By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 20th, 2019 @ 7:30pm
The bracket leak was a bit of a surprise but Kentucky’s seeding was anything but. The UK Hoops squad has been slotted as a six-seed in the Greensboro region with a first-round matchup against the Princeton Tigers. So what do we know about the Ivy League champs? Absolutely nothing! But that’s about to change right now. Let’s talk a look at who the Tigers are and what their matchup against Kentucky might look like.
*Attached to each statistic is the team’s national rank out of 351 teams*
Overall record: 22-9 (12-2 in Ivy League): 11-seed
Points per game: 70.7 (73rd)
Opponents points per game: 63.1 (126th)
Scoring margin per 100 possessions: +11.0 (68th)
Simple RPI: 57.1 percent (50th)
Strength of schedule according to MasseyRating: 42.57 (98th)
Key Wins: Quinnipiac +12 (26-6), Penn – twice (22-6)
Key Losses: George Washington -15 (10-20), Seton Hall -4 (15-15), Penn St. -8 (12-17)
- Just by looking at the resume, Kentucky has a clear advantage over this team. Princeton’s lack of impressive wins does them no favors. Their 2-1 record this season against Penn is the team’s biggest accomplishment (and make no mistake, it is impressive) and an early season win over Quinnipiac – also an 11-seed in the NCAA tournament – show they are capable of taking down good teams.
- But those key losses are bad. After beating Rider in the season opener, Princeton went on to lose seven straight games, three of them coming against the teams mentioned not far above. But I should also note that Bella Alarie – who we’ll talk about more in a minute – didn’t play a game this season until Dec. 8 against Quinnipiac. She’s basically the entire team. Just by looking at Princeton’s record, which sits at 22-9, we can decipher that they eventually turned things around. A 1-7 start ended with a 21-2 run; the two losses coming against Penn and in overtime against Yale. They’ve won 12 in a row since the Yale loss, dominating mostly mediocre Ivy League teams struggling to straddle .500 records.
- The Tigers strength of schedule (98th) doesn’t frighten the Cats at all (who sit at 44th in the same ranking) and they give up a considerable amount of points for a team that played so many subpar opponents.
- The name you need to know more than other is Bella Alarie. You might recall Jack’s recent piece about Alarie and her insane ability to score the ball. She’s put up 45 against Columbia, 38 and 31 against Yale, 41 against Dartmouth, and 33 against Penn. 12 times this season has she posted at least 20 points in a game. She also did not go one game this year without scoring at least 10 points. She leads her Princeton squad in all four categories of points at 23.0 per game (7th in the nation), rebounds with 10.4, assists with 3.3, and blocks at 2.9 (5th in nation). At 6-foot-4, she’s converted on over 52 percent of her shots this season and can step out beyond the perimeter if she needs to (13-40 from three on the season – 32.5 percent). She ranks in the 90th percentile or higher in so many categories, according to Her Hoop Stats, that it doesn’t even make sense to list them all.
- But it’s not all about Alarie. Sure, she is 100 percent the team’s best player and has dominated the stat sheet since conference play began, but the Tigers go deeper than just one incredible player. Gabrielle Rush and Carlie Littlefield are the two dynamic guards for Princeton that will give the Cats fits. They combine to average 26 points per game and both average at least 1.5 steals per game. They can bomb threes with the best of them. Rush, specifically, will do everything in her power to take upwards of 10 threes in this matchup. She’s already attempted at least 10 threes in a game eight different times this season. She shoots right at eight triples per game, connecting on a hair under 35 percent of them. Over two-thirds of her shot attempts this season have been from deep. Littlefield isn’t the same type of sharpshooter – although she’s made 36.2 percent of her threes on 3.9 attempts per game – but is much more adept at getting to the rim. She gets to the charity stripe over four times per game while connecting on over 75 percent of her freebies.
- Outside of Alarie, Rush, and Littlefield, Princeton doesn’t offer much that should scare the Wildcats. Shutting down Alarie would end this game pretty quickly, even if the other two can get hot from deep.
- The statistics show that Princeton is a solid defensive team, although the numbers are heavily inflated by the pure presence of Alarie. She’s an elite scorer, rebounder, passer, and shot blocker who rarely makes mistakes. Just by being on the floor, Princeton goes from a team that lost seven-straight to winning 12 in a row shortly after. She’s going to take 20 shots in this game and will likely make more than half of them. Despite playing in only 22 games this season, she still ranks second in the country in most overall made field goals. It’s going to be the difficulty of the shots Kentucky forces that will decide the game.
- The most notable aspect of this game will be the rebounding war. If you haven’t heard by now, Kentucky is one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country – ranking 340 out of 351 in defensive rebounds per game. They are slightly above average on the offensive glass, which can be credited to crafty guards crashing after misses and consistently high energy. But on the other end, their lack of big bodies betrays them. The Cats don’t have anyone who can size up with Alarie on the glass and the Tigers other rebounding expert, Taylor Baur, has been making a living on the glass since January. Baur’s 17.2 rebounding rate ranks above the 90th percentile among all players. Princeton is a middling team in terms of rebounding and are far superior on the defensive end than the offensive end, but the size of Alarie and Baur could make it difficult for Kentucky to sneak in for unexpected boards.
- But here are a few bright signs for Kentucky. Princeton isn’t a great three-point shooting team, something that has plagued the Cats several times this season. The Tigers don’t get to the free-throw line that often, despite posting an impressively high percentage (which Kentucky needs to be careful of, as they send opponents to the line more than most teams). Princeton also allows a concerning amount of shots to go up. They rank among the bottom 150 teams (out of 351) in overall field goals attempted/made. They’ve given up 210 three-pointers this season, 297th worst in the country. Maci Morris just yelped in excitement after reading that stat.
- Here’s what I expect from Princeton. Bella Alarie is going to go off. I don’t think there is any way around that at this point. She is a matchup nightmare for anyone on Kentucky’s roster. Rhyne Howard might find herself guarding the junior the most with Morris, Tatyana Wyatt, and KeKe McKinney giving it their best effort, as well. Princeton is probably going to block a lot of shots. They won’t make many mistakes if they can break a deadly full-court press from the Wildcats. They’ll produce a balanced scoring attack. Rush and Littlefield have to play at the top of their game.
