VMI Keydets (3-1) at Kentucky Wildcats (2-1)
- Date: Sunday, on Nov. 18
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- Game time: 6:00 pm EST
- TV Channel: SEC Network
- Announcers: Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy will have the call.
- Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on a mobile device using Watch ESPN, the Watch ESPN app and fuboTV.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings)
- Radio: Tom Leach will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington. You can listen to an online radio stream via UK Athletics.
- internet Radio: Sirius 126 | XM 190
- Odds: As of Sunday afternoon, Kentucky is a 34-point favorite. KenPom projected Kentucky to be a 30-point favorite.
- Predictions: ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 97.7% chance to win. KenPom projects an 91-61 Wildcats win and gives them a 99.7% chance of winning. numberFire has Kentucky winning 89-61, while TeamRankings has a 94-61 Wildcats victory.
- Rosters: Kentucky | VMI
- Live Stats
- Gameday Guide
The Kentucky Wildcats are back in Rupp Arena for a rare Sunday game this week as the VMI Keydets are coming to town.
The Virginia Military Institute, commonly known as VMI, is 3-1 on the season with wins over Washington College, Goucher College, and SC Upstate. The Keydets have seen just about everything in their first four games of the season, winning one game by 64 points, another by 33, losing by nearly 40 points, and most recently squeaking out a six-point win.
So it’s hard to say where this team’s mindset will be entering the game with Kentucky. On one hand, the only legitimate team they have played, Pittsburgh, blew them out. But on the other, they have had a major confidence boost by smashing two other opponents.
So far, mid-major teams have proven they can hang with UK, so putting away VMI early would be in the Cats’ best interest.
Success should continue against VMI
The Big Blue Nation was able to take a sigh of relief on Wednesday night after the team finally showed signs of what most fans expected it to be before the season began. I think I speak for most everyone when I say that anything less than destroying North Dakota would have been reason for concern. But it doesn’t really matter now, because Kentucky did win in dominating fashion, beating the Fighting Hawks by 38 points.
With another unusual game time, it will be interesting to see if the home crowd shows up in full force. For Wednesday’s 9 pm game against North Dakota, it was one of the lightest crowds I can remember at a Kentucky basketball game.
The official attendance was reported as 18,555, but most people who were there refuted that report. There were entire lower-level sections that were empty. But the terrible weather undoubtedly played a role in the arena not being full, so I wouldn’t read much into it. It is a safe bet that VMI will have to compete with the typical large crowd and the noise that comes with it, especially if there is free Chick-Fil-A on the line contingent upon them missing two consecutive free throws.
The Keydets are led by fourth-year head coach, Dan Earl, who is a former Penn State player and brother of Cornell’s head coach, Brian Earl. It has been a tough first three seasons for Earl, who has an overall record of 24-66 and a 11-43 record in the Big South Conference. Kentucky should be able to lay the hammer down and come away with a big win.
Something that fans and media members will have some fun with is that VMI’s leading scorer has a first name of Bubba. Bubba Parham is a 5’11 sophomore who is averaging 18 points per game and shooting 42% from the field. He has led the Keydets in scoring in three of their four games, with a high of 23 points coming in the season opener against Washington College. Kentucky’s defense has been an area of concern, but it did show major improvement in the win against North Dakota.
A stat I found to be very interesting was that VMI has an all-time record of 859-1430, which is just over 37%. I don’t know a lot of teams’ all-time records, but I would have to assume that is near the bottom. The Keydets haven’t had a coach with a career winning percentage over .500 since the 1920’s. I have a feeling that, come Monday morning, VMI will have a record of 859-1431.
PJ and Herro need to keep it going
Probably the best thing to come from Kentucky’s blow-out win against North Dakota was the emergence of both Tyler Herro and PJ Washington. Fans were starting to get a little nervous about the lack of production from both players, especially on the offensive end of the court.
PJ Washington, now referred to by many as 3J Washington, shut down any worries about his ability to score the ball by dropping a career-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers. It was great to see the big guy get on track and look the like sophomore version of himself that most fans expected.
Equally great was Tyler Herro using defense to get his offense rolling. Herro’s five steals played a role in him scoring 18 points on 7-12 shooting. He has also yet to miss a free throw while wearing a Kentucky uniform, the Bahamas trip included. Herro continuing to gain confidence will be a key factor for UK moving forward.
The Big Blue Nation has seen first-hand what he is capable of when the ball is dropping for him. Having a player than can spread the defense out will really open up the paint for the big men. I would keep an eye on Herro’s defensive intensity leading to more open shots for himself and teammates. Hopefully he can keep his shooting percentage high by taking good shots and continuing to attack the basket. When Herro is hot, it is going to be tough for anyone to beat the Cats.
The point guard battle continues
Immanuel Quickley played very well against North Dakota with 12 points and four assists, but there still seems to be an opportunity for him to separate himself from Quade Green and Ashton Hagans. Green had a great last game as well, dishing out 5 assists.
Hagans needs to continue to try and cement his role as a tenacious defender that can generate extra possessions for his team. And he has to be able to take care of the ball, as well as find open guys. The next couple of games should be telling on what Coach Calipari has in mind for the guard rotation.