College basketball may be falling apart behind the scenes, but in Kentucky, things are coming together, and at the right time.
Kentucky looked great for a third straight game on Saturday with a redemption win over Missouri. The 87-66 victory stretched UK’s current win streak to three and pushed the ugly four-game losing streak farther back in the rearview mirror. It also propelled the Cats in the SEC standings, which had a six-way tie for third place entering the day.
As I’m sure you saw, there is a lot to be excited about from the blowout win, Kentucky’s 20th on the season. Join me in numbering that excitement in this weekend’s edition of the 10 takeaways and observations from the game.
1. Six of the Cats reached double digits.
The Cats shared the rock and got everyone involved as six players scored 10+ points in the game. Kevin Knox led the bunch with 21 points; followed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with 15; Quade Green and P.J. Washington with 12 apiece; and Jarred Vanderbilt and Hamidou Diallo, each with 11. Gilgeous-Alexander also had eight of the team’s 16 assists. It was a great game for the offense, which is finally answering Calipari’s call to trust each other.
2. Jarred Vanderbilt was a rebounding machine.
Vanderbilt matched his career-high in rebounds (11) with 15 minutes still left in the game, and finished it out with a remarkable 15 rebounds in a career-high 27 minutes of action. The big night produced the first double-double of his career, and you’d be smart in assuming it won’t be his last.
Oh, and he was perfect from the field, so it’s time we lay off his scoring ability too. He’s playing insanely well.
3. Hamidou Diallo smiled again.
Diallo got a warm reception from Rupp Arena when he drained a three-pointer early in the game. He would go on to hit another two three-pointers, and throw down a big dunk, all part of a bounce-back game for him. Hopefully, it got him out of the nasty funk he’s been in and will get his confidence back up because he’s too good to be a non-factor like he had been in recent weeks. Good for Hami.
4. The win likely punched Kentucky’s ticket to the dance.
Not that there was any serious doubt about Kentucky’s postseason future, but let’s say there was; it’s gone now.
5. Missouri scored all of its points on that one guy’s stepback three.
Kassius Robertson has one move and it’s a deadly one. You know what I’m talking about — that stepback contested three-pointer he kept taking over and over. I think it’s the only way Mizzou scored all night. Good for him. He can step back to Missouri with the L.
6. Michael Porter Jr. DNP
Mizzou’s Michael Porter Jr. once projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, decided not to test his back against Kentucky. After missing all but two minutes in the first game of the season, Porter Jr. was cleared to return to basketball this past Thursday. There was talk that he might give it a go in Rupp, but he did not get out of his warmups.
I will say, though: Porter Jr. looked like the best basketball player ever in the pregame. I watched him hit about 49 of 50 three-pointers, some as deep as the UK logo, prior to the game. He has a great outside shot and plenty of size and athleticism to go with it. He’ll be special if he can stay healthy.
7. Where is Jemarl Baker?
I couldn’t help but notice Jemarl Baker wasn’t on the UK bench for yet another game. I do not know what’s going on with Baker, but something’s up there. He’s been missing from the bench the last couple of games.
Tai Wynyard was also MIA again.
8. E.J. Montgomery saw a good game.
Saturday was a big recruiting night for the future of UK basketball. E.J. Montgomery was the biggest name in attendance; the five-star power forward, ranked sixth overall in the 2018 class, was on an unofficial visit. UK also hosted KyKy Tandy, an in-state kid out of University Heights Academy in Hopkinsville, and point guard Elijah Wood, a 2020 prospect.
9. The 1978 reunion was very cool.
The ’78 national champs were honored at halftime with player-by-player introductions after a special tribute video to their special season. Like many of you, I didn’t exist when Joe B. Hall coached the Cats to a 30-2 record and the title, but it was still a very cool experience to be in Rupp Arena as they were celebrated, 40 years later.
10. It’s impossible to not be excitement about March.
If you watched Kentucky’s last three games, you know they’re looking much better each time out as the pieces are finally falling into place. The fans who wrote this team off as “never getting out of the first weekend” may want to backpedal on that mindset and keep an open mind toward what can happen. I’m not saying this team will do anything amazing, but you can’t ignore the potential of some fun in March if they keep pushing forward. And as we’ve seen around the landscape of college basketball, there isn’t an unbeatable team in the country.
