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Cats news and notes: What you need to know

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It’s a busy time of year in Lexington. Let’s catch up.

Oscar Tshiebwe Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - Sea of Blue

This time of year is special for Kentucky Wildcats fans.

With the onset of Fall and cooler temperatures also comes Wildcat Basketball (men’s and women’s) and football.

Figure in the rise of the Wildcat gridiron warriors to match the heady predictions for both UK basketball programs, and you have the makings of a special year in the annals of University of Kentucky history.

To help everyone keep up with all the news coming from Lexington, I decided to begin a piece of weekly news and notes from the week that was in Kentucky athletics. No opinions, just facts.

Isn’t that refreshing?

Let us discuss.

Football

  • After getting off to its first 6-0 start since 1950, Kentucky finally fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in Saturday’s 30-13 loss at top-ranked Georgia. However, many sports outlets are still predicting the Cats will be playing in a New Year's Day Bowl game. They predict:

ESPN (BONAGURA): CITRUS BOWL VS. IOWA (6-1)

ESPN (SCHLABACH): PEACH BOWL VS. IOWA (6-1

ACTION NETWORK: SUGAR BOWL VS. OKLAHOMA STATE (6-0)

CBS SPORTS: OUTBACK BOWL VS. PURDUE (4-2)

247SPORTS: CITRUS BOWL VS. MICHIGAN STATE (7-0)

THE ATHLETIC: FIESTA BOWL VS. MICHIGAN (6-0)

YAHOO SPORTS: SUGAR BOWL VS. OKLAHOMA (7-0)

SPORTING NEWS: OUTBACK BOWL VS. MICHIGAN STATE (7-0)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: PEACH BOWL VS. NC STATE (5-1)

ATHLON SPORTS: FIESTA BOWL VS. PENN STATE (5-1)

  • Kentucky offensive linemen Eli Cox and Darian Kinnard each were named midseason All-Americans on Tuesday, with Cox being honored by The Associated Press and Kinnard by The Athletic.
  • The Kentucky offensive line is one of 19 units named to the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, recognizing the Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in college football, it was announced Tuesday by The Foundation for Teamwork.

This is the fourth consecutive season that the Kentucky offensive line, known as the “Big Blue Wall,” has been named to the honor roll.

Men’s Basketball

  • The NBA offseason has once again been good to former UK players. Not only does Kentucky begin the 2021-22 season with a league-high 27 players on opening night NBA rosters, but former Wildcats also make up the highest-paid players in the NBA.
  • In all, 27 former UK players’ contracts combined are worth over a billion dollars, including eight max deals. This offseason alone, nearly a dozen former Wildcats signed new NBA deals worth approximately $375 million.
  • Kentucky freshman guard TyTy Washington won’t be needing a ride around campus any time soon. Washington inked a NIL with a local Porsche dealer, as did UK defensive end Joshua Paschal.
  • The biggest surprise of the preseason has been freshman forward Bryce Hopkins of Chicago, according to UK assistant coach Chin Coleman.
  • Get ready to run, BBN. Kentucky coach John Calipari emphasized to his team in practice recently: “We are going to be a speed team.”

During UK’s annual media day, the Hall of Fame coach explained his reasoning.

“First three steps, we’re flying,” Calipari said. “Doesn’t mean you just play fast, it means you’re running fast, and then you have poise, and then you have the pace to your game.”

  • The Cats are back to familiar ground. UK was voted to win their seventh regular-season title under Calipari by the league’s media members.
  • Additionally, four Wildcats were selected to the preseason All-SEC squads. Junior guard Sahvir Wheeler was picked to the first team, while graduate student guard Kellan Grady and junior forwards Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe were tabbed to the second team. Brooks and Wheeler also received at least one vote for the preseason pick for SEC Player of the Year.
  • It’s the 16th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite. Calipari has directed his teams to regular-season SEC crowns in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2020. Kentucky has claimed the SEC Tournament title six times under his direction in 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Women’s Basketball

  • The honors start rolling in for University of Kentucky senior guard Rhyne Howard, who was selected Tuesday as the Southeastern Conference Preseason Player of the Year by league media.
  • This is the second straight season that Howard has earned the preseason honor from league media. She was also on the league media’s All-SEC Team.
  • As a team, the Wildcats were picked to finish fourth behind South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.
  • For the 13th time since 2007, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will begin a season ranked or receiving votes in the national polls, as the Associated Press tabbed Kentucky at No. 13 in its 2020-21 preseason top 25 released Tuesday.
  • This marks the third straight season that Kentucky has started ranked in the top 15 of the AP Top 25. UK was No. 11 last season and No. 13 in 2019-20. UK has finished its season ranked in the top 25 of both major listings 11 of the last 12 seasons. UK finished the 2020-21 campaign with an 18-9 record and finished the season No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 21 in the USA Today/Coaches’ Top 25.

(UK Media Relations contributed to this article.)

Shane Shackleford is a regional sportswriter from Speedwell, TN. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers of America. Shane is also a football color analyst for WRIL-FM 106.3 Sports in Pineville, KY. He has written and published his first book “Bounce: A Basketball Love Story” which can be found on Amazon currently. You can find Shane on KySportsStyle.com, A Sea of Blue, The London Sentinel-Echo, The Corbin Times-Tribune, The Mountain Advocate, Harlan County Sports, and The Mountain Eagle. Contact Shane by email at coachshack50@gmail.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.