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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Transylvania Exhibition Preview

Coach Cal can't believe it's been 100 years since we played Transylvania.
Coach Cal can't believe it's been 100 years since we played Transylvania.

Tonight is the first exhibition game of the season for the Kentucky Wildcats as they welcome their next-door neighbors, the Transylvania University Pioneers, into Rupp arena.

Transylvania, of course, is located right on North Broadway in Lexington, Kentucky, a stone's throw from the University of Kentucky. Transy and UK used to be part of the same college back in the late 1800's, but they split apart in 1878. They had a bitter rivalry back in the day which you can read about on Jon Scott's site, but have not played each other in basketball in 100 years.

Here is the basic information about Transylvania University:

Head Coach Brian Lane
Overall College Record 168-99 (11th year)
Record at Transylvania 168-99 (11th year)
Assistant Coaches Nate Valentine, Matthew Martin
Returning Lettermen 13
Returning Starters 5
2010-11 Record 18-9; 11-7 HCAC (4th)
Enrollment 1,100
Founded 1780
Nickname Pioneers
Colors Crimson and White
Conference Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference
NCAA Category Division III

Now that you have a sense of Transylvania, let's look at their basketball team.

Transy competes in Division III, and the Pioneers have a long history of college basketball. Back in thie 1950's and 1960's, former UK Director of Athletics C.M. Newton coached the Pioneers' basketball team, assembling a record of 176-165. This is but one of the many connections between Transy and UK.

The income Transy will realize from the game with Kentucky enabled the team to go on an exhibition tour of Canada, much like Kentucky did last season. The team will realize all the benefits of all that extra practice and competition this year, plus the unquestioned benefit of having nine returning juniors to the team, and every player on the roster but one is from Kentucky. As part of NCAA Division III, Transylvania offers no athletics scholarships.

The main scoring threats on this team are forwards Brandon Rash and Ethan Spurlin, and guard Barret Meyer. Tate Cox is the sophomore point guard and was injured last year, but he is one of the team's most talented players. Several of Transy's players have experienced the Rupp Arena hardwood before, including sophomore Ashley Hatfield of Shelby Valley, who made three appearances in the Sweet Sixteen, winning the state championship in 2010 and being named to the All-Tournament team.

As a D-III team, Transylvania will be much smaller and less athletic than Kentucky at most positions. Their tallest player is Mike Satterwhite at 6'8", and none of their forwards stand taller than 6'6". Despite their size, the Pioneers pass the ball really well, having a team A/T ratio of 1.17. Their leading 3-point shooters are Barrett Meyer (30%) and Ashley Hatfield (37%), and the put up a fair number of 3-point shots last year, almost 20 per game, compared to Kentucky's 18 per game. Transy is also a decent offensive rebounding team at around 31% last year.

What we can expect is a game that is competitive for roughly half the first stanza, where the Pioneers will hustle and shoot their way to a close early deficit followed by the inevitable. Transylvania will undoubtedly bedevil the young Wildcats early because of their superior experience and the fact that they've had much more practice at this point than UK has, but the skill and athleticism will eventually assert itself.

This should be fun, and it will be a great learning experience for the young Wildcats. We will get a read on the basics of execution and a bit of a "where they are" feel when it comes to teamwork and physicality. My guess is that there is still a lot of work to be done.