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January 21st, 2018

What does Zion Williamson’s decision mean for Kentucky?

@ESPNU

Let’s just get it out of the way now, last night sucked.

Five-star forward Zion Williamson did the unimaginable by committing to Duke, giving the Blue Devils the No. 1, 2, and 3 prospects in the nation. Absolutely no one had Duke even remotely on their radar in this recruitment. They were “technically” on Williamson’s final list, but the only perceived contenders were Kentucky, UNC, Clemson, and South Carolina. The decision shocked everyone.

And for Kentucky, the ramifications are massive.

Here’s what Williamson’s decision means for the Wildcats:

James Wiseman is a priority

The No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019, James Wiseman, is reportedly considering a move to 2018.

And Kentucky desperately needs it to happen.

It’s no secret the talented big man favors the Wildcats, but when he eventually suits up in blue and white is extremely important. He has told reporters a reclassification isn’t possible, but we’ve heard the same with elite prospects in the past. Marvin Bagley said he wasn’t going to reclassify this summer, and just weeks later, he announced he would be suiting up for Duke this season. Despite public denial, the whispers are growing louder that a reclassification is not only possible, but likely for Wiseman.

Without Williamson, Kentucky has no “it” factor guys committed for next season. Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro are all stellar prospects, but there is no superstar headliner. There is no one to single-handedly take over a game and dominate.

And Kentucky has zero offers out to any remaining uncommitted prospect in the class of 2018.

For Calipari’s one-and-done system to thrive, you have to have superstar talent layered in with quality role players. As we’re seeing this season, when you struggle to find the “guy,” the team falters. According to ESPN, UK’s highest-ranked signee in the class of 2017 was Kevin Knox at No. 10. In 2016, the Cats had three signees ranked in the top-ten, and five in the top-25. ESPN lists Keldon Johnson as the No. 7 prospect in 2018, Quickley at No. 12, and Herro at No. 27.

Again, excellent recruiting class, but something is obviously missing.

EJ Montgomery, Jordan Brown, and Moses Brown are three five-star prospects Calipari could still offer and make up ground with, but they wouldn’t be game changers for the Cats next season.

Barring any surprise graduate transfers or reclassifications, Wiseman is the only realistic shot at finishing the class with a truly elite prospect. Calipari needs him. Bad.

Kentucky needs some key returnees

Duke’s class of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones is easily one of the best in college basketball history.

If the Cats finish with some surprise returnees, however, Kentucky can absolutely beat them with depth.

Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox are near-locks to enter the NBA Draft, but beyond that, no one knows.

Despite having the measurables, Nick Richards is absolutely not ready to go to the NBA. Quade Green will almost certainly return. PJ Washington is improving, but he doesn’t look like an NBA player yet. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has moved up on the draft boards, but he could return to UK and become one of the top point guards in the nation. Will Jarred Vanderbilt enter the draft after just half a year of play? Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Jemarl Baker, and Tai Wynyard are all likely back.

If just two or three players leave, next year’s team has the potential to be absolutely loaded. Add in Wiseman or another surprise, I’ll take my chances on another Final Four run.

If some or most of the fringe guys leave, Kentucky could be in for a very rough year while watching Duke coast to a National Championship.

UK’s path to a title just got that much harder

There’s no debate anymore, Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils have taken over the recruiting world.

If Williamson committed to Clemson, South Carolina, or even North Carolina, fine. When Kentucky not only loses out on the star freshman, but Calipari’s biggest recruiting rival snags him, it’s a punch in the gut. When that same recruiting rival wins the lottery with the nation’s three top recruits in an unbelievably top-heavy class, now that’s brutal.

When Williamson threw on that horrid Duke hat last night, it felt a bit like Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors two years ago. The rich got richer, and it seemed like the 2018-19 National Championship was decided before the season even began. When Kentucky desperately needed a superstar, not only did they miss out, but they lost him to the direct competition. It made Kentucky’s road to a title next season unbelievably difficult.

Remember, however, Calipari and Coach K have won the same number of titles in the one-and-done era. Duke has four of the top eight prospects in the nation this season, yet have lost games to Boston College and NC State. They had two of the top three recruits, and three of the top ten in 2016, yet lost in the second round to South Carolina. In just two of the last seven years, Duke has made it past the Elite Eight. In Calipari’s first year at Kentucky, Duke won a title with mostly upperclassmen. It took a massive upset in 2014-15 for Duke’s freshman-heavy roster to hang a banner.

