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March 23rd, 2019

UK vs. Wofford LIVE BLOG, presented by Liquor Barn

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Sister Jean picks Kentucky to the Final Four

During last year’s March Madness, No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago became the Cinderella story of the year, upsetting No. 6 seed Miami (FL) in the first round, followed by victories over No. 3 seed Tennessee in the Round of 32, Nevada in the Sweet 16, and Kansas State in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four.

Beyond the magical on-court run, the biggest storyline with Loyola-Chicago was team chaplain and viral sensation, 99-year-old “Sister Jean” Dolores Schmidt. She reached celebrity status following their big first-round victory, and that only continued to grow by the time they made it to San Antonio, Texas for the Final Four.

Loyola-Chicago didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year, but Sister Jean is still emotionally invested in the craziest month in sports.

And, yes, she likes the Cats.

Brought on as Access Hollywood’s new March Madness correspondent, Sister Jean picked Kentucky to make a run to the Final Four.

Her predicted last four teams standing? Duke, Gonzaga, Virginia and Kentucky.

Take a look at the interview:

5 things to know about the Wofford Terriers

1. If you stayed up late to watch the Wofford Terriers in their first round game against Seton Hall, then you were lucky enough to see the two teams put on a show from behind the three-point arc. Most notably, Fletcher Magee for Wofford scored 24 points on seven made threes, to go along with three free throws. Magee is now the NCAA’s all-time leader in three point shots made with 509 over his career at Wofford. He’s the most important player for Kentucky to successfully defend this afternoon, averaging 20.6 points per game, to go along with 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists. A true shooting specialist, Magee shoots 43.3% from three on the year and has made 101 of 111 free throws for a 91% rate this season. There’s a reason he’s made the most threes in NCAA history, and it is simply because he takes so many of them. Magee has attempted 496 field goals this season and 365 of them have been three-point attempts. On top of that, he’s actually made 221 field goals and 158 of his makes come from downtown. He’s made the most threes in the country this season and has attempted the second most in the country. Admittedly, like most Kentucky fans, I haven’t watched a ton of Wofford games throughout the season, outside of their games against power 5 schools. What I’ve gathered about Magee is that he takes a ton of turnaround and off-balance threes that look like they have no chance at going in, until they actually go in. According to Magee, he practices shooting like that so that he can get his shots off quickly during the games. Kentucky will probably start with Tyler Herro defending this talented shooting guard, and Herro will have his hands full trying to chase Magee around screens all night. I’d expect some committee defending outside of Herro, with Hagans, Quickley, Baker, and Johnson all trying their hand at it.

2. Similar to so many teams that Kentucky has played this season, Wofford starts a three-guard lineup, with 5’11’ Storm Murphy, 6’4″ Nathan Hoover, and 6’4″ Fletcher Magee manning the backcourt. The two bigs in the starting lineup are 6’9″, 230 pound Keve Aluma at the four and 6’8″, 250 pound Cameron Jackson at the five. Both bigs play on the interior, with Jackson actually being a skilled big man who can provide some power scoring in the post and strong rebounding. Outside of those two starting bigs, the size doesn’t match up with Kentucky for Wofford. 6’9″ Chevez Goodwin comes off the bench for about 13 minutes per game, while 6’11” Matthew Pegram plays 13 minutes as well; however, neither are huge statistical contributors and the talent level is a stiff drop off from the starting bigs. Wofford will continue to throw guards out onto the floor, often times subbing in two guards at a time against Seton Hall on Thursday, so we may see some extended minutes of the four-guard lineup for Kentucky to keep up. Reid Travis at the five, Keldon Johnson at the four, with any combination of Hagans, Quickley, Herro, and Baker at the three backcourt positions would allow the Cats to switch any screen with ease and stick with the many shooters that Wofford throws at them.

