Tennessee Already Talking Trash

Tennessee has been on each end of two controversial games in the last 5 days. On Saturday, LSU beat the Vols after making two free throws on a late Grant Williams foul (flop) following a long rebound. On Wednesday night, with Tennessee leading 72-71, Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler ran down the court to shoot a 3-point attempt for the win. As the shot went up Shuler was called for a charge as forward Admiral Schofield flopped to the ground.

In theory, Ole Miss still had a shot before the referees took it away. Following the charge call, Tennessee blatantly traveled after catching the inbound pass, with one official even signaling a travel but was not officially called. The call wasn’t changed and Tennessee lucked out with a 73-71 win.

Both of these late game controversial calls included one of Tennessee’s two best players, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.

On Saturday, Tennessee will be looking to avenge a 17-point whoopin’ against Kentucky. We learned last year that PJ Washington has a place in Grant Williams’ head as Williams told reporters, “I’ll give it to him. He was in my head a little bit”.

It seems like PJ seems to have grown bigger in Williams’ head as he completely outplayed and outphysicalled Williams last time around with 23 points and 5 rebounds. After the game PJ even saying, “When he said that, I felt like I had an advantage tonight”. Other Wildcats even noticed with Tyler Herro saying, “I think they’re scared of him, honestly.”

According to Admiral Schofield, Tennessee is looking to change that on Saturday. After the controversial win against Ole Miss, as Grant Williams was being asked about Saturday’s matchup against the Cats, Schofield walked by and sarcastically said, “Hopefully we’re not scared of PJ (Washington) this time.”

Grant Williams responded, “No, I’m not. [Washington]’s a great player. One of the best in the country. But I’m not [scared].”

In the last week the Vols have flopped a game away and flopped to win a game. With as bad of officiating that the SEC has had this season, lets hope it doesn’t come down to a referee decision on Saturday.

Kentucky Offers 2021 Star

In terms of recruiting, all attention is currently going towards finishing the 2019 class. With high school season ending, the spring recruiting period is about to ramp up. However, Calipari seems to be taking a peek at what’s to come.

According to recruiting insider Evan Daniels, Calipari recently extended an offer to Class of 2021 recruit Jon Kuminga on his visit on Tuesday. Calipari has rarely offered scholarships to recruits two classes in advance. The only exceptions being Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Karl-Anthony Towns who were both on final four teams, so it did work out pretty well.

Kuminga, a 6-8 forward from Centereach (NY), is ranked as No. 4 player and No. 2 small forward in the 2021 class by 24/7 Sports. Kentucky is the first blue blood school to offer Kuminga, who is currently only holding offers from schools like Auburn, Alabama, Arizona State, Georgia, Western Kentucky, and West Virginia among others. Kuminga’s Crystal Ball predictions are 100% for St. Johns but that will almost certainly change as time goes on.

Scouting Report: Kuminga is an elite level athlete with superstar potential. As his skill level develops and catches up to his athleticism, he could become one of the best players of the Calipari era if he chooses to be a WIldcat. Kuminga is a great rebounder and has great basketball IQ. Is a good shooter but needs to be more consistent. Kuminga’s athleticism allows him to play great defense. Needs to improve his ball handling and passing. Comparison: Antwan Jamison

For Calipari to offer Kuminga this early he must really love his skillset and his potential. In Cal we trust.

5 Teams Kentucky wants to Avoid in the Tournament and Their Biggest Weakness

The NCAA tournament is now less than one month away, let’s take a look at five teams that Kentucky needs to avoid for their best chance to win number 9.

1.Duke Blue Devils

Kentucky is much more prepared to go against Duke if they were to meet for a second time, but it is still best to avoid them. Duke has the three most talented players in the country, and could very well all be top 5 picks in this year’s NBA draft. They are extremely athletic and pose a lot of matchup problems with Barrett and Zion. Both are quicker than Kentucky’s bigs and taller than our guards. Duke is also relentless on the offensive glass, ranking first in offensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounds per game.