- But Kentucky is going to win, and here’s why.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Kentucky goes nine players deep with a solidified rotation heading into the postseason. The three-headed scoring monster of Howard, Morris, and Taylor Murray is unlike anything Princeton has seen this season. Alarie might be the most talented player on the floor, but Kentucky boasts the next best three.
- The outside shot is going to be vital for Kentucky’s success. As I ran through before, Princeton is not great at defending the three and the Cats trot out four players who shoot over 35 percent from deep. I wouldn’t expect another dreadful 0-16 shooting “exhibition” from downtown as we saw in the SEC Tournament.
- Murray giving both Littlefield and Rush hell in the full-court press will dictate the pace. The two Princeton guards combine to average 4.1 turnovers per game. Murray by herself averages 3.3 steals per game and is infatuated with aggressive ball handlers who think they can outsmart her with either speed or strength. She should have an absolute field day with picking apart the Tigers in the backcourt.
- Once Princeton crosses half court and can get Alarie involved is where they can beat the Cats. It’s hard to mess up when the majority of the Tigers offense is feeding Alarie. Keeping the ball out of her hands at all times will be huge. Expect double teams, maybe even triple teams, coming her way.
- A real test will be Howard, Wyatt, and McKinney battling with the Princeton bigs on the offensive glass. All three Wildcats are above-average rebounders on the offensive glass and a big reason the team earns a good amount of second-chance points.
- My prediction is Kentucky pulls away from Princeton late in the game. There might be some rust coming out of the gate after not playing in over two weeks and the Cats have been notorious for some slow starts in conference play. But the pure talent that Kentucky puts on the court puts them above the Tigers. The bench mob for the Wildcats should dominate the weaker and less-experienced second unit of Princeton. Alarie might go off for 25 points, but if no one else tops 10 then it’s a wrap for the Ivy League champions. Maci Morris needs to come out shooting with no fear. She’s really struggled from the field the last six games (15-61 overall – 24.5 percent) and is averaging under 10 points in those outings. If she can watch that first triple splash right through the net in the opening minute, that might be all she needs to get in a groove. We know what Murray brings with her defensive intensity and rim-driving. We know that Howard is going to get her shots up. A more involved offensive attack featuring McKinney and Wyatt along with a good shooting day from Morris will be the X-factors. A matchup in the second round against the winner of NC State-Maine is on the way.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 19th, 2019 @ 10:30am
As the dust settles on yesterday afternoon’s NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket snafu, it’s time to turn our attention to Kentucky’s opening-round opponent: the Princeton Tigers.
The No. 11 seed Tigers finished the regular season with a record of 22-9, including a winning streak of 12 to close out the year. They finished 8-3 at home, 12-3 on the road, and 12-2 in conference play this season, but starting this Saturday, the slate is wiped clean when they take on the Wildcats in Raleigh, NC at 11:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
And they’ll do it with their superstar forward, Bella Alarie, running the show.
Alarie, a 6-foot-4 junior out of Bethesda, MD, finished the season averaging 23 points (53 percent overall, 33 percent from three, 83 percent from the free throw line), 10.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, three blocks, and 1.2 steals per game.
With Alarie, it’s must-see TV every time she takes the floor, as she has very few, if any, holes in her game. And it’s why she’s set to make history when her college basketball career comes to a close, becoming the first Ivy League player since Allison Feaster (Harvard graduate in 1998) to carve out a lengthy WNBA career.
“I talk to WNBA coaches all the time about her,” Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart said in an article published by the New York Times. “So certainly, she’s no secret to the WNBA.”
So what has made her such a dangerous threat? At 6-foot-4, she’s a forward with immaculate guard skills. Her defensive instincts are second-to-none. She’s gifted with both hands, she’s an elite rebounder, and her basketball IQ is through the roof.
It’s why she’s expected to be a sure-fire first-round draft selection.
“I think a lot of it was really focusing on my guard skills,” Alarie said in the article. “I think my dad knew that from a young age, that developing skills early would really benefit me in the long run. We didn’t really know how tall I would be, so I’m really lucky that I kept growing.”
This season alone, Alarie has scoring outputs of 45 (Ivy League single-game scoring record), 41, 38, 33, and 31, including double-digit point totals in all 22 games she touched the floor.
When she missed the team’s first nine games of the season with a broken arm, Princeton had a record of 2-7. With Alarie back on the floor, the Tigers finished the season 20-2.
Princeton may be considered a No. 11 seed overall, but right now, they’re playing like one of the best teams in the nation with their star forward leading the way.
The No. 6 Wildcats are certainly talented enough on their end to pull off the opening-round victory on Saturday, but they’ll certainly have their hands full with Bella Alarie.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 18th, 2019 @ 9:30pm
The Kentucky women’s basketball team now knows where they’re going this weekend, who they’ll play and what time they’ll tip off (you can get all of that info HERE). Although they didn’t get the “normal” Selection Show experience, the team still got together for a Selection Monday feast. I didn’t score any food, but they did let the media speak with Coach Matthew Mitchell as well as seniors Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Here are the day’s biggest takeaways:
On the bracket leak…
Overall, they didn’t seem too upset. The team must have been practicing when the news broke on Twitter, because Murray said their coach told his players he had a “surprise” for them. Of course, this surprise was an early peak at their bracket. For Morris, it was a relief.
“I’ve been anxious to find out who we play and where we’re going, so finding out a little sooner wasn’t too bad,” the guard laughed.
This year, the team wasn’t necessarily worried about whether or not they’d make the tournament – Coach Mitchell said they felt pretty confident they’d qualify after earning their eighth conference win back in mid-February. Instead, they were really just interested in their opponent and their location. And besides, mistakes happen.
“You have to take life the way things come at you… Things happen. We’ve all made a lot of mistakes and whoever did that, just made a mistake,” Mitchell said of the graphic flub. “We’ll extend them some grace and move on – we’re just happy to be playing.”
On comparing this year to last…
A year can make a huge difference. Last year on Selection Monday, the Kentucky Wildcats did not hear their name called – plus, there was no bracket leak to soften the blow. Mitchell recalled the “crushing” experience.