All together now… “I like my team.”
By Maggie Davis on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 11:37pm
Kevin Knox was a popular man tonight, and not necessarily because of his 21-point performance against Missouri. The media finally got a chance to ask Knox about the recent allegations of rules violations, and boy, he handled the circus like a pro. Take a look:
Although Knox couldn’t disclose any specifics about his possible relationship with Andrew Miller or any potential meals the two may have shared – repeatedly saying “I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about the win” – he could provide insight into his mentality throughout this hectic week and how he first heard of the controversy.
“I just woke up and my dad texted me, he called me and just told me to make sure that I’m focused on the game, focus on your game, don’t focus on nothing [else],” Knox said. “So that’s what I did – I just focused on nothing that was going on. Just gotta stick to working out and making sure I got ready for the game tonight. ”
Despite the allegations, Knox said he was never worried about losing his eligibility for tonight’s game.
“I was sure that I would be able to play this whole week. I wasn’t really focused on none of that,” Knox said. “I let Kentucky and I let the compliance office handle all that, and I was just focused on my game, focused on my teammates, and on just getting this win.”
And what about Coach Cal? What was his advice to the freshman?
“He just told me to stay focused. Don’t talk to nobody about nothing. Get in the gym. Work all this out. Don’t focus on none of it. Talk to your teammates, focus on your teammates, focus on the film.”
Catch all of Knox’s comments about the allegations (plus a few about his Missouri performance) in the video above.
Kentucky’s 1978 national champions were honored at halftime of the game to a loud ovation from fans in Rupp Arena. The ceremony included player-by-player introductions at halfcourt, some words from Joe B. Hall, and a tribute video to their magical season of 40 years ago.
See that tribute video here:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 25, 2018
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 10:34pm
For the third consecutive game, the Kentucky Wildcats dominated the competition and looked like a true threat in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Kentucky defeated Missouri 87-66, and it was arguably the team’s most complete performance of the year, impressing both offensively and defensively.
Tonight for the first time in SEC play, in fact, Calipari was able to unload the bench at the end of the game.
And Brad Calipari hit a three. It was that kind of night.
Six Wildcats finished the day in double figures, led by Kevin Knox with 21 points on 6-13 shooting. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander followed it up with 15 points, eight assists, and five rebounds in yet another well-rounded performance.
Hamidou Diallo also finally found his groove shooting the ball, finishing with 11 points on 3-3 shooting from beyond the arc, and one monster slam in transition.
Quade Green was the perfect offensive spark off the bench, finishing the night with 12 points on 5-6 shooting, two rebounds, three assists, and a steal. When the game was going back and forth late in the first half, Green’s big buckets allowed for the Cats to extend the lead and complete the blowout.
We also saw the best game of Jarred Vanderbilt’s young career. Late in the second half, the talented forward had a stretch with a strong slam on one end, and followed it up with two consecutive demoralizing blocks at the rim. He finished the day with 11 points on 4-4 shooting, 15 rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and just one turnover on the day.
As a team, the Cats shot 55% from the field and 63% from three. They also converted at the line, shooting 73% on 30 attempts.
Kentucky outrebounded the Tigers 36-32, finished with ten more assists, three less turnovers, and the UK bench outscored Mizzou’s 38-15. Complete and utter domination.
Check out the full boxscore:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 3:00pm
Episode two of Inside the Madness: Kentucky Basketball has officially released on Facebook Live.
In the second edition, we get an inside look at Kentucky’s matchup against Virginia Tech back in December, featuring some inside information on Quade Green’s eye injury/goggle use, and the teammate support he received during that time.
We then get a one-on-one look with Wenyen Gabriel’s upbringing and humbling life story, and why exactly he’s so proud to represent his Sudanese heritage.
In the days leading up to the UCLA matchup, the entire Kentucky team and coaching staff participated in a charity event for Christmas, where they gave out food, had Santa Claus for the kids, and even provided gift cards and rent checks to families in need.
The documentary then takes us to New Orleans for Kentucky’s matchup with the UCLA Bruins, featuring the team finding chemistry off the floor, despite struggling on it.