Weakness-Perimeter shooting: Similar to Kentucky, Duke is a terrible perimeter shooting team outside of Cam Reddish, and are shooting 30.7% on the season. The Blue Devils score 26.1% of their points from distances, which is ranked 312th in the country. Syracuse was able to expose this weakness as Duke struggled with that Jim Boeheim zone, holding Duke to 20.9% 3P.

P.S. no team has ever won an NCAA championship shooting under 31% 3P, Duke shoots 30.7%

2. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is truly a team that lives and dies by the three-point shots, which can be very dangerous or very regretful come March. The Hokies score 40.4% of their points from behind the arc. Kentucky’s perimeter defense is much improved from the beginning of the season and is continuing to improve but the Cats still allow opponents to shoot 35.1% from three, which is 209th in the country. With one of the best backcourts in the country, with Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson. The Hokies are dangerous come March.

Weakness-Don’t get to the line: Shooting so many of your shots from three comes with a price, not getting to the free throw line. The Hokies shoot only 39.3% of their shots around the rim and only get 17% of their points from the charity stripe.

3. Houston 

Houston has not been taken seriously this season, and have been really overlooked. Houston is ranked as the nations 18th most efficient team with one of the nations best defenses and they have two of the best guards in the country that can light it up from outside in Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks.

Weakness-Size: Houston only has one player over 6-5 that plays more than 14 mpg. If they meet Kentucky, the Cougars would really struggle against the size and physicality of the four-headed Kentucky frontcourt.

4. Florida State

Florida State has been a rollercoaster this season. The Seminoles have plenty of size and athleticism that allows them to force turnovers, something that Kentucky has struggled with this season. Even with their ups and downs, they are a balanced team and are currently ranked as the 20th most efficient team, according to KenPom. FSU has shown the ability to exploit the opponent’s biggest weakness. Beat Syracuse’s zone by shooting 50 percent from three. Beating Louisville with a plus-15 turnover margin. In an overtime win over LSU, FSU had 22 offensive rebounds to the LSU’s 4.

Weakness-Sloppiness: Florida State can cause turnovers but they have struggled to keep care of the ball this season. Averaging 14 turnovers a game this season, the Seminoles are 250th in the country in that regard.

5.Marquette

One of the best shooting teams in the country with one of the best players in the country in Markus Howard. Marquette shoots 39.6% from three on the season which is 7th best in the country. Markus Howard is a scoring machine and is averaging 25.6 ppg as the fourth highest scorer in the country. Howard is capable of exploding at any time, scoring 40 in one half earlier this season. Marquette also has a top-40 defense held together by
Theo John and Sacar Anim.

Weakness-Turnovers and Transition: Marquette averages 13.6 turnovers per game, and rank 212th in that regard. Marquette ranks in the bottom 85% nationally when it comes to surrendering fast-break attempts. Turning the ball over and poor transition defense practically gives the opposing team points.

Each team on this list is dangerous. However, the only team on this list that I am not somewhat confident Kentucky would win is Duke, just due to matchups. However, they are still skilled enough to beat them. Kentucky has just a good of a chance at the title than any team in the country. You never know what’s going to happen, its called March Madness for a reason.

Morning After: Kentucky vs. Arkansas

Kentucky is playing like one of the best teams in the country, but Tuesday night was a different story. In a game where Kentucky grabbed more defensive rebounds than the opponent had rebounds, one wouldn’t expect for the game to be particularly close. However, with a 9 P.M. ET tipoff, the Cats came out very sluggish and sloppy and Kentucky got down as much as 15 early in the second half. The Wildcats were able to fight back with the help of the Big Blue Nation at Rupp Arena and win a game they probably didn’t deserve to win.

This team wanted this game and fought back and won with heart and toughness. A gritty win is still a win, let’s take a closer look at how the Cats clawed back and completed their biggest comeback of the season.

Herro of the Night

Tyler Herro may have played one of the most offensively efficient games in
Kentucky basketball history against Arkansas. Herro finished the game with 29 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Herro singlehandedly kept Kentucky in the game after an atrocious first half and was a primary reason that they won.

