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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Monmouth Hawks

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This is not the same Monmouth team that won 55 games over the past two seasons, but they still could be a good test for a Kentucky Wildcats team that is rapidly approaching the meat of their pre-conference schedule.

NCAA Basketball: Monmouth-NJ at Connecticut Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats showed some signs of the team they were becoming on Saturday against the Harvard Crimson.

Unfortunately, they also had some relapses of some bad habits in the 79-70 win over Harvard.

With such a young team, that is to be expected, but parts of the Big Blue Nation are anxious as the Cats are starting to enter the tough part of their holiday schedule with games against Virginia Tech, Louisville, and UCLA looming.

Monmouth represents the last tuneup game for UK before they enter that tough stretch and they come into this game with a 3-6 mark and they are coming off a heartbreaking 85-84 loss to Hofstra.

Monmouth blew a 14 point-lead and lost on a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. Despite the subpar record, the Hawks still have a somewhat respectable RPI of 95.

The thing that I respect about Monmouth is that they consistently play a very tough schedule for a MAAC team and are fearless. They have already played Seton Hall, Virginia, and UConn and they are playing the #12th strongest schedule per Jerry Palm.

They have lost a lot of talent from the last couple of years but they are still a team that will not back down from the Wildcats.

Let's meet the Hawks

PROBABLE STARTERS

#23 G AUSTIN TILGHMAN - SR 6'1, 230

9.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.3 APG

#0 G RAY SALNAVE - FR 6'3, 205

8.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.7 APG

#10 G MICAH SEABORN - JR 6'5, 195

16.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.0 APG

#4 F MUSTAPHA TRAORE - SO 6'8, 210

4.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 APG

#32 F DIAGO QUINN - JR 6'9, 255

7.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG. 0.3 APG

THE BENCH

#3 G DEION HAMMOND - FR 6'4, 200

9.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.6 APG

#33 C ZAC TILLMAN - FR 6'10, 280

6.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.7 APG

#24 G LOUIS PILLARI - SO 6'6, 200

4.3 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.2 APG

#11 G GEORGE PAPAS - FR 6'5, 175

4.8 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.6 APG

#2 F MELIK MARTIN - FR 6'6, 200

3.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.4 APG

Micah Seaborn is by far the best player on the team and the best three-point shooter. He is hitting a cool 50% of his three-pointers and can score from all over the court. Deion Hammond shoots the most treys and connects on 35.6% of his long-range attempts.

Louis Pillari and George Pappas do not take as many, but are effective and hit on 42.1% and 38.5% of their three-pointers. Overall, this is a fairly good shooting team as they hit 38% of their three-pointers as a team and average 7.2 a game.

Zac Tillman is an effective scorer around the rim and hits 61.8% of his shots. Melik Martin hits 57.9% of his shots and while he does not take many long-range shots, he hits 50% of them.

Traore and Diago Quinn hit 53.3% and 53.2% of their shots while Seaborn hits 51.4% overall.

The main problem with this team are turnovers. Monmouth does not take good care of the ball and they come into this game with an A/TO ratio of .60, which is dreadful. They only average 10.8 assists per game and have 17.4 turnovers a game.

Austin Tilghman is by far the best ball handler and he has an A/TO of 1/44. That is notable on this team as he and Mustapha Traore (1.13) are the ONLY players on this team that has an A/TO over 1.0.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Monmouth is a team that Kentucky should not overlook, but this should be an impressive win for Kentucky. I can't see how a team that turns the ball over so much can stay close to a team that can play defense like Kentucky and this should not be a close game.

Monmouth is not a team that plays great defense and they allow opposing teams to hit 42.9% of their shots and 35.2% of their three-pointers. They do not have the athleticism to keep up with Kentucky if they want to run.

While there is no doubt that Kentucky will win this game, but the way they close this game out will be analyzed and overanalyzed to death. It has been a week since the last game and while the Wildcats were never in danger against Harvard, there is no way that should have been a nine-point margin.

As we have seen over Calipari's time at Kentucky, this team gets better as the season goes on and I think the week off will have a big impact on how this team plays and it's chemistry. I also think the big game atmosphere at Madison Square Garden will bring out the best in the Kentucky.

Let's call this one 91-60 for the Wildcats.