Get ready Big Blue Nation, because the John Calipari worry-meter is set at a 5/5 tonight! These Kentucky Wildcats will take on #15 Tennessee in a home SEC tear. Coach Rick Barnes helms a UT squad that over-achieved its way into the Top 25 early but stayed there with depth, all-conference talent, grit, and balance. Everything starts for Rocky Top at their forward and wing spots, where sophomore Grant Williams (16.2 ppg/6.2 rpg/2.0 apg/.7 spg/1.3 bpg) and junior Admiral Schofield (12.5 ppg/6.3 rpg/1.6 apg/ 1.1 spg) have their hands in everything. That tandem alone would be enough to set the meter at 3/5 and get Cal red-faced, but UT also boasts a solid quartet of guards plus rim protection from 6’11” junior Kyle Alexander (2.0 bpg/20.7 mpg) to really get those veins popping out in frustration.
If UK wants to keep pace with the near-top of the SEC, this game is crucial. The Wildcats have nine SEC games left to end the regular season on a high note. Auburn is clearly tops in the conference, but there is real jockeying for position behind them. These young Cats have shown they can absolutely lose to anyone in the SEC, so the higher seed (and fewer tourney games to play) the better. When these kids play well, it’s a thing to behold. The wins over Louisville and West Virginia showcased that. However, at least for stretches, they lack the competence to play/execute as a team. Optimistically, this is not due to selfishness; it’s simply youth. When adversity arises in-game, it takes this team a while to regroup. They scatter, but they come back. They don’t do what Cal wants, but they keep learning. They might get confused, but they keep working. They are what they are. We have what we have. Let’s hope for some early clicking and a fast start against the Vols… but either way you can count on these kids putting in work.
•The aforementioned game vs. Tennessee (at 7:00pm in Rupp Arena) can be seen and otherwise consumed on ESPN and the ESPN App.
•Coach Calipari indicated yesterday that he doesn’t expect Tai Wynyard or Jemarl Baker back this season. Wynyard has not played in the last ten games dealing with a back issue while Baker has had struggles stemming from his knee all season. Don’t know that many expected them to be thrown in the mix this late in the season, but we wish them the best in their recoveries!
•The Top 25 polls were revealed, and after a crazy Saturday Kentucky stayed in!They’re 24th, but still, THEY STAYED IN!! After the way UK has been treated all season by those tricky dicky pollsters, that’s a win.
•Did you see the UK Football commercial during the Super Bowl!?!? Technical difficulties aside, it was worth the wait:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) February 5, 2018
•Coach Stoops and staff received a commitment yesterday:
— Will Crum (@WCrum06) February 5, 2018
•With Xavier at 5th and Cincinnati at 6th in the Top 25, Lexington’s neighbors to the north are showing out! The Bearcats haven’t been ranked this high since Bob Huggins stalked the UC sidelines dressed in all black as if Johnny Cash and Bobby Knight had a baby…
You heard what I said Huggy!
•With Villanova, Virginia, Purdue, and Michigan State continuing to handle their business, the top 4 remained unchanged. Well, Michigan State is handling their business on the court at least. That’s the only place Coach Tom Izzo seems to have any answers, anyway.
•Could this be the end of the New England Patriots as we know it!?!?!?!? Could this heretofore impenetrable, dynastic mix of players, coaches, and management be brought down by ego, in-fighting, and… hurt feelings? It wouldn’t be the first time (see: Bulls, Chicago and Cowboys, Dallas for examples). Sometimes men want prestige and power, and sometimes sharing it or feeling slighted/overlooked becomes untenable. I always thought it would end up being (known but uncomfirmed) age-defying-dark-wizard-Voldemort-of-the-NFL Tom Brady eventually succumbing to some level of age that would bring it all down. Nevermind that the Pats played a good game during the Super Bowl. Nevermind that Volde-Tom was as sharp as ever and threw for 503 yards. More details are emerging about CB Malcom Butler’s inexplicable National Anthem benching. Players had questions about the decision to not play him. Rob Gronkowski, who had exactly 69 people attending the game in Minneapolis, is now reportedly considering retirement at worst and at best is “non-committal” to playing in 2018. Don’t forget Bill Belechick flexing his muscles recently by restricting facility access to Brady confidant Alex Guerrero or the rumors of discord surrounding the Jimmy Garroppolo trade. On top of alllllllllllllllll that, both coordinators Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels are leaving for head coaching jobs in Detroit and Indianapolis, respectively. And yes, New England has survived DC’s and OC’s leaving, player movement, defensive turnover, and even scandal(s) before. But when the dust settles, the 2018 version of the Pats could not only look very different; they could also feel very unfamiliar to the machine we’ve come to know. The fact that, for the first time, we are seeing any dust at all should worry fans.
•Don’t know if it matters to the above mentioned megalomaniacs, but Super Bowl 52 was the lowest rated and least watched since 2009.
And finally, we’ve been pronouncing National Hero and Native American Legend Sacagawea’s name all wrong. While most of us were taught to sound the name out as sack-a-JA-we-a, it is actually sa-COG-a-we-a, which means “bird woman” in Hidatsa. Stay irúshgi out there.
-Photo courtesy of UKAthletics.com