With PJ the focus of the Arkansas defense, Herro was able to provide all of
his offensive production and more. Herro didn’t play great defense for the
first 25 min of the game but you can’t really complain when he is shooting 90%from the field and providing 42% of the team’s points.

Herro definitely didn’t lack confidence on Tuesday night, telling the world “I’m a bucket” as he sealed the game with two free throws.

Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.

The story of the first half was the sloppy play of the Cats and their turnovers. Kentucky looked like they had never played against a zone before Tuesday. At the end of the first half, Kentucky had 12 turnovers, while Arkansas had just 1, which resulted in an 11-point deficit. In my game preview, I noted that Arkansas is one of the best teams in the country in getting steals but most of Kentucky’s turnovers were just from poor decision
making.

The first half was a wake-up call to the Cats as they only turned the ball over 3 times and forced six Razorback turnovers in the second half. Kentucky’s second-half execution allowed for a much more efficient offense, as the Cats were able to outscore Arkansas 42-27 while shooting 54.6% from the field.

Second Half Defense

Kentucky played a very lackluster first half on the defensive end, giving up 37 points to a not-so-good Arkansas team. However, in the second half, it was clear that Kentucky came out and took pride in their defense.

In the second half, the Cats held Arkansas to just 29 points in the second half and at one point only gave up 14 points in 13 minutes. Kentucky’s cranked u intensity and pressure forced the Razorbacks into two shot clock violations and a 31% clip from the field.

Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, was defended by Tyler Herro and lit it up in the first half with 16 points, including 3 threes. In the second half, the UK coaching staff made an adjustment and put Ashton Hagans on Joe and was held to just three points (a late three-pointer). At one point, Hagans even refusing to come out for a breather. It seems like ELITE perimeter defender Ashton Hagans is back and is a very promising sign going forward.

When locked in, this Kentucky team is just special to watch on defense and is something they really take pride in.

Big Nick Energy

With Reid Travis out it is no secret that the Cats need Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery to embrace the opportunity and contribute as much as they can. While EJ struggled, Nick provided a lot in the second half.

Nick Richards was BIG on Tuesday night, with 7 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Richards had the toughest match-up of the night dealing with Arkansas big and All-SEC talent, Daniel Gafford. Outside of a few plays, Richards was able to keep Gafford in check and really challenge him, as he finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds both below his season
averages.

Calipari sees Nick Richards’ potential, and he has something that you can’t teach, size. Although Richards still has his moments, he is starting to put it together and is capable of offering things Reid Travis can’t. Richards still needs to improve on his hands made of rock, but he is showing promise of what he can be next year.


The game definitely didn’t go expected and showed room for improvement, but it also showed some bright spots. This team is special and is capable of winning in a variety of ways with different guys. On Saturday we will see what this team really is without Reid Travis in a physical game against Tennessee in Knoxville.

KY Insider Preview: Kentucky vs. Arkansas

Kentucky is coming off I believe one of their two best performances (both coming in the last 9 days) with an 80-53 thumping of Auburn. In their first game without Travis Reid, the Cats shot astoundingly well form three hitting their 2nd most in a game this season, and absolutely dominating the Tigers on the boards.

Arkansas is coming into Rupp on Tuesday on a 5 game losing streak. Arkansas currently sits at 10th place in the SEC with a 14-13 (5-9 SEC) record. ESPN’s power index is giving Kentucky a 95.6% chance to win however, Arkansas was at one point in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid and has an All-SEC first team player in Daniel Gafford. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

Daniel Gafford

The 6-11 sophomore forward is playing like an All-SEC First Team player this year. As a freshman, Gafford received SEC All-Freshman honors on 11.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg, and 60.5% FG. This year Gafford has increased his production and is averaging a near double-double with 16.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg, and 66.3% FG.

Gafford is the biggest part of the Razorback team as their leading scorer, an elite rim protector, and collecting nearly 25% of the team’s rebounds. Getting Gafford in foul trouble or wearing him out in the post will pretty much guarantee a Kentucky win on Tuesday.

