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Kentucky Players Will Announce Plans Tuesday

Five Kentucky basketball players will announce their plans regarding the NBA draft at a press conference on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb and freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague will all attend the press conference. So will coach John Calipari.

All five players are expected to announce they’re leaving Kentucky, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSport.com. Each player, along with departing senior Darius Miller, has a chance to be drafted in the first round.

As Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal pointed out, the fact that all five players are announcing together could be a sign of their plans.

And if all five players decide to leave, Calipari will be just fine with it.

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UK’s Jones Could Play With Dislocated Finger Tomorrow

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones has missed the last two days of practice with a dislocated pinky finger, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play tomorrow against Samford.

“I don’t know yet,” John Calipari said.  “We’ll see.  I don’t expect him to start if he doesn’t practice today, but I don’t know. … He’s still swollen and black and blue.  The doctor said he thought he may be able to practice today, but he looked at it and said, ‘I’d keep him out another day.’”

Wildcat guard Darius Miller has seen the finger and his opinion is as follows: “It’s pretty nasty.”

If it’s that nasty, that black, and that blue, then there’s probably no need for Jones to risk further injuring the finger against 3-6 Samford.  The third-ranked, 9-1 Wildcats can probably survive without its sophomore All-America candidate.

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Purdue’s Painter Praises UK’s Miller

After coaching Darius Miller in this summer’s World University Games, Purdue head coach Matt Painter had nothing but praise for the Kentucky guard:


“That (UK) staff has done a great job with him because he’s really made improvements in all areas of his game. … He’s a great teammate and a good person.  I think Kentucky’s got an unbelievable chance to go far this year, if not win it all.  If Darius Millers is one of your guys in the mix, with a lot of young talent, he’s going to do a great job helping to piece things together because he’s that quintessential teammate.”


That right here is pretty much the definition of effusive praise.

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Kentucky Basketball: Comparing Teams — Points Per Possession

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

One of our members had a good idea about comparing statistics of individual team members from last year to this, which I am working on, but have not finished yet.  As you might expect, that takes a while.

But I did come up with this interesting comparison while perusing some statistics the other day.  What we have here is a comparison of points per possession, defensive points per possession, and pace between this year’s team and last:

2010-11 2009-10
Team Pos PPP DPPP Margin Team Pos PPP DPPP Margin
ETSU 71 1.24 0.92 0.32 MSU 72 1.04 0.82 0.22
@PORT 60 1.32 0.8 0.52 MIA 62 1.16 1.13 0.03
OU 68 1.12 0.94 0.18 SHSU 82 1.24 1.12 0.12
@UW 75 0.99 0.89 0.1 RIDER 75 1.23 0.84 0.39
UCONN 67 1 1.25 -0.25 CSU 69 1.06 0.71 0.35
BU 67 1.36 0.85 0.51 STAN 66 1.11 0.98 0.13
Average 68 1.17 0.94 0.23 Average 71 1.14 0.93 0.21

As you can see, there are some interesting things to look at.  First of all, the pace that last year’s team played at up until this point in the season was markedly faster than what we have seen from the team so far this year.  In fact, UK plays at a tempo that places it 141st in the nation.  It’s reasonably fast, but markedly slower than last year, which was something of a surprise to me given the composition of this year’s smaller team.

The second thing I notice is that despite the loss to the Connecticut Huskies (UK 2009 did not have a loss at this point), the Wildcats are scoring more per possession this year than last.  Last year’s team was slightly better defensively, which is no surprise considering the erasers they had in the paint.

But the real point is that despite losing to UConn and playing a much tougher schedule to date, this year’s version of the Wildcats’ scoring margin is 9% better than last year.  This team is also more efficient on average, 115.9-114 than last year’s team.

The only conclusion I can draw is that at this point in the season, considering the level of competition and overall performance, this year’s team is actually better than last year, at least statistically.  Now, not everything can be measured with stats, as we all know, and there is no doubt this year’s team has some holes that last year’s did not — the big people are still a question mark this year, and the overall team depth is not as good.

But as surprising as it may seem, the 2010-11 Wildcats are actually playing better basketball than at the same point last year, even with Darius Miller struggling a bit.  That may change, of course, and with the next two games being outside the friendly confines of Rupp Arena, one a road game and the other semi-home, we stand to learn how well these young men can stand up to hostile crowds and different surroundings.

But those who thought there would be a significant drop off this year have nothing to point to yet.


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Video: Darius Miller says Kanter has “looked great”

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Video of UK’s Darius Miller talking to the media before practice.

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Cal implores Miller to be ‘meaner’

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Darius Miller  was everywhere at Portland, as reflected in 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, four blocks and five steals. Now John Calipari wants to see something like that against tougher competition on Maui.
“This is going to be meaner,” the UK coach said. “Now do whatyou did in a mean setting. There ain’t no backing down. There’s no moon walking. You play chest to chest.”

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Kentucky Rolls at Portland 79-48

Brandon Knight scored 21 points to help No. 12 Kentucky rout Portland 79-48 on Friday night in the Wildcats’ first trip to Oregon. Darius Miller added 15 points for Kentucky (2-0). Eric Waterford led Portland (3-1) with 12 points.
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ETSU Buccanneers 65, Kentucky Wildcats 88: Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

And then along came Jones ...

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Ed Reinke – AP

And then along came Jones …

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It’s basketball time in the Bluegrass!  The season has finally begun, and the Kentucky Wildcats faced off against a worthy foe in last year’s NCAA first-round opponent, the East Tennessee St. Buccaneers.

