removed from his car after refusing to exit the vehicle. During his field sobriety test he wandered into oncoming traffic and just missed being hit by a truck. Along with the DUI he was also charged with reckless driving, wanton endangerment (1st degree) and possession of an open alcoholic beverage.
Klenakis joined UofL’s staff in 2014 and was originally the offensive line coach before being moved to oversee the tight ends.
Klenakis’ arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
UPDATE- UofL has placed Klenakis on administrative leave.
Yesterday was a big day for Kentucky football. After weeks of hearing only positive about the defense, we finally got the major step forward we’ve been looking for from the offense. Following their morning scrimmage, Mark Stoops raved about the playmaking all over the field with a slight grin on his face.
“The offense as a whole brought the energy. They were very consistent. That doesn’t mean they were perfect, but they had a really good mentality. When they had bad plays, they overcame it at times. If not, they overcame it the next series.” Stoops added, “They really had a solid week, and it showed today.”
After last weekend’s mess, it was a massive sigh of relief. And it got me wondering about the specifics of the day.
We’re used to reading TJ Walker’s basketball insider notes on Mondays, but how about some football nuggets on this beautiful Sunday afternoon?
After doing some digging over the last week or so and following the big scrimmage yesterday, here’s what I got:
Back in July, I was told the quarterback battle was not all it was cracked up to be. The whole narrative of Terry Wilson being the pure athlete with consistency issues and Gunnar Hoak being “Mr. Efficient” with limited home run ability was a bit far from the truth. In reality, each had serious accuracy flaws throughout the spring, summer and into fall, and neither did enough to separate themselves as “the guy.”
At the time, I was told the coaching staff wasn’t ecstatic about where either of them were, but Wilson likely had a very slight edge over Hoak. Very slight.
In the long term, one source within the program felt (at the time) Wilson may have his ups and downs, but he would do what it takes to eventually win the job. They felt he had the “it” factor.
“I genuinely think it’ll be Terry when we get to Central Michigan,” they said at the time.
When fall camp kicked off, I was told Hoak took a solid step up and actually separated himself from Wilson. The redshirt sophomore developed solid chemistry with the tight ends and slot receivers, improving the Wildcat offense in short and medium passing situations. It allowed Eddie Gran to utilize the running game and move the chains in short-yardage situations. If the first game had been played then, there was little doubt Hoak would be it.
Over the last week, though, Wilson dug his cleats into the ground and inched his way forward. He had finally shaken the rust off he had coming into the program from junior college.
Now, I strongly believe it will be Terry Wilson leading the Kentucky offense onto the field first on September 1.
Yesterday was Wilson’s best practice since he got to Kentucky, and certainly the best scrimmage. He made throws that turned the heads of everyone in attendance.
“It clicked,” one source told KSR. “Something just clicked with him. He looked really, really good out there.”
The offense as a whole was extremely impressive yesterday, and a lot of it had to do with Benny Snell back in the fold. The star running back missed last week due to a minor calf injury, one so small that Snell actually wondered why Stoops brought it up in the first place. It was nothing of substance and is absolutely not a concern going forward.
Snell also mentioned yesterday that he had a costly drop going out for a pass in the scrimmage, which brings me to another important point going into the season. I’m told Eddie Gran is really trying to work all the backs into the passing game to add another dimension to the offense. And it looks really good so far. Between that and the double-tight end sets we’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, I’d expect to see some new schemes the BBN may not be as familiar with when the season opens up. Tight ends CJ Conrad and Justin Rigg (who has really improved at both run and pass blocking) on both sides of the line will keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Beyond that, the chemistry around the total unit is really solid right now. In the past, we’ve seen the locker room gravitate toward one quarterback and it has caused some tension in the past, but I’m told both QB options are well-respected and liked across the board. Players are hyping up their teammates after big plays and lifting their spirits after mistakes. The general vibe is that they know this can be a really special season for them.
I’ve raved about David Bouvier the past couple days and weeks, and the hype train isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He’s going to be a stud this season. Akeem Hayes has also turned heads, as mentioned by Snell yesterday in the post-scrimmage media opportunity. Lynn Bowden, Tavin Richardson, EJ Price, Chris Rodriguez, and Kavosiey Smoke are other players that have looked really solid.
The offense needed to take a step forward, and they made it happen. Fans should be excited about that.