3. I mentioned the clear outside weapon in Fletcher Magee, but the rest of the Wofford Terriers are just as capable from hitting from deep. Wofford is actually the second best three-point shooting team in the country, hitting 41.6% from three as a team on the season. Making an average of 11 of 26 threes per contest, the Terriers are constantly making the extra pass to an open shooter. A huge point of emphasis for Kentucky today needs to be not biting on shot fakes. Wofford will utilize the shot fake to get the defense out of position and will take advantage by kicking to yet another knockdown shooter. Magee’s 158 made threes are the most on the team by a huge margin, but his 43.3% is just fourth on the team. Starting guard Nathan Hoover has made 88 threes this season at a 46.1% clip, while starting point guard Storm Murphy has made 48 threes at 47.5% on the year. Backup guard Tray Hollowell plays just 12 minutes per game, but has 42 threes at 41.6%. There’s a drop off in the amount of threes made from there, but bench guards Ryan Larson and Donovan Theme-Love both can knock them down at a high percentage, hitting 31.7% and 31.4% respectively. With the exception of Keve Aluma, essentially any player on the court is a threat to shoot from deep for the Terriers and will present a challenge for Kentucky.

4. We all know that in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, America is rooting for the underdog. Everyone wants to see big upsets, the small school knocking off the top rated seeds. When it comes to the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world, the entire nation will most likely back the opponent, regardless of who it is. Today’s game will be no different, as the Wofford Terriers will be playing America’s sweetheart trying to play the David knocking out the Goliath that is Kentucky basketball. To add to that, Wofford is riding a 21 game winning streak going into today’s game. Sporting an overall record of 30-4 on the season, the Terriers haven’t lost since December 19th, when they lost by 11 at Mississippi State. The other three losses for Wofford were to NCAA Tournament teams, losing by 11 at North Carolina, losing by 11 at Oklahoma, and losing by 25 at Kansas. While the impressive record may be daunting, it is important to realize that Wofford had not beaten an NCAA Tournament team all season before their first round win over Seton Hall on Thursday night. That’s not to say that Wofford isn’t a good team, but the overall record definitely benefits from strength of schedule.

5. This afternoon’s game will be the first time ever that the Kentucky Wildcats have faced off against the Wofford Terriers. This year is the fifth time the Terriers have played in the NCAA Tournament and all five have come since 2010. The difference between their first four appearances and this year, is that Wofford earned their first ever NCAA Tournament victory on Thursday, outlasting Myles Powell and Seton Hall behind the strength of the three-point shot. Kentucky opened as a 6 point favorite, but the line has been bet down to just 5 points as of early this morning. Wofford brought a strong contingent of fans to Jacksonville and they were loud for the entirety of the game on Thursday. When they inevitably make a run at some point in the game, and make a few threes in a row, it will be important for this young Kentucky team to keep their composure and play smart. If the Cats stay within themselves and play their game, they shouldn’t have too many problems imposing their will on the offensive end and on the boards.

Go Cats. Beat Terriers.


Scouting Report: Wofford Terriers

Wofford Athletics

Kentucky survived and advanced on Thursday night and it’s now time for a Round of 32 contest with a very dangerous opponent. Wofford is a top 20 team in just about every ranking metric with an offense that might be the best in the country. Behind three dynamic shooters, the Terriers will remain a scary opponent for the entire 40 minutes.

Wofford enters today’s contest with a 21-game win streak and are fresh off an impressive victory over Seton Hall in the Round of 64. Wofford has the sport’s all-time leading three-point shooter and a lineup filled with quality offensive options. This will be a ballgame, but that is what you expect in the Round of 32.

Nuts and Bolts

Wofford is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina and is a member of the Southern Conference. The Terriers joined Division I in the 1997-1998 season and since then they have made five NCAA Tournaments. However, there is no question that this is the best team they have ever fielded.

Mike Young took over the program in 2002-2003 and he has taken the Terriers to each of their postseason appearances in this decade. Young has been on the staff at Wofford since 1989 before sitting in the head coach’s chair. He be looking to guide Wofford to their first ever Sweet 16 appearance with a win this afternoon in Jacksonville.