“You think back to a year ago today when your name’s not called, and it was an incredible disappointment for the first time in eight years,” the head coach said. “The players felt that; they knew what that meant. It was incredibly crushing, incredibly disappointing.”
Fast forward to a year later, and the Cats have earned a No. 6 seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The results of last year’s hard work didn’t culminate in a 2018 Tournament bid, but it did carry over throughout the off-season and into this year. Two years of hard work made today even sweeter, according to the Wildcats’ coach.
“This is a team that was able to make the sum be greater than the parts,” he said. “That is a true team and a true testament to these players. I’m particularly proud of this particular bid to the tournament.”
Last year, the team felt what it feels like to experience a season cut short. It stung at the time, sure, but it made the returning players all the more hungry for this season. Morris said the experience taught her about “definitely not taking [the Tournament] for granted.”
This year, there are only a few competing players on the roster who have even experienced post-season play. What do these two particular veterans tell their younger teammates?
“It’s the most fun time of the year,” Murray said. “This is what we’ve worked all season for – to try and make a run in the NCAA Tournament and again, to try and make it to the Final Four. We just have to take it one game at a time and enjoy the moment.”
On how ready they are to get back on the court…
Very. Kentucky hasn’t played in a game since March 8, when Missouri beat them 70-68 in overtime to advance in the SEC Tournament. While ten days may not seem like a long time away from the game, it’s a lifetime compared to the rigor of conference play. Mitchell said he gave his team three whole days off to rest and recover after the loss, then it was back to business. But those few days off were a huge help, according to Mitchell and his players.
“For this particular team and this particular year, it was really good for us,” Coach said. “Coming down the stretch, we were playing tough, tough games… Our last five games were a real grind and, I thought, had just depleted us from an emotional standpoint and from an energy standpoint.”
He went on to discuss the team’s effort after their short break, saying they were more energetic, more enthusiastic and just had more of a “pop.” During this time of the season, where there’s the possibility of playing multiple games in a very short period of time, that’s more important than ever.
The time off also helped Morris get back into the swing of things, after a minor leg injury affected her performances during the back-half of the season. As the team heads into the Tournament, Mitchell is confident she’ll be back to 100 percent.
“She’s one of the most incredible competitors I’ve ever been around, and I can promise you she wants to win on Saturday. She will move Heaven and Earth to get it done,” Mitchell said. “On my list of concerns, she’s way down on the list. I can tell you she’ll be ready to roll Saturday.”
As for Morris, she’s feeling pretty good about herself, too.
“Time is on your side when it comes to trying to heal yourself,” she said. “Luckily, we’ve had time for my leg to heal up, so I’m just excited to get back out there and play like I used to.”
On their opponent…
The No. 11 Princeton Tigers. Coach Mitchell says he knows their coach, Courtney Banghart, well, but he hasn’t had the chance to catch a Princeton game yet this year. Starting tonight, that’ll change.
“After this, we’ll start digging into the Princeton Tigers,” Mitchell said. “You don’t know who you’re playing, so we just work hard to become the best version of Kentucky… and I like what I’ve seen from that standpoint.”
The Cats got Saturday’s early game: they’ll face the Tigers at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 18th, 2019 @ 5:20pm
A mixup in ESPN’s graphic department may have ruined the surprise, but the women’s basketball Selection Monday show has now made the bracket official: the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats will take on No. 11 Princeton Saturday. The game will be played in Raleigh, North Carolina and is set to tip off at 11 a.m. This year marks the Wildcats’ 15th NCAA Tournament appearance.
UK’s bracket also features No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 7 seed Missouri. The Cats defeated Mizzou 52-41 at home during the regular season, but the Tigers came back with a vengeance in the SEC Tournament. No. 5 Missouri narrowly defeated No. 4 Kentucky 70-68 in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.
A look at the rest of UK’s bracket in the Greensboro Regional:
Someone at ESPN is in a lot of trouble.
Earlier today, the network mistakenly aired the NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket on a sidebar during its men’s tournament coverage on ESPNU. As Dick Vitale talked about the matchups in a men’s Bracketology special, we learned Kentucky is a No. 6 seed, playing in the Greensboro Region. Its first opponent will be Princeton in Raleigh on Saturday. Baylor is Kentucky’s No. 1 seed in the tournament.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) March 18, 2019
Kentucky’s spot isn’t much of a surprise considering it is exactly where ESPN’s Women’s Bracketology had the Cats slotted earlier today. However, interest in tonight’s Women’s Selection Show just dropped significantly.
UPDATE (4:54) — ESPN Apologizes
The four-letter network has apologized and moved up the Selection Show.
In working with the NCAA to prepare for tonight’s Women’s Selection Special we received the bracket, similar to years past. In the midst of our preparation, the bracket was mistakenly posted on ESPNU. We deeply regret the error and extend our apology to the NCAA and the women’s basketball community. We will conduct a thorough review of our process to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. We will now broadcast the full bracket at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and the regularly-scheduled show on ESPN at 7 p.m.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 17th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
The selection show for the 2019 NCAA Women’s basketball tournament is a little over a day away. The Kentucky Wildcats will find out its seeding along with the path it will have to take to make a run deep into March, and potentially into April, on Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
ESPN currently has the UK Hoops squad as a six-seed in the Greensboro region, facing Rice University in round one located in Raleigh, North Carolina. A top-four seed might be too much to ask for at this point, especially following the loss in the SEC tournament to the Missouri Tigers, but the top-six should almost be guaranteed. Receiving a top-four seed means that the Wildcats would play its first two rounds in Lexington at Memorial Coliseum, but they would have most likely needed to at least make the SEC Championship game to ensure that. Now, they are projected to be grouped into a set where NC State is the three seed and hosts the first two rounds.
Let’s go over Kentucky’s resume ahead of the selection show and try to better figure out where this team could be seeded.
RECORD: 24-7 (11-5 in SEC play)
- 16-6 against teams that finished with winning records.
- 8-1 against teams that finished with losing records.
- 2-5 against teams that were ranked in the top-25 at the time.
