Three Takeaways from Kentucky’s Big Win Over Florida

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 27th, 2017

The SEC regular season championship was most likely on the line Saturday when SEC co-leaders Kentucky and Florida met in Lexington. Both teams entered the game at 13-2 in conference play (23-5 overall), but somewhat trending in opposite directions. The Gators entered Rupp Arena on a nine-game winning streak, including an 88-66 shellacking of the Wildcats in Gainesville. Kentucky, on the other hand, had lost three of four in late January and early February before putting together a shakier five-game winning streak that included tougher than expected games against SEC doormats LSU and Missouri. In the end, the blue mist of Rupp Arena worked its magic, as Kentucky rode Malik Monk to the 30 second-half points to prevail with a 76-66 victory. With one week left in the regular season, this game effectively decided the SEC regular season crown, but it also told us a lot about what we can expect from the SEC’s best this postseason. Here are three takeaways from this weekend’s game.

Malik Monk is heating up (photo via The Big Lead).

1. Malik Monk can shoot Kentucky into the Final Four. It is rare for the Big Blue Nation to be critical of its Wildcats, but Kentucky fans have been overly pessimistic lately about the likelihood of John Calipari advancing to his fifth Final Four in the last seven years. It is easy to see why. Kentucky’s tendency to become offensively stagnant because of its inconsistent three-point shooting means even its wins are not coming easily. The first half on Saturday was more of the same, with the Wildcats shooting less than 30 percent from the field. Then Monk happened. The gifted freshman blew up to score 30 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, proving once again that Kentucky is never out of a game so long as he is on the floor. The scary part for the rest of college basketball is that Monk has gotten even more dangerous since conference play began. His three-point shooting percentage has increased to 45 percent in SEC play (from 42 percent on the entire season) and he is drawing an absurd 6.0 fouls per game. Monk’s rapidly developing arsenal as more than just a catch-and-shoot player could make him unstoppable down the stretch. Calipari would love to find some additional offensive consistency outside of Monk (Bam Adebayo could be the answer), but the freshman is already good enough to carry the Wildcats for long periods as it is.

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Freeze Frame: Kentucky’s Reboot

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 16th, 2017

Late in conference play is usually the point when young teams start to click. John Calipari’s latest edition of a young team at Kentucky, however, appeared to be regressing during a recent five-game stretch where the Wildcats lost three games. Over that period, his team was held under a point per possession three times — after doing so only twice to that point in the season — and gave up more than a point per possession to all five opponents. It wasn’t a very good run of play, but perhaps the predicted demise of Kentucky came far too soon.

Will Calipari’s latest reboot work to turn around the Wildcats? (image via CBS Sports)

Calipari’s defense came together on the road against Alabama on Saturday (holding the Tide to 0.83 points per possession), and his team followed that up with its most complete performance in almost a month against Tennessee earlier this week. What did Kentucky recently change that Calipari hopes to ride into March? In this edition of Freeze Frame, we examine several factors that will help the Wildcats keep their winning streak alive.

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64 Thoughts on the 2016-17 SEC Season: Part I

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 26th, 2016

The beginning of another college basketball season is already in progress, and with it an opportunity to start talking about SEC hoops again. The SEC last season managed just three bids to the NCAA Tournament, but with a new year brings optimism that more teams can break into the First Round field of 64. To tip off the SEC microsite, here are 64 musings, opinions, thoughts, predictions, questions, and observations about the 2016-17 season [Ed. Note: Technically, 32 since this is part one of two with the second part coming tomorrow]:

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17 (AP).

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17. (AP)

  1. Kentucky is the clear favorite to win the SEC this year, but the big question mark about the Wildcats in the preseason revolves around their three-point accuracy. It says here that this will be the best perimeter shooting squad John Calipari has put on the court in Lexington since his 2011 Final Four team.
  2. Wildcat sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe shot just 13.5 percent from beyond the arc last year, allowing opposing defenses to sag to the middle on him. But the limited sample of shooting we have seen so far suggests that he will no longer be an offensive liability shooting the ball this season.
  3. Briscoe was also 9-of-12 from the free throw line in Friday night’s Blue-White game, indicating that his 46 percent accuracy from the stripe last season could also be a thing of the past. Read the rest of this entry »
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Monster Class in Durham? Commitments, More…

Posted by Sean Moran on September 9th, 2015

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week throughout the season he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

The summer recruiting season of 2015 is in the books. No more AAU tournaments, camps or all-star events. Beginning in April, the nation’s top high school players spent much of the last five months traveling throughout the United States and, in some unique cases, internationally, to show their skills. Many used this time to significantly boost their stock, while others just endeavored to keep their reputations intact. College coaches were allowed five separate viewing periods during the offseason, and now that the new scholarships are available, it’s time for campus visits and commitments.  So, what happened over the summer?

1. 40-0 Talk in Durham?

Jayson Tatum's Commitment to Duke Makes the Conversation Possible

Jayson Tatum’s Commitment to Duke Makes This Conversation Possible

When will 40-0 talk begin at Duke for the 2016-17 basketball season? Just a short while ago it was John Calipari who had the recruiting swagger with his one-and-done pipeline of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and others, and while things have not slowed down in Lexington, they have certainly picked up in Durham. With the 2015 National Championship and recent NBA Draft success of Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones under its belt, Duke again appears to be the school to beat for elite prep talent. In the Class of 2016, the Blue Devils already have commitments from five-stars Jayson Tatum (No. 3) and 6’3” point guard Frank Jackson (No. 17). On top of that, Duke is in extremely strong position for the top player in the country, 6’10” Harry Giles — who is also best friends with Tatum — as well as 6’10” five-star center Marques Bolden (No. 12) and Wenyen Gabriel (No. 10). When it’s all said and done in this year’s class, Duke could wind up with four or five of the top 15 prospects in the country. Queue the unbeaten season talk a year ahead of time.

2. The Rise of Wenyen Gabriel

Every year there is a player or two who comes out of nowhere and takes the recruiting world by storm. This summer’s edition is Wenyen Gabriel. Hailing from Manchester (NH), the 6’9”, rail-thin Gabriel began his prep career at Trinity before transferring to New England prep power Wilbraham & Monson for his junior season. Gabriel was named to the NESPAC Honorable Mention team last year, but his meteoric rise did not begin until the AAU season. Playing on the Adidas circuit, Gabriel dazzled college coaches with his size, skill and a motor that’s always running. Combined with a unique blend of shooting and ball-handling skills, Gabriel began to get looks from almost every top basketball school in the country. During a sizzling July in particular, Gabriel led his team to the championship game in the Adidas Uprising tournament while averaging 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. More recently, he turned in another stellar effort at the Adidas Nations tournament in front of a plethora of NBA scouts. After cracking various Top 100 rankings in the early summer, Gabriel quickly shot up to five-star status and is currently ranked No. 10 in the country heading into the fall. Gabriel has already narrowed his list of college suitors to five: UConn, Duke, Kentucky, Providence, and Maryland.

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