Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
Tonight, Kentucky faces the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an effort to break out of a two-game losing skid. After dropping two in a row to SEC foes South Carolina and Florida, including one game in hallowed Rupp Arena where Kentucky is never supposed to lose, the recent struggles of John Calipari’s latest youth brigade have sent many teeth-gnashing, pearl-clutching Kentucky fans to their fainting couches. As the Good Book says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
But faints and gnashing of teeth aside, Kentucky is displaying a remarkable resemblance this season to the 2011 team in SEC play. Earlier, I said they were shaping up like 2014, and they are, but as of this particular moment they look more like 2011 in terms of SEC record, 4-3 in the league and struggling on the road.
But I still contend that what we have right now is a reincarnation of the 2014 basketball team, at least in spirit if not in fact. 2014 was the least experienced team in college basketball that year (average of 0.31 years) just as Kentucky is this year (average of 0.19 years), and their growth curve looks remarkably similar to me, including hitting the freshman wall around the same time. 2014 struggled in nearly every SEC regular-season game, winding up 12-6 in the league. This year’s SEC is much better than that one, though.
Still, I expect the Wildcats to wind up right about 12-6 give or take a couple of games barring a remarkable steep upward angle in the learning curve. My guess is we will see that angle, but maybe not before the middle of next month at the earliest. That should be soon enough with as much talent as this team has, and as … unsettled as the college basketball landscape is right now.
As to tonight’s contest, MSU has managed only two wins so far this season, one against a good Arkansas Razorbacks team and one against a below-average Vanderbilt Commodores team, both at home. Kentucky at this point is not all that much, if any, better than Arkansas, so tonight’s game is likely to be another difficult test with fouls galore and ugly queued up for days.
I have a feeling about this one, though. They should have enough depth to weather a foul storm, and they have enough interchangeable parts not to be in the kind of extremis they were at South Carolina. Even Tai Wynyard should be available for added depth and to spell the big guys.
Having said that, I’m going to distill UK’s chances for success in tonight’s contest down to a very simple formula: Turnovers. If the Wildcats have a turnover rate in excess of 20%, I say they lose this game. 15% or under, I am confident of a win. Between 15 and 20%, UK is a slight favorite.
Tweet of the Morning
They may be unranked, but with wins over Virginia Tech and Louisville, Kentucky is one of only two undefeated teams in the ACC. pic.twitter.com/Ut03euU9iw— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) January 23, 2018
Heh. Awesome. And in the case of Louisville, it was a really, really big win.
- Kyle Tucker schools a UK fan with the sadz:
In the Calipari era, both Duke and UK have played in two national championship games. K won both, Cal won one. In the other six seasons, Cal has been to four other Elite Eights, two more Final Fours — and K got out of the Sweet 16 just once. NBA over winning is a fallacy. https://t.co/lDkYzSGGMA— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) January 22, 2018
- Kentucky is actively recruiting E.J. Montgomery, nee an Auburn Tigers commit, but who decommitted in the FBI scandal fallout.
- Calipari’s prescription for future success is … wait for it … more three-pointers?
When asked why he wants the Cats to shoot and make more threes, Calipari said, “Because we’re capable of that. And I think that’s not an unrealistic number.”
He also mentions my pet peeve prominently: turnovers:
“You can’t have six walks in a basketball game.”
- Mark Story writes about Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries, and why it’s so difficult for UK to build an experienced core. Here’s the money quote:
Because UK has had so much success sending players quickly to the NBA, the peer pressure to leave Kentucky early in a college career for the play-for-pay seems irresistible for some players who probably would stay in school in other programs.
There’s truth here, I think. It may just be that Calipari needs to make some tweaks to his recruiting pitch. Also, it may just be that he needs to dial back, a little bit, recruiting over some of his guys.
- Coach Cal throws some shade Duke’s way. Yeah, whatever. Give credit where it is due. If Calipari wants to land the Zion Williamses of the world, he’s going to have to do what got him here in the first place — figure out what works. If he can “tweak” the basketball team, it would be surprising if he can’t “tweak” his recruiting pitch, if that’s what it takes.
Other Kentucky sports
- UK Track and Field men’s and women’s teams both ranked #6 in the nation.
- Louisville plays Alabama next season in football, and the Tide are favored by a rather large margin.
- Mike Brey hopes Bonzie Colson will be ready to return for the ACC Tournament. I hope so to, I love his game. He’s one of the most fun players to watch in recent college basketball history.
Other sports news
- Singer Neil Diamond retires from touring after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Neil is 76, but he’s still going to be writing and singing. I’ve always liked his music and I know we all wish him well.
- Pictures of Jupiter’s south pole. Very, very cool.
- Tractor beams possible? That would be awesome. Faster, please.