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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Clemson Edition.

Congratulations to Clemson for winning the CFB championship. Can Kentucky overcome Memorial Gym tonight?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, to the Tuesday Morning Quickies. Today’s lead story is the College Football Playoff champion Clemson Tigers, who defeated the Alabama juggernaut last night in Tampa 35-31 on a last-second touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow.

The whole game was an outstanding affair, with tremendous defense and competent offense by both teams. In fact, the last two CFB championship games, both between Clemson and Alabama, have been riveting must-see events that do nothing but enhance the sport.

Congratulations to Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. Noble victory. And congrats to Alabama, who fell just short of a second straight championship, and what would’ve been a record-tying six for Nick Saban.

In other news, the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Vanderbilt Commodores tonight in Nashville. Vanderbilt is a decent team, ranking 66 in Ken Pomeroy’s eyes, but an unlikely NCAA Tournament team.

However, Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, with it’s odd baseline bench arrangement, elevated floor and… interesting lighting, is a major challenge for visiting teams, who often struggle to shoot the ball there. For Kentucky, that may not be a huge issue since most of their scoring is done in transition and close to the basket, but Vandy shoots 40% as a team from the arc, and take 46% of their shots from three. This is a dangerous game for the Wildcats given the combination of alien venue, Kentucky’s youth, and Vandy’s long-range proficiency.

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  • Grading the Wildcats midway through the season.

  • De’Aaron Fox wins SEC Freshman of the Week. This is eight “of the week” awards for UK this season.

  • Coach Cal tried a four-guard lineup with various personnel last week against Arkansas, and he had special praise for Mychal Mulder.

  • Mark Story wonders if Kentucky has a change of pace. I wonder, “Do they need one?” They haven’t so far.

    I really don’t know if a team can actually slow down the Wildcats this year. Three teams have tried, and none of them were able to keep the pace under 71 possessions, which is fast but not blazing. But with UK able to start fast breaks off made baskets and free throws, slowing them down very much is something nobody has been able to do.

    Louisville was the most successful, obviously, but the truth is, it wasn’t the pace that cost Kentucky that game, but poor pick-and-roll defense and cold shooting. And even so, the pace versus the Cards was a fast 73 possessions. No, it wasn’t an 83-possession whiplash-inducer like UCLA or Arizona State, but 73 possessions is fast.

    I’m taking the position that UK will not be held under 70 possessions more than twice all year. We’ll see. Just for the sake of comparison, UCLA (another fast team) has been held under 70 possessions four times. North Carolina, the closest to Kentucky in style, has been held under 70 only twice.

  • Memories.

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