The No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats will be in South Beach this Friday to face the South Florida Bulls in the Hoophall Miami Invitational. This will be Game 1 of a doubleheader that features Memphis vs Ohio State in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m.
This will be the first time Kentucky head coach John Calipari gets to face former long-time assistant and now USF head coach Orlando Antigua. Cal and Orlando worked together for five seasons at UK before Antigua left to take the head-coaching position at South Florida in 2014.
In Antigua’s five seasons in Lexington, the Wildcats won a national championship, went to three Final Fours and guided 19 players to the NBA Draft. If you count the 2014 recruiting class Antigua played a big part in, as well as the '15 draft class, Antigua helped get 25 Wildcats drafted into the NBA.
Antigua is one of several former Calipari assistants turned head coaches along with Memphis’ Josh Pastner, Massachusetts’ Derek Kellog, Drexel’s Bruiser Flint and former Auburn Head Coach Tony Barbee.
While Cal and Antigua are facing off against each other, this is a great thing for Antigua and his program as they look to build more of a national brand.
"For us to be on that same stage, it’s a huge plus for our program and university," Antigua said of playing in this game. "It is typical Cal. It speaks to the kind of person he is. When he talks about family, it’s not lip service. He means it. You see that from his players to the people that have worked for him and with him. Just the fact that we’re in this tournament, it’s consistent with who he is."
As for the guys actually playing on the court, the Cats are coming off a 'meh' performance against Boston University. The Wildcats raced out to a 10-0 lead 3 minutes into the game, but BU got right back in it by hitting five shots from long range and led 34-33 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
But the Wildcats scored the last six points of the period to regain the lead before outscoring BU 42-29 in the second half, including a 22-9 run to end the game. It certainly wasn't the kind of performance you'd expect from a top-ranked team, but this is still a young UK squad that's probably not the best team in college basketball at this very moment. Three starting freshmen to go with several guys who rarely played before this year now being in the rotation has led to some struggles at time against inferior opponents, but when these Cats are clicking, they're really hard to stop.
That's especially true of freshman phenom Skal Labissiere. Against BU, the 6-10 Haitian notched 16 points, seven boards and three blocked shot. He finally showed he can be a force in the paint on both ends of the court and may end up being the next great big man under Calipari.
Skal was the driving force behind UK's win over BU, but the Cats' lack of three-point shooting was why the Terriers were even in the game. Kentucky hit just 3-of-15 three-point tries, including a 1-of-5 night by point guard Tyler Ulis. For the season, Ulis has hit just 21.1-percent (4-of-19) beyond the arc after hitting 42.9 percent last season. The Wildcats have made only 26-percent of their three-pointers this season, and it looks like a potential chink in the armor the college basketball's top-ranked team.
As for the Bulls, they're in a massive rebuild that will probably take another year or two before they're finally able to compete at a high level. USF was picked 10th in the 11-team American Athletic Conference preseason poll this season, and they come into this game at 1-4 with losses to Troy, NJIT, George Washington, and Boston University.
However, the Bulls are coming off their first win of the season after beating Albany 63-61. Junior forward Chris Perry slammed home the go-ahead dunk with just nine seconds left to give USF the lead after storming back from an eight-point deficit in the final nine minutes.
Following Perry’s dunk, sophomore guard Roddy Peters stepped in front of a sideline pass for a steal on the Albany end to help seal the win over Albany. Senior forward Angel Nunez scored 16 points to lead USF after transferring from Gonzaga (and formerly of Louisville) this offseason.
As you may recall, the Great Danes gave Kentucky a good game to open the season before losing 78-65 in Rupp Arena. Still, this is a game that UK should dominate even with the game being in Miami.
Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow Kentucky vs South Florida.
South Florida Bulls (1-4) vs Kentucky Wildcats (5-0)
When: Friday, November 27th
Location: Miami Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida
Game Time: 5:00 pm ET
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network (Tom Leach, Mike Pratt)
Odds: No line has been set yet, but check back at Odds Shark for the latest odds for this game.
Projected USF Starters
G - Roddy Peters, 6-3 192 lbs
G - Nehemias Morillo, 6-5, 180 lbs
G - Angel Nunez, 6-8, 202 lbs
F - Chris Perry, 6-8, 242 lbs
F - Jaleel Cousins, 6-11, 265 lbs
Projected Kentucky Starters
G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs
G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs
G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs
F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs
F - Skal Labissiere, 6-11, 225 lbs