Rebounding

Kentucky has been a beast on the glass this season and that doesn’t need to change on Tuesday night. The Razorbacks are not a great rebounding team as their second-leading rebounder is a guard, Mason Jones. However, Daniel Gafford is the leading rebounder in the SEC at 8.9 per game and keeping him off the glass will be key in completely shutting out Arkansas.

Force Turnovers

Arkansas is one of the worst teams in the SEC at turning the ball over with an average of 13.8 per game. Gafford averages 2.7 turnovers with the rest coming from the Razorback guards. Kentucky’s defense should be able to pressure the Razorbacks and force plenty of turnovers. Ashton Hagans should be able to add to his steal total with quite a few steals in this game.

Let PJ Get His

It is no secret that PJ Washington is playing as well and as dominant as anyone in the country at the moment. Arkansas doesn’t really have anyone to matchup against PJ. With his historically great shooting season, he is capable of pulling Gafford out of the paint and giving others inside opportunities or driving right by him. If PJ were to get matched up with Arkansas’ other starting forward, 6-6 Adrio Bailey, PJ should have a field day in the post. PJ will likely see a mixture of both but I expect PJ to exploit them and to dominate as he has since the start of SEC play.

Give Nick and EJ Some Confidence

Arkansas is ranked 66th in the KenPom rankings and on paper, this should be the easiest game left on Kentucky’s regular season schedule. Outside of Gafford, Arkansas doesn’t have a good defensive quality big man and will be matched up with PJ a lot. With Reid out it is important to get Richards and Montgomery involved and give them the chance to play well and gain some confidence before tournament play.

Take Care of the Ball

One of the few areas that Arkansas does excel in is getting steals. Arkansas is top 25 in the country at stealing the ball with 8.9 per game. The Razorbacks don’t have a single player that is considered a “pickpocket” but they are able to get into passing lanes. Kentucky will need to execute and throw strong and smart passes (please improve on entry passes).

Prediction

Arkansas has had one quality win all year, with a 90-89 win at LSU. The Razorbacks are a terrible shooting team in all areas shooting 44.5% FG, 66.2% FT, and 32.4% 3P. With the way the Cats are playing they shouldn’t have much trouble and should be able to get another comfortable win at Rupp and Cal one win closer to no. 300.

Kentucky-73 Arkansas-48

Reid Travis "Attacking"

No Reid Travis was no attacked, but according to assistant coach Joel Justus, “he’s attacking rehab.” Travis Reid was diagnosed with a sprained right knee nearly a week ago in a boring late-night win over Missouri. Kentucky didn’t seem to miss him much on Saturday as they rolled the Auburn Tigers 80-53. Travis is expected to be out at least one more game but will more likely be out for two or three more games.

In today’s pregame press conference, coach Justus shared a very positive update on Travis and his progress.

“He’s doing what he needs to do, I know that… Reid Travis is the ultimate professional, in terms of how he approaches every single day, on the floor, off the floor. He’s attacking rehab right now, the same way he attacked his body in the summer, the same way he attacked playing differently. He’s that guy now that has a different challenge ahead of him, and that’s getting his body back to being 100 percent and ready to go, whenever that time may be.”

In Travis’s second game out, Kentucky faces Arkansas on Tuesday night and should come out with the win. However, on Saturday Kentucky faces one of the biggest challenges of the season as they play Tennessee in Knoxville and would love to have Reid available. Tennessee is a very good team and will come back to avenge the embarrassment in Rupp but still, I feel confident in Kentucky’s chances without Reid. Kentucky was able to gain double-digit leads in each matchup last year and this is a much better team with a much better PJ.

We do know one thing; Cal and the UK staff is not going to rush Reid back if he’s not ready, no matter the opponent. What is important is getting him back to 100 percent for a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

KY Insider Ranking and Bracketology Update

This past week in college basketball has shuffled some teams around in the latest rankings and bracketology predictions. After dominating Auburn on Saturday in an 80-53 win the Cats remain at no. 4 in the latest AP poll and are now predicted as a 1 seed by most experts.

