We are now less than a week away from the start of the college basketball regular season, but the Kentucky Wildcats have one more exhibition game to prepare themselves for one of the toughest schedules in the country.
This time against in-state school, Kentucky State. The Thorobreds (yes, that is how they spell it) are a Division II school located in Frankfort, KY.
The Thorobreds have played Kentucky in two preseason exhibitions in the Calipari era, most recently in 2019 (losing by 32) and in 2015 (losing by 53) before that.
Kentucky State is coached by alum Jamaal Jackson, who is in his seventh season as head coach. In his time with the Thorobreds, they have become one of the best up-tempo in their conference, averaging 84.5 points per game in his first season.
Let’s look at some things to watch for on Thursday night.
Will the offense have a better performance?
Scoring 56 points is not an ideal performance for modern-day college basketball, let alone against D-II Missouri Western State. With that said, the Wildcat’s offense may not be much better on Thursday.
The Wildcats will be without Oscar Tshiebwe as he continues to sit out as a precaution from a minor knee procedure - should be ready for the season opener - but will probably be without Sahvir Wheeler due to a minor knee injury from Sunday’s exhibition.
While neither of these losses should carry over into the regular season, it will keep Kentucky’s two biggest offensive pieces from a season ago off the floor.
On Sunday night, Jacob Toppin and CJ Fredrick were the only two players to score in double figures. While both will be key pieces on offense, others need to step up including Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, and Antonio Reeves, who combined for just 16 points.
Despite coming to Kentucky as a 5-star freshman, Daimion Collins was seen as a project. While he couldn’t produce consistently last season, he did in certain situations, notably early in the season and against Alabama.
This offseason, Collins has been tabbed as a player ready to make a big jump. In the Bahamas, he showed just that, averaging 10 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and one posterizing dunk per game.
Kentucky needs frontcourt depth, so Collins showing that he’s ready to answer the call would be a huge plus. But don’t count out Ugonna Onyenso, who had five blocks in 15 minutes vs. Missouri Western State.
The Sky Is NOT Falling
Prior to the game, John Calipari tweeted this.
Excited to get back on the court with our team tonight. We have told them they will be evaluated in these three areas:— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) October 30, 2022
1. Defense - on and OFF the ball
2. Rebounding - defensive and offensive
This is how they can separate themselves on the court!!
In hindsight, you could see there was not a lot of premium put on offense and that was shown in the performance. It is okay to be disappointed in the way the team performed against Missouri Western State, but the sky is not falling.
The Wildcats were experimenting with lineups and were without the reigning National Player of the Year, who will attract attention and open up the floor for the rest of the team. Not to mention, there was some good to see. Notably, CJ Fredrick’s three-point shooting, Jacob Toppin’s much improved offense, and a good defensive performance.
When the season starts, expect this team to look much more reminiscent of the team from the Bahamas.
Time/Date: 7:00 pm ET on Thursday, November 3rd, 2022
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
TV Channel: SEC Network+
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens will have the UK radio network call on WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, and the UK Sports Network.
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).