Part of what made the offense look so good was a pretty weak overall performance from the defense. I was told both quarterbacks in contention for the job carved up the opposition, mixing up the play calls and finding success at all three levels of the field. It didn’t confuse the defense, per se, but it certainly frustrated them throughout the scrimmage. Kash Daniel himself admitted the defense just got outplayed on a few instances, using it as motivation going forward. (In other words, I expect a dominant defensive performance to make up for it this week)
Mark Stoops told the media yesterday that the defense is very thin at a few positions, and that was part of the reason they struggled so much on that side of the ball yesterday. I have been told that safety Mike Edwards has been battling a hamstring issue this week that has held him out of practice, though that is not expected to be a lingering issue going forward. There are a few other minor injuries, but other than Josh Paschal, none are of concern to the team.
As far as the overall defense is concerned going into the season compared to where they were on Saturday, I’ve been told that the coaches aren’t sweating the rough day in the slightest. In fact, Stoops and defensive coordinator Matt House are extremely confident in their group and believe it will be the best top to bottom since Stoops got to Kentucky. The defensive linemen are athletic and more aggressive, the defensive backs (when healthy) have improved their ball instincts and coverage, and the linebackers, both inside and out, are creating pressure. The coaching staff knows what they have on defense, the main concern was getting the offense firing on all cylinders. They did just that.
We won’t have a football media session tomorrow, but we’ll have an open media practice on Tuesday to get another inside look at the program. Nick Roush and I will be there to give you all the updates you need on the team with just two weeks before kickoff.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 19th, 2018 @ 8:06pm
If you turn on ESPN at any given moment, odds are pretty solid the Duke basketball program and the coming season will be brought up in some form or fashion. On their current international trip to Canada, the Blue Devils won all three of their games, and the worldwide leader of sports has made them the center of attention.
Highlights of Zion Williamson’s electric dunks and RJ Barrett’s elite scoring ability have been put on loop over the course of the week, specifically on SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays. And when the season starts, specifically with Cam Reddish back in the fold, that’s only going to continue.
And Kentucky fans should be happy about that.
Back in 2014-15, Kentucky was the No. 1 team in the nation from the second they arrived on campus until they fell to Wisconsin in the Final Four. They had the perfect mix of talent, leadership, and depth, and it led to a near-undefeated season. As arguably the most impressive and dominant team in college basketball history, they had the target on their backs every night, and they overcame it every game right up until the end. They were the ones with non-stop ESPN/media coverage from start to finish.
This year, as we saw in the Wildcats’ trip to the Bahamas, UK has something similar. Maybe not as top-heavy in talent, but their depth is something no one in the country can top. Maybe not as elite defensively, but you could argue they fair better on the offensive end of the floor. Former South Carolina Gamecock and Team Toronto player Duane Notice, who has now played both teams, said there were obvious similarities in 2014-15 and 2018-19.
“I think they’ve very long,” he said following his team’s loss to Kentucky in the Bahamas. “Obviously, I played against Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, those guys. These guys are long, from one to five. That’s the difference. Even their wing players are very aggressive and they’re very long. They can get on the offensive glass and they really know how to move the ball.”
But unlike the 2014-15 season, the media attention is on Duke’s “greatest recruiting class of all time,” featuring the nation’s top three recruits. They get the crazy hypotheticals and debates to drive up clicks, listeners, and viewers. Kentucky has the opportunity for a special season without the hoopla. Obviously the spotlight will be on the opening game, but from there (even if/when the Cats steamroll the Devils), Duke’s impressive dunks and highlights will still be the center of attention. Kentucky will be able to develop as a team throughout the season without the pressure. It’s the perfect storm.
After watching all three of their games in Canada, I came away very impressed with Williamson and Barrett, but there’s a significant dropoff from there. Reddish will be able to shoot at a high level and Tre Jones will be a solid game manager, but there are major issues in the paint and with depth. As the team’s starting center, Marques Bolden struggled against players not even close to the caliber of athletes he will be facing in the season. And the players behind him were worse, although I was a fan of David Robinson’s son, Justin.
Beyond Jones at point guard and Reddish at shooting guard, the team’s backcourt has major holes, as well.
In these games, Williamson was getting winded midway through the second quarter. He put up crazy numbers against horrid competition, but when he battles real Division 1 frontcourt players, the fatigue of a 6-foot-6, 285-pound player is going to set in. What happens then? Will Barrett, who I firmly believe can average 25 points per game this year, be able to win games by himself? What if there’s foul trouble? How will a team dominated by freshmen playing the same position fair under the spotlight?
Who knows, and that’s not Kentucky’s problem. They’ll be able to enjoy all the success without the same baggage. They’ll talk about Kentucky, but it won’t be remotely close to what we’ll see from the other shade of blue.
The Duke slob-fest is real, and though it’ll be annoying, the Cats will end up with the better end of the deal.
