The first Kentucky basketball game of the new decade is also the first SEC game of the 2019-20 season. John Calipari’s team returns to Rupp Arena to play the Missouri Tigers at 2 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
It’s only been a week since Kentucky’s last game, but that overtime win over Louisville feels like a lifetime ago (partially thanks to the eventful Belk Bowl). Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey were amazing the last time they were at Rupp. Today will not have the same big-game atmosphere, in spite of John Calipari’s calls for the BBN to get loud early and often.
This is all that it took to engage the #BBN. You made a big-time difference in our win last weekend. Let’s make that the norm!!! Take us home the last four minutes!!! EVERYBODY UP!!!! pic.twitter.com/VreXGukoiq
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 3, 2020
Since Cuonzo Martin got to Columbia, the Tigers have played a physical brand of basketball. An exceptional defensive team, especially inside the arc, this will not be their first big test of the season. They lost to a top 25 Butler team, Xavier and Oklahoma. The 8-4 team’s only bad loss was to Charleston Southern and two Saturdays ago they picked up a win against Mark Smith’s home state school, Illinois.
The big stage has not been a problem for Maxey and his teammates. The problem is the Wildcats have played to their competition. Will they get up and hit the hardwood with a fire under their butts in the first game of the SEC season, or will it take some time to kick off a Louisville hangover to start the New Year?
Remember Mark Smith?
Once upon a time Mark Smith was a Kentucky recruit. Mr. Basketball from the state of Illinois, he competed alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the final Derby Festival Classic back in 2017. Searching for an outside shooter to complete the class, Smith ultimately stuck with his home state school of Illinois, while the Cats landed Jemarl Baker.
Fast forward three seasons, both players are at new schools. Baker is making 43.9 percent of his three-pointers for Arizona and Smith is averaging 11.8 points per game to lead the Tigers in scoring. One of just two Missouri players that averages in double figures, if Kentucky contains Smith this could easily turn into a “first to 60 wins” type of game.
Only two opponents have scored more than 65 points against Missouri this season.
Camp Cal Concludes
A truncated edition of Camp Cal this year thanks to the late end to UK’s fall semester, the start of SEC play marks the end of long days at the Joe Craft Center. Kahlil Whitney looks excited to return to Rupp.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 4, 2020
Vegas, TV, Radio
The Cats opened as eight-point favorites over the Tigers with a total of 126. Dave Neal and Debbie Antonelli are on the call for SEC Network. The KSR Pregame Show is at KSBar and Grille, beginning at 11:30 a.m. If you can’t watch the game, there are multiple ways to listen to The Voice of the Wildcats.
- AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
- FM: 98.1 WBUL
- Satellite: XM-190 and Sirius-137
- Online: iHeart Radio
Anthony Davis is a Basketball Machine
The Unibrow did not take it easy on his former team. Davis finished with 46 points in the 123-113 victory over New Orleans. Approximately 75 percent of his points came off catching lobs that no human should be able to catch and flush. In two games against the Pelicans this year Davis has scored a combined 87 points.
College Basketball on TV
- Noon: Creighton at No. 11 Butler on FS1
- Noon: Indiana at #15 Maryland on Fox
- Noon: Oklahoma State at #22 Texas Tech on ESPN2
- Noon: LSU at Tennessee on ESNPU
- 1:00: Georgia at No. 9 Memphis on CBS
- 2:00: #18 Florida State at #7 Louisville on ESPN2
- 2:00: #10 Villanova at Marquette on Fox
- 4:00: #16 West Virginia at #3 Kansas on ESPN+
- 4:00: Ole Miss at #24 Wichita State on ESPNU
- 4:00: Notre Dame at Syracuse on ESPN2
- 4:30: #8 Auburn at Miss. State on SECN
- 6:00: Alabama at Florida on ESPN2
- 8:00: #2 Duke at Miami on ESPN
- 8:00: Texas at #6 Baylor on ESPN2
- 10:00: Pepperdine at #1 Gonzaga on ESPN
Derrick LeBlanc Departs
Mark Stoops will have to make two new defensive hires this offseason. UK confirmed Ryan Lemond’s report that defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc will leave Kentucky to take a similar position on Sam Pittman’s staff at Arkansas.
Why is LeBlanc leaving? Excellent question. The contract for the lowest-paid assistant on Kentucky’s staff was set to expire in June. That probably played a part in the equation. Regardless, LeBlanc’s contributions to the development of the defensive line must be commended. Finding top candidates to fill this job should be no problem. Kentucky just signed one of the best defensive line classes in the country and Brad White is a rising star in the business. Hitching your wagon to this Big Blue Wagon in 2020 is a good career move for any prospective defensive line coach.
Vito Tisdale Decision Day
Kentucky could add a four-star recruit to its football team during the Kentucky basketball game. This afternoon Bowling Green defensive back Vito will choose between Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M during a nationally-televised broadcast of the All-American Bowl.
Expected to rock Kentucky Blue at the conclusion of the ceremony, Tisdale’s announcement is an opportunity for UK to make a splash on the national recruiting scene. The ceremony will be during the fourth quarter of the game that begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.
One More Bowl Game
The All-American Bowl isn’t the only amateur football event of the day. The Armed Forces Bowl kicks off early, 11:30 a.m. ET/10:30 a.m. local time in Ft. Worth, Texas, to act as a pregame treat before the NFL playoff games get underway later in the day. The Green Wave of Tulane are 7.5-point favorites over Southern Miss. Once this concludes, there’s only one more bowl game before the National Championship. Get to KSBar and to earn your shot at $5,000 before it’s gone.
NFL Playoffs Begin
A Kentucky basketball win is the perfect primer for playoff football. The Buffalo Bills will try to get their first playoff victory since 1999 against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. Kickoff for the first Wild Card game is set for 4:35 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The nightcap should be a doozy. Winter Storm Henry will blanket Foxborough Saturday night, just as soon as Derrick Henry comes to town. Can Drew Franklin’s Tennessee Titans knock out Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champs? Find out at 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS.