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Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions



Kentucky Wildcats guard Rob Dillingham (0) celebrates a basket during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are entering a big week. After losing back-to-back games at home to Tennessee and Florida, at Rupp for just the eighth time since opening in 1976, the Cats have a get-right game against Vanderbilt Commodores, or what is expected to be.

Vanderbilt did beat Kentucky twice last season, including the first round of the SEC Tournament. However, they lost several key pieces and are much worse this season. Of their six wins, just two have come against teams ranked in the top 300 of the NET.

It is February and for Kentucky, this needs to be a game with little doubt, where they get out early and never look back. Let’s take a look at the matchup.


Ball Screen and Driving Defense

Vanderbilt is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, 340th in fact. That said, a lot of their scoring comes off ball-screen offense and drives, highlighted by guards Ezra Manjon and Tyrin Lawrence, who really hurt the Cats last season. Manjon is Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, but when he drives he is just as dangerous as a passer and will look to take advantage when the defense is over-helping.

Of course, ball-screen defense and staying in front of a defender have been two of Kentucky’s biggest defensive weaknesses, among a plethora of them. Given just how bad of a shooting team Vanderbilt has been, Kentucky should feel confident in giving space to prevent penetration. Ball-screen defense is all about knowing your personnel and communication.

Hold Under 60 Points

Vanderbilt’s offense last season was their calling card, as they were close to an NCAA Tournament birth. This season, it’s far from it. Ranked 30th in offensive efficiency last season, the Commodores are 233rd this season, by far the worst of the SEC.

That said, Kentucky’s defense this season has been far from their calling card. Giving up 90+ in three straight home games, there is much to be desired. If the Wildcats want to put themselves back into the national title contender conversation they have to show improvement on that side of the ball.


After the Tennessee loss, Adou Thiero was asked about the defensive struggles, to which he responded, “We just got to find the fight in ourselves and stop letting teams come in and do whatever they want.”

They have a good opportunity to do so against an offensively deficient Vanderbilt team that averages just 66 points per game. If they give up more than that, it will lead to more worry.

Dominate the Boards

While Kentucky’s defense has been the biggest area of concern, it’s not the only one. Rob Dillingham cited rebounding as an area the team needs to grow more consistent at, himself included.

“I feel like we didn’t fight as hard as we could,” Dillingham said. “Not boxing out, letting them get second chance points, not rebounding the ball. It’s the little things. Either we want it or not.”


Vanderbilt has not rebounded well all season and, on paper, should have the size to compete with Kentucky on the boards. If Kentucky truly wants it, they will win the rebounding battle handily.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Ezra Manjon 6-0, 170 lbs

  • 14.7 PPG (16th in SEC)
  • 3.4 APG (14th in SEC)

G Tyrin Lawrence 6-4, 200 lbs

  • 14.2 PPG (18th in SEC)
  • 5.4 RPG

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Time: 8:30 PM EST on February 6th
  • Location: Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tennessee
  • TV Channel: SEC Network
  • Announcers: To be announced.
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | VU
  • Stats to Know: UK | VU
  • KenPom: UK | VU
  • Team Sheet: UK | VU
  • Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Tennessee -1.5 and an over/under of 160. ESPN’s matchup predictor has Kentucky as a heavy favorite on the road, 87.2%. Other projections are in agreement, all giving Kentucky an 80%+ chance of winning: EvanMiya at 83.2% of, Bart Torvik at 83%, DRatings is at 84.8%, and KenPom at 84%.
  • Predictions: The score projections are all taking Kentucky to win by double-digits. Bart Torvik and Haslametrics have the Cats winning 82-71. EvanMiya went with an 80-70 win for Kentucky. KenPom is 82-72.
  • Also published on A Sea of Blue.

Men's Basketball

Lamont Butler Believes In Mark Pope And Will “Do Whatever It Takes To Put A Number Nine Up In Those Rafters”



Lamont Butler transferred to Kentucky to prove that his more than just a defender.
Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Lamont Butler has proven himself as one of the premier defenders in college basketball over the last four seasons at San Diego State, having earned MWC All-Defense honors in three straight seasons and winning the 2024 MWC Defensive Player of the Year Award.

With that level of defensive impact, Butler had no shortage of interest when he put his name in the transfer portal this Spring. In less than 48 hours after officially entering the portal, he had his decision, choosing Kentucky and becoming just the second commit of the Mark Pope era.

Butler’s parents, Lamont Butler Sr. and Carmicha Butler, recently spoke to KSR about how the family decided on Kentucky and what kind of player and young man the Wildcats are getting.


“I can start off simply by saying that it’s Kentucky,” Lamont Sr. said. “Most kids in America, if they ever got the opportunity to play for a program like that, any kid would jump at it. With Lamont being in the position in life that he put himself in, it was the perfect move for him.”

While the brand of Kentucky Basketball is a big selling point, and one that Pope is emphasizing more than Calipari did, it was not the only selling point. The other big part was how Butler was going to be used at Kentucky, and Pope and his staff hopped on a plane to Las Vegas where he was working out, to do just that.

“We were at the gym working out, when, all of a sudden, we see the men in black coming in,” Lamont Sr. said. “I’m like, wow. It was the whole kit and caboodle. They were serious about Lamont.”

Before meeting with Butler and his family, Pope was already very familiar with his game having competed against him for three seasons at San Diego State in the MWC, and that certainly showed.


“He practically broke Lamont’s game down,” Carmicha said. “He told him how he played, who he is, how he wanted to use him, his plans for him at Kentucky, and what he wanted to do with him. For me, it was amazing for Pope, who he never played for, to know that much detail about my son, on and off the court. That was a major plus, a major benefit.” 

Pope’s plan for Butler though is to show off his full game. While he is known as a defender, there is much more to his game, with his father highlighting his unselfishness and leadership.

“Lamont is the type of player who’s unselfish to a fault,” Lamont Sr. said. “I was telling someone, that Lamont scored 1,000 points but would’ve passed those 1,000 points up to make the right play. There are too many selfish players in the world. Everybody wants me, me, me, me, me. Lamont is about us, us, us. I told him that’s what’s going to take him far in life.” 

Those two characteristics are a big reason why Pope wants Butler on the ball, rather than off the ball which was the case most of the time he was at San Diego State.


“It doesn’t matter to Lamont, but Pope is going to have him on the ball. That’s what a lot of people don’t know,” Lamont Sr. said. “That’s what it’s going to be, to lead the team and make sure he’s playing faster than he’s ever played.”

The primary thing though, Kentucky fans are getting a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to put another banner in the rafters.

“They’re getting somebody who’s going to give it his all on the court, injured or not,” Lamont Sr. said. “He’s going to be out there and do whatever it takes to put a number nine up in those rafters. That’s what Lamont is coming to do.”

Also published on A Sea of Blue.


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Men's Basketball

Trent Noah Says He Looks up to His Friend Reed Sheppard, On and Off the Court



Noah: UK Athletics, Sheppard: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The level of high school basketball talent in Kentucky is the best it has been in several years. Last year, Kentucky fans got to witness the emergence of Reed Sheppard, and they are hopeful more of “Kentucky’s own” can help the Wildcats on the court under Mark Pope. Two such players are coming in next season, Mr. Kentucky Basketball Travis Perry of Lyon County, and Trent Noah of Harlan County.

The latter was recently interviewed by a fellow Kentucky native and former Wildcat, Cameron Mills, and the UK Sports Network. In that interview Noah not only talked about his excitement to join his home-state program and preparation for this coming season, but he also talked about looking up his friend and former teammate Reed Sheppard.

“He’s (Sheppard) such a great player. One of the best I have ever been around,” Noah told Mills. That just doesn’t stop off the court either. “He is a really good person. A really good friend. Someone I look up to.”


Noah is just one year younger than Sheppard, but both are from the 13th region and the two formed a friendship when they were teammates for two seasons in the Adidas 3SSB Circuit with Midwest Basketball Club. What does Noah look up to Sheppard most for?

“He’s such a great leader. He’s always leading by actions. He just knows how to play. He has that natural gift. He’s always in the right spot at the right time. He obviously shoots the cover off the ball.”

Noah notes that to take some of those attributes and apply them to his game wouldn’t do anything but help them.

Toward the end of the interview, Mills asked Noah a theoretical question: “In an NBA-style three-point contest, who’s winning, you or Reed?”


We know that Sheppard just shot the third-best three-point percentage in Kentucky basketball history, but he shot just over 30 percent in high school. Whereas Noah shot 43% (102-237) from 3-point range as a senior. With that, Noah is taking himself. “He can shoot it, but I don’t know if I can say he would beat me.”

It’s pretty cool to see the connection that Kentucky’s own have with the program and share with each other. Check out the full interview below!

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BB Recruiting

2025 Five Star, Potential Reclass Candidate Will Riley Begins Kentucky Visit



2025 five star prospect and reclass candidate, Will Riley, takes his official visit to Kentucky June 4th-6th.

Will Riley, one of the top rising seniors in the class of 2025, is set to begin a two-day official visit to Kentucky on Tuesday. This was first reported by Kentucky Insider last week.

The 6-foot-8 small forward out of Malvern, PA, is currently down to five schools: Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, and Alabama, and is leaving the possibility of playing professionally in the NBL in Australia. Riley is coming off a visit to Illinois and will visit Alabama later this week.

Already considered a consensus Top 25 prospect in the country according to 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rival, Riley’s stock is only continuing to rise. His calling card is his scoring ability and he has put that on display this Spring.


Through the first four sessions of the Nike EYBL circuit, he is averaging 21.9 points per game, on fairly efficient numbers, shooting 49.6 % from the field,  31.7 % from three-point range, and 79 % from free throws. Riley also adds 4.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game in just under 30 minutes.

A possible reclass candidate, Riley is considering making the jump from the 2025 class to the 2024 class. That decision is yet to be determined, adding an element of suspense to his potential future in college basketball.

With one current scholarship remaining for the upcoming roster, Kentucky is open to Riley reclassing and joining this year’s roster, underlining the significance of his potential addition to the team.

However, Jaxson Robinson’s commitment makes it less likely that Kentucky would be the choice if he does reclass. If he decides to remain in the 2025 class, Kentucky would remain toward the top of his list.


Does Riley become the first top 25 recruit in the Mark Pope era?

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