If there’s a team that knows how to crumble in the tournament, it’s the Blue Devils.

But it would take a major choke job from Mike Krzyzewski to screw this up.

It goes without saying, but Calipari has his work cut out for him in the next few months in both recruiting and figuring out what to do with his current team. The sky isn’t falling because of Zion Williamson, but it certainly isn’t sunshine and rainbows.


With Vanderbilt and Green back, along with defensive improvement, Calipari is optimistic going forward

When everyone else was worried about the sky falling, John Calipari was the calmest person in the media room following Kentucky’s disappointing loss last night to Florida.

The phrase “we’re fine” was uttered several times, with Cal saying the team’s turnaround on defense, along with overall improved health makes him feel confident going forward with this team.

One of the newest additions to the lineup, Jarred Vanderbilt, has the Kentucky head coach excited. He has averaged five points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in nearly 14 minutes per game in his first two outings, and that’s with little to no conditioning, scrimmaging, or plays set up for him.

“What we end up doing is saying when he’s in, we’re only going to run these three for four things, and then we try to figure out what they should be,” Calipari said. “I need his energy and his rebounding and his toughness and his ability to pass balls.

“He scrimmaged like two times with us, so now we play again Tuesday. So, what do we do tomorrow, and we’re off Wednesday, and then we practice Thursday, fly Friday, play Saturday. It’s hard to get him acclimated.”

With Vanderbilt and Quade Green back, Kentucky now has the healthiest roster they’ve had this season, and Calipari feels that will motivate those on the floor to put forth their best effort. If not, there’s someone itching on the bench to replace him.

“The good news right now, I’ve got a full roster,” Coach Cal said. “So, if you are really not giving it this game, I can play somebody else. So, there’s no arguments on the bench, no back and forth. You don’t have to. Out. Next.”

Even with guys playing winded and extremely rusty, the Cats were in position to win right up until the end. Because of that, Cal said he feels better about this game than he did with the team’s road win vs. Vanderbilt and the tough loss at South Carolina on Tuesday.

“We had a full roster (Saturday),” Calipari said. “Quade doesn’t shoot the ball first game back. If he makes a couple 3s, the game’s different. But you know what, first game back, what do you expect? I thought Jarred did some good stuff but he got winded again. But like I said, this is very, very much encouraging, and we went 1 out of 11 attempts to end (the first) half. Think about that. And we still had a chance. It’s because we guarded and we did some good stuff.”

Aside from the game itself, the Big Blue Nation did their part. Roughly 3,500 fans showed up to the College GameDay morning show yesterday, and then a season-high 24,394 fans filled Rupp Arena for the game last night.

Check out KY Wildcats TV’s recap of the event:

We’re on to Mississippi State.


Ohio recruiting analyst likes Kentucky’s chances with Peters and Oats

We are just a few weeks from college football’s second National Signing Day on February 7, and with four scholarships remaining, the Kentucky Wildcats have the opportunity to finish the class of 2018 strong.

Two of the most crucial pieces remaining for the Cats are four-star commitment Xavier Peters and four-star outside linebacker Chris Oats, but questions surrounding their recruitments have been a worry for UK fans.

Peters has been committed to Kentucky since July of last year, but after failing to sign during the early period, and recent scheduled visits to Florida, Florida State, and Miami, it looked like a decommitment was inevitable.

For Oats, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, there was a time Kentucky seemed like the consensus favorite in his recruitment. KSR reported just a week ago that UK safety Mike Edwards was actively recruiting Oats to Kentucky, and Oats was extremely interested in playing with the fellow Winton Woods product.

After Ohio State confirmed Oats as a “take” for the Buckeyes this week, and contact heated up between both parties, many felt the talented four-star would play for the local powerhouse school.

According to Ohio recruiting analyst and insider Bill Greene, however, Kentucky is still in great shape with both prospects.

“I think Kentucky is in really good shape to sign (Peters),” Greene told Derek Terry of the Cats Pause. “If there is a threat then it’s definitely Florida. I think (Florida State and Miami) are just window dressing.”

Greene believes Peters’ relationship with Kentucky commitments also plays in UK’s favor.