From a style perspective, Wofford runs a spread offense with a ton of ball screen actions. They have three guards who they will utilize in these concepts and any of them is a threat to pull from any place on the court. They very rarely post it and use dribble penetration to create three-point looks. They are excellent with shot fakes and easily get the defense in scramble mode which can open up some offensive rebound opportunities. On the other end, Wofford plays primarily a man defense with a little bit of zone mixed in. Wofford does a great job guarding without fouling and they will give up open shots to get into rebounding position.

Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 5.5 point favorite with a total of 138.5. That’s a projected final score of 72-66.5. On the season, Kentucky is 17-16-1 against the spread while Wofford is 20-11. The Terriers have covered eight in a row and are 12-1 in their last 13 games. They enter Saturday as the hottest team in the country. The over is 4-1 in Wofford’s last five while the under is 7-2 in Kentucky’s last nine.  There are a lot of trends available entering this one.

Backcourt Breakdown

Let’s start with the guy that is putting up 20.5 points per outing. Fletcher Magee is a senior who is shooting 42.8 percent from three on a ridiculous 365 attempts. That’s an incredible 10.7 three-point shots per outing. He can launch from anywhere and Wofford will run him off a ton of screens in addition to letting him create in pick-and-roll sets. Magee is not just a shooter, however. The Orlando native does a good job drawing contact and has shot 108 free throws this season. He is an excellent college basketball player and will have a chance to play at the next level.

At the point, Wofford has a platoon going with Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphy. Both are shooting over 45 percent from three on a ton of attempts. Murphy is the top assist man with 3.2 dishes per outing, but he can be turnover prone. Hoover, meanwhile, is the second option on offense outside of Magee and is putting 13.3 points per game. Magee gets all of the attention, but Hoover and Murphy are the second and third scoring options that make Wofford dynamic on offense.

Off the bench, Hopkinsville native Tray Hollowell is used and he’s another quality three-point shooter. The sophomore is shooting 41.4 percent from three on 99 shots and that’s where all of his production comes from. At point, freshman Ryan Larson will contribute in small doses and he’s the worst three-point shooter (32.5 percent) Wofford will play on the perimeter.

This will be one of the least athletic backcourts UK has seen all season. Wofford doesn’t have much length on the perimeter and they can play at a slow temp0. However, they are very crafty on the offensive end and play smart basketball on defense. The Terriers are willing to give up points to get another shot. Ball movement and dribble penetration of off ball screens in addition to backdoor cuts will be UK’s biggest challenges this afternoon.

Frontcourt Breakdown

Wofford’s perimeter players get all of the attention, but forward Cameron Jackson might be this squad’s most important player. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound senior plays the five for the Terriers and he’s very valuable. The big from Winchester, Virginia is second on the team in scoring (14.6) and leads the squad in rebounding (7.5).

Jackson is not much of a three-point threat as he prefers to do most of his damage in the paint. He plays an integral part of the offense by setting a ton of screens in order to get the guards open shots. Jackson will be used on a ton of pick-and-roll sets. He’s the only player that can provide rim protection, is an excellent passer, and if he is out of the lineup Wofford could be in trouble.

Next to Jackson in the starting lineup is sophomore forward Keve Aluma. The 6-foot-9 big brings size to the table and is a solid rebounder. Outside of offensive rebounding, he’s not in there for offense. Off the bench, Wofford uses Chevez Goodwin at the four-s and he brings more athleticism to the floor. At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds he can get up-and-down in transition in addition to having the size to bang in the paint.

At the five, Matthew Pegram is used and he’s a mammoth. At 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, he will be one of the biggest players UK has seen this season. Pegram has shot 29 threes, but is used in a very limited role.

The talk will be about how small Wofford is, but the fact of the matter is that they have size that can hang. Each of the four rotation players are at least 6-foot-8 and they all have the girth to play with physicality. If Wofford is going to win, they are going to need a big performance from their frontcourt.