KEY WINS: North Carolina (N), UCLA (N), @ Tennessee, vs. South Carolina, vs. Missouri
BAD LOSSES: @ Ole Miss
HER HOOPS OFFENSIVE RATING: 106.8 – ranks 41st out of 351 teams
HER HOOPS DEFENSIVE RATING: 78.8 – ranks 10th out of 351 teams
HER HOOPS STATS RATING: 28.0 – ranks 18th out of 251 teams
Simple RPI – 61.4 percent – ranks 18th out of 351 teams
Kentucky averages 100.3 points per 100 possessions on offense (56 out of 351 teams) while holding opponents to only 82.3 points per 100 possessions (22 out of 351 teams). The Wildcats margin of victory this season, plus-13.5, is also one of the highest marks in the country, ranking 24th nationally.
Compared to other projected four-seeds such as South Carolina and Texas A&M – teams that Kentucky went 1-3 against this season – the Wildcats don’t stack up quite as evenly. The strength of schedule favors the two fellow members of the SEC and the head-to-head wins obviously don’t favor the Cats. The other two projected four-seeds – Oregon State and Iowa State – have considerably better overall resumes than Kentucky, especially Iowa State. But Kentucky does have a legitimate argument for a five-seed.
Missouri is projected to claim a five-seed over the Cats, despite splitting the season series 1-1. The other five-seeds – Arizona State, Gonzaga, and Marquette – all have arguments to be replaced by Kentucky. Missouri’s strength of overall schedule gives the team a boost in its resume, but one extra conference loss and three more overall losses than the Cats are hard to ignore. The Tigers win over then-ranked No. 5 Mississippi State is better than anything Kentucky can brag about, but conference losses to Florida, Auburn, and LSU along with an early season loss to Green Bay should not be overlooked. Arizona State is probably solid as a five-seed but arguments could be made for Kentucky over both Gonzaga and Marquette – two teams that post slightly better production numbers on both sides of the court as the Cats but played considerably worse overall schedules.
I think a six-seed should be the worst case scenario for the Cats and a five-seed is likely its ceiling. A four-seed just seems like way too much of a stretch without any notable wins in the SEC tournament. Had the Cats been able to knock off Missouri, they would have faced the eventual champion Mississippi State Bulldogs anyways. With the way the Bulldogs have been playing over the last month, it’s hard to believe Kentucky could have pulled off the upset, but the fact that Missouri could find itself a spot ahead of the Cats speaks to the value of that quarterfinals matchup in which Mizzou beat Kentucky. If the Tigers claim a five-seed while the Wildcats fall to a six, we can look at that game as a major reason why. Now, if Kentucky had taken down Missouri in overtime and then found a way to send the Bulldogs home, a four-seed would be on the table. An SEC tournament championship could have opened up the potential for a three-seed, but that’s irrelevant now.
A matchup with Rice?
If the ESPN projections end up being accurate (and I feel like the actual matchups themselves normally aren’t), the Cats could be looking at taking on Rice University in round one. To give a quick idea of who they are, just know that they did not lose a conference game this season, going 16-0 and posting an overall record of 28-3. Now, two of the Owls three losses this season have come against teams that Kentucky beat (North Carolina and UCLA) and the other loss was a season-opener against Texas A&M. Rice starts a 6-foot-9 sophomore, Nancy Mukley, who is one of the nation’s best shot blockers and its star is Erica Ogwumike, who averaged 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season.
Don’t forget to watch the announcement of the bracket live on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Monday.
(Stats via Her Hoops Stats)
The Kentucky Wildcats may be coming off a disappointing loss in the first round of the SEC Tournament, but should still find themselves as a five or a six seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Falling to the Missouri Tigers in the quarterfinals put on display some of the issues that could haunt the run-and-gun Wildcats as they try to make a deep run in March.
Obviously, shooting 0-16 from three is the easiest way to lose an important game – which is exactly what Kentucky did against the Tigers. They were also outrebounded once again, however that’s nothing new at this point. But, there was one aspect in particular that concerned me more than the others, and that was the lack of bench scoring.
Since KeKe McKinney was sidelined for the Missouri game as she was in the concussion protocol, Amanda Paschal started in her place. Counting Paschal – who typically comes off the bench and has started only four games this season – Kentucky’s bench scored only 10 of the team’s 68 points. Four each from Paschal and Jaida Roper, two from Blair Green, and zero from Ogechi Anyagaligbo. Those four combined for 76 minutes. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, more production off the pine is going to be necessary.
The team has long been pioneered by the three-headed monster of the two seniors, Maci Morris and Taylor Murray, along with star freshman Rhyne Howard. Kentucky will go as far as those three take them. The Wildcats have been able to win games all season without all three of them playing up to their standards at the exact same time, but not without major contributions from the second unit.
Rarely will all three of Morris, Murray, and Howard sit at the same time. Head coach Matthew Mitchell likes to stagger his three stars and just from what my eyes have told me, I’d say that Murray is the one who runs solo more than either of the other two. Morris is a deadly shooter, but needs someone like Murray or Howard to help get her open. Murray is a hound on both ends of the court while Howard can create her own shot better than anyone on the team. But we saw in Greenville how relying on two of the three – or even just one of the three – can lead to problems.
Howard posted 25 points against Mizzou and the trio combined for 47 points – 69 percent of Kentucky’s total offense.
Throughout the season, Kentucky has received solid – yet inconsistent – play from the bench unit. Kentucky brings four players off the bench in its regular rotation; Roper, Paschal, Green, and Anyagaligbo. Those four combined to average 18.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season, but will need even more come next week.
Let’s quickly run through what each player brings to the team and how they can help push Kentucky into a long run, starting with the native of Memphis.
Roper is essentially Kentucky’s sixth starter. She’s logged more minutes this season (628) than starting forward Tatyana Wyatt (595) and the fifth most among all players. She is the team’s de facto backup point guard. When Murray or Morris is out, Roper often finds herself running the offense, which she does with incredible confidence and swagger.
The junior guard isn’t prone to making mistakes and is a clever and inventive passer. Murray might be the best pure passer on the team, although she doesn’t do it with nearly as much flair as Roper. But that flair isn’t followed by bad decisions, as evident by her assist-to-turnover rate of 1.33, a mark that ranks her in the 88th percentile among all Division I players. She’s also crafty when she attacks the basket. Despite standing at only 5-foot-6, she gets to the free throw line at an efficient rate. Over 32 percent of her points come from the free throw line this season, one of the highest numbers in the entire country, and she converts those shots at over an 82 percent clip.