“I think he has better relationships with the kids in the Kentucky program. There’s a lot of guys on that roster he knows and guys coming in with him that he knows,” he said.

As for Oats, there’s always pressure for recruits from Ohio with offers from OSU to become Buckeyes, but his relationship with Kentucky assistant Vince Marrow may win out in the end.

“I just did an interview with Chris earlier this week where he called that relationship like a father-son relationship and talked about how much he trusted Coach Marrow,” Greene said. “Just going off past history I think (Ohio State) can clip him, but if he does go ahead and sign with Kentucky that would not shock me at all because of the relationship he has with Coach Marrow.”

Getting one or both of these guys to sign in February  would be massive.

Bring em on home, Stoops.


Is the No-Call the best thing that could have happened?

You’ve seen it by now. In the closing seconds of yesterday’s loss to Florida, PJ Washington drove to the basket to only be fouled hard by Florida. Jay Bilas criticized the official for not making the foul call. Luckily for Kentucky, the ball did go out of bounds off of the Gators and the Cats got another chance to run an inbounds play.

Fans immediately called it a “screw job.” Don’t get me wrong, it was the wrong call, but was the wrong call the best thing to happen to Kentucky? Let me explain… if the official would have called the foul, Washington would have gone to the line to shoot two with a little over 2 seconds left.

Washington is a 59% free throw shooter and 54% since the start of 2018. Do you take your chances that the Freshman makes both of those free throws? Or was the no call the best possible thing that could have happened? This gave Kentucky a shot to tie on one shot or even get a chance at the win.

Yes, if Washington makes them both, Florida would have to go the length of the floor in 2 seconds or make a long shot to win. Overtime would have been inevitable. Would Kentucky have won those five minutes? I’m not so confident they would have.

What if Washington would go and miss them both? Florida would almost be guaranteed to get the rebound and would therefore win the game.

What if Washington goes to the free throw line and makes one of two? If he makes the first of the pair and misses the second, the Cats would have had to have gotten an offensive rebound and putback to have a shot at the win. If he misses the first and makes the second? Kentucky has to foul, which would probably come at around 1.8 seconds and then would have to make a long shot.

When looking at the play, the big downside to the no-call being the best thing that could have happened is the fact that Kentucky struggles so much on inbounds plays. The no-call on the previous play obviously did give Kentucky multiple looks at an open shot.

What do you think? Which outcome gave Kentucky the best odds to win? I am still leaning towards the no-call being the best thing that could have happened.


YAHTZEE! 2018 three-star WR LiAllen Dailey commits to KENTUCKY

How about some good news to close out your weekend?

2018 three-star WR LiAllen Dailey has committed to KENTUCKY!

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver out of Pinson, AL chose the Wildcats over Louisville, Arkansas State, and Toledo, among others.

Dailey received an offer from Kentucky on January 9, and scheduled an official visit to Lexington for this weekend soon after.

After checking out campus since Friday afternoon, Dailey decided the bluegrass was home.

Here was the announcement:

Dailey finished with 80 receptions for 1,441 yards and 23 touchdowns for Pinson Valley this past year, leading the team to a state championship in the process.

Rivals.com lists the newest Wildcat as the No. 94 wide receiver in the nation.

Watch his senior highlight tape below:

Welcome home, LiAllen!


Calipari daughters fire back at “fans”

The last 24 hours have not been pretty for Kentucky fans. When the day started with College GameDay, we all thought that this could be a day to remember. It is safe to say that did not happen. Zion Williamson shocked pretty much everyone and committed to Duke and Kentucky looked flat in a performance against Florida at home.

Like any instance, when a team is struggling the head coach is the first to be blamed. I am by no means saying that I disagree with some of the criticism of Calipari this season, but at the same time there are some “fans” that are taking it overboard.

Throughout Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, his daughters have continuously come to his side when some fans start to turn on him. Today has been no different. The Calipari daughters are responding this morning on Twitter to fans.

Jerry Tipton took the first responses:

Then came the so-called “fans”

Then it was Megan’s turn

I am just wondering when people will learn not to cross the Calipari daughters. Did no one learn from this incident?

Erin Calipari schools bartender talking smack about her dad

Long story short is this… we get it. You are frustrated with how the team is playing this year. Do you not think Cal isn’t frustrated as well? He obviously wants this team to succeed more than anything. Stop tweeting at his daughters. Trust me when I say this. It won’t end well.


