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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Turkey Day Edition, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving to the Big Blue Nation! The Governor’s Cup is nearly here, Nate Sestina is recovering from surgery, it’s Hate Week in the SEC and the Big Blue Nation is headed for a big sports holiday.

Tennessee-Martin v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Thursday Morning Quickies.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope everyone reading this enjoys a quiet day of food, football and family today, and gives thanks for their blessings. We all have them, and on this most American of holidays, let’s not forget that.

Nate Sestina’s wrist injury is the biggest UK news of the moment, and it’s very frustrating to have to begin the season with so many injuries. It’s hard to develop a consistent rotation with a constant stream of injuries, and Sestina’s will make that difficult once again. Starters and rotation players have been out for half of the games this season, and that number will be significantly extended with Sestina recovering from surgery for the next month.

Moving on to the national picture, both Kentucky and Duke losing at home to unranked minor-conference teams has shaken up the college basketball world. I confess a completely zen attitude about the whole thing, and have had nary a moment of anxiety about Kentucky’s loss and only a little schadenfreude about Duke’s recent stumble. We have been here before, or should’ve been. I remember John Wall’s last-second heroics to stave off Sam Houston St. back in 2009-10. That team turned out pretty well.

Early season dumps are not a reliable indicator of what a team will be later on. One good example is 2005 North Carolina, who soiled the bed on their first game against Santa Clara, losing by 11. That game had the virtue of being semi-away at a neutral site in California, but it did not foreshadow doom for the Tar Heels, who went on to win the NCAA Tournament that season.

Similarly, 2007 Kansas saw Oral Roberts defeat them at home, 78-71. That Jayhawk team went on to lose to UCLA in the Elite Eight, and finished the season 33-5.

Finally, a quick look at Kentucky, and how they’ve been doing:

Opponent OE DE
Michigan St. 96.0 86.3
EKU 107.4 57.8
Evansville 91.4 95.7
Utah Valley 122.6 101.6
Mount St. Mary's 117.9 89.1
Lamar 120.8 83.5

What I notice here is that Kentucky has, so far, been more impressive on the defensive end than perhaps we should’ve expected at this point in the season. The offense is all over the place, which is totally typical for a young team early season, but usually the defense is full of holes as well. This year, Kentucky seems to possess the kind of defensive mindset that produces successful seasons. I suspect the offense will come around, and indeed, it’s showing signs of that right now. Defensively, holding 5 out of 6 opponents under 1 point per possession is very encouraging.

Tweet of the Morning

And getting ready for the Governor’s Cup:

You’ve got to love the work Stoops & Co. have done with the lines at UK.

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Hagans reminded reporters that UK soldiered on last season after Reid Travis and PJ Washington sustained injuries. UK was an overtime period away from advancing to the Final Four.

Yeah, there’s that.

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