Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
As we chug along in the dog days of the college basketball season, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu about the Wildcats. It seems to me that 2014 has called and wants their Wildcats back. I wish I had the confidence that the ultimate outcome of the season would be similar, but alas.
Still, this is a talented, if flawed Kentucky basketball team. They have moments where they look as good as everyone thought they’d be early in the year, and then they do things like the game in Missouri, possibly the most revolting basketball game I’ve seen in a while, at least offensively.
But that’s water under the bridge. Tennessee comes in to Rupp Arena tonight on a five-game winning streak, and even though they haven’t been playing the toughest competition in that stretch, they did defeat South Carolina in Columbia — something the Wildcats couldn’t do.
This Volunteers team knows how to win, and Kentucky is still groping about as if the game of basketball were the dark tunnel of Cirith Ungol where Shelob, daughter of Ungoliant the Gloomweaver awaits, hungry.
Kentucky will need more than the Light of Eärendil to stave off the hungry Vols, and this game may well be as important in a confidence-building sense as the dramatic Kentucky victory over West Virginia in Morgantown.
Quick overview of Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Kentucky’s offense has been its bugaboo in the league. In SEC play, UK is barely over 1 point per possession at 1.01 p/p, while the Vols are far more efficient at 1.16 p/p. The Wildcats are better on defense, but not by enough to make up the difference.
This is the clash of the titans at the 3-point arc — UT is #2 in 3-point shooting percentage in the league, and UK is #1 in 3-point defense. Kentucky is currently shooting a pathetic 28.3% from 3 in the conference, which is a big reason why they are having such trouble with offensive efficiency.
Another problem has been passing the ball. Kentucky has been getting too many points on drives by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and not enough on ball movement and clean looks. This has got to change. UK’s assist rate is way down in SEC play.
If Kentucky can take care of the ball, guard the 3-point line, and make 70%+ of free throws, I think they’ll win this game. If they allow Tennessee to make 7 or more threes in under 20 shots from the arc, no way will UK win.
Tweet of the Morning
Back home tonight to face Tennessee at 7 ET. Here's the 80 page digital guide with video and print previews of the game. Wenyen Gabriel is on the cover. https://t.co/9O4NzgW0xQ pic.twitter.com/aECUAOtwf3— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) February 6, 2018
Now if Wenyen can only deliver against the Vols. We need him to.
Nation's 10 best defenses, according to @kenpomeroy pic.twitter.com/7cHjlU0VnD— John Clay (@johnclayiv) February 6, 2018
Well, that’s for the year, but UT’s defense has been much worse in conference play at 104.1, 8th n the SEC. Clay should know this, and the omission of it is deceptive, though probably unintentionally.
- National Signing Day is tomorrow, and UK is looking to close out 2018 with a 1-2 punch.
- Looking back at UK’s first five recruiting classes under Mark Stoops. Where are they now?
- Kentucky football: What to expect on National Signing Day.
#BBN, let's hear it for our dude @taiwynyard. Happy birthday, Tai! Hope you have a great day. pic.twitter.com/NwKRy1RzJW— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 5, 2018
- The Firecrackers performance jump rope team will perform in Rupp Arena for the Alabama game.
- Coach Cal talks about the state of his team.
- Kentucky is extremely young and all over the place. Word.
- Tennessee game will be “West Virginia-esque.”
- A look at Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament resume after loss to Missouri.
Other Kentucky sports
- Congrats, Coach Mingione!
What an honor for @Coach_Mingione to speak this morning at the 52nd annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast! pic.twitter.com/P2bOgzvQ73— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) February 6, 2018
- Kentucky track and field is awesome.
#McCravy Video -— UK Track & Field (@KentuckyTrack) February 6, 2018
.@GoSydGo with the world-leading, UK school record and UK freshman 400m record 51.44. Part of a Saturday of #UKTF freshman quarter mile strength. pic.twitter.com/FdC6Ah4rYH
- Seven bold predictions for National Signing Day. The first one is notable for it’s rarity of late.
- Florida ought to win the Fulmer Award for life.
- Early signing period has made National Signing Day less frantic.
- 24 of the top basketball prospects of 2019 will attend the Final Four in San Antonio and compete in events there.
- Louisville is busily degrading our big win against them.
- Tom Jurich wants Kentucky governor Matt Bevin to intervene in the settlement talks between him and U of L. My opinion — Bevin should stay far, far away from this. There is nothing but downside here for him.
- West Virginia survives Trae Young and Oklahoma.
Other sports news
- Winter Olympics security workers hit with Norovirus.
- Does Bill Belichick regret benching Malcolm Butler for the Super Bowl now? We’ll never know, but I’m betting yes.