Kentucky wasn’t even on Zion Williamson’s list of final four schools

Remember when recruiting analysts felt it was neck-and-neck between Kentucky and Clemson going into the home stretch of Zion Williamson’s recruitment?

Turns out, Kentucky wasn’t really in the running at all.

In an interview with Nikki Hood of TigerNet.com, Lee Anderson, Williamson’s step-father, said the big decision came down to four schools.

And Kentucky wasn’t one of them.

“As of last night, he still didn’t know where he wanted to go,” Anderson said. “Clemson, South Carolina, Duke, North Carolina, those are all schools that he seriously considered. He just had a hard time deciphering where he wanted to go.”

In fact, the decision came down to a flip of a coin between the final four schools.

“Zion woke up and he made a decision. That was all there was to it,” said Anderson. “Zion actually told me last night that he was going to flip a coin and go through four schools.”

Despite Williamson’s relationship with Drake, his best friend signed on to be Kentucky’s star point guard, and John Calipari making him a priority for almost two years, the Cats weren’t even seriously considered.

Unreal.


UK Cheerleader gets engaged following Kentucky-Florida game

The Kentucky Wildcats may have lost last night, but one UK cheerleader came away walking on air.

Senior cheerleader Dallas Pringle was surprised on the court following the game when her boyfriend, Jack Ditto, got down on one knee and proposed in front of the Rupp Arena crowd.

Here is the video of the moment:

Our KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang, got some close-up shots of the proposal:

In an interview with the Herald-Leader, Pringle said she had no idea the proposal was coming.

“It was the best surprise ever,” Pringle said. “It was awesome.”

UK Cheerleading won their 23rd National Championship last weekend, they were chosen to represent the USA at the Winter Olympics in February, and Pringle recently tried out for the USA Cheer national team.

Not a bad run for the senior Wildcat.

Congratulations to both Dallas and Jack on their engagement!


UK Hoops falls to South Carolina 81-64

(via @KentuckyWBB)

The crowd at Rupp Arena was excited and energetic on Sunday afternoon as UK Hoops took the floor to play the South Carolina gamecocks. Mackenzie Cann was the first to score for the Cats, hitting a big three halfway through the first quarter. Despite having to stop game play for two separate shot clock issues, Kentucky went on a 5-0 run, preventing South Carolina from scoring for three minutes. The score at the end of the first quarter was 13-12, with South Carolina holding a small lead over UK Hoops.

While the Cats started the second quarter by gaining the lead, it quickly became clear that free throws and turnovers would be the two biggest obstacles UK would face. By halftime, South Carolina had been sent to the line 12 times, making seven free throws, while Kentucky was only one of four from the line. Turnovers were another area UK Hoops struggled with in the second quarter. The Cats average 12 turnovers a game, but already had 14 by the end of the first half. The Gamecocks turned Kentucky’s 14 turnovers in to 12 points and responded with a 20-4 run, taking their biggest lead of the game. The score at halftime was 34-20.

UK Hoops started the second half with significantly better offense. Their free throw percentage raised from 25% to 63% and the Cats only had two turnovers in the third quarter. The crowd at Rupp were on their feet, as No. 24 Taylor Murray, No. 4 Maci Morris, and No. 3 Keke McKinney all scored double figures. After trailing by 18 points early in the third quarter, Kentucky fought to bring South Carolina’s lead down to less than eight. The score at the end of the third quarter was 59-48.

But Kentucky’s comeback with cut short when the Gamecocks scored a three early in the fourth quarter, followed by a 7-0 run to increase their lead by 15 points. South Carolina shot 79% from the field for the second half of the game, securing a victory by the final buzzer. The final score was 81-64. While this is the second loss in a row for UK Hoops, Coach Mitchell remained optimistic about the team’s future in the post game press conference: “I saw some signs of progress for us today. We have to keep going and keep working.”

UK Hoops will be back in Memorial Coliseum to take on the University of Alabama on Thursday, Jan 25 at 7 pm.


Time to Give Up on This UK team? ESPN’s Jeff Borzello Thinks So

Losing games without Quade Green and Jarred Vanderbilt was to be expected. But now that the Cats have real depth at multiple positions, and are still losing, many folks around the bluegrass and in the media are letting the pessimism get to them.

Take ESPN’s Jeff Borzello for example:

We keep waiting for Kentucky to take the next step, to become the team that its No. 2-ranked recruiting class indicated last spring and summer. But the Wildcats are definitely not that right now, and it’s unlikely they’re going to become that in the next six weeks before the NCAA tournament. They lack consistent playmakers at the point of attack; they go through long droughts from the perimeter; and they still have defensive issues.

Whenever Kentucky wins, though, it seems as if the Wildcats are inching closer to becoming the SEC favorite or a team that can play at the Final Four in San Antonio in April. We all want to think the talent on that roster will put it together and become a force. But we can probably put that to rest.

[ESPN]

Kentucky has 12 games left before the SEC Tournament. Hopefully they can prove everybody wrong.

“Hopefully” being the operative word there.

@JayWinkKSR


Our Courtesy Acura Fans of the Game want a photo recap

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Kentucky had plenty of mistakes against the Florida Gators which ultimately cost them the game. Further, they once again went on a long scoring drought to let a first half lead slip away. But their defense in particular left Coach Cal encouraged by his team’s performance. They held a high powered Florida offense to just 20% shooting from deep. UK managed to grab a lead with five minutes to play but were unable to get the win despite a valiant effort under a minute to play. Let’s take a look at some game photos courtesy of KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang:

This bucket by P.J. Washington was a big time move when his team needed a bucket late in the game. Most would say he probably deserved a chance to tie the game up with under 10 seconds to play as well. Washington finished the game with six points and seven rebounds. The 6’7 forward was one of five players for Kentucky with at least six rebounds. UK finished the game holding a 49-38 margin on the glass.

After seeing his first game action on the road against South Carolina, Jarred Vanderbilt made his home debut against Florida. We saw the type of energy, passing, and rebounding he can bring to the table against the Gamecocks. Against the Gators, we saw him picking up the opposing team’s ball handler. He finished the game with six rebounds. As he continues to get in better game shape, his minutes no doubt will increase. His toughness and rebounding in addition to the added depth he brings are much needed for this team.

Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel are proving to be terrific energy guys for this Kentucky team. SKJ provides big time offensive rebounds every game. Against Florida, he grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored seven points.

While Wenyen Gabriel’s efforts don’t always show up in the box score, it was a different story against the Gators. During one stretch, the sophomore scored seven straight points, all coming inside the paint. One basket he scored while being fouled. He also hit a huge three late in the game. Gabriel finished the game with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Sticking with the UK big guys, Coach Cal likes the improvement he is seeing out of Nick Richards. Against Florida, he provided a physical presence with his game-high nine rebounds. He also scored eight points and blocked two shots.

Kentucky has no choice but to get back to work and find a way to close out some of these games. Now that they are getting healthy, there is plenty of time for this team to put it all together. But, it’s not going to be easy. After Mississippi State visits Rupp on Tuesday, a road trip looms to face a top five West Virginia team in a hostile environment. For now check out our complete game photos on KSR’s Facebook page:

 


BBNBA: Kentucky bigs continue to stuff the stat sheet

Karl-Anthony Towns warming up before the Minnesota Timberwolves game against the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Recap

It was a relatively quiet night in the BBNBA, but three big men made sure they were still heard. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Karl-Anthony Towns all recorded double-doubles of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Davis and Cousins have already been named All-Star starters and Towns will surely be named to the Western Conference’s reserves when the teams are announced.

Davis only had two shots the entire second half, as his first shot came with only a little bit over a minute remaining in the game, but it was a big one. Davis’ dunk with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter gave the New Orleans Pelicans a six-point lead and ultimately led them to the win.

Towns struggled with foul trouble in the first half, playing only eight minutes and with no Jimmy Butler who was out due to injury. In the second half, Towns took over and helped lead his team to a big win over the Toronto Raptors, snapping a two-game losing skid for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have yet to lose three straight games this season. Check out the rest of the stats below.