AP Top 25

1. Gonzaga (44), 27-2

2. Virginia (15), 24-2

3. Duke (3), 24-3

4. Kentucky (2), 23-4

5. North Carolina, 22-5

6. Michigan State, 23-5

7. Tennessee, 24-3

8. Houston, 26-1

9. Michigan, 24-4

10. Marquette, 23-4

11. Texas Tech, 22-5

12. Nevada, 25-2

13. LSU, 22-5

14. Purdue, 20-7

15. Kansas, 20-7

16. Kansas State, 21-6

17. Maryland, 21-7

18. Florida State, 21-6

19. Wisconsin, 19-8

20. Virginia Tech, 21-6

21. Buffalo, 24-3

22. Iowa, 21-6

23. Cincinnati, 23-4

24. Wofford, 24-4

25. Washington, 22-5

Others Receiving Votes: Louisville 90 (LOL), Villanova 63, Iowa St. 58, Mississippi St. 28, Auburn 16, Baylor 10, VCU 4, Old Dominion 2, New Mexico St. 1.

Notable Moves

Duke: After losing Zion Williamson 36 seconds into the game and losing 88-72 to North Carolina the Blue Devils fell to no. 3

North Carolina: Jumped to no. 5 after two impressive double-digit wins over a top 5 Duke team and a then no. 16 Florida State team.

Tennessee: Fell to no. 7 after a controversial loss at LSU

ESPN Power Rankings

The Cats are sitting 4th in the ESPN power rankings and here is what ESPN’s Jeff Borzello had to say about the Cats.

EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards appear likely to split the minutes down low while Reid Travis is sidelined. On Saturday against Auburn, Montgomery got the start and played 23 minutes, finishing with six points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. Richards played 20 minutes off the bench, also blocking three shots and finishing with four points and three boards. That combined production will make John Calipari happy.

Andy Katz Power 36

Katz ranked Kentucky no. 3 in his power 36 rankings and had this to say about the Cats.


The Wildcats are smoking right now. The second showdown with Tennessee is on tap Saturday.

Bracketology

CBS Sports

USA Today

I like each of these brackets and each gives the Cats a great chance of advancing to the Final Four. North Carolina is one of the hottest teams in the country but Kentucky was able to handle them in their December matchup. Personally, I would rather be the top 2-seed in the South Region (Louisville) and practically play 4 straight home games with Virginia as the 1 seed.

Kentucky is playing like a force to be reckoned with and if some upsets were to happen could move up a little a spot or two in the last two weeks. However, the Cats have one of the toughest remaining schedules of the top 5. This team is playing better than their no. 4 ranking.

The Morning After: Kentucky vs. Auburn

The Cats played their first game without senior Reid Travis on Saturday afternoon and absolutely dominated Auburn from start to finish in an 80-53 win.

Auburn is far from a scrub team, coming into Rupp with a top-15 offense and a top-30 defense they had all the tools to put up a fight. This game came with a lot of unpredictability, and it definitely didn’t go how most people had predicted. Let’s dive deeper and dissect Kentucky’s firm whoopin’ over Auburn.

Three-Point Shooting

Kentucky hasn’t been a great perimeter shooting team for the majority of the year. Coming into the game the Cats shot 35.4% from three on the season, which was outside the top-100 in the country. This percentage is also off of the 10th least three-point attempts in the country.

Despite this, Kentucky was shooting plenty and making them on Saturday. The Cats shot 11-24 from outside and were 9-17 at halftime. Kentucky gladly benefitted from the shooting of PJ Washington (5-8 3P) and Tyler Herro (3-6 3P), with PJ making three consecutive to start the game. For the second game in a row, Ashton Hagans even made two from outside (and a few more if his foot wasn’t on the line) and is beginning to make teams respect his outside shot.

When the Cats are shooting from outside as efficiently as they did on Saturday, they may be the hardest team in the country to beat because they do so many other things well.

EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards

With Reid Travis out, I fully anticipated for Kentucky to lose some grit, toughness, and productivity. While EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards can’t make up for Travis’ intangibles, they were able to make up for his production statistically.

Reid Travis season averages: 11.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg

EJ/Nick vs. Auburn: 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks

If Montgomery and Richards are able to sustain this level of play throughout Reid’s absence, this will do nothing but increase their confidence and their level of play come March and next year if they decided to return.