Roper is a necessary piece to this team. Her rainbow threes that narrowly miss the rafters are a staple of her game at this point. She’s a reliable and veteran guard who can come in and keep things flowing. She obviously isn’t the type of game manager that Murray is (not many are), but there also aren’t many teams in the country that can bring in a seasoned primary ball handler off the bench.
Paschal, like Roper, is another undersized junior guard. But unlike Roper, Paschal is more of a score-first player. While the basic numbers don’t particularly show that, Paschal can get going rather quickly. Her minutes have fluctuated heavily throughout the year, but she scored a total of 18 points over the last three games. If she gets an open look in the mid-range, she’s taking it nine times out of 10.
She also scores a majority of her points from the charity stripe. She ranks in the 95th percentile in the country in points off of free throws and similarly posts an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio much like Roper. The two make up for a dependable backup backcourt that isn’t going to come in and toss the game away. If anything, they’ve been more likely to bring the Cats back than fumble a lead. But Paschal hasn’t been shooting at an all that efficient rate for as much as she likes to fire up shots.
On the season, Paschal has shot under 30 percent from the field – 29.8 percent to be exact – and is only 7-21 on her three-point attempts this season. But she’s tough with the ball and has a euro step move that can get her to the rim with ease. Her footwork is impressive when you consider she’s played the entire season with a massive brace protecting her previously injured knee.
With the constant foul trouble that Morris, and especially Howard, have gotten themselves into this season, bringing in Roper and Paschal off the bench is wildly important. Someone has to soak up those guard minutes and Kentucky has two candidates who have been up to the task this season. If Paschal can continue to play at the high-level she has been in recent weeks and her shots start to fall at a higher clip, Kentucky won’t lose much production in the 10-15 minutes she replaces Murray or Morris. With Roper, she just needs to keep playing the way she has all season.
If these two are open, they better be shooting. They can both score in a variety of ways and Roper is obsessed with playing up to the desired pace of Coach Mitchell.
Green is the only other freshman on the team aside from Howard. And while her potential doesn’t match that of Howard’s, Green has already shown several signs of being a starting caliber player as soon as next season.
Of the four bench players being discussed, Green is easily the best shooter. For the most part, she’ll shoot from anywhere as long as she has a couple inches of space. She’s made almost 43 percent of her shots this season and ranks third on the team in three-point percentage at 38.1 percent. Standing at an even six-feet, she plays mostly the forward spot but is probably the third best pure shooter on the team behind Morris and Howard. She loves to rise right over her defender and drill 12-footers straight in their eye.
Scoring is her calling. She’s not a great rebounder and isn’t the most athletic player, but seriously, you don’t ever expect her to miss a shot from the middle of the court. She’s definitely a freshman in most aspects of her game (41 turnovers to only 13 assists is the most telling stat), but her ability to shoot the ball is far ahead of the curve.
It’s going to take time for her to really develop into a nightly threat, but rounding out the deficiencies in her game shouldn’t be too hard. Unfortunately, she can’t incorporate an entire offseasons worth of work before the tournament starts next week. So what Kentucky needs from her is exactly what I’ve been talking about. Points.
She’s hit double-digits in scoring on four occasions this season, but hasn’t topped that threshold since Feb. 7. Anywhere from six to eight points per game from Green during the tournament would be ideal. She’s the one player you can replace Howard or Morris with and still run plays for to get open looks from deep.
The fourth and final bench squad member is Anyagaligbo. At 6-foot-1, she’s the best option off the bench to come in and fight with opposing frontcourts. Like Paschal, she’s also coming off a knee injury that sidelined her for an extended period of time and plays with a brace on it to keep everything stable. She’s clocked only 346 minutes this season, the fewest among her teammates who have registered at least 55 minutes, but still plays an important role.
If McKinney or Wyatt are dealing with foul trouble or need rest, it’s been Anyagaligbo filling that void as the bruiser down low. In fact, she might be the team’s best overall rebounder. She actually ranks higher than the 80th percentile in all three of offensive rebounding rate (86.7 percentile), defensive rebounding rate (80.1 percentile), and total rebounding rate (83.5 percentile). Her 13.3 percent rebounding rate is the highest on the team. She isn’t the most mobile player and it affects her ability to stay in front of the ball and establish rebounding position, but she can body opposing bigs right out of view.
Her scoring is inconsistent. She’s currently shooting 38.3 percent from the field and over 90 percent of her shots come from two-pointers. She does have a go-to move where she can face up on the block and fire up a quick jump shot that I have yet to see someone defend with success. But if she isn’t getting to that spot, her offensive game is limited.
What Kentucky needs the most from her is tactical rebounding. Wyatt has been foul prone all season and if it continues into the tournament then Anyagaligbo is going to play some important minutes as Kentucky’s big down low.
As I said at the beginning, Kentucky will go as far as Murray, Morris, and Howard take them. The game starts and ends with those three. But basketball is a five-player sport and it’s going to need all four players off the bench to help the team stay constantly energized and unpredictable. Being able to go nine-players deep like Kentucky can is a luxury when the postseason rolls around.
(Statistics via Her Hoops Stats)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 15th, 2019 @ 5:45pm
Well, would you look at that, a freshman superstar for the Kentucky Wildcats was named National Freshman of the Year and won’t be heading to the professional ranks after one season.
After having the best freshman season in school history, UK Hoops guard Rhyne Howard has been named the National Freshman of the Year by espnW.
Howard, a native of Cleveland, Tenn., is now the first player in program history to win the award after she was recently named SEC Freshman of the Year – only the third Wildcat to claim that honor.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) March 15, 2019
This season, Howard has led the Wildcats in several categories, including points (16.3 per game), rebounds (6.7), and made field goals (178). She ranks second on the team in steals and is third in assists. On the year, Howard has shot 44.9 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from three, and just a shade under 70 percent from the free throw line.
On a team pioneered by the two seniors, Maci Morris and Taylor Murray, Howard has been the Lady Cats best player from the first game of the season and has improved in every game since then. Howard set the conference record for winning the most SEC Freshman of the Week awards at eight.