Stats

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP)111-104 W vs. MEM247-13 (2-6)105214+939
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)115-109 W vs. TOR226-7 (2-2)102011027
Anthony Davis (NOP)111-104 W vs. MEM217-13 (0-0)122022+538
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)105-106 L vs. MIA146-10 (0-0)10010-827
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)116-94 L @ PHI145-18 (1-6)03513-1438
Darius Miller (NOP)111-104 W vs. MEM124-9 (2-6)60111+230
Rajon Rondo (NOP)111-104 W vs. MEM73-6 (1-3)45102-228
Bam Adebayo (MIA)106-105 W @ CHA63-4 (0-0)55211+823
Patrick Patterson (OKC)148-124 W @ CLE62-5 (2-3)12201+819
Dakari Johnson (OKC)148-124 W @ CLE00-000000-51
Andrew Harrison (MEM)104-111 L @ NOPDNP-Shoulder----------------
Nerlens Noel (DAL)108-117 L @ PORDNP-CD----------------
Malik Monk (CHA)105-106 L vs. MIADNP-CD----------------
DeAndre Liggins (NOP)111-104 W vs. MEMDNP-CD----------------

Highlights

Tonight in the NBA

1:00: Magic @ Celtics

3:30: Knicks (Kanter) @ Lakers (Randle)

4:00: Nets @ Pistons

7:00: Pacers (Poythress) @ Spurs

Player(s) to watch

Tonight is a rare night in the NBA. Only three former Wildcats will take the court on Sunday with no games on national television. Luckily for you, NBA League Pass is having a free preview that ends today, so get your fill in while you can. That being said, the New York Knicks taking on the Los Angeles Lakers at 3:30 has enough blue blood in it to make it worth watching. Julius Randle leads his team at home against Enes Kanter, as both players are having career seasons. Randle is averaging 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field since becoming a starter. This will be his 13th straight game starting. Kanter is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (59.7) and rebounds per game (9.9).

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


The Cats could use a Morgantown Miracle

Wake up frustrated this morning? You’re definitely not alone.

The Duke hatred welled deep within us all last night, making the forthcoming loss to Florida that much more traumatic. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, the Cats didn’t deserve to win. It was merely late game good fortune that kept Kentucky in the hunt.

The potential behind this UK team is painfully obvious, especially with the addition of Jarred Vanderbilt, but I’m not sure anyone on this planet, including Coach Cal, knows exactly what it will take to make them play up to their capabilities. If it’s gonna happen, one day, it’s just gonna click. And sure, there is plenty of time left before March Madness gets into full swing.

But I can’t think of a better time for the Cats to get their mojo back than when they face off with soon-to-be top 5 ranked West Virginia next weekend.

The de facto main event and potential decider of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, UK vs. WVU will be even more hyped up with College Gameday emanating from Morgantown. And barring a surprising upset bid from TCU tomorrow night, the Mountaineers will enter this game as the AP’s top ranked team from the Big 12.

The Cats will likely enter this game unranked. But for hype purposes, we all know just having “Kentucky” on the jersey will do the trick.

The last two times Cal and Bob Huggins have squared off have both gone in Kentucky’s favor, with UK having knocked WVU out of the 2011 and 2015 NCAA Tournaments. Nonetheless, I’m sure BBN can rally around the 2010 Elite Eight loss yet again.

A loss in Morgantown would likely prove inconsequential. But a win, regardless of the fashion, would earn the youngest team in college basketball some major confidence points. And despite the setbacks that have plagued UK so far this season, confident Cats are still dangerous Cats.

All of this, of course, is assuming we can get past Miss. St. on Tuesday.

@JayWinkKSR


Today on KSR: Tom Brady’s Thumb

Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Good Morning, Big Blue Nation.

Thumbgate is on Watch Today

Tom Brady’s thumb will be the biggest story in all of sports today. In case you missed it, Brady cut his thumb during Wednesday’s practice in a collision with running back Rex Burkhead. The collision required stitches. He did not practice Thursday and was limited on Friday.

Brady will play today against the Jacksonville Jaguars and everyone’s eyes will be on the right thumb of #12 today.

P.S. Go Blake Bortles!

The Skol Chant is Awesome

The Skol chant of the Minnesota Vikings is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.

Minnesota fans broke out the Skol chant during the Timberwolves game on Saturday.

Philadelphia Fans Are Crazy

The Philadelphia Eagles were underdogs against the Atlanta Falcons last week. They didn’t take that lightly.

After the game, Lane Johnson and Chris Long wore dog masks to show their disdain for their underdog status as a No. 1 seed.

