After cruising to a win on Friday night against Robert Morris, the Kentucky Wildcats are back in action Tuesday when the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers invade Rupp Arena for the second game of The Kentucky Classic.
Through the first two games of the season, this Kentucky squad has shown a lot of promise, flashing signs of their high ceiling. One of those huge key factors is the offense.
John Calipari teased a new-look offense over the summer, as he mentioned adopting a four-out, dribble-drive offense to help complement the strengths of this team. So far this tweak has worked to perfection, while they are also utilizing some of the traits that Calipari’s best teams have used as well. Whether it be in transition or in the half court, this team can be elite offensively and expect to see this game be another stepping stone of fine-tuning it overall.
One of the major reasons this team is clicking so well in that half of the court goes back to its point guard play under Sahvir Wheeler. There was a time when a portion of the Big Blue Nation thought adding Wheeler was a mistake, but this team would look drastically different without him. His speed and vision are unmatched, while his ball-handling continues to add a whole other level to what his game could be, which has helped him lead the nation in assists at 11.0 per contest thus far.
After having 12 assists and zero turnovers against Robert Morris, I think it is apparent to fans how good of a player he could be with the pieces around him. If Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz, TyTy Washington, and Dontaie Allen are all shooting like they did against the Colonials, then this team could end up being borderline unstoppable.
What kind of preview would this be if we didn’t mention Oscar Tshiebwe? The West Virginia transfer has been unstoppable in his first two games for the Cats and has answered some serious concerns that plagued this frontcourt throughout the offseason. He’s currently leading the national in rebounds per game at 20.0.
Much like Friday night's game, expect Coach Cal to try and get some more confidence going for freshman forwards Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins. Collins brought the house down with his highlight dunks against Robert Morris, and Hopkins added some solid minutes as well. The more growing pains you can get through in November, the better for these talented freshmen.
The major news of the week was the news regarding CJ Fredrick being out for the year. Fredrick was expected to play a solid role on this year's team, but with his absence, there is now a role to be filled.
Insert Dontaie Allen.
Allen showed flashes Friday night on both ends of the court, but his defense has to continue to get better. The spot has opened up to playing solid minutes this season, he now has to go and take it, and Calipari will give him those chances starting against the Mountaineers.
Mount St. Mary’s will be coming to Lexington looking to pick up their second win of the season, after losing to Saint Joseph’s 80-60 on Saturday. The Mountaineers also have a 91-51 loss at No. 5 Villanova and a 117-62 home win over Division III Washington College.
Coached by Dan Engelstad, the Mountaineers will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament this season after posting a 12-11 record in his third season at the helm and a tournament appearance.
Through three games this season, Mount St. Mary’s is being led by senior forward Malik Jefferson, who’s averaging 13.7 points on 73% shooting, while also adding 5.3 rebounds.
Alongside Jefferson, junior guard Jalen Benjamin is the main weapon in the backcourt. Currently, Benjamin is averaging 11.0 points on 44% shooting and 44% from three. He has also 5.0 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Overall, if you can stop Jefferson and Benjamin, this should be a fairly easy game for Kentucky.
Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
Time and Date: 7:00 pm EST on Tuesday, Nov. 16th
TV: SEC Network
Announcers: Tom Hart and Jon Sundvold
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Radio: UK Sports Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt
Satellite Radio: Sirius 136 | XM 190 | SXM App 961
Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers Roster
Odds: Kentucky is a 24.5-point favorite. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 98.4% chance of winning. KenPom gives the Cats a 99% chance of winning.
Prediction: TeamRankings has Kentucky winning 76-63. KenPom is projecting an 80-55 victory for the Cats.