Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Friday Morning Quickies. I’ll be your host today, as I was unavailable for my normal Tuesday slot.
Tonight, the Wildcats open play (for them, that is) in the 2019 SEC Tournament quarterfinal round. Our opponent will be the Alabama Crimson Tide, to whom we owe a debt of defeat since we lost to them in a heartbreaker back on January 5th.
Alabama comes into this game desperately needing a win. After finishing 8-10 in conference and losing their last three games of the regular season before defeating Ole Miss in the tournament, the Tide are, in my view, on the outside looking in with respect to the NCAA Tournament. Beating Kentucky could get them in – apparently it’s not all that rare for sub-.500 teams to get in, and Alabama themselves managed it just last season – but it’s not exactly the catbird seat.
Ken Pomeroy has Kentucky at 81% to win this game, and statistically, you can easily see why. UK is #1 in defensive efficiency in the league by a long way, and although Alabama is 5th, they allow eight more points per 100 possessions (league games) than UK, and score ten fewer points.
Adding to that, Kentucky will be back to some semblance of their former strength with the return of Reid Travis to action. We have sorely missed Travis in a lot of small but important ways that don’t show up in the stat sheet – being in the right place on offense and defense, setting proper screens, making good passes out of and into the post – and those little things really add up. Kentucky hasn’t looked anything like their best with him out.
I don’t expect Travis to start or to play majority minutes. Calipari likes to ease his injured guys back into the rotation gently. But Travis is a full-grown adult who will play the game the right way for whatever time he’s in there, so it can be nothing but an unalloyed “good thing” having him back.
Alabama will have the advantage of having a game under their belt, and that helps. Teams that have played games before facing an opponent with a bye often get off to better starts, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that tonight. Whether the Tide can sustain that effort for 40 minutes, assuming Kentucky comes to play, is another question.
Regardless, it was weird not having a game on Tuesday for literally the first time this year. That doesn’t happen often – most years we have occasional league games on Wednesday, Sunday, or even Thursday – but not this year.
If Kentucky does manage the win, and the chalk holds form, we’ll be facing Tennessee for the third time on Saturday. The rubber match. I hope it happens.
Tweet of the Morning
❤️#WeAreUK https://t.co/rc0Y4Xrpsj— Za'Darius Smith (@TheRealZSmith) March 15, 2019
Za’Darius Smith recently signed a huge $66 million dollar deal with the Green Bay Packers.
- Top 20 2019 recruit Keion Brooks will announce his choice tonight on CBS Sports HQ. His finalists are Kentucky, Michigan State, Indiana and North Carolina.
More: Is Kentucky in the catbird seat for Keion Brooks?
- Cotton Nash. What a player.
Charles "Cotton" Nash is a @KentuckyMBB legend, that's why his jersey hangs from the rafters of @Rupp_Arena.— University of Kentucky (@universityofky) March 15, 2019
Decades ago, "Cotton" started a legacy. Today, his grandsons @nicknash22 and @CNash3 continue that legacy!https://t.co/er2r4mf5a2
- Kentucky knows it will face a desperate team in Alabama.
- The selection committee has no problem with UK as a #2 seed in the South, according to Saturday Down South. I’d rather have the #1, thank you.
Other Kentucky sports
- Mississippi State and Kentucky will face off in SEC softball opener.
- Bat Cats travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU tonight for the beginning of a 3-game weekend series. The Wildcats are on a 5-game winning streak.
- Softball player Katie Reed named senior CLASS award finalist. Congratulations!
- Texas’ potential lottery pick, Jaxson Hayes, went down last night with a knee injury. The extent of the injury is not known, but he was in a lot of pain, which is a really bad sign.
- Ten players returning from injury for the tournament that could have a major impact. Obviously, we know about Reid Travis and Zion Williamson last night, but potentially Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie and Michigan St.’s Nick Ward could have just as big an impact in the league and SEC tournaments.
- Virginia, for sure.
Good morning. We are 58 hours away from the reveal of the 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket and still only know for sure one of the four No. 1 seeds.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 15, 2019
Other sports news
- Shaq goes on “Hot Ones” to eat hot wings. The result is pretty funny.
- The things La Var Ball failed to speak into existence. You’re going to need a bigger blog.
- Scientists reverse time with quantum computer. Michael J. Fox could not be reached for comment.
- Exotic “second sound” phenomenon observed in, of all things, pencil lead.
- Albert Einstein’s birthday was yesterday. He would have been 140 years old.