Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
Well, the surprising Kentucky comeback victory against the highly-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers has the college basketball world abuzz even three days removed from the event. Everyone’s wondering if that game was the turning point for the young Wildcats, who have been underwhelming so far this season.
My counsel is to be cautious in your optimism. I want to believe that UK has turned a corner as much as anyone, but the key problem with freshmen is consistency. Kevin Knox was great on Saturday, but it’s unlikely that he’s discovered his game yet. He’s just as likely to have twelve points and no rebounds tonight as he is to go for twenty and eight. In fact, there are only two consistent people on the entire team right now — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel. The rest of them are karma chameleons.
But at least we have reason for optimism, and even though I think man of us were optimistic in an amorphous, general way that the team would eventually come around — despite a conspicuous lack of evidence to support our hopes.
Now we have evidence, but we need to see that evidence corroborated by consistency. A final thought on WVU: Kentucky won despite turning the ball over 24% of the time. Remarkable.
A few words on Vandy tonight
Vanderbilt has struggled this season to say the very least, although to be fair, they have played just as tough a schedule as Kentucky has and also just won a tough game against a quality opponent, TCU, who was ranked as of two weeks ago. They did it at home, but TCU was a clear favorite by Ken Pomeroy’s rating system at 68% to win.
This makes us wonder if Vanderbilt might have turned a corner as well, and there is evidence to suggest they have. Senior shooting guard Riley LaChance, who couldn’t miss last year but has really struggled since January, seems to have found his stroke again. He’s averaging 25 points in the last three games, two of which were Vandy home wins (LSU and TCU) with the sole loss being by five to Tennessee in Knoxville.
Unfortunately for Vandy, Matthew Fisher-Davis has been lost for the season suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder, apparently during the Vandy-UK game back on the 13th of January. It was first reported ten days later.
But one thing Vandy has been, with the exception of LaChance, is consistent. Even the freshman guard Saben Lee has been a reliable 10-15 point scorer despite a foul-plagued goose-egg at Tennessee.
What always concerns you when playing the Commodores is 3-point shooting. Kentucky is actually the 4th-best 3-point defensive team in the country. That didn’t really show up in the West Virginia game, though, and you had to figure it would with their shorter guards, so UK will really have to be aware of the arc tonight.
Final thoughts on Vandy: Jarred Vanderbilt’s rebounding, Wenyen Gabriel’s energy, Quade Green’s return to form and Kentucky’s overall length could be the big differences tonight from recent outings. Vanderbilt had his best game by far against WVU, and if he can duplicate 70% of that against Vandy, it might be enough.
Tweet of the Morning
It’s Validation Day for Cats!! Big W Sat needs to be validated by quality performance tonight.Think LaChance might have a small chip on his shoulder at game time TCU beats WVU,VU beats TCU— Mike Pratt (@MikePratt22) January 30, 2018
- How has Kentucky’s recruiting pitch changed during the Mark Stoops tenure?
- Former UK star Jacob Tamme honored by Louisville Quarterback Club.
- February’s results are crucial to Kentucky’s NCAA outlook.
- How will Kentucky perform at home after a thrilling victory on the road?
- Will Kentucky’s victory over WVU boost attendance in Rupp tonight? The very question pisses me off.
- Could next year’s recruiting class be the first one without a one-and-done prospect?
- Surging Wildcats re-enter the Top 25 as Kevin Knox wins SEC Freshman of the Week.
- West Virginia paper gives “Hats Off!” to Coach Cal and Coach Bob Huggins for their work raising money for the WVU Cancer Institute.
Other Kentucky sports
- Kentucky hoops lands “explosive” 2018 guard. Heaven knows we need some talent in the program ASAP. The chickens from a couple of years ago have come home to roost this season.
- More hoops: UK gets a big win over Arkansas on the road, 76-65, to get back to .500 overall. They are only 3-5 in the SEC though.
- Seven steps to proving recruiting rankings matter. They absolutely do.
- How college offenses infiltrated the NFL.
- SEC basketball is finally finding the vindication and validation it deserves. Great to see.
- Auburn is nearly a lock for its first NCAA Tournament bid in 15 years. Bruce Pearl should be a national COY candidate for this job.
- The Big 12 isn’t the best conference after all. Well, maybe they are, but they didn’t prove it in the SEC/Big 12 challenge, that’s for sure.
- Dan Dakich opens his maw, places foot inside. Twitter stuffs in the rest of his leg.
Other sports news
- The NCAA would be wise to rely on an outside investigation of Michigan State over the Larry Nasser debacle than to institute its own.
- Tiger Woods’ most recent comeback is showing signs of real promise.