By Nick Roush on ©August 18th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
We are only two weeks away from Kentucky’s season-opener against Central Michigan. Instead of getting into the nitty gritty on the Chippewas, let’s think about the big picture.
Mark Stoops has set the bar at seven regular season wins after achieving the goal in consecutive seasons. With 18 returning starters, some fans are ready to see the Cats take another step forward by winning eight or nine games. The pessimists point toward a difficult schedule and uncertainty at quarterback to question whether Kentucky can even become bowl eligible.
Advanced analytics say Kentucky will struggle to win six. Bill Connelly at SB Nation crunched the numbers using the S&P+ metrics to conclude that Kentucky will only be favored in five games.
Being favored doesn’t ensure victory, just ask the 27-point favorite 2016 Louisville Cardinals. The formula for UK football success is simple: beat the teams you’re supposed to and pull of a few upsets. Here is how Kentucky gets to at least seven wins, and who they can potentially upset to get eight or more in the regular season, something that hasn’t happened since 1984.
Four Must-Wins: CMU, Murray State, MTSU and Vandy
Aside from Murray State, these games will not be easy. Central Michigan won eight games in 2017, Middle Tennessee runs Tony Franklin’s Air Raid with the head coach’s son (a three-year starter who can run) at quarterback and Vandy’s offense will put up points with Kyle Shurmur’s arm. At least two will be ugly wins, but wins are wins.
Two of Three Road Games: Mizzou, UofL and Tennessee
Last year the Cats had to win three road games to get to seven wins. In 2016 they beat Mizzou and UofL on the road to reach seven. Winning on the road isn’t something Kentucky fans are accustomed to, especially at Tennessee, but they must steal a few against comparable competition.
If you compare each position between UK and all three opponents, the talent is about even. Missouri’s offense has the potential to be the SEC’s best, if Derek Dooley doesn’t mess it up, but nothing about Columbia, Missouri is scary. Louisville is a rivalry game that is almost guaranteed to be close no matter where it’s played (as long as you don’t have an angry Lamar Jackson). Tennessee might be the worst team in the East, but Neyland Stadium hasn’t been a fun place for UK fans since the 1984 season.
If you take the logos off the helmets and put history aside, it’s easy to see how Kentucky can win two of these three games to get to six regular season wins.
One of Two Tough Home Games: Miss. State and South Carolina
There are so many uncertainties in the two home games that close out September. Kentucky could win or lose both, but if they win just one there will still be plenty of optimism for the rest of the year.
You’ll call me crazy when I say Miss. State might be the UK opponent with the most NFL talent on its roster. Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons give the Bulldogs the best defensive line in the league, Aeris Williams is a powerful runner that’s hard to tackle, but not as tough to bring down as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Miss. State has won eight out of the last nine against UK, but Kentucky won the last game at Kroger Field and Dan Mullen has departed, leaving a little uncertainty on the shoulders of Joe Moorhead.
There are two reasons why beating South Carolina is uncertain:
- Beating a team five times in a row is tough.
- Deebo Samuel is arguably the SEC’s best playmaker.
Jake Bentley isn’t scary (I might take injured Stephen Johnson over Bentley). Some may cringe at South Carolina’s nine-win season, but you shouldn’t. Their ninth win came against a Michigan team that had no business being in the Outback Bowl (it should’ve been Northwestern, but name recognition). The defense that carried the Gamecocks (SEC’s No. 2 in turnover margin and No. 5 scoring defense) lost its entire secondary and Skai Moore, USC’s team captain that led them in tackles for four years.
UK will not be favored in either, but if they play clean football and control the clock with Benny Snell, the Cats have enough talent to pull off at least one upset to get to seven wins.
Massive Upsets: Georgia, at A&M and at Florida
Nobody expects Kentucky to win any of these games, but it is possible.
The Texas A&M and Florida logos are scary, but each have brand new coaches who are looking for a quarterback. Playing Florida in the second game of the year actually plays into UK’s favor as Dan Mullen tries to figure out his team. The timing also helps when A&M plays Clemson and Alabama in the weeks leading into the UK game. However, both games are on the road. The Swamp and Kyle Field are two of the most difficult venues in the SEC and each opponent will consider the UK game as a must-win.
Beating Georgia isn’t impossible. Near the end of the season, if Kentucky remains healthy and has developed a deep passing threat to stretch out the opponent’s defense, they can do what the 2007 Wildcats did against LSU: shock the world.
By Nick Roush on ©August 18th, 2018 @ 10:30pm
A week after a disappointing scrimmage, Mark Stoops was pleased to share good news about his offense.
