College basketball is back, and the Kentucky Wildcats are set to kick off their season against the Howard Bison on Monday night.
Howard is an HBCU located in Washington D.C. and plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bison are coming off a 16-13 record last season, the program’s first winning record since 2001-02.
Coached by Kenneth Blakeney, the Bison are taking steps in the right direction. Just two years ago, the university received a commitment from Makur Maker, a 5-star recruit out of Arizona and cousin of NBA players Thon and Matur Maker. It was the first successful recruitment of a major NBA prospect to an HBCU in the modern era.
Now, let’s take a look at what to look for in the season opener.
Who will play?
Contrary to last season, the Wildcats have gotten the injury bug early this season, and it has taken out their two biggest returning players, Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler. To add, Damion Collins is also out as he and his family continue to grieve the loss of his father.
Nothing has been said, about the status of Collins or Wheeler for Monday, but John Calipari did give an update on Tshiebwe.
Following Kentucky’s exhibition win on Thursday night, John Calipari said he would be “stunned” if Tshiebwe played on Monday, and would be “somewhat surprised” if he played Friday.
It is not expected for any of these absences to be long-term, but it is not ideal to have just eight scholarship players available for the first regular season game of the season.
Could we see Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyenso get some run?
Which offense will be seen?
In two preseason exhibition games, there have been two very different offensive performances from Kentucky.
John Calipari prefaced the first exhibition, by saying that the team was being judged by their defense, rebounding, and sprinting, and it was proven with their play. While the Wildcats performed well in those areas, they scored a measly 56 points and just never looked in rhythm.
Against Kentucky State, it was just the opposite. Despite being without Collins, Tshiebwe, and Wheeler, the team nearly doubled the scoring output of their first exhibition (111) and had six players score in double figures. Not to mention, the Wildcats hit 12 of their 26 three point attempts
If you consider the team’s performance in the Bahamas, the Wildcats scored at least 98 points in all four games. Then again, that was with a full roster.
Following Thursday’s exhibition, Calipari went on the post game show to talk about wanting to improve the atmosphere at Rupp after seeing the crowds at the Phillies games, saying, “We’ve gotta get Rupp Arena...This is kind of like a sacred place, Rupp Arena.”
Calipari mentioned he’s working on some ideas centering around students and cited that his major was marketing.
Given the optimism for this season, will we see a mostly full Rupp Arena or will the disappointment from the past two seasons carry over?
Time/Date: 6:30 pm ET on Monday, November 7th, 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).