The 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will tip off 2020-2021 on Wednesday night against Morehead State at Rupp Arena. The game is set for 6 pm EST and will be aired on SEC Network.
It has been a very strange year to be sure and this tip-off is one of the most anticipated in UK history. That makes sense when you remember that the previous year ended so abruptly on the road at the University of Florida.
One of the greatest comebacks in Cats history was in essence their March Madness and National Championship all wrapped up into one day. It left fans elated but that excitement was quickly destroyed with a national shutdown for the coronavirus, including the NCAA Tournament.
Since then, we have watched press conferences via Zoom, tuned into glimpses of practice as shown on television, looked for highlights offered via video, followed Twitter feeds, tried to stay connected, wearing masks, social distancing, keeping the teams in bubbles, and hoping that the season would actually take place.
The sights we have seen have been encouraging. Kentucky is long and strong up front, has some big talented guards running the offense, and as always are athletic. But now with Morehead State coming to Rupp we are anxious to get the answers to the lingering questions that remain.
Just how tough is this team going to be?
As expected, Coach Cal is asking the same question, which is not unusual, but we just won’t know until we see them on the court for the first time. If you flash back to last year, there were moments of brilliance and dominance followed by excruciating moments of not being able to finish a game early in the season. They grew through it along the way which is why the finale at Florida was so encouraging. This is a new year and a new team - and here we are again – toughness is something that we all are looking for.
Have they developed new habits?
Kentucky is an amazing place to play, but these incoming stars have to quickly learn to be a team and allow everyone to eat. If they do, they will find success quicker. If they don’t, they will struggle through trying to find the rhythm together that will make them great. They are learning, but are they ready?
Can they shoot?
This group has a huge upside. Cal is quick to point out how much he likes this team. With the size, the talent, and the speed, they have a skill set that is beyond question. So, where do the points come from? Will they be able to shoot from the outside to free up the beast play on the inside? This is not a simple question, Tyler Herro took some time to find his range early in the season last year, and this year we will wait for the shooters to emerge. They are there. There is a group of bombers waiting to play – but where do the shots and points come from?
Last but not least, how have they handled the pressure of Covid-19?
Being able to finally play will make the intensity of the culture, the change, and the climate of the world that has been Covid-19 seem a little bit easier. But make no mistake about it, these college students have had to negotiate a rapidly changing world that just can’t seem to find normal like the rest of us have had to do. They have had great leaders around them and now it is time to put the pieces together and play ball.
The Wildcats can’t wait for the tip-off against Morehead State, it is time to answer some questions and ball!