Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats invade Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina to face the basketball version of a colonoscopy by Frank Martin’s Gamecocks. I say that because South Carolina is the 17th best defensive team in the NCAA according to KenPom’s ratings, and second-best in the SEC after Texas A&M.
Truth to tell, however, USC hasn’t been all that tough on conference rivals defensively. Versus SEC teams, they stand a surprising 5th in the league behind such worthies as Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. But I expect them to be very hard-nosed, as always, and even though South Carolina is without one of their major contributors, point guard Kory Holden (down with a hammy), they will still be plenty tough at home.
We can say a lot of things about Kentucky this season, but one thing they have shown is an ability to win on the road, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect. I know they haven’t beaten any of the SEC’s top tier on the road, but the win against LSU, a mid-pack and dangerous team, and at always-tough Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville versus Vanderbilt, will serve them in good stead tonight.
Tonight, Kentucky must find a way to make shots and get into transition where they are much more capable than the less-athletic Gamecocks. Because USC is so poor offensively from the perimeter and only middling in closer, the Wildcats length and size will really put pressure on Frank Martin’s team, which is only a shadow of the Final Four squad from last season. A quick glance suggests the UK zone may well break the back of the Gamecocks due to their lack of perimeter shooting.
I don’t expect tonight's game to be anything other than a cavalcade of ugly. South Carolina loves to get to the line and does it well, and if Kentucky is able to win, it will probably be by a field goal or two, and an upset is about as likely as any other outcome, in my view. Fouls are likely to be everywhere, and I hope UK brings more depth with them in this game than they had vs. Vanderbilt.
Tweet of the Morning
The late Dick Enberg explains how he got to announce the "Game of the Century." pic.twitter.com/1pfEKQZxvk— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) January 16, 2018
Great story! From that, to this:
January 16, 2018
- Quade Green’s return could be “…any day now,” according to Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne. Hopefully, tonight.
- Kentucky faces stiff test on the road versus the Gamecocks.
Calipari’s right that USC will try to “rough up” the Wildcats, but fortunately, we’ve got a couple of pretty tough guys in PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel. Nick Richards can also be tough in there when his mind is right, and nobody would call Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a shrinking violet.
But we need more toughness from Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox in particular. If we can get that, I think we can hold our own against Martin’s brute squad.
- Speaking of Wenyen Gabriel, it seems his analytics do not do justice to the impact he has on the court. I know this is true, and that’s why basketball can’t be neatly reduced to probability and statistics near as much as baseball can. It’s the second-by-second nature of the game where your impact can be felt in ways that just don’t show in the stats.
- Kentucky expects a dogfight (catfight? cockfight? WTH?) for its “puppies” at South Carolina. Sometimes, headlines just make you scratch your head.
- Kenny Payne for head coach at Louisville? They could do worse.
- Is Kentucky being hurt by Coach K’s embrace of “one and done?” I don’t think so. Both teams get good players, both get deep into the tournament. Krzyzewski has done a Hall of Fame job at Duke and deserves credit, but he knows Calipari forced him into this change. We all know it — well, everyone except the sports media, who still thinks Cal’s evil and K hung the moon and sprinkled the sky with stars.
- 2018 Kentucky signee Tyler Herro doesn’t let fans or social media nonsense distract him. Consider:
“Now there was one game where they were chanting overrated and he just brought the ball up the floor, pulled up and drained a deep 3 in front of the students to kind of shut them up,” Riesop said. “He’s not let rumors people have spread about him bother his play at all. He knows if he responds, it only adds fuel to the fire for more to respond to him.”
That’s it, kid. Let your game do the talking, let the haytaz do the walking.
- Obligatory Jarred Vanderbilt piece. Nothing new here, but worth reading anyway.
- Immanuel Quickley is working Zion Williamson hard to come to UK. Go get him, kid.
Other Kentucky sports
- After winning at Florida, Kentucky women’s basketball loses to Vanderbilt convincingly. Hoops is really struggling this season. They are sub .500 overall and have won only 1 game in the SEC.
- UK rifle team on a roll.
- The Leach Report: Tuesday Wildcat Links.
- Six memories of Keith Jackson, the man who made every town a college football town. Rest in peace, Keith, and congratulations on a life well lived.
- Mekhi Brown, the guy who punched the Georgia player in the CFP championship game, is no longer with Alabama.
- Former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin arrived at his new gig in Tuscon to coach Arizona yesterday.
- Kansas upsets West Virginia in Morgantown. Impressive.
- Do you want to live forever? Well, now maybe you can.
- Barcelona, Spain has abandoned Windows as its operating system of choice and has switched to Linux.
- What in the world is metallic hydrogen?