I highly doubt this is the last time this season you’ll be hearing Howard’s name on this site. The awards and recognitions are only going to continue to roll in as we head into the tournament. Congrats to a special talent. She has a real chance to be the best individual to ever wear a Kentucky uniform.
I think we can all agree that the Kentucky’s women’s basketball team won’t have another game where they shoot 0-16 from three. You know how the old saying goes: “live by the three, die by the three”. And while the current meaning of that saying has undergone reconstructive surgery since the three-point boom that has captivated the NBA, it still holds value for this UK Hoops team specifically.
But the Missouri Tigers didn’t live by the three its win over the Cats in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Missouri did hit six of its 15 attempts from deep, but also scored 24 points in the paint and hit 24 of 29 free-throw attempts. A much more balanced offensive attack than what Kentucky was going for. But that’s been Kentucky’s strategy for most of the season. If they can create enough looks from the outside, it opens up space for a driving Taylor Murray or a paint-posting Tatyana Wyatt.
In theory, the Cats did create those looks. It wasn’t like Missouri had both hands in the eyes of every three-point attempt by Kentucky. Kentucky just missed the shots. Rhyne Howard was 0-6 from three. Amanda Paschal was 0-4 from three despite playing an all-around solid game. Maci Morris only got off two attempts from deep. Kentucky is fourth in the SEC in made threes per game at 7.0. They rank 29th in the entire country in three-point percentage. They don’t take nearly as many of shots from the perimeter as you might think, actually (the team’s three-point rate ranks in the bottom half of the nation), but it’s a shot they rely on to get other looks. If the three isn’t falling, Kentucky struggles, and that could be an issue come tournament time. But we need to establish that there is no chance this team shoots 0-16 again from three. That just isn’t going to happen.
But there is a bad trend forming…
The three-point shooting struggles do indicate a trend, however. Kentucky went 11-6 in the SEC this year – including the tournament game against Missouri – and in the 11 wins, the team shot 35.6 percent from deep. In the six losses? They averaged 21.3 percent shooting from deep.
What’s somewhat frustrating is that Kentucky shot only 21.4 percent from three in the first matchup against Missouri back in late January. A game the Cats won rather handily.
Kentucky doesn’t need to make threes to win. While they went 4-2 in SEC play when they converted on more than 35 percent of its threes, they were 7-2 when they shot under 35 percent from three. They won three of those games despite shooting in the very low 20s. Its the mere threat of the three-point shot that makes the Cats so dangerous. Howard, Morris, Jaida Roper, and Blair Green all shoot over 35 percent from three and have to be defended along the perimeter. Howard, Green, and Morris are big enough that they typically draw the opposing teams better defenders/rebounders outside of the paint. It’s why Kentucky posts above-average offensive rebounding numbers despite being one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the entire country. Kentucky knows how to exploits holes in opposing defenses.
*Side Note: Kentucky pulled in 17 offensive rebounds against Mizzou in the SEC Tourney compared to only six for the Tigers, but were dominated on the defensive glass, 34-17.*
When the shots are falling from deep – even if it’s only a few of them – it draws those players out even further away from their preferred positioning. It makes the defenses uncomfortable. It’s one of the few things that can make up for the Wildcats lack of size in the frontcourt.
The defense appears to have a “switch”
Kentucky is well-known for its relentless full-court press. Its what kept Kentucky in the game against Missouri, as the Cats forced 26 turnovers, six of them courtesy of the Tigers best player, Sophie Cunningham.
But in the first quarter, the defense came out flat. And this isn’t the first time I’ve said this to myself. The offense has had issues with coming out flat this year – and scored only seven points in the first period against Missouri before posting 12, 21, and 19 in the following three. But the defense is what drives this team. Creating havoc in the backcourt and burning teams with fast break points is a staple of how this team generates points. If the defense isn’t making an impact, the offense can get stuck in halfcourt offensive sets.
Through the first five minutes against Mizzou, Kentucky’s defense was not engaged, and it allowed the Tigers to build an early lead off 15 first-quarter points (the second-most points by them in one period during this game). They actually had 12 points through the first seven minutes before Kentucky’s defense woke up and held them to only three points the rest of that period. But the damage had already been done. Kentucky didn’t get its first lead of the game until it was 51-50 in the fourth quarter.
I don’t think we’ve seen a full 40-minute defensive effort from this team in some time now. Obviously, it’s an incredibly difficult task to accomplish considering they have to play the other end of the floor as well. And there are times when the offense slows down to a pace that is less than ideal probably due to some tired legs.
Kentucky has recorded 335 steals this season, ranking 6th out of a possible 351 teams. Murray on her own has accounted for 30 percent of them. And while Murray is basically one giant ball of nonstop energy, even she can’t consistently go all out on both sides of the floor for an entire game. She sure has tried – and sometimes succeeded – to do so, but against the top squads in the NCAA Tournament, the team has to bring the defensive energy from the jump to help spark the offense (especially if the outside shots aren’t falling).
For what it’s worth, if Kentucky hits just one of its outside looks, they win this game. It’s not often you force the opposing team into 26 turnovers while shooting 18-19 from the charity stripe and lose a game. But when you shoot 6-32 in the first half (18.8 percent) and miss every three, that drastically reduces the odds to win. Let this team play Missouri in a seven-game series and the Cats win in five or six games, but that isn’t how things work. Missouri shot incredibly well (48.8 percent for the game) and Cunningham did just enough at the end to squeak out a win.
Rhyne Howard wants the big moment
She may have missed two potential game-winning shots – one at the end of regulation and another in overtime – but she is the primary player I want with the ball in her hands to end the game. She’s hit several big shots this year (look no further than the Arkansas game-winner from Feb. 17) and was itching to do it once more. Unfortunately, the shots didn’t go in against Missouri (although to be fair, no one else was hitting shots), but the confidence she displayed as a freshman, to be the go-to scorer on a team with perhaps one of the all-time greatest shooters to play for the blue and white in Morris, was telling.
As great as Morris and Murray have been all season, I’d guess they have no issue with Howard taking the big shots. You don’t find the confidence in freshmen that Howard possesses very often. Just her willingness to take these shots is insane for a first-year player. Don’t be surprised if she sends Kentucky into the Sweet 16 off of a fadeaway three from the top of the key. You know she’s dreaming of it. She won’t forget what happened in Greenville.