“We had a really good mentality about us today and really mixed it up well — ran the ball, threw it, play-action. They did a lot of things good and had great urgency,” said Kentucky’s head coach.
In the first scrimmage, the offense did not bring enough energy and failed to make competitive plays. That was not the case today.
“The offense as a whole brought the energy. They were very consistent. That doesn’t mean they were perfect, but they had a really good mentality. When they had bad plays, they overcame it at times. If not, they overcame it the next series.” Stoops added, “They really had a solid week, and it showed today. We gotta continue to build. It’s a long season.
Stoops was pleased to spread some positive news about the offense. Kash Daniel was not. “Everybody gave us trouble,” he said begrudgingly.
Kentucky’s middle linebacker had a “I want to punch somebody in the face” look to him when he met with the media. Dealing with minor injuries, the defense took a step back. There were a few good moments, including an interception from Derrick Baity, but the unit’s performance did not meet Daniel’s standards.
“If you’re reading my body language and stuff right now, we must’ve had a terrible scrimmage, but that’s not the case. I beat myself up more than anything…Just because I look pissed off at the world doesn’t mean we had a terrible scrimmage. We made some plays. We made some mistakes. But Benny ran the ball good. Gunnar and Terry looked good. The offensive line looked good. Receivers caught the ball, did some great stuff and they made plays.”
The receiver who made the biggest play of the day was Tavin Richardson. The junior from Byrnes, South Carolina brought down a pass that Stoops thought was going to be an interception.
“We had really good coverage on him. I thought we were going to intercept it, and Tavin came down with it and scored,” Stoops said. “It was one of those situations where I was mad at the defense, but I was glad to see the offense get the ball downfield and make some plays.”
Benny Snell almost made a highlight-worthy catch too, but he took his eye off the ball as it sailed over his shoulder on a wheel-route down the sideline.
“I had to guess and I dropped it,” Snell said. “It would’ve been a touchdown. It was going to be like a 40-yard touchdown. I dropped it. I made up for it though. I always make up for my mistakes.”
Proof that Benny Snell is Human pic.twitter.com/P1rNdOWVF6
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) August 18, 2018
One player who doesn’t drop passes is Akeem Hayes. The little freshman (who’s maybe 5’8″) has been sneaky in the slot.
“Little Akeem, he’s doing a great job catching the ball,” Snell said. “He’s very fast. A lot of guys can’t cover him. He just outruns them. He’s got hands. He catches it. He’s very hard to tackle because he’s so small and so quick. He’s going to be good.”
Kentucky’s offense is beginning to click at the right time. Even though Daniel was disappointed in his defense, he doesn’t envy Kentucky’s opponents. When asked is he’s encouraged by the offense’s progression, Daniel responded: “Hell yeah.”
“If we get Benny back there running like he was today, I’m straight with the offense.”
By Nick Roush on ©August 18th, 2018 @ 11:00am
Mark Stoops immediately injected energy into the Kentucky football program by recruiting elite talent at a rate never seen before at UK. It all started in Ohio, but since Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw joined the coaching staff, the Cats have signed 16 players from the state of Florida over the last two years.
The epicenter of Kentucky’s recruiting pipeline is in Broward County. Located north of Miami in the area surrounding Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood is where you’ll find Chaminade-Madonna High School. In the previous two recruiting classes alone, Kentucky has signed five players from Chaminade-Madonna.
“It’s a takeover,” freshman defensive end Davoan Hawkins said at UK Media Day. “They got all of us up here. Eddie Gran, the man is a guru when it comes to recruiting. He told us if we come here and end up producing, we’ll get good results. We trusted the process. Now it’s time to take over campus.”
Hawkins, a three-star recruit who spurned late advances from Miami, is one of three Lions who decided to become Wildcats at the collegiate level after winning a 3A state championship in 2017, the program’s first state championship in 12 years. Hawkins is joined by a pair of wide receivers, B.J. Alexander and Akeem Hayes. Gran sold the trio a familiar message.
“Chaminade wasn’t a winning program until most of us got there,” Hayes, a former UofL commit, told KSR. “We’re trying to do the same thing to Kentucky that we did to Chaminade.”
“We can come up here and make an impact,” Hawkins said. “It will pave the way for a lot of new recruits that’s coming up. A lot of people look at Kentucky as not like a big name school, but we’re finna change the program so we can let the world know it’s one of the best in the nation.”
Alexander, a 6’4″ wide receiver who could contend for significant playing time this fall, said they were sold not long after visiting UK’s campus.
