Home, sweet home. Kentucky improved to 15-0 on the season in Rupp Arena last night and took the overall SEC lead with a 10-3 conference record. LSU is now in second with a 9-4 SEC mark.
Though several 'Cats stood out last night -- namely Derek Willis, who was a ridiculous 7/11 from distance -- Jamal Murray's comprehensive statistical performance was the most impressive to me. Murray had a number in each of the positive columns of the traditional box score and some were even splendid -- 8/12 FG (66%), 3/6 from 3 (50%), 9/10 FT (90%), 28 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, with a block and a steal.
Volume shooters rarely achieve offensive consistency, but Murray has found that as of late. I cannot impress upon you how tremendous this is for UK (and Murray's NBA Draft stock). I'll update this with an advanced box score later today that will show the products of the math, but amassing 28 points while taking only 12 shots is definitely efficient generally, but especially for Murray.
Consider these performances, prior to the past four games, which reflect typical volume-shooter inefficiency: he took 23 shots, which resulted in 33 points, in the loss to OSU, 22 shots in a 20 point performance at Auburn, 17 shots in an 18 point night versus Ole Miss, and 17 shots in a 16 point performance against Duke.
Click here for his Game Log, and compare his scoring performances and efficiency in the past four games as compared to the rest of the season. Cheat sheet (shots/points): 21/35 (vs. UF), 14/24 (vs. UGA), 21/26 (@ USC), 12/28 (last night). That's an astounding and extremely positive development.
*Top 25 Roundup -- Three other ranked teams were in action last night. A pair were upset, but that's not shocking anymore, is it?
#6 Maryland suffered an absolutely terrible loss to Minnesota, a team that had previously been 0-13 in the Big Ten.
Speaking of Xavier, I believe that Luke Winn will ultimately regret omitting them from his Magic Eight in favor of more boom-or-bust squads with bigger names like Michigan State, Virginia, and even UK, to be honest, if you're considering the entire season in your evaluation. If you've watched several Xavier games like I have (including its home loss to Georgetown), I think you'd concur.
The most startling inclusion? Duke. Let me fix the first part about his blurb about the Blue Devils:
This is my outside-the-AP-top-15 pick. I’m taking out insurance on the Blue Devils
in the event senior forward Amile Jefferson recovers from his foot injury in time for the NCAA tournament.because I, like the majority of the major media, am a Duke apologist and Coach K and the Duke aura blind me to the fact that Duke is a mediocre group this year.
I think that UK's ceiling is a title, honestly, so don't perceive my UK mention in this topic as a slight. It's more of an if-the-NCAAT-were-today "high on Xavier" feeling than a "down on UK" feeling.
As it stands, in the UK vs. Xavier debate, I need to see whether this four-game run UK is in the midst of is sustainable. Xavier is not perfect, but has exhibited a general calmness, consistency, and steadiness that no other team has exhibited this season. I think that's crucial in big games in mid- to late-March into April, especially in what has turned into the ultimate year of parity in college basketball. Also, I trust their head coach, Chris Mack.
I'll make a final decision on Xavier after we see what happens when the Musketeers get Villanova at home next Wednesday, February 24.
By the way, my "Magic Eight" are Kansas, Oklahoma, Xavier, Iowa, Kentucky, UNC, Michigan State, and Villanova. Let's argue about it. Include yours in the comments below.
*Check out video of Duke's defensive "tweak," which has revitalized the squad as of late. K has stolen "one-and-done = success" and now the "tweak."
What's next? Plumlee Platoons? Are there any Plumless left after Marshall?
*#16 UK Hoops scored a tough road win over #14 Mississippi State last night. Statistically, Makayla Epps was the star of the night, scoring 16 points on 50% shooting, to go along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
*Brandon Knight may be returning to action soon for the Phoenix Suns. It will be interesting to see what comes of Archie Goodwin now, as he had been starting at PG in place of Knight, during Devin Booker's ascension at SG.
*Former 'Cat and Super Bowl 50 champion Danny Trevathan is set to cash in, as his current contract with the Denver Broncos expires on March 9. Trevathan, who made less than $1.5 million last season, is worth approximately $6 million per year in the current market.
Here is Trevathan's "Free Agent Snapshot" and here is a report, which includes quotes from the MLB himsel, indicating that he expects to hear from the Chicago Bears next month. In case you forgot, current Bears head coach John Fox was leading the Broncos when Trevathan was a sixth-round draft pick in 2012.
*2016 will be a contract year for former 'Cat G Larry Warford, of the Detroit Lions. Despite injuries, Warford has proven to be a stalwart on the Lions' offensive line, starting since his rookie year in 2013, and should sign a fairly rich second contract.
*The Eastern Kentucky Colonels are poised to produce what I'd assume is their first first-round NFL Draft pick in Noah Spence. OSU fans raved about this kid -- a top 5 player, nationally, in 2012 -- when Urban Meyer signed him and then soured on him once his drug issues arose. His talent, however, is undeniable.
*Ben Roberts notes that 2017 UK commit James Hudson, a top 250 DE from Toledo, OH, is starting to get attention from schools like PSU, OSU, and Michigan State. Stoops, Marrow and Eliot can close this deal. I have faith.
There's also a note in there about Kentucky native, and 2017 priority, Jedrick Wills skyrocketing up the rankings.
*The Tennessee Volunteers football program had a fantastic National Signing Day, finishing in the top 15 nationally, but they've fallen off a figurative cliff since then with a flurry of reports detailing various instances of sexual misconduct over the last twenty years or so.
Though many of the reports involved former players, the most recent is regarding a current player who was subsequently suspended. Jason Kirk's Read Option post for this morning leads off with a collection of links to the reports.
*Maria Konnikova, who has shown up in my Quickies several times now, explores how people learn to become resilient, for The New Yorker. This is a fantastic, quick, and accessible read.
Only 1,000 words!?!?! Work is much busier than usual, so these are short on commentary. Sorry about that. Have a fantastic weekend.