Now the Wildcats just have to sit and wait. The team won’t find out where the Selection Committee seeds them until Monday, March 18. I’ll have more in-depth breakdowns of the team and individual players throughout the week to try and give everyone a better idea of who this team is as they head into the final postseason schedule.
(Stats via Her Hoop Stats)
By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
An 0-16 shooting day from the three-point line ended Kentucky’s chances of moving on in the SEC Tournament as the fourth-seeded Wildcats fell to the fifth-seeded Missouri Tigers in overtime, 70-68.
Rhyne Howard scored 25 points for Kentucky on 11-18 shooting, but the Cats gave up 29 points to Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham. The Tigers as a team shot nearly 50 percent from the field, sending the Cats back to Lexington early. Despite forcing 26 Missouri turnovers, Kentucky shot only 32 percent from the field.
Starting forward KeKe McKinney was held out of the game as it was announced before tip-off that she is in the concussion protocol.
Missouri came out like they were still warmed up from the previous day’s win over the Florida Gators. A quick 7-0 run out of the gate put Kentucky in an immediate hole that would take until halfway through the second quarter to recover from.
The Cats would start the game 0-4 from the field while the Tigers were 4-8 and the lead quickly ballooned to an 11-2 advantage in favor of Mizzou, forcing Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell to burn a timeout.
The Cats defenses was nonexistent as the Tigers got any open look they wanted and controlled the early pace of the game. But after that timeout, the defensive energy shifted. Kentucky became much more aggressive and began to force Missouri into turnover after turnover.
The offense struggled the entire quarter, but six Tiger turnovers allowed Kentucky to stay close as they trailed 15-7 after the first 10 minutes. Heading into the second period, Kentucky had shot only 1-13 from the field while Missouri was a more efficient 5-13.
The offensive woes didn’t get too much better in the second quarter. A necessary 6-0 run from the Cats immediately got them back into the game and the defense was causing all sorts of issues with an onslaught of full-court pressing. A big shot inside the paint from Tatyana Wyatt tied the game for the first time since it was 0-0. After starting the game on 4-9 shooting, the Tigers went on a scoring drought where they converted on only one of its next nine shot attempts. But Missouri would soon rattle off a 10-0 run that put Kentucky back in a dangerous position.
At halftime, Kentucky trailed 27-19 and its trio of star players – Maci Morris, Taylor Murray, and Howard – were an abysmal 3-18 shooting from the field. Morris didn’t even score her first two points until she finally got to the free-throw line with under two minutes left in the half. Kentucky went 0-7 from three in the first two periods.
It wasn’t like the Cats were getting bad looks either, shots were just rolling around the rim and doing everything but finding the bottom of the net.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats were able to claw back into the game. Some big shots from Murray and Howard brought the Cats to within five halfway through the period, forcing a Missouri timeout. For what felt like the first time all game, Kentucky finally had the momentum on their side.
But a quick and-1 by the Tigers and a scary moment where Jaida Roper landed awkwardly on her ankle swung the tide back to Mizzou. Kentucky would then go through a couple of two-minute long scoring droughts and allowed a big triple from the Tigers right before the buzzer to push the lead back up to six heading into the final period.
Through three quarters, Missouri shot 15-32 (46 percent) from the field, compared to only 13-50 (26 percent) for Kentucky.
But the Wildcats saved its best shooting quarter for last, finally getting some shots to fall with the game on the line. Kentucky shot over 42 percent in the fourth period. Roper’s ankle wouldn’t keep her out long, either, as she started the final quarter.
The game went back-and-forth with Howard, Murray, Morris, and Wyatt hitting big shots down the stretch. A layup by Wyatt gave Kentucky its first lead of the game at 51-50. Cunningham was able to knock down some clutch free throws that ultimately sent the game into overtime after Howard missed a shot right before the buzzer to win the game.
The overtime period was a battle between stars, as Cunningham and Howard were exchanging points with the lead fluctuating throughout the extra five minutes. Wyatt hit a huge and-1 to put Kentucky down one with only eight seconds. But after fouling Cunningham – who would make only one of her two free throws on that trip – Mizzou pushed the lead back up to two before Howard missed the potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
Morris finished with eight points on 2-12 shooting while Murray and Wyatt combined for 25 points on 8-29 shooting.
Kentucky will now have to wait and see where the selection committee seeds them in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 5:06pm
Unfortunate news from Greenville, South Carolina, where the Kentucky women fell to Missouri 70-68 in overtime of the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
SEC Freshman of the Year Rhyne Howard scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds, her ninth 20-point game of the season, while Taylor Murray had 14 points and four assists. Unfortunately, Howard’s three at the end was no good, and the ladies will make their way back to Lexington to regroup for the NCAA Tournament.
Zack Geoghegan will be by in a bit with a full recap.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Afternoon, folks. I’m in Greenville, South Carolina covering my first ever basketball tournament for KSR. I think we’re all hoping for a long weekend and it starts today as Kentucky kicks off its postseason schedule. Let’s get right into it.
The No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats received a double-bye for the SEC Tournament this year and will face the five-seeded Missouri Tigers in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament today at 2:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Wildcats snuck in as the four seed after beating the Georgia Bulldogs in its final regular season game of the year and should be well-rested against a Missouri team the Cats already beat back on Jan. 23 by a score of 52-41. It was the lowest point total Missouri has posted all season long.
Heading into today’s matchup, let’s see if we can get a better idea of who this Missouri team is and how it will fair against our Cats.
The Tigers come in with an overall record of 22-9 and a conference record of 10-6, good enough for the fifth-seed and just a game below the Wildcats. Despite the Tigers finishing with a considerably worse record (UK finished 24-6), some key wins over an elite Mississippi State team on the road ranked in the top five along with another win against a top-20 team in the Texas A&M Aggies have both come in the last month. With that, SEC Network currently has them projected as a five-seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which is also where they project the Cats to be seeded.