“That’s just good recruiting by Coach Gran. He talked to us and we bought into it,” Alexander said. “Then we came on a visit and we really fell in love. It was a package deal really.”
The three new guys have familiar faces helping them during training camp. Sophomore wide receiver Josh Ali is a Chaminade-Madonna alum, as is defensive lineman Chris Whittaker. While the receivers take pointers from Ali, Whittaker gave Hawkins some advice before moving to Lexington.
“He told me to come out here with an open head. No matter what, even if they’re veterans, just try to go heads up with them. It really doesn’t matter. There’s no hiding out here. They won’t sugarcoat nothing with you. You can’t sugarcoat anything with them. It’s time to go ahead and ball.”
At the midway point of training camp, some of the Chaminade-Madonna freshman have already impressed Kentucky’s coaches. Even though Akeem Hayes is only 5’8″, he’s been fearless in the slot. There’s a lot of depth at the defensive line, but Hawkins is determined to play right away.
“I’m going to let you know right now, the redshirt situation, it’s not on my radar,” said Hawkins. “I feel that I can do a whole lot better than a redshirt. If it comes down to that, I gotta take it, but the way I”m feeling about camp, that redshirt is not about to be on me.”
Got UK feelin Like SoFlo?? pic.twitter.com/qFIpvh9cCq
— DayDay Hawkins? (@mbk_55era) June 28, 2018
Eddie Gran has brought plenty of swagger from Chaminade-Madonna to Kentucky. The underclassmen are talented enough to play this fall. If they produce, this could be just the beginning of the “South Florida takeover.”
Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, Purdue and Cincinnati are the final six schools for JJ Weaver. The Kentuckian (Moore) cut his list on Thursday night via his Twitter account.
The four-star target is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound weakside defensive end. He has visited Kentucky twice this year, but has also checked out UofL’s campus a few times and was recently offered by the Hurricanes. This won’t be easy.
We’ll have more Weaver coverage tomorrow, but let’s hope Vince Marrow can work his magic.
First and foremost I would like to say God is good, putting me and my family in this position i am in today? thank you to all the coaches that have gave me a chance and believe in my hard working talent?? this is my top 6?? @RivalsDave @SWiltfong247 #15forfreddie pic.twitter.com/33NEKiH2RZ
— JJ Weaver (@jjtimeee) August 17, 2018
By TJ Walker on ©August 16th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
The NCAA is trying to determine the greatest college basketball starting five of all-time and they’re having fans on Twitter determining the winner by a vote. A fun concept but as you’d imagine it’s turned into a “Which Team Has the Most Fans on Twitter” contest and the Cats have advanced to the title game.
Kentucky will take on the Gators, who narrowly defeated UCLA in the other Final Four match-up. Voting for that game has not yet started, but we’ll be sure to link when it does so you can help UK win this meaningless Twitter poll. It’s something we do best. But it had me thinking- which school’s all-time starting five would actually win this bracket? Could it be Kentucky? The NCAA determined the starting fives, and it seems like most fan bases have one or two issues, UK isn’t excluded.
#BBN does it again ?
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) August 15, 2018
As much as we love Tayshaun Prince and Tony Delk, do both belong on UK’s all-time starting five? Where is Jamal Mashburn? We could come up with over a hundred different lineups for UK and I’m not here to write about that, let’s just go with the five the NCAA put on UK’s team and go from there. There are also head-scratching rosters for Kansas, UNC, Duke, Louisville and plenty of other schools. The NCAA didn’t do a perfect job but let’s take what we were given.
You can search the NCAA’s @MarchMadness Twitter account to see the full rosters, but it doesn’t seem like they’re listed in one specific place. Due to time constraints we move to the Elite Eight (Dari Nowkhah voice).
East, UNC vs. Indiana: This one stayed true to form in the actual bracket, but it wasn’t easy getting here. I’m not overly impressed with Indiana’s team and think Oklahoma’s team that includes Trae Young, Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield and Wayman Tisdale would give that Hoosiers team all they could handle. I don’t see a realistic threat for UNC. Both Arizona and Maryland have intriguing teams but not enough talent to slow down Michael Jordan.
It holds true one more round as North Carolina beats Indiana to advance to the Final Four and this hypothetical game wouldn’t be close. Victor Oladipo was a great college defender but there’s no chance he could slow down Carter or Jordan. The Tar Heels win by 15+.
