- Date: Monday, November 6th
- Time: 8 pm ET
- Location: Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
- TV Channel: The SEC Network has tonight’s TV coverage.
- Announcers: Tom Hart and Dan Bradshaw will call the action.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | NMSU
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook now has Kentucky as a 15.5-point favorite after the line was initially 18.5 points. ESPN’s matchup predictor was the Wildcats as the overwhelming favorite, giving them an 87.3% chance to win. However, Bart Torvik has Kentucky as an even larger favorite at 96%, while DRatings has it at 96.3%.
- Predictions: Bart Torvik picks the Wildcats to win convincingly, 83-64, while KenPom is going with an 80-62 win for the home team. DRatings has the Cats winning 81-62. Haslametrics is going with an 82-65 victory, Kentucky!
Let's get it started. Go Big Blue.— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 6, 2023
New Mexico state
⏰8 p.m ET
️ https://t.co/sIKpB89aHT pic.twitter.com/4HqsJCqS8i
Enough talking. Let's ball. pic.twitter.com/DcN9bznXTT— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 5, 2023
After months of anticipation, the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team returns tonight vs. the New Mexico State Aggies at historic Rupp Arena.
The Aggies have made the NCAA Tournament in four of the last seven seasons, including an upset win over UConn as a 12-seed in 2022. However, most of that success came under Chris Jans, who is now coaching at Mississippi State. Just two years removed from that tournament win, the Aggies are significantly worse.
Last season, New Mexico State suspended the remainder of their season in February over hazing allegations within the team, finishing 9-15. New head coach Jason Hooten came over from Sam Houston State and has brought in an entirely new roster and staff, but the media predicts a struggling season for the Aggies this season, picking them to finish second to last in Conference USA.
With that said, here’s what to look for in the opener.
From the exhibitions, one of the greatest strengths of this Kentucky basketball team has been the ball movement. This has not been something they have particularly excelled at in the last three seasons.
Last year, the Wildcats had an assist rate of 55.1 percent, which was ranked in the top 100. At four games at GLOBL JAM this summer, the Wildcats had an assist rate of 72.5 percent. The most impressive part is that it is not just one player. In their last exhibition against Kentucky State, four players ended the game with 4+ assists.
Given the amount of talent on the roster, this is not a team that will rely on one or two players to score 15+ points per night as Kentucky has in recent seasons. Instead, a number of players could step up at any time given the night and the matchup and “feed the hot hand.”
Lack of Size
It has been well documented that Kentucky is without all three of their seven-footers, Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso to injury, and Zvonimir Ivisic to the NCAA as he waits for an answer on his eligibility status. That said, the regular season is here, and Kentucky still has to play the games.
New Mexico State has two transfer bigs that the Wildcats will likely see a lot of in Davion Bradford (Wake Forest) and Kaosi Ezeagu (Sam Houston State). Both are upperclassmen with a lot of experience and will likely be relied on a new New Mexico State roster.
Kentucky’s frontcourt will be made up of a committee Tre Mitchell, Adou Thiero, Jordan Burks, and Justin Edwards. Of that group, Mitchell is the only true big man. That said, he is only listed at 6’9.
On the offensive side of the ball, there will be a lot of fin lineups, as seen in the exhibitions. However, the Wildcats will give up a lot on defense and rebounding. To counter that, could we see John Calipari play a zone?
This Kentucky basketball team has eight first-year players. That is eight young men getting to experience college basketball at its highest level for the first time. While they are all talented, they are not immune to nerves.
“I had a couple of freshmen walk up to me before the game like, ‘Yeah bro, I’m kinda nervous,’” Antonio Reeves told the media after Kentucky’s exhibition against Georgetown College. While better prepared, the freshman will be playing their first regular season game at Rupp Arena, with a large season-opening crowd.
Don’t be surprised to see some of the freshmen’s play affected by those nerves. Until they find their footing in the game, Kentucky will lean on veterans Tre Mitchell, Antonio Reeves, and Adou Thiero.