The University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball season is back with games on Friday and Sunday night. We are not quite in full-fledged "Know Your Enemy" mode quite yet, but I took a quick look at the Wildcats opponents this weekend.
Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks - Friday 11/11, 7PM
Over the past four seasons, the Lumberjacks have been the pride of the Southland Conference with three NCAA bids and a stellar 116-19 record. Last year's team went 28-6 and were a last second Notre Dame basket from advancing to the Sweet 16.
The architect of those teams, Brad Underwood, is now the head coach at Oklahoma State. And the teams two best players, Thomas Walkup (18.1 ppg) and Demetrious Floyd (13.8 ppg) graduated along with starter Trey Pinckney. Sr F CJ Williams was expected to be a key contributor this year but in September, it was announced that he would miss the season with a heart issue. In addition to Williams, the Lumberjacks lost six other lettermen, including their best bench player in Clyde Geffrard (13.3 ppg).
The Lumberjacks return starters G Ty Charles (9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and F TJ Holyfield (7.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg). Also, Sr G Dallas Cameron (3.5 ppg) is the most experienced of the other returning players. New coach Kyle Keller has eight new faces on this team with five freshmen and three junior transfers.
The best of these new players may be three-star freshman PG Aaron Augustin. While just 5'11 and 175, Augustin is an exciting player that will be expected to keep this team competitive in the Southland,
Preseason polls have the Lumberjacks as a top three team in the Southland, but as of opening day, this team is a far cry from the team that won 116 games in four seasons. There is talent on the team, but not enough to give Kentucky a serious threat, This is a team that has lost 71.6% of their scoring, 72.6% of their three-pointers and 57.4% of their rebounding.
Looks for the Wildcats to have a smooth opening game and roll to an 88-55 win.
Canisius Golden Griffins - Sunday 11/13, 6PM
The Golden Griffins are coming off a 14-19 season in which they went 8-12 in the MAAC. Like Stephen F Austin, the Griffins have a new coach with Reggie Witherspoon taking over after being on the Chatanooga staff. Most preseason polls have the Golden Griffins as a middle of the road team in the MAAC. The Griffins struggled with Ryerson in their last exhibition game with a 99-95 win.
Canisius does return three double-digit scorers in Phil Valenti (14.6 ppg), Kassius Robertson (14.1 ppg) and Jermaine Crumpton (10.4 ppg). Look for Robertson and Valenti to take plenty of three-point shots. Robertson shot 40.4% of his three-point attempts and Valenti 38.8%. Valenti led this team in rebounds with 6.1 per game and is a scrappy player. Freshman G Isiah Reese is expected to provide points and energy coming off the bench.
Look for the classic early season mismatch here as Kentucky should be able to name their score in this game and give everyone a look as the games get serious next week with Michigan State. It's hard to predict a score in games like this but let's call this one 93-57 for the Wildcats.