East Elite 8:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) August 6, 2018
Midwest, Kentucky vs. Kansas: Okay, okay. This isn’t a great look. I’ve completed two regions and I have so far replicated the NCAA’s Elite Eight. That will change below, I promise, but I do have different roads for Kansas and Kentucky. I have Kansas beating Georgia Tech, who was blown out by Villanova. The Yellow Jackets have Chris Bosh and Stephon Marbury. Those two players alone are enough to get by Brunson, Hart and Bridges. However, it’s not enough to get by Kansas.
I actually have Louisville beating Ohio State before getting crushed by Kentucky. The Buckeyes received more votes than UofL, but I’m not so sure that game would be close. The NCAA completely whiffed picking Donovan Mitchell on the team, but the other four UofL players are solid. UK would have no issue beating Louisville to face Kansas.
I actually think Kansas 3-5 is just as good as Kentucky if not better, but Frank Mason III and Kirk Hinrich trying to guard Wall and Delk is laughable. If the NCAA did a better job picking Kansas’ two guards the Jayhawks could have advanced. UK wins by 10.
Midwest Elite 8:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) August 7, 2018
South, Duke vs. UConn: You look at the teams in this region and you’re not blown away by prestige (Duke excluded, maybe UConn in happier times) but these are quietly great teams. This was the toughest region to pick and the overall best region. Strange because usually Duke gets a cakewalk in the NCAA Tournament. Florida will play in the championship game in the real bracket, but I think the Gators are upended by a pesky Cincinnati team. Kenyon Martin would be the best player on the floor and Jason Maxiell would be the perfect player to slow down Horford and Noah. Cincy doesn’t have enough to get by Duke in the Sweet 16.
LSU vs. Texas was really tough to pick. I think whoever won this matchup could make a deep run, although I don’t predict it. I gave LSU the slight nod because college Kevin Durant was good, but not as good as we know him today. He did not take his Longhorns deep into the tournament and we’re going off of how these players were as college athletes. LSU vs. UConn in the Sweet 16 is equally as difficult. Emeka Okafor could help slow down Shaq and I would pay a lot of money to watch Kemba vs. Pistol Pete. UConn wins on a last second Ray Allen three. Also, where was Rudy Gay and Ben Simmons?
I really think Duke’s team is great, but it’s not the best matchup with UConn. I’m not sure one Duke player would have the defensive advantage except at the four position. UConn wins by two.
South Round 1:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) July 21, 2018
South Round 1:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) July 21, 2018
West, UCLA vs. Georgetown: The Elite Eight matchup between the Hoyas and Bruins would be a blast, but it would be blowout city getting there. No other teams in this region would really have a change against either team. Michigan State is the only other team that makes you think but overall they don’t have the talent or muscle to beat Georgetown. The Spartans do crush Gonzaga and Wake Forest has no issues with Syracuse. I think UCLA comfortably beats Georgetown in the Elite Eight. That fans on Twitter agreed, so not much drama here.
West Elite 8:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) August 9, 2018
Final Four: UK vs. UNC and UConn vs. UCLA.
UK beats UNC: Smith and Psycho T get abused in this matchup. You’d probably put Worthy on Davis and Hansbrough on DeMarcus Cousins. Worthy could do enough defensively to slow down Davis, but Cousins would use and abuse Hansbrough. Smith wouldn’t have a prayer slowing down John Wall. Prince could do a solid job on Jordan, but you’re not stopping him. Carter and Delk would exchange buckets for the duration of the game. UK wins by six in a tight game.
UConn beats UCLA: An upset! The Huskies defeat UCLA to advance to the championship game. Okafor would only be able to do so much against UCLA’s frontcourt, but the Bruins backcourt would have no chance slowing down UConn’s 1-3. This would be a high scoring but give me the team that has the better scorers. It’s tough to pick against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but Walker, Allen and RIP would be too much.
Championship, UK vs. UConn: Well, here we are again. The Cats vs. Huskies. This time for all the hypothetical marbles. If you haven’t learned by this point, I love UConn’s guards. All three are great scorers and Kemba could get anywhere he wanted on the floor. I’m high on Okafor. He was the best defender in college basketball when he played and it would be a nightmare matchup for DeMarcus Cousins. Luckily for UK, Davis would erase scoring threat Donyell Marshall and the Huskies would have no one that could guard Tayshaun Prince. Prince and Davis are the difference makers in this game and UK wins by six.
We did it!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 15th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
With Kentucky’s blowout victory over Team Toronto on Sunday afternoon, the Wildcats headed back to Lexington from the Big Blue Bahamas trip with a perfect 4-0 record.
They pulled off victories in the first two games by a final score of 85-61 in game one against the Bahamas National Team and 91-68 against San Lorenzo de Almagro in game two.