Take a look at the entire episode below:
We’re back with episode 2!Guard Quade Green sidelined from a game day injury is questionable for Kentucky’s match up with Virginia Tech. Coach Cal has the team spread some holiday cheer and help those who are less fortunate. The Wildcats hit New Orleans and check out the big easy as they prepare for a game against UCLA.
Posted by Inside the Madness: Kentucky Basketball on Saturday, February 24, 2018
Once again, excellent work by the Facebook Live crew.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 1:10pm
This afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert went on CBS’s Inside College Basketball to discuss the major Yahoo! Sports reports released in the last few days and the current state of the sport.
In the interview, Emmert said he sees major “systematic changes” coming to college basketball this summer.
He started by saying college basketball players should be allowed similar leeway as college baseball and hockey athletes when it comes to dealing with agents.
Clark Kellogg asked Emmert for his opinions on CBB having a different set of rules for players’ relationships with agents than baseball or hockey. Emmert: “It makes perfect sense to me that it ought to be very different than it is now” for CBB.
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 24, 2018
Emmert says he understands the frustrations of those wanting to see change, and they’re going to make that a point of emphasis going forward.
“No one wants to hear words, they want to see action, and I get that as much as anyone,” he said. “We’re serious about that, and I, along with the board of directors, are focused on really making a systemic change starting this Spring and going forward through this summer.”
In fact, Emmert says we will likely have new changes in place by the time college basketball tips off next fall.
“They’re going to be putting forth their recommendations and bringing them forward during the month of April, and then the boards are going to act on them and act on them quickly. We need to act and have changes in place before tipoff of next season. Failure to do that will really erode everyone’s confidence in what this wonderful game is truly all about,” he said.
As far as the current basketball season goes and the upcoming NCAA tournament, Emmert says they will act on eligibility concerns before Selection Sunday.
“By the time we get to Selection Sunday, we’ll have a much better handle on what’s going on with the current students so we have eligibility solutions in place for those who are and aren’t eligible,” said Emmert. “Everyone in the selection committee and the fans out there will really know what’s going on.”
Though the Yahoo! Sports report was troublesome, Emmert believes the vast majority of college basketball is well-behaved and those that are following the rules need to be recognized for that.
“The vast majority of coaches, and I believe this deeply, are behaving themselves and conducting themselves appropriately, as are the vast majority of student-athletes,” he said. “We need to recognize them for what they’re doing and their commitment and enjoy these great games.”
He finished the interview by saying those that violated the rules, “especially the adults,” will be held accountable for their actions.
“After the season is over, we’re going to go in and make changes to the nature of the rules and move forward. Especially the adults, we’re going to hold them accountable for their behavior.”
We’ve heard similar talk from Emmert in the past about “major changes” that never came to fruition, but hopefully the pressure of this latest nationwide scandal will (finally) force his hand.
Kentucky determines no eligibility issues or rules violations for any current student-athletes or staff
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 24th, 2018 @ 11:13am
The University of Kentucky has spoken.
After conducting an internal investigation yesterday afternoon, the school determined “there were no eligibility issues or rules violations for any current student-athletes or staff.”
They also said they would continue to work with all authorized authorities on the other issues at hand.
Here was the official statement from the Kentucky men’s basketball account:
… to Friday’s report. Kentucky will continue to work diligently with both the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 24, 2018
Looks like Kevin Knox will officially be playing tonight.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 23rd, 2018 @ 11:00pm
Waking up to the news that three Kentucky players were listed in documents obtained by the FBI was jarring to say the least, but after a deep breath and an hour to digest the story, I’m not nearly as panicked as I was when my phone went off this morning. Let’s break down the facts of what has been released and what to focus on going forward.
Nerlens Noel, Bam Adebayo, and Kevin Knox are all listed on financial documents from ASM Sports (Andy Miller’s agency).
- Nerlens, who briefly employed Miller as his agent, is listed as taking a $4,350 loan
- Bam is listed as taking a $12,500 loan, but did not sign with ASM. In a separate document, he is listed as being a “bad loan” with a $36,500 monetary amount.
- Kevin Knox is one of several players listed on an expense report as meeting or having a meal with former ASM associate Christian Dawkins.
