John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats will not open their season with a traditional cupcake.
After going 2-0 and looking like world beaters in their exhibition games, the ‘Cats will face a Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks team that finished their season with a 28-6 record (18-0 in the Southland Conference) and one win in last season’s NCAA Tournament. The defeated the #3 Seeded West Virginia Mountaineers in the First Round of the East Region, 70-56. They fell to sixth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Second Round, 76-75.
The Lumberjacks lost their star player, Thomas Walkup, and starting guard Trey Pinkney. They still return a number of players from last season’s team, but not having Walkup is going to hurt and there really isn’t a player that can replace his 18.1 points per game.
While this is going to be a much more difficult test than Kentucky faced against Asbury or Clarion, the ‘Cats will still have far superior talent compared to their opponent.
What should we look for in regards to Friday night’s contest?
- Will Cal go with the starting lineup he used against Clarion that consisted of De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe, Wenyen Gabriel, Derek Willis and Bam Adebayo or will he use the lineup we saw against Asbury where he started Malik Monk over Gabriel? I expect to see the latter.
- How many players will Cal play? He has stated that he can go 8 or 9 deep, but will he? I think a core group of Fox, Briscoe, Monk, Bam, Willis, Gabriel, Isaac Humphries, and Dominique Hawkins will get the lions share of minutes, but look for both Mychal Mulder and Sasha Killeya-Jones to see time.
- As always, will they hit consistently from the three point line?
- Watch for the defensive intensity. This is something that the team is already making its calling card and an aggressive identity is what Cal wants to see.
- Do they look comfortable with each other? How do they respond to positive plays as well as negative plays.
This will be the kickoff of what should be a fun sports weekend around Big Blue Nation. The game will air at 7:00 PM on the SEC Network. And be sure to listen to the postgame show immediately following the action on ESPN 680 AM in Louisville or stream it on the iHeartRadio App. Call in and we can talk about their first taste of real competition this season.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at Kentucky Wildcats
When: Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network
Announcers: Dave O'Brien, Doris Burke and Brooke Weisbrod will be on the call.
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt
Satellite Radio: Sirius - 132 | XM - 190
Live stats: UK Athletics
Odds: UK opened as a 19.5-point favorite and are now favored by 20.
No. 0 De'Aaron Fox, Point Guard, Freshman
No. 1 Sacha Killeya-Jones, Forward, Freshman
No. 3 Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo, Forward Freshman
No. 5 Malik Monk, Shooting Guard, Freshman
No. 10 Jonny David, Guard, Sophomore
No. 11 Mychal Mulder, Guard, Senior
No. 13 Isaiah Briscoe, Guard, Sophomore
No. 14 Tai Wynyard Forward, Redshirt Freshman
No. 15 Isaac Humphries, Forward, Sophomore
No. 20 Brad Calipari, Guard, Freshman
No. 25 Dominique Hawkins, Guard, Senior
No. 30 Dillon Pulliam, Guard, Redshirt Sophomore
No. 32 Wenyen Gabriel, Forward, Freshman
No. 35 Derek Willis, Forward, Senior