Keep in mind, Kentucky was mopped by Mississippi State in early January and lost both games against the Aggies. But Kentucky has won seven of its last eight games while playing some of the best defensive basketball I’ve seen from them all season. The Tigers come in riding a three-game winning streak but are also coming into this game with less than 24 hours rest.
Missouri is led by 6-foot-1 senior guard, Sophie Cunningham. The Missouri native is averaging over 17 points and six rebounds per game while shooting over 47 percent from the field and slightly over 40 percent from three. She’s an incredibly versatile scorer who can give even the best defenses fits with her combination of size and scoring ability. Kentucky’s defense has been unbelievably stout that last few games, but Cunningham is a matchup nightmare for the undersized Kentucky frontcourt. It’ll be up to freshman star Rhyne Howard to try and give her fits throughout the game. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Taylor Murray take a crack at defending her, too, or even a zone defense to stop penetration and hopefully limit her to the perimeter.
In the first matchup against the Cats, Cunningham was the only Missouri player to score in double-figures as she went for 17 points on 5-12 shooting (3-7 from three) while having to play all 40 minutes. She is without a doubt the main source of offense for her team, but she turns the ball over more than almost any player in the entire country (right at 3.0 turnovers per game). Kentucky – who ranks second in the SEC in forced turnovers per game – should have a field day as Cunningham is forced into creating shots. The Cats forced her into four miscues in the first matchup.
The Tigers have several shooters that can space the floor in Amber Smith (35.8 percent from three), Lauren Aldridge (40.5 percent), and Hannah Schuchts (41.0 percent), but they rely almost exclusively on Cunningham to put up points. Her usage rate of 26.6 percent ranks her in the 90th percentile among all NCAA players. She’s scored more than 20 points in 14 games this season, however, she only needed 13 points against an eight-win Florida team on Thursday as Missouri glided to a 31-point win. Florida obviously isn’t anywhere near as good as Kentucky, but I should note that it was only the sixth game of the year that Cunningham didn’t play at least 30 minutes. So she’ll likely be a bit more rested despite playing in a back-to-back.
One advantage Missouri has is that Kentucky is the worst rebounding team in the SEC, but the Tigers aren’t much better – ranking ninth out of 14 SEC teams in rebounds per game. The game likely won’t be won on the boards, however, and should be decided in transition. The Tigers don’t prefer to run like Kentucky does. They elect to try and slow things down and keep the number of possessions per game to a minimum. The Cats will do everything they can to press the backcourt and force the game into an up-and-down marathon. The Tigers have been prone to foul trouble, as well, and a fast pace could lead to frustration fouls and, ideally, poor passing decisions. Missouri coughed the ball up 20 times during the matchup in Lexington.
Outside of Cunningham, this just isn’t a good matchup for Missouri. The best chance the Tigers have is to slow the game down to a snail’s pace and make Kentucky beat them in the halfcourt, which the Wildcats have struggled to do throughout the year. Kentucky is at it’s best when Murray is creating havoc on ball-handlers while Howard and Maci Morris are popping open for quick looks. Howard and Morris (and even Murray, really) are good enough scorers on their own to win more often than not in isolation situations, but that won’t be sustainable for a full 40 minutes.
If Kentucky can play the game they want to play – pushing the pace, pressing in the full-court, running the offense through Morris/Howard – then the Cats should be able to handle this game with ease as they did in Lexington. But if the game slows down and Kentucky is forced to run its offense mainly in the halfcourt, it could create an opportunity for the Tigers to break the flow of what has made Kentucky such a pesky team all season.
Remember, 2:30 p.m. EST on SEC Network. Don’t miss it.
(Statistics pulled from Her Hoop Stats)
Kentucky basketball shared a very short clip from the pregame practice down in Oxford today, and if you’re hoping for Reid Travis, you’re out of luck. Travis is noticeably absent in the video of the big men. It could be trolling, but it likely means Travis is out yet again.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 5, 2019
Sorry if this isn’t the updated you wanted.
By Drew Franklin on ©March 05th, 2019 @ 12:45pm
The Kentucky women’s basketball team hauled in several All-SEC awards, following the Wildcats’ 24-6 season.
We’ll start with head coach Matthew Mitchell, who was named Co-Coach of the Year in the league. It’s Mitchell’s second SEC Coach of the Year award and his first since 2010.
Superstar freshman Rhyne Howard took the league’s Freshman of the Year award, in addition to an All-SEC First Team selection and a spot on the All-Freshman team. Howard is UK’s third SEC Freshman of the Year, but the first to also make the All-SEC First Team.
Maci Morris also earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team, plus the conference’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Morris, a senior, is averaging 15.1 points per game in her final season with Kentucky.
Then there is senior guard Tyler Murray on the All-Defensive Team, and freshman Blair Green joining Howard on the All-Freshman Team.
What a showing by the Cats…
2018-19 ALL-SEC AWARDS
Co-Coaches of the Year: Matthew Mitchell, UK and Vic Schaefer, MSU
Player of the Year: Teaira McCowan, MSU
Freshman of the Year: Rhyne Howard, UK
Defensive Player of the Year: Teaira McCowan, MSU
6th Woman of the Year: Cierra Porter, MIZ
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Maci Morris, UK
ALL-SEC FIRST TEAM
Sophie Cunningham, MIZ
Teaira McCowan, MSU
Chennedy Carter, TAMU
Caliya Robinson, UG
Anriel Howard, MSU
Rhyne Howard, UK
Ayana Mitchell, LSU
Maci Morris, UK
ALL-SEC SECOND TEAM
Tyasha Harris, SC
Chelsea Dungee, AR
Te’a Cooper, SC
Janiah McKay, AU
Rennia Davis, UT
Alexis Jennings, SC
Mariella Fasoula, VU
Crystal Allen, UM
Taylor Murray, UK
Teaira McCowan, MSU
Caliya Robinson , UG
Janiah McKay, AU
Jazzmun Holmes, MSU
Rhyne Howard, UK
Zaay Green, UT
Destanni Henderson, SC
Victaria Saxton, SC
Brinae Alexander, VU
Akira Levy, MIZ
Robyn Benton, AU
Blair Green, UK
Kentucky will begin SEC Tournament play on Friday at 2 p.m. after sitting out the first two rounds with a double-bye as one of the conference’s top four teams.