Rebounding (Keldon Johnson)

It’s no secret that Kentucky is a very good rebounding team, a staple for most Calipari teams. Saturday was no different as the Cats outrebounded Auburn 43-24.

With Reid’s absence, the Cats knew they had to make up for his rebounding efforts and no one showed that more than Keldon Johnson, who finished the game with a game-high 17 boards and played I believe his best game of the season.

Calipari is expecting a much more consistent effort from Johnson on the boards with his performance today. During the postgame show, Cal said, “Keldon told on himself today. If he thinks he’s getting two rebounds next game, I’m going to be all over him. You’re able to get that many rebounds? He went after the ball. He was screaming going after balls too; grabbing them with two hands. Proud of him.”

Defense

Auburn’s 53 points, is the lowest scoring output for the Tigers since their exit to Clemson in the second round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. Kentucky’s defense, which is now 9th in the country in terms of efficiency, held Auburn to 32.8% FG and 29.6% 3P. The Cats also crashed the defensive glass hard, getting 35 defensive rebounds on 39 misses.

This team’s defense has improved each game since December, and if Kentucky is not making shots they will always have a chance with their stifling defense.

Cal Makes History

With the win, Calipari passed Joe B. Hall for the 2nd most wins in Kentucky basketball history in humbling fashion at 298. Swaggy Cal was in full effect as he joked that Coach Hall had asked him to vacate some of his wins to keep him at 3rd.

“Coach Hall just asked me to vacate any games that go by him. I said, they’ve already vacated some of my games, maybe they’ll just vacate some more and at the end of the day I’ll be one less than him.”

Calipari accepted the honor in humbling fashion, take a look at Coach Hall congratulating Cal and the accomplishment below

Cal now only trails the great Adolph Rupp, who won 876 games at Kentucky. It took Calipari 366 games to get to 298. Rupp accomplished the feat in 364 games and took Joe B. 397 games.

It was a great Caturday in Kentucky, as the Cats made another statement win over a quality opponent and showed just again just how dangerous this team can be. This team is now what we thought it could be in the summer and still with room to grow. I like my team!

KY Insider Preview: Kentucky vs. Auburn

On Saturday, for the second time this season, the Cats will face off against the Auburn Tigers who have one of the most efficient offenses in the country. This will be Kentucky’s first game without senior Reid Travis and will be interesting to see the adjustment the Cats have to make.

Auburn, who was ranked as high as 7th earlier this season has really fallen off since the start of SEC play. The Tigers are now 18-8 (7-6 SEC) on the season and are 6th in the SEC standings. Kentucky won 82-80 in a close game at Auburn last month. However, Auburn is still a tournament team that has a top-15 offense and top-30 defense and with an afternoon tip and Travis Reid out, they have all the tools to beat the Cats at Rupp. Let’s take a look at what Kentucky needs to focus on to be successful.

Guard the Perimeter

Auburn gets most of their points from the three-point line. The Tigers shoot an average of 29.4 three-pointers per game, which is the sixth highest rate in the country. They don’t just shoot them, Auburn makes them too with a top-20 three-point percentage at 38.5%. With 7 players (playing meaningful minutes) shooting over 30%, Auburn is the best shooting team that the Cats have played this year and will play until the NCAA tournament.

Auburn’s ability to shoot the three was on full display when they faced the Cats last month as they erased Kentucky’s 18-point lead in a matter of minutes and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. The good thing is that Auburn doesn’t shoot as well on the road, but on the other hand we have seen just how well opponents shoot at Rupp.

Take Care of the Ball

This year Auburn has been a pest and have forced opponents into committing turnovers on 25.9 percent of all possessions this year, the highest rate in the NCAA. In January’s matchup, Kentucky was able to take decent care of the ball with 13 turnovers but allowed 15 fast break points, all off of turnovers. It will be key for Kentucky to limit turnovers and get back in transition.

