For the first time this year, we'll get to see the 2015-16 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats in action against a real opponent when they host the Ottawa Braves Monday night.
As has been the case many times in recent years, the Cats will be playing with a lot of new faces after losing 85.9% of their scoring and 77.3% of their rebounding from last year’s Final Four team.
The one key player from last year's team back is point guard Tyler Ulis averaged, who averaged an impressive 3.65 assists per game as a freshman, despite often being the No. 2 ball-handler behind Andrew Harrison. His 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio led the SEC and ranked third nationally.
To help offset for losing so many key guys from last year, Calipari and Kentucky will welcome eight newcomers to the 2015-16 roster that will be making their debuts Monday night. Five-star wing Jamal Murray, four-star JUNO wing Mychal Mulder, four-star center Isaac Humphries, five-star guard Isaiah Briscoe, five-star forward Skal Labissiere and four-star guard Charles Matthews will all get their first real taste of college hoops when they face Ottawa. UK also added walk-ons Jonny David and Dillon Pulliam to the roster, and they should both seem some action in this game.
Kentucky is 53-4 all-time in exhibition games, including a perfect 12-0 under head coach John Calipari. He'll look to keep that going against Ottawa University, a private, non-profit, faith-based liberal arts college located in Ottawa, Kansas that plays in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC).
UK's major connection with Ottawa is that it's the alma matter of UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, where he worked in public relations. It was actually UK Deputy Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy who set this game up as a tribute to his boss, who has been a big reason why UK athletics have taken off and are in the best overall shape they've ever been in.
It shouldn't be a real surprise Barnhart has done so much for UK given how much he did at Ottawa, where he was even their sports information director and sports editor of the student newspaper.
"I look back and my days at Ottawa were incredible," Barnhart said, via the Louisville Courier-Journal. I was the sports information director. Yes, there was no full-time one, so the students did it. I ran the department. I was the department. I was the PA announcer for basketball, wrote all the press releases, did all the statistical work.
"I ended up being the sports editor of the student newspaper, wrote for the local paper and actually did (radio) play-by-play and color. At a small school, you did everything and you got to know everybody."
As for the current Braves team, they enter Monday night's contest coming off of a 82-74 loss to Baker University in their season/home opener on Saturday afternoon in Wilson Field House. Ottawa shot 33.3 percent (22-for-66) from the floor, 15 percent from behind the 3-pt line, and 79 percent from the free throw line.
The Braves had two players in double figures, led by Marshon Norfleet's 22 points on 6-for-19 shooting from the floor. Preston Oakes had 12 points. Norfleet and John O'con led the team in rebounding with eight boards each. Hollis Mitchell finished with nine points and four assists in his first career start for OU.
When the Braves play Kentucky on Monday night it will be the first time since the 2012-13 season that Ottawa will have played an NCAA Division I team from a power conference. That year, the Braves opened the season against Travis Ford's Oklahoma State Cowboys and went on to lose 109-56. The last time OU defeated a NCAA Division I team was in 1916-17 when they beat the Wichita State Shockers.
Here is everything you'll need for the game, which will not be broadcast on national television.
Kentucky Wildcats vs Ottawa Braves
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
TV: This game will not be broadcast on national television
Announcers: Dave Baker (PxP), Ravi Moss (Analyst) and Matt Jones (Sideline)
Radio: 98.1 FM and 630 AM in Lexington. Go here for a list of radio affiliates based on where you live.