The goal is to play 40 games and win the last one. This puts the Cats at their midway point of the 2017-18 basketball season. Those of you who picked us to be 15-5 right now win absolutely nothing. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how young our team is at the beginning of the year and all the growing pains we witness as John Calipari takes a bunch of high school stars and attempts to turn them into an NCAA title contender. The Cats played a game as an unranked team this week. Hopefully, that has put a fire under their collective butt to listen and learn and play like champions the rest of the year.

We’re starting 5 freshmen and bringing another freshman and a couple of sophomores off the bench. One of these freshman is still less than 40 minutes into his career. We’re very inexperienced, even for our standards. Mississippi State is not a high caliber team, but they have an outside chance to be a tournament team (currently #74 RPI). But, Kentucky showed me 2 important qualities in that game: 1) they defended the 3 (5/29) and 2) they rebounded (41 to 31). UK does not take many 3s (#348), but everyone else in the country does (there are 30 teams shooting 40% or better AS A TEAM). Defending the 3 is going to be key going forward. Rebounding shows a desire and a toughness that’s hard to pull out of freshmen. We had 5 guys with 6-7 rebounds – we rebounded as a team.

The young Cats will certainly be underdogs this Saturday as they travel to Morgantown to take on the #7 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. UK will either turn a major corner this year or they will lose their 3rd game in 4 and spend at least another week outside of the polls. We’ll definitely learn something about these guys.

20 games in, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo are our leading scorers at 14.6 and 12.7 respectively. Surprisingly, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a close 3rd at 12.1. Rebounding has been a team effort as we essentially have 6 guys averaging 5-6 rebounds a game. Interestingly, in only 3 games averaging under 13 minutes on the court, Jarred Vanderbilt leads the team with an even 6.0 rebounds per game. Vanderbilt not only gives us a ton of versatility with his ball handling and passing at his size, but if he also improves our rebounding, that would be huge.

Basketball

2019 Kentucky commit Tyler Herro was selected to play in the USA Nike Hoop Summit. Just last week, Tyler narrowly missed the cut of 24 selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. A few days afterwards, ESPN updated their recruiting rankings bumping Herro up to #25 overall, earning him 5-star status. Congrats, sir!

Speaking of midway points, rosters of of the NBA All-Star festivities are being put together. BBN will have a participant in the 3 point contest to cheer on as Devin Booker plans to compete. Booker, only 21, has increased his shooting % from beyond the arc each year.

Jamal Murray was selected to play in the Rising Stars game. Murray has started all 46 games for Denver this year and has increased his scoring average from 9.9 to 16.2 with the increased minutes. He’s knocking down 37% of his 3s and is 3rd in the league with a 92.4% mark at the line. In case you forgot, Murray led the World Team to a 150-141 victory as a rookie last year – knocking down 9 triples and dropping 11 dimes in only 20 minutes. You forgot didn’t you? Let’s refresherize…

Football

I really love the idea of allowing kids to play and not automatically losing a year of eligibility the minute the step on the field. It appears that the NCAA will adopt a new rule allowing players to participate in up to 4 games in a season without losing a year. As much as I like this, I find it interesting that the number of games being thrown around is 4. That seems high to me.

So far, it appears that most of you agree with me. I feel like 2 games seems like more of an appropriate answer. A freshman could come in and learn the system, practice, jump someone on the depth chart and basically play the last 4 games of the year and it not even count as a year of eligibility. That seems like a lot of games, but I like the change.

Something to keep in mind is the transfer rule also being discussed. Many believe that college athletes will be able to transfer schools once without sitting out a year, and that change will take place in the next year or 2. Can you imagine a college football quarterback controversy where the fans want to see the hyped up freshman QB. At the end of the year, the kid finally gets in and can play in the last 4 games to show what he can do. Then, wanting to avoid the competition next year, decides to transfer! and can play immediately somewhere else… essentially using those 4 games as an audition to be recruited. He’d still have 4 years of football to play at a different school. There is some extra craziness coming to college football.

Baseball

Kentucky baseball will be here before you know it. The first game is only about 3 weeks away (February 16 at Wofford). UK enters the season with their highest ever preseason ranking (#8) and will have some new swag to show off.

Non-UK

This is great, but in an age when they’ll televise anything, we don’t get to see this. LeBron James and Steph Curry are going to pick their NBA All-Star teams like a pickup game at the playground. There are so many egos and grudges, I think it would interesting to watch these guys pick or pass on former teammates. Hopefully, they’ll have some video and show clips of the process at some point All-Star Weekend.

Dan Dakich held a small group of media and fans hostage yesterday on his radio show while dangling some big news he was going to drop. After about 2 hours of calling anybody and everybody stupid/ugly/petty instead of talking sports, he finally brought up someone he trusts has scooped to him that Louisville’s appeal was going to be denied and they would lose their 2013 National Championship.

PURE EVIL – no other way to say it. Former doctor to Team USA and Michigan State gymnast teams, Larry Nassar, was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison for multiple sex crimes. This sentence backs up a 60 year prison sentence received last month for child pornography. More than 150 young women came forward to publicly confront him over the past week and speak of their abuse. There is no telling how many other athletes or non-athletes were taken advantage of over this long period of time. Teachers, coaches, doctors, etc. … these people should be an extension of a parent. This man was completely despicable and evil, there is no other way to put it. Judge Aquilinia made it official.

Let me try to bring this back around and send you off with some positive vibes. Whitaker Bank Ballpark is about to get real this summer. Mark your calendar and be sure to get tickets to see the Legends May 19. Check out this lineup!

Image courtesy of @KentuckyMBB