And guess what? They’re underdogs today.

Kentucky Lost to a Florida

In the wise words of Bill Belichick, on to Mississippi State.

Zion Williamson Picks Duke

Who? Never heard of her.

UK Hoops Takes on No. 10 South Carolina 

UK Hoops looks to upset South Carolina at noon in Rupp Arena. You can watch the game on ESPNU.

The Arizona Baseball Team is My Favorite PAC-12 Baseball Team

I have no idea what this is, but I love it so much.

The Shirtless Tongan Flag-Bearer From Rio 016 is Back!!!!!!

Pita Taufatofua has qualified for the Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing. How many days until the Opening Ceremony?

@ESPN


Kentucky Basketball and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Saturday, January 20, 2018, did not go as planned.

What had the potential to be a special day for the Kentucky basketball program, turned out to be a complete disaster. It was a letdown of epic proportions and Big Blue Nation is an anguished fan base because of it.

We should’ve known it all would’ve gone wrong as soon as College GameDay went live from Rupp Arena to start the day. Nothing ever goes right when ESPN’s Saturday morning college basketball show comes to town, especially when Florida is the opponent. The Gators came in with a 6-1 record against Kentucky on GameDay appearances; that record is now 7-1 after yet another heartbreaking defeat.

But before we sulk in the immediate impact of the Cats’ second straight loss, we must first acknowledge Saturday’s other loss, which affects the distant future of the program.

Zion Williamson.

Williamson shocked the world by picking Duke as his college destination. Of the handful of schools he was considering, Duke was the only one Kentucky fans couldn’t stomach to see win out. And what makes it worse is no one saw it coming at all. There was very little mention of Duke in the weeks leading up to the decision. Clemson was the heavy favorite; South Carolina the nearby sleeper; North Carolina the late buzz; and Kentucky the long-time contender that still had a shot to land its top target. Duke was the afterthought, yet Duke was the choice when the hat went on Williamson’s head during a nationally-televised ceremony on ESPN2, just as UK-Florida tipped off, one channel over.

With the addition of Williamson, Mike Krzyzewski now has the top three prospects in the 2018 recruiting class, two of whom are considered legit superstars. Those same two — Williamson and R.J. Barrett — were John Calipari’s top two targets in the class, and there was a time when Calipari was almost certain he would eventually land both.

Instead he landed neither, solidifying his place beneath Coach K on the recruiting mountain. A short few years ago Calipari stood alone on that mountain, but now Duke and Coach K sit at the peak as Cal and Kentucky avalanche downward. As much as it pains us to admit it, Krzyzewski owns Calipari right now — it’s no longer an argument. He is beating Cal at his own game, and you know it’s eating Cal up inside.

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss and wonder how Williamson, Barrett and Cameron Reddish will share a basketball in Durham next year, and if there is any reason to have a 2018-19 college basketball season at all. It’s safe to say the Blue Devils will be the clear-cut favorite to start the year. In the meantime, we have Saturday’s other loss to deal with.

Florida.

Kentucky has yet another disappointing defeat on its resume, its second in as many games. The 66-64 loss to the Gators ended a streak of 30 home wins in conference play, and a streak of 57 wins against unranked opponents.

More importantly, it dropped Kentucky to fourth in the SEC standings with several challenging road games ahead. The SEC regular season crown is now unlikely, unless the Cats can muster up the toughness to steal some of those tough games ahead.

As for the actual game, Kentucky once again squandered a significant lead with a long scoring draught offensively. UK had an eight-point lead in the first half but found itself down by as many as eight in the second half. When UK fought back to take the lead with 5:39 to go, it scored only two more points over the next five minutes, and needed miraculous three-pointers in the final minute to even have a puncher’s chance in the end.

It’s clear this team lacks the go-to scorer who can take the ball and get a bucket to stop the bleeding when the offense goes stagnant. It also lacks the ability to put a team away when things are going well. The talent is there and the roster is finally at full strength, but the last two games were losses when they should’ve been wins, and now Kentucky will need to play its best basketball on other teams’ home turf to earn critical wins.

The world didn’t end on Saturday, January 20, 2018, but it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Zion Willamson gave Duke another painful recruiting victory over Kentucky, and Florida gave Kentucky another painful defeat on the basketball court.

And Big Blue Nation is not in a good place because of it.