Keys to Victory

  • Three-point defense has been an issue all season and Tennessee pouring in 10 last weekend likely costed Kentucky the Louisville region and a potential No. 1 seed. However, Wofford is a different animal. Fletcher Magee can pull from anywhere combined with two 45-plus percent three-point shooters playing around him. Guarding ball screens and communication will be key for Kentucky. UK has the length to challenge the shots if they are able to play through contact. Expect Wofford to take their time on numerous possessions to get the best shot possible.
  • For most of the season, Wofford has been a really solid rebounding team. Cameron Jackson does his job, but the rest of the squad does a great job in team rebounding. They hung around with Seton Hall and that should be scary for Kentucky. It is essential for UK to be dominant on the defensive glass and crash the boards on offense. Wofford can scramble up a man defense and that can lead to offensive rebounds. UK must get rebounds from their perimeter players today. On offense, there is an obvious length advantage. Tips and weak side rebounds should lead to multiple baskets. Kentucky must dominant this statistical category.
  • It’s no secret that Wofford wants to shoot a ton of threes. It’s a safe best that they will launch at least 30 this afternoon. They are going to hit some and a good chunk of them are going to be challenged. Therefore, UK needs to give them a taste of their own medicine. Kentucky has abandoned the three-point shot in recent weeks and that must change. Expect Wofford to sag off and pack the paint to stop drives and isolation post ups. Therefore, UK is going to get a handful of wide open three looks. Kentucky must knock them down. Expect Mike Young to have a junk zone defense in his back pocket and if UK is able to hit threes it could mean a long day for the Wofford defense.
  • It’s been awhile since Ashton Hagans made a huge difference on the defensive end, but today would be a good day to change that. Against Seton Hall, both of Wofford’s point guards struggled with ball pressure and the opportunity will be there for Hagans to force havoc. I wouldn’t expect Hagans to draw the defensive assignment of Fletcher Magee. He’s going to be better off harassing whoever is initiating the offense from point for Wofford. If he dominates this battle it could make life tremendously difficult for the plucky underdog.
  • At the end of the day, this is all about strength vs. strength. Kentucky’s defense (8th in adjusted efficiency) vs. Wofford’s offense (9th in offensive efficiency). Wofford lives off of threes. Over 40 percent of their shots come from deep and they are hitting 41.6 percent of those attempts. They do it in a multitude of ways. Kentucky must switch screens and keep everything they can in front. You cannot help off of their guards or fall asleep ball watching. Wofford will make you play and whenever they get the ball in the paint they are looking to pass to an open three-point shooter. It’s going to be fun watching these two units go at it.

March 22nd, 2019

Will Washington play again? Paul Washington Sr. and Coach Kenny Payne weigh in

As uncertainty regarding the severity of PJ Washington’s foot injury continues, the sophomore’s father has weighed in on the injury and the fans who are questioning his son’s intentions. He spoke with Kyle Tucker of The Athletic.

“I’m not a doctor, and the coaches aren’t doctors” he told The Athletic. “Let’s leave this to the doctors and treat my son like he’s your own son, OK?”

The comment is seemingly directed at members of the BBN who speculate Washington may be trying to bid his time and protect his draft stock. Paul Sr. thinks that’s ridiculous, adding that his son “came back to win a national championship,” and not participating in the post-season would obviously hurt his chances of bringing No. 9 home to Kentucky.

This isn’t about his draft stock, and it isn’t about Kentucky. It’s about making sure my son is healthy,” he said. “I would say those people just gotta try to be a parent in this situation and stop being a fan. And just relax.”

John Calipari has now officially announced Washington will not play against Wofford Saturday, but, assuming Kentucky advances, will Washington be able to play in the Sweet 16? Washington’s father wouldn’t speculate, but assistant coach Kenny Payne confidently weighed in on Washington’s future:

“Yes, yes, yes,” he told The Athletic. “The more time we can give him to rest and heal, the better for us. We’re trying to buy PJ time. We’re trying to live to fight another day. So if we win this game, it gives him a couple more days to get healthy. That’s our deal. We want to give him a chance to get back on the floor, and those guys are fighting for him.”

More here: [The Athletic]