The Cats prepare for the Baylor Bears this Saturday, looking to rebound from one of the worst losses in the John Calipari era. Kentucky was stacked up against a fierce home-court advantage in the Joyce Center, where Notre Dame had won 40 of its last 41 home games. The Irish proved to be too much to handle for the young Kentucky squad facing its first true road test of the season, as the Cats lost 64-50.
After UK has suffered two losses in its first six games, some fans are beginning to worry if this team will “click” any time soon. Two losses is two losses too many in Big Blue Nation. Fortunately for those fans, Kentucky has some home court magic of their own in Rupp Arena, where Calipari’s Cats have yet to lose a ball game in 55 tries. That streak will be put on the line as a feisty and talented Baylor squad visits Lexington for the fifth time.
This will be the second meeting of these two teams in as many seasons, the last coming in March when UK won in the Elite Eight of the 2012 NCAA Tournament 82-70. That team went on to beat Louisville in the Final Four and Kansas for the National Championship.
But these teams are far different now than they were then. Baylor visits Rupp Arena after suffering a pair of losses at the beginning of its season, much like Kentucky. The Bears lost by two points to then-unranked Colorado in mid-November, and then suffered an inexcusable loss last week to College of Charleston which dropped the Bears out of the Top-25 rankings. They have had a week to prepare for Kentucky, but the numbers still seem to favor the Cats.
Over the last ten seasons under head coach Scott Drew, Baylor has struggled against highly-ranked teams, going 12-52 against teams ranked in the Top-25. All time, Baylor has only one six games against Top-25 teams on the road, compared to 73 losses.
Kentucky and Baylor share similar stats: Kentucky is shooting at 54 percent and scoring 79 points per game, and Baylor is shooting 50 percent while scoring 79 points per game. Rebounding has been an issue for the Cats where they are hauling in just 34 per game, the advantage on the glass goes to Baylor where they are pulling in almost 40 per game.
Projected starting lineup for Baylor:
PG: Pierre Jackson (Sr.) – 20.3 pts, 6.7 ast, 2.0 stl, 33.3 min.
SG: Brady Heslip (Jr.) – 11.6 pts, 38.2 three-pt. FG%, 28.2 min.
W: A.J. Walton (Sr.) – 5.3 pts, 4.2 ast, 2.7 stl, 25.5 min.
F: Cory Jefferson (Jr.) – 14.3 pts, 9.0 reb, 2.2 blk, 70.6 FG%.
C: Isaiah Austin (Fr.) – 14.2 pts, 8.2 reb, 53.6 FG%, 28.8 min.
Projected starting lineup for Kentucky:
PG: Archie Goodwin (Fr.) – 16.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 5.5 reb, 33.8 min.
SG: Julius Mays (Sr.) – 10.2 pts, 4.2 ast, 41.7 FG%, 90.9 FT%.
W: Alex Poythress (Fr.) – 15.8 pts, 6.5 red, 65.8 FG%, 28.8 min.
F: Kyle Wiltjer (So.) – 11.5 pts, 4.3 reb, 43.8 three-pt. FG%.
C: Nerlens Noel (Fr.) – 12 pts, 8.3 reb, 3.2 blk, 58.0 FG%.
The game will be broadcast on CBS with Jim Nantz calling play-by-play and Clark Kellogg as the color commentator. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
After a blowout win over Marist, The U-K Men’s basketball team will be looking for a statement.
Tonight, the Cats will play against the Kansas Jayhawks in Madison Square Garden, in New York. The game is part of the Inaugural State Farm Champions Classic. Tip-off is at 9:00 on ESPN.
Two years ago, Kentucky Head Basketball Coach John Calipari put together one of the most talented Kentucky squads of all time. In his first year in the Commonwealth, he led that team to a statement game at the Garden beating UConn 64-61. That game, college basketball witnessed the extraordinary talent that was John Wall. Kentucky won 19 games in a row that season, and vaulted up to #1 in the polls.
The Jayhawks come in to the game ranked #10 in the AP poll. They’re lead by senior Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor, a speedy guard from Hoboken New Jersey, who can play both the point and the two guard, will garner most of the attention from Calipari and the U-K defense.
After last Friday’s victory over Marist 108-58, Coach Calipari said that he didn’t think his team was ready for a game against a team like Kansas.
It’s easy for fans to look at a box score, see that a team like Kentucky won their previous game by 50, and think they’re ready for anything. But can Kentucky pull off what they did in 09? Can they introduce their new freshmen phenoms? Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis Jr., Teague, Wiltjer are the new freshmen faces of the program for this year, and there’s no denying their talent. But can their talent along with the rest of the UK Basketball team, withstand the first test of their young season?
To a season full of lofty expectations, U-K has a chance to make an early statement, again, tonight on the biggest stage in basketball.