Convert from the Free Throw Line

Auburn fouls at an alarming rate, ranked as the 2nd worst in the SEC and 262nd in the country, their opponents average 20.7 free throw attempts. Kentucky was able to take advantage of this in their last matchup going 24-33 (72.7) at the line. This is the best free throw shooting team under Calipari and with the game at Rupp, Kentucky should be able to capitalize on their opportunities.

Matchups

This game won’t be like round 1 against Auburn, with Travis Reid out and their big Austin Wiley being healthy. In January, the Cats didn’t have to deal with the athletic big and that allowed for Kentucky’s frontcourt to pretty much dominate Auburn. The Cats could benefit from Reid’s absence in this game by allowing the more athletic EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards to go up against Wiley.

This will be a game decided by the guards. Auburn guards Bryce Brown (28 points last time against UK) and Jared Harper both average over 15 points and shoot 39.3% and 41.3% from three as high-volume shooters. Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, and Jemarl Baker will have to be great defensively and be able to punch back offensively. Whichever team has the best performance from their guards will give themselves a great chance to win.

Prediction

This game will ultimately come down to how well Auburn shoots from outside and Kentucky’s perimeter defense. The Tigers are coming off a 79-56 win over Arkansas where Auburn shot 51.5% from three on 17/33 shooting. I expect the Cats to win but there will be a lot of unpredictability with Reid out.

Kentucky-78 Auburn-71




Three Reasons Why Kentucky Will Win the Title and Why They Won't

The Wildcats have all the tools to win no. 9 this year but let’s analyze Kentucky’s chances and what gives them the best chance and what does or could potentially hurt them come tournament time.

Why They Will

1.Rebounding

Kentucky currently sits 30th in the country averaging 39.04 rebounds per game. However, they outrebounded the “best” rebounding team in the country, North Carolina. In their December matchup, the Wildcats outrebounded the Tar Heels by 11 rebounds. Where Kentucky is most impressive is their offensive rebounding. Kentucky rebounds 36.6% of their misses, which is the 7th highest rate in the country. Interestingly, 2 of 4 teams Kentucky has lost to rebound their own misses at a higher rate, Duke and LSU.

2. Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

Only one time in history has a team not ranked top-20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency won the NCAA championship, that outlier being the 2014 UConn team. Kentucky is currently 14th in offensive efficiency and 8th in defensive efficiency. Making them one of six teams currently in the top-20 in each category, those other teams being Duke, Virginia, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Lousiville.

3. Versatility

This Kentucky team has come a long way since the opening night embarrassment to Duke and giving up 82 points to VMI. This team has found different ways to win all year as they’ve grown into the national title contender they are. Before Kentucky was a top-10 defense and beating teams up in the paint, Kentucky’s defense was far from elite and the two best players were Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson. They’ve won games using the free-throw line (Auburn), forcing turnovers & transition (North Carolina & Vandy), stingy defense (Florida), physicality & toughness (Tennessee). This team has pieces that can do different things and one player is capable of picking up the slack when someone else is having an off game.

Why They Won’t

1.Can PJ Washington keep his play up?

After destroying Vanderbilt Calipari said, “I’ve been waiting a year and a half for him to play this way”. PJ Washington has been playing at a first-team All American level the past 8 games averaging 21.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, and 1.3 bpg on 55.4% FG and 50% 3P. This is the version of PJ Washington the Cats needs in order to be successful but is this level of play sustainable for PJ?

2. Outside shooting

Kentucky is 316th out of the 351 NCAA Division-1 schools in 3P made per game. It’s not even the fact that they don’t make them, we are 340th in 3P attempted. Calipari has yet to embrace the three-point shot as it has become the biggest shot in the entire sport of basketball, and can be seen when we face a good zone. That could come back to get the Wildcats in March.

3. Turnovers

Kentucky is 137th in turnovers per game at 12.8, which is one of the highest amongst the national title contenders. Kentucky can’t give up as many free possessions and points and expect to win a title, especially with their lack of shooting. However, in their last 5 games, they are improving in that area.

Kentucky is capable of beating anyone, and is as talented and is playing as well as any team in the country. However, they aren’t without faults and its March Madness for a reason.