We needed that Alabama win. I don’t know about you BBN, but I’ve been in the last stage of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) over this season, until Saturday happened. Now, with some momentum and confidence in their pocket, Kentucky will square up with a veteran-laden Arkansas team in Fayetteville at 9:00pm on ESPN. The Razorbacks stand 3rd in the SEC with a 19-8 overall record despite losing Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley last summer. While recent editions of “Pig Sooie  learned to rely on Hannah’s shooting and the interior play of Kingsley, they have found success in 2017-18 with balanced and steady guard play. Guards Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and Anton Beard set the tone and pace of play, while frosh 6’11” PF Daniel Gafford arrived seemingly out of nowhere and has played his way into a One-and-Done and potential lottery pick-type player. I shall set the Calipari-stress-o-meter at 5/5 for tonight’s and all remaining regular season contests as the Cats need to build all the confidence and momentum they can muster before post-season play arrives.

::Wildcats Banter::

UK Basketball

•Another Top 25 Poll, another week Kentucky drops out of it. Virginia remains at #1 while playing a brand of basketball that hearkens the good old days when the baskets were actual baskets and games would end in a score of 19-20 (or because everyone tired of getting the ladder out to retrieve the ball after a made basket). The MSU Spartans sit at #2 after mounting a historic comeback Saturday by rallying from 26 points behind. Michigan State University could use that kind of comeback on its own campus as discord threatens to rip the school, administration, and students apart.

•As if Kentucky’s team woes weren’t enough to overcome, the SEC is also markedly better this season. According to KenPom, there are 11 teams in the top 75 of the RPI firmly entrenched in the NCAA tourney fight come March. Will this new-found conference depth be a boon or a hinderance to UK on Selection Sunday? Jeff Borzello of ESPN tackles that question here.

•In these sleeper rankings for the 2018 NCAA Tournament, UK is currently predicted to be a #6 seed. Going on a run to end the season combined with a good showing in the SEC Tourney could see their seed improve, but dropping several of the remaining regular season games while flaming out of the SEC could see the Wildcats come undone and maybe even in the NIT. That shiver you just felt down your spine is your brain remembering the Billy Clyde years.

•Hamidou Diallo has been a source of much consternation for fans and coaches alike all season. Arriving in Lexington as the inaugural ‘grey-shirt’ basketball recruit, much was expected this season with the extra time spent under Calipari’s tutelage, especially after using the NBA draft combine to showcase his insane athleticism. We already knew Hami had next level athletic ability and was still a work in progress skill wise, and as the athletic gap narrowed at the college-level his struggles have been obvious. Why is he still starting? John Calipari explains here.

•Why don’t we recruit more shooters? Well, we do (Devin Booker just won the 3-point shooting contest), but if you still find yourself asking the question, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts explains why.

•ESPN’s Paul Biancardi caught up with former Auburn commit EJ Montgomery and gave an update into the 6’10” forward’s recruitment. Montgomery still plans to visit UK on the 24th.

UK Baseball

•Cats Coach Nick Mingione is set to lead the #8 ranked Cats onto the field as Xavier University kicks off the final season played in Cliff Hagan Stadium at 6:00pm. The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but weather concerns resulted in moving the game up a day. Following their weekend sweep of SC Upstate, the Cats are already 3-0 and are primed to build off a successful 2017 season.

•Read our recap of the team’s South Carolina weekend road trip here. You can also follow the baseball season right here at Big Blue Banter.

UK Golf

•The University of Kentucky Golf team continues play in the Puerto Rico Classic this morning. There are several heavy hitters across NCAA Golf looking to leave Rio Mar victorious. Junior Lukas Euler paced the Wildcats on Sunday, while Senior Cooper Musselman shot up the leaderboard with a 4-under round yesterday.

::Non-Wildcats Banter::

Ky Boys Basketball

•With this guide, you can catch up on all the movers and shakers looking to complete their high school season with Sweet Sixteen glory at Rupp Arena. You can also find the full state-wide district tourney schedules here.

Ky Girls Basketball

•We didn’t forget that the girls’ tournaments!! The girls will begin their tournaments in earnest state-wide, just as the boys do Before things swing into full effect, find the info you need in the Herald-Leader’s girls’ guide.•You should be able to find any additional content from MaxPreps.

College Basketball

•It was good while it lasted, but Trae Young-led Oklahoma have now lost 5 straight and may not make it into the NCAA tournament. A frosh PG, Young has been lights out for most of the year with averages of 29.0 ppg and 9.2 apg. He’s done his best Jimmer Fredette impersonation, sinking the fifth most three pointers in Division 1 NCAA history. Young’s prowess and unlimited range from 3 has earned him comparisons to another baby-faced slightly-built shooter in NBA Champion, All-Star, and league MVP Steph Curry. That’s heady praise, but considering he is shorter and even more slight than Curry at the same age, Young is looking at more of a Lou Williams offensive ceiling at the next level.

•Fresh off West Virginia falling to Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, WVU coach Bob Huggins bemoaned the 2-35 free throw disparity his Mountaineers had to overcome. Kansas has long been accused of holding a distinct home court advantage, but how would anyone ever prove it? Well, according to advanced metrics guru Ken Pomeroy, the most pronounced home court advantage, or HCA, is seen in free throw attempts.

BBNBA

•In this list of the most promising stars in the making in the NBA, the University of Kentucky is well represented by Jamal Murray (#8) and Devin Booker (#6). Requirements to make the list included being under the age of 25 and having yet to make an All-Star, hence why Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, and other former Wildcat talents don’t appear. Former Louisville Cardinal Donovan Mitchell comes in at #3 as he continues to surprise for the Utah Jazz and take the league by storm.

NFL

•New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s foundation is donating $10,000 to Lexington Youth Football. The local program has seen declines across the board.

•In other Pats news, Devin McCourty poured some gasoline on the Malcom Butler benching saga by saying that the players knew all week Butler would not play in the Super Bowl despite taking 98% of the team’s regular season snaps on defense. Something to keep an eye on: New England’s ability to move on from the calamitous end to their season and pour cold water on the rumors of strife amongst players, coaches, and management. This is a team that does not like to stay in the off-season headlines, and whether they do or don’t will be a good indicator of the future of the Kraft/Brady/Belichick regime.

MLB

•As Major League Baseball starts to get rolling with spring training, pace of play concerns were outlined and addressed. Unless baseball has figured out a magic formula to grab and hold attention from the Twitter and SnapChat generation, don’t expect the needle to move much. It would also help if the league would stop crapping in fans’ mouths the way they have with the Marlins franchise’s recent history.

Winter Olympics

•There’s really only 2 things anyone cares about this Winter Olympics, and here they both are in all their glory: Medal Count & Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua.

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Image result for oiled up olympic guy 2018 gif

 

Stay hydrated, stay lubricated, and most important of all, stay safe out there.

 

 

-Images courtesy of UKAthletics.com and BBC.com