[NOTE: Due to a prior engagement, I will not be available to post in real time this evening. But I hope that readers will begin to see this place as a home for them to interact with each other as well and won't need me around to help. I will be posting an update later this evening postgame, and hope not to miss many games at all this year.]
The South Carolina Gamecocks have won back-to-back NIT titles, and are always a scrappy team to play. Unfortunately for this evening's Kentucky opponent -- South Carolina Upstate -- they are not the same team.
UK caps its preseason slate this evening with the second of two exhibition contests, this time against NCAA Division I-AA foe South Carolina Upstate. The Spartans are in the process of making the move to D-I, and will join the Atlantic Sun Conference for the 2007-08 season.
For now, they are Cat food.
Kentucky comes off a strong first outing where its freshmen dominated the 'wow factor.' Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks impressed fans and commentators alike with their athletic, mature games. Perry Stevenson and Michael Porter also showed signs that they aren't as raw as advertised, a welcome sight given the team's lack of overall experienced depth heading into the season.
The probable starting lineup for Kentucky with forward Sheray Thomas still sitting out due to suspension will be the same as last week, with senior Bobby Perry at the three, juniors Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley in the backcourt, fellow junior Randolph Morris at the power forward spot and senior Lukasz Obrzut at center. But like last week, I'd expect Tubby Smith to use the bench liberally to better see his guys in action, and to minimize wear and tear on the starters, who figure to see a lot of minutes this season.
How does a team like UK get into a game with such a small, unknown school? Like many of Kentucky's smaller scale opponents, the ties go back to Tubby Smith's coaching loyalties. SC-Upstate coach Eddie Payne and Smith once worked on the same college staff together, and a big payday for a small school is a nice reunion present, even if the predicted beatdown of his players is not.
SC-Upstate features a German center playing his first organized game in Nick Schneiders and the game could be downhill from there.
Still, the focus is on the development of the UK team, its chemistry and finding a rotation that can handle the rigors of a once-again grueling non-conference slate.
Gametime is 7 p.m. ET at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
- The Cincy Post continues to do outstanding work in covering the Cats, with a nice feature article on key performer Ramel Bradley and on the Kentucky freshmen.
- The Courier-Journal does its part with a look at senior Bobby Perry.
Update [2006-11-6 15:41:29 by JL Blue]:
The Associated Press preseason top 25 has been released, with Kentucky at No. 22, one of five SEC teams in the top 25. If the Cats can surprise in a deeper than usual conference, they can turn some heads.