On Saturday, the Wildcats took it a step further by dominating Mega Bemax, Kentucky’s toughest opponent of the trip, by a score of 100-64. They followed it up with their second-largest blowout of the event, defeating Team Toronto by a final score of 93-60.
It’s a trip that absolutely followed in the footsteps of Kentucky’s 2014 adventure to the Bahamas, where they played a total of six games, coming away with victories in five. Their lone loss came against the Dominican Republic National Team, a unit comprised of grown men and numerous professional basketball players. Even in defeat, the Cats looked like juggernauts at the college level.
It was step one of what developed into one of the most historic seasons in college basketball history.
And by the looks of things, at least as shown in the 2018 edition of the Big Blue Bahamas trip, we could be in for yet another special season.
On Friday night, I compared the first two Bahamas games of 2018 to the first three of 2014, where we found out the average margins of victory were just 4.5 points apart, with the current group facing tougher competition. The 2014 team finished the first part of the trip with more highlight-worthy plays, while the 2018 unit dominated, but without much of the flashiness.
If you missed part one, check it out below:
In the latter half of the trip, however, the 2018 Kentucky Wildcats actually pulled away from the 2014 group by a significant margin.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Dominican Republic national team (participated prior to 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Ranked No. 26 in the FIBA World Rankings at the time)
Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, a French first-division professional club team
Game Four: 83-71 victory over the Dominican Republic National Team
After starting the event 3-0, winning each game in dominating fashion, the Cats were delivered their first punch in the mouth. Kentucky held a solid lead for the majority of the first half, but the Dominican team stormed back to make it a game in the second half.
Unfortunately for them, Kentucky’s depth was just too much to overcome, and the Cats rolled by double-digits.
Alex Poythress led UK with 20 points on 8-9 shooting, followed by 12 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and a 10-point, 12-rebound outing from Dakari Johnson.
Game Five: 77-72 victory over Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket
Kentucky’s five-point victory over the French professional squad was easily their most challenging up to this point. Chalons-Reims’ Darryl Watkins pulled off 20 points on 9-10 shooting against a stout Wildcat defense, followed by 11 points on 4-7 shooting from former LSU forward Tasmin Mitchell.
It was yet another taste of just how well-balanced the scoring effort would be for the Cats all season long, with four players finishing in double figures, led by Aaron Harrison’s 15 points and three made three-pointers. Tyler Ulis was second on the team with 12 points on 5-8 shooting.
Chalons-Reims actually led at halftime by a score of 44-43, before Kentucky stormed back in the second half to pull off their fifth consecutive victory of the trip.
Game Six: 63-62 loss to Dominican Republic National Team
Already missing Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, Alex Poythress sat out in the final game of the week, Kentucky’s lone loss of the week.
They had already beaten the Dominican Republic 83-71 earlier in the week, with former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, who coached the opposition that week, saying his team was “swimming upstream” against a team with so much depth. Comeback efforts were nearly impossible against that group until a Jack Michael Martinez fadeaway jumper with 2.5 seconds left topped the Wildcats by a final score of 63-62.
They actually held an eight-point lead with 4:30 remaining, but hit a wall immediately afterward, failing to score the rest of the game.
It would be the team’s final defeat for roughly eight months.
Ulis led the Cats with 12 points and five assists, followed by Derek Willis and Karl-Anthony Towns with ten points a piece.
Average margin of victory: 5.3 points
As the games grew more difficult, and the fatigue started to kick in, the margins of victory became smaller and smaller. In the final game, the Cats took home their only loss of the trip.
The team’s defense looked stellar, but the offense seemed to sputter a bit, especially with Alex Poythress out of the game against the DR. It was similar to when Poythress tore his ACL midway through the year, as the defense took just a minor step back, while the offense seemed to stall at times.
And then Sam Dekker existed, and it showed just how valuable Poythress was on the team.
Still, though, the Cats competed against elite competition just a few weeks after coming together as a team. At the time we could sense it would be a special group, but no one had any idea just how special it would be.
Mega Bemax, Kentucky’s toughest opponent of the trip, is considered an NBA factory in Serbia. They’ve put several NBA draft picks over the past few years, including Denver star Nikola Jokic. They’re nicknamed “Kentucky of Europe” for good reason.
Team Toronto was seen as Kentucky’s weakest competition of the trip, though they still had several former Division-One players and one NBA player in Andrew Nicholson. They were hand-selected by Canadian guru head coach Roy Rana.
Game Three: 100-64 victory over Mega Bemax
The Cats had this game circled on their calendar the second it was announced. Arguably the most talented opponent they have faced in both Bahamas trips, Kentucky dominated from start to finish.
PJ Washington led the way with 20 points, followed by Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson with 16 points each. All five starters (six players total) finished with at least ten points.
On defense, the Cats forced 14 turnovers and nine steals as a team. They also added six blocks. For a team as talented all-around as Mega Bemax, Kentucky’s overall defensive effort was outstanding.
They came in with a purpose and finished the job, all 40 minutes. If there was a game that terrified the college basketball world, it was game three for the Cats.
Game Four: 93-60 victory over Team Toronto
As mentioned earlier, Toronto was Kentucky’s weakest opponent of the week, and it looks like the Cats knew that was the case going in. They looked extremely sluggish to start with, but eventually got rolling, winning by their second-largest margin of the tour. Five Kentucky players finished in double figures, led by Reid Travis with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
The most impressive aspect of the game, however, was UK’s defensive performance against former first-round NBA pick Andrew Nicholson. The Cats held the big man to just three points on 1-13 shooting, forcing him to ugly and uncomfortable shots.
It also solidified Kentucky’s undefeated Big Blue Bahamas trip, something the 2014 Cats could not accomplish.
Average margin of victory: 34.5 points
The most impressive performances for Kentucky came against San Lorenzo and Mega Bemax, the two middle games. Both were against legitimate professional teams, similar to the 2014 team’s games against Chalons-Reims and the Dominican Republic, though the Cats did it in more dominant fashion this time around.
The 2014 Cats were elite defensively, and it was evident early on. 2018 is likely better on the offensive end of the floor, though it’s difficult to gauge any real comparisons between the two with Cauley-Stein and Lyles out in 2014 and Montgomery and Baker out this summer.
Regardless, it’s not a stretch to say this team is going to be one of the best of the Calipari era, just like we knew with the 2014 group.
It’s going to be a fun, fun year.
Every year, we comb the Kentucky Football Media Guide for interesting facts about the Wildcats. Last year, we found out that Landon Young was learning the banjo and Jordan Jones loves the TV show “Jersey Shore.” What surprises does this year’s media guide have in store for us?
Did you know…
— Junior offensive tackle Landon Young’s favorite movie is O, Brother, Where Art Thou
— Sophomore wide receiver John Daido speaks fluent Russian
— Freshman offensive lineman and Knoxville, Tennessee native Darian Kinnard is related to Dolly Parton (As a huge Dolly fan, I definitely need to know more about this)
— Sophomore offensive tackle E.J. Price is a big country music fan, thanks to teammate Austin Dotson
— Junior wide receiver Ahmad Wagner is a talented singer and closet country music fan
— Sophomore kicker Matt Ruffolo’s fourth cousin is actor Mark Ruffalo, aka “The Hulk”
— The most famous person in freshman running back Tyler Markray’s cell phone is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
— Freshman defensive lineman Jerquavion Mahone puts syrup on his spaghetti
— Freshman offensive lineman Kenneth Horsey’s guilty pleasure is watching “Scandal”
— Freshman defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins has 14 siblings
— Freshman running back Kavosiey Smoke is part Native American
— Sophomore quarterback Terry Wilson hasn’t had a haircut since the eighth grade
— Senior kicker Miles Butler: “Money Man”
— Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Clark: “Prototype”
— Redshirt freshman linebacker Jamin Davis: “Shadow”
— Senior cornerback Chris Westry: “Scotty Too Hotty”
— Junior running back Benny Snell: “Snell Ya Later”
Dream jobs other than the NFL
— Senior cornerback Chris Westry: Work for Google
— Redshirt freshman safety Tyrell Ajian: Pharmacologist
— Sophomore wide receiver Josh Ali: Real estate agent
— Sophomore nose guard Quinton Bohanna: Take care of his mom and grandmother
— Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Clark: Work on custom muscle cars
— Redshirt freshman safety Yusuf Corker II: Pediatric Surgeon
— Sophomore punter Colin Goodfellow: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
— Sophomore defensive tackle Kordell Looney: Accountant
Word to describe him on the field:
— Sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden: “Calm”
— Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Hoak: “Poised”
— Sophomore center Drake Jackson: “Cerebral”
— Junior offensive guard Logan Stenberg: “Nasty”
— Freshman offensive lineman Naasir Watkins: “Whoa”
Life’s theme song
— Senior kicker Miles Butler: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
— Senior tight end C.J. Conrad: “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled
— Junior linebacker Kash Daniel: “Hells Bells” by AC/DC
— Senior safety Mike Edwards: “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
— Sophomore linebacker William Nalty: “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw