It’s post Turkey Day and there are many things to cover concerning the Kentucky Wildcats football and basketball teams.
I’ll focus on the football team first as they are getting ready to close out the regular season vs. the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday in the annual Governor’s Cup showdown.
Redemption on the horizon for the Cats
Last season’s game for the Governor’s Cup ended in complete disaster for the Kentucky Wildcats. Not only were they crushed 44-17 and were gashed for 372 yards from Lamar Jackson, they embarrassed themselves on the field by behaving like idiots.
Jordan Jones had multiple meltdowns with late hits and on the field antics. He followed that up by yelling at coaches on the sidelines during the game. Denzil Ware got into the action by throwing a trash can at a Louisville player during a sideline brawl.
I had to do the postgame show after that disaster and I quoted that I had never been more embarrassed of a Kentucky team than I was at that moment. That statement still holds true.
Denzil Ware is gone and Jordan Jones has been a model player all season long, letting his defense do most of the talking. The Cats are in the midst of one of their best seasons in the history of the program while the Cards are reeling from one of their worst seasons.
This game isn’t just about winning or losing. It’s about proving a point that what we saw last season from Kentucky was an anomaly. These players have been a pleasure to watch and cover. The fans have raved about how, after the games, the players stick around to sign autographs and take pictures.
Jason Ence was there at the final home game of the season last week and he made the comment on the postgame show that he got the sense in the locker room that these guys had a point to prove against Louisville. They still remembered the embarrassment and the way things went awry.
There’s a great chance that Kentucky will be able to pile it on tomorrow as the Louisville Cardinals will almost assuredly quit at some point.
Make no mistake, the lasting images of what went down last season will definitely influence the way the Cats play tomorrow,
John Calipari recruiting woes
I feel like I wrote the same article this time last season. In the last week we saw three developments that weren’t the best news for Kentucky basketball recruiting: James Wiseman went to Memphis, Vernon Carey left Kentucky off of his final three, and Kahlil Whitney didn’t sign during the early signing period.
The first two points didn’t really come as a surprise to me. Wiseman was locked in at Memphis the minute Penny hardaway took the job and it never really felt like Kentucky was in a good spot with Carey.
The last point caused some concern for me. With the way things are going, there is a negative vibe going around the program in regards to recruiting. I have a source (I know, I know) that said that things were not pretty around Calipari in the past week with the way things went down.
So what exactly is going on here? Well, I think there are multiple ways to answer that question:
- Calipari perfected recruiting the one and dones. Duke caught up with him and, slowly but surely, the rest of college basketball did as well. Maybe his message is stale and needs revamping.
- Penny hardaway emerged as a major player immediately. He has been in the same room with Cal while he was recruiting Wiseman and DJ Jefferies so he can perfectly counter Cal’s recruiting pitch. The Penny situation will work itself out because that dude can’t coach a lick. Have you watched Memphis this season?
- The staff needs a shakeup. I think it’s clear that Tony Barbee and Joel Justus, while good recruiters, aren’t the deal closers that guys like Jeff Capel and Orlando Antigua are. There was a drop off as soon as Coach O went to South Florida.
All of these factors have contributed to the drop off. Now, Calipari set the bar insanely high and it’s difficult for anyone to keep momentum of that type for a sustained period of time.
Also it’s not like Cal has bums coming in the 2019 class. Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Dontaie Allen can all ball. Calipari isn’t done, either. Remember last season Calipari was left for dead and then got EJ Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, and Reid Travis all to come to Kentucky.
I’m not sold on Kentucky recruiting being as bad off as some think it is.
Stick with this basketball team, because they’re going to be really good
Yeah the loss to Duke stunk. Yeah the three point defense has stunk, too.
But guess what?
The three point defense can be fixed.
Kentucky’s offense is humming right now and I think Calipari is figuring out his lineups and using them effectively. PJ Washington and Reid Travis have emerged as potent offensive threats for Kentucky’s offense. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley have both proven at times that they can lead the offense. Quade Green has emerged as one of the most efficient players on offense. EJ Montgomery is showing us flashes of that he will be at the end of the at season’s end.
In short: R-E-L-A-X
Once this team figures out their identity on defense they’re going to be right in the thick of it.
I think the Bahamas trip gave us all a false sense of security, players and Calipari included in that.
The blow out to Duke was a wake up call and I think, to an extent, the team and the coaching staff were reeling after that for the next couple of games.
But with each game I see a better team. The one major deficiency is the three point defense. And all that is is guys knowing where to be at the right time.
That’s easily fixable. That’s going to come.
Cal’s teams, with the exception of two, take a while to become defensively locked down. Nothing is out of the ordinary here. But as usual, Kentucky fans are ready to jump off of a bridge.
I’m here to tell you to chill out. Everything is going to be fine.
Don’t be left in the doldrums while the rest of us are celebrating come February and March.