Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies. A warning in advance — I’m operating on only four hours of sleep, so I apologize in advance for any… slip-ups in today’s Quickies.
What’s on the mind of the Big Blue Nation today is the basketball team, which is coming to a crossroads in the season that will have significant implications for the post-season. To this point, Kentucky has exactly zero top-tier or “A” wins in Ken Pomeroy’s statistical reckoning. In fact, Kentucky has exactly zero “B” wins in that same reckoning, which means it has no “quality” KenPom wins at all to date.
To be fair, the Wildcats have had only two opportunities for such wins, versus Duke and versus Seton Hall. But starting this Saturday in the United Center in Chicago, opportunities are one thing that won’t be lacking.
Kentucky is currently in a situation similar to 2014, where they lost to Michigan State in the Champion’s Classic, then didn’t see another quality team until Providence in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. UK won that game, and promptly lost to Baylor and North Carolina with a Boise St. win sandwiched in there.
This season the easy games are all over. There will be no bounce-back opportunities, it’s all high-wire-without-a-net stuff. Kentucky will play the next three games away from home against high-quality foes. It’s both an opportunity to excel and a chance to make a high NCAA Tournament seed a real uphill battle. Back in 2014, the SEC was littered with 2nd tier and cupcake teams. This year, KenPom reckons that out of the 18 conference games in the SEC, fully 11 of them are top-tier “A” games.
So for Kentucky, while chances to get big wins abound, these games are all much harder than we’ve seen in recent years, not just individually but collectively. Kentucky desperately needs to go at least 1-1 against North Carolina and Louisville to avoid a precipitous decline in the polls and a long, hard road back. 1-2 for the road trip would also be a big hit.
Regarding the North Carolina game, there are three things that will help UK win that aren’t shooting-related:
- Avoid turnovers. Kentucky’s offensive efficiency correlates very strongly with turnover percentage in the limited games they’ve played.
- Rebound the ball. Against Utah, UK had their 2nd worst OR% of the season, and their worst DR%. Turnovers and hot 3-point shooting covered that, but North Carolina is a great rebounding team.
- Get more assists. Last year’s team had a much higher assist rate, and what this usually indicates is they were getting easier shots. This season, the assist rate is down, and looks very much like the 2016 team’s assist rate. But 2016 offset that with a very low turnover rate.
Defensively, Kentucky just has to find a way to guard the three better. I have no doubt that’s getting plenty of emphasis.
Kentucky’s season really needs both the UNC and Louisville games to be victories, but that’s not going to come easy away from home where the young Wildcats have really struggled. Louisville, in particular, figures to have a very hostile crowd and high interest with a new coach and an unexpectedly solid squad. North Carolina is almost talented as Kentucky, and significantly more experienced.
We have come to a crucial juncture in Kentucky’s 2018 season. It would be important in any case, but after having dropped their only two quality contests so far, these next two games have a magnified import.
Tweet of the Morning
December, 17th 1982 - Karen Carpenter (RIP) made her last live appearance with The Carpenters. Angelic voice. They made beautiful music. And some classics. pic.twitter.com/1SfMUD1N0B— Rex Chapman (@rex_rexchapman) December 18, 2018
A musical blast from the past, courtesy of King Rex.
- Mocking the Draft shows Josh Allen quite a bit of love.
- Speaking of Josh Allen, Penn State is … umm … aware of him.
- More Allen: Josh Allen wins the Jack Lambert Award for college football’s top linebacker.
- Always worth the time:
Part 2 of Episode now uploaded and ready for Derrick Ramsey to take you down memory lane and 2 of UK’s greatest football seasons plus lessons on life from his days in football. @UKFootball #BBN https://t.co/N4DN2CbYSh— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) December 18, 2018
- Early signing period creates pressure on recruits and coaches. It’s important to get them signed as quickly as possible.
- UK Commit Kahlil Whitney scores game winner in Kyrie Irving Invitational.
- I like Matt’s thinking here. I wouldn’t care to bet we’ll win the regular season, but UK teams lately have done some of their best work in the SECT.
- I think Coach Cal is right about this. Bygones, man. I remember Pitino’s years at Kentucky as fondly as any of Coach Cal’s.
- Kentucky’s performance against its peer group of teams, like UNC, Duke and Kansas are critical to the mental health of the Big Blue Nation.
- Keldon Johnson is the SEC’s Freshman of the Week. The first of many, I expect.
- How do UK freshman compare to other top recruits ten games into the season?
- Not too bad at all…
UK signee Dontaie Allen’s official stats from last night: 43 points (15/29 FGs), 14 rebounds and 5 blocks in 86-68 loss to Bourbon County.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) December 16, 2018
- Heh. Not the kind of class Miami was hoping for…
- Every college football playoff expansion plan will piss somebody off.
- The natives are still restless in Westwood.
- Vanderbilt upsets #18 Arizona State. Despite losing their best player, Darus Garland, Vanderbilt has an excellent team this season. Anchor of Gold has more here.
Oh noooo Pac-12! No. 18 ASU (the Pac-12’s only ranked team) lost to Vanderbilt, 81-65. The Sun Devils are now 8-2 on the season.— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) December 18, 2018
- Mike Davis’ son Antoine is college basketball’s 2nd leading scorer. SI has a great article about him here, well worth the time. I will always remember Mike Davis for his meltdown versus Kentucky back 18 years ago when he ran onto the floor, flailing madly in the middle of the game. Here’s a really bad video for those who may be too young to remember:
- Man, this well and truly sucks. Our sympathy, Notre Dame fans.
Bad news for ND as Rex Pflueger confirms he tore his ACL against Purdue. https://t.co/D1G143ZC1C— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) December 17, 2018
Other sports news
- Louisville’s multiple title-winning dance team coach has been fired. No explanation other than a “personnel matter” was given.
- Astronomers discover the most-distant object ever observed in our solar system, cleverly named “Farout.”
- MIT figures out how to shrink objects to nanoscale. The method is called, “implosion fabrication.” I don’t think Ant Man would approve…
- Matter sucked into black holes may travel into the future.