The immediate concern is Knox
It’s important to point out that players are allowed to meet with agents; however, they are not allowed to accept money from them or have those agents pay for their meals. Yahoo did not post the actual expense report from Dawkins listing Knox, so it’s unclear who paid. If Knox did let Dawkins buy him a meal, it’s a violation and he could repay it and regain his eligibility; however, no one knows how the NCAA will handle any of this. Also, did UK already know about this, and if so, did they disclose it to the NCAA before the season began?
The big question now becomes…
Will Knox play tomorrow?
If he does, UK must be confident everything checks out. If not, there may be something there.
Bam’s involvement is by far the worst
According to these documents, Bam accepted either $12,500 or $36,500 from ASM, which was by their description a “bad loan” because he didn’t sign with the agency. Obviously, this is a way bigger deal than Knox having a meal with Christian Dawkins. The timeline becomes very important here. Bam’s $12,500 loan is listed on a balance sheet from December 31, 2015, so after he signed Kentucky (November 18, 2015). Did the payments come before or after that? If after, maybe it’s a good thing Luke Maye hit that shot.
Nerlens’ loan is the least of our worries
Nerlens was also listed on the December 31, 2015 balance sheet as taking a $4,350 loan from ASM, but Miller was his agent from June 2013 – December 2016. A professional player taking a loan from his agent is the least of Kentucky’ worries right now.
A rundown of players from other major programs
It’s definitely not just Kentucky:
- Dennis Smith, NC State – $43,500 loan, total of $73,500
- Markelle Fultz, Washington, $10,000 loan
- Miles Bridges – no specific amount, but per expense reports, “hundreds of dollars in advances”
- PJ Dozier, South Carolina – at least $6,115
- Josh Jackson, Kansas – $2,700
- Wendell Carter, Duke – Met or had meals with Dawkins
- Collin Sexton, Alabama – Met or had meals with Dawkins
- Tony Bradley, North Carolina – Met or had meals with Dawkins
No players from the 2011, 2012, 2014, or 2015 teams are listed
Which means for now, the banners are safe.
John Calipari is scheduled to talk to the media today
Calipari was scheduled to meet with reporters at 2:15 p.m. to preview tomorrow’s game vs. Missouri. That has yet to be confirmed this morning, but knowing Cal, I expect it will. Select players were scheduled to meet with the media at 1:45 p.m., but given this morning’s news, I doubt that happens.
UPDATE: John Calipari will address the media at 2:45 p.m. As expected, players will not be available for interviews.
John Calipari and Kevin Knox have not discussed this morning’s Yahoo! report that named Knox one of the college basketball players who met with shady sports agent Christian Dawkins.
Knox’s father, Kevin Knox Sr., has since come forward to say that meeting never happened, but Calipari has not yet had that conversation with his star forward.
When asked if Cal expects Knox to play against Missouri, Cal simply said, “At this point, I believe so. I mean (unless) there is something I don’t know.”
Calipari also said he hasn’t met with anyone from his team today.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 23rd, 2018 @ 11:15am
John Calipari has responded to Yahoo Sports’ report that three of his former and current players are part of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. Nerlens Noel, Bam Adebayo, and Kevin Knox are all listed on financial documents from ASM Sports, a sports agency headed by Andy Miller, but Cal denies that he or his staff had any involvement with Miller or ASM.
“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates,” Cal said. “Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
As mentioned earlier, UK President Eli Capilouto also released a statement.
“As I said to our Board of Trustees this morning, we learned late last night of a report from Yahoo Sports that provides more details regarding documents related to the federal investigation of potential NCAA violations. We began immediately to conduct our due diligence, and we will cooperate fully with any appropriate authorities. That is our commitment as a university to our Board of Trustees and to the Commonwealth. I will keep you informed of any developments should they arise in this matter.”
“We are aware of the report today by Yahoo! Sports,” Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart added. “We have not been contacted by the FBI or the NCAA, but since learning of the report, we have reached out to both the NCAA and our league office. We will be conducting an internal review. At this time, we have no further comment.”
For more on what the allegations facing Nerlens, Bam, and Knox mean, read our breakdown below.