Congratulations to the Buccaneers for giving an excellent account of themselves and coming into Rupp Arena as fearless and determined as any team ever has.  ETSU has an outstanding coach in Murray Bartow (son of Gene Bartow, John Wooden’s successor at UCLA and former coach of UAB), and his experienced and talented players gave a strong performance against the young Kentucky Wildcats. But the Wildcats did not get the #1 recruiting class in the nation for nothing, and even though the Bucs were much more experienced, they were not as talented.  The result was a convincing Kentucky victory.

I must say that it is hard to judge teams when they shoot the ball as well as UK did.  The old axiom is that good shooting makes up for a bunch of mistakes, and that proved to be the case more often than not tonight.  It isn’t that the Wildcats played poorly — to the contrary, as a team they played very well, arguably their best game of the season so far.  But that does not mean that they played flawlessly.

For once, let’s take the observations in a good/not-so-good/so-so format.  First, the good:

  • Terrance Jones backed up an excellent performace against the Dillard Bleu Devils with an even better one tonight — a double-double in his first official game, 25 ponts, 12 rebounds 2 blocks 3 steals and a couple of assists.  No turnovers.  As they used to say in  Mortal Kombat, “flawless victory.”  Game ball.
  • Brandon Knight did exactly what he must do every game — take care of and distribute the basketball, and score when needed.
  • Doron Lamb just amazes me.  He is so quiet, so casual, and yet he will suddenly do something amazing.  The guy reminds me of Gerald Fitch — he seems to cruise along, and you look up and he has 20 points and 5 rebounds.
  • Nice work tonight by Josh Harrellson.  Despite having some foul difficulties, he did a lot of good, hard dirty work that we desperately need now that Kanter is not an option.  Forget his points.  He got some rebounds, 7 in limited minutes, and turned the ball over only once.
  • DeAndre Liggins led the team in assists with 6 and scored 14 points.  Overall, not a bad outing, but he only managed 3 rebounds.  We need more than that from him, and his defense was not as impressive as it has been.
  • How well did this team shoot?  Pretty well from 2, outstanding from 3.
  • 10 turnovers?  Did Kentucky ever manage so few last year?  I’ll have to think about that a long time …
  • Kentucky defended the three rather well.
  • Darius Miller had 11 rebounds.  That was the good.
  • 18 assists.  That was good.  Not great, but good.  This group of ‘Cats should rarely have fewer than 20.
  • 19 offensive rebounds?  I don’t feel like trying to calculate OR%, but that number looks pretty good to me.
  • ETSU got 7 points off turnovers, and UK got 15.  That’s good, not great.
  • From where I sat, I thought UK hustled pretty well tonight.  Several scums on the floor encouraged me, but we have to be stronger when we get rebounds.

The not-so-good:

  • Darius Miller disappeared in the second part of the first half, and John Calipari made him disappear for about 8 minutes in the second.  He has got to assert himself more on offense, and play better defense.  Overall, an unacceptably weak performance from UK’s leading returning scorer.
  • Eloy Vargas is out of shape, out of wind, and simply not a factor.  He has a long way to go to be able to contribute.  If he were not 6’10″ and 260#, he would have ridden the pine as long as Jarrod Polson.
  • Kentucky’s team defense was not good.  The ‘Cats gave up far too many easy shots, as evidenced by the fact that ETSU shot 50% in the first half.  On most nights, they would have been within single digits.
  • Free throw shooting has to improve, particularly Terrence Jones.
  • Only six steals? That could have been better.

The so-so:

  • The Dribble Drive was so-so.  It had its moments, but overall, I thought that Kentucky could have run it better.
  • Second chance points — 16-9 UK.  Not great.

Overall, this was a good effort by a young team against an experienced and athletic opponent.  I am very satisfied, overall, with how Kentucky performed.  Yes, the defense was not very good, but at this point in the season, it was about what I would expect.  I thought the rebounding, given our lack of real size, was quite satisfactory overall.

All in all, a good start.  This was not a victory that could be taken for granted, ETSU has been a tournament team the last two years and will likely be again this year.  It’s hard to be disappointed in a 23 point win against a team of that quality.


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Dillard Bleu Devils 54 @ Kentucky Wildcats 122: Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Something we did not see from Calipari on Monday night -- a smile.

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James Crisp – AP

Something we did not see from Calipari on Monday night — a smile.

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This game started out slow and then gradually built into a runaway freight train that drove straight over the Dillard University Bleu Devils.

Thanks and congratulations to the Bleu Devils for coming in and playing as hard as they could against the Kentucky Wildcats tonight.  Dale Brown’s young charges ran into a very talented, determined, and, let’s face it, hot Kentucky team tonight.  It was  a lopsided game, but the score does nothing to change the effort and class of Dillard’s team.  It just wasn’t their night.

For Kentucky, the foe may have been NAIA, but these Wildcats were out to make up for the egg they laid earlier in the week against the Pikeville Bears.  And they did.  They did it by rebounding better, by sharing the ball better, by shooting the ball better.  They did it in all the ways that mattered, including getting on the floor after the basketball, getting loose balls, and getting the 50/50 balls.  That’s how you play Division I college basketball. That’s the effort it takes.

Yes, these young Wildcats still made mistakes.  They gave up way to easy on too many 3-point looks.  They found themselves turning the ball over 14 times, a couple of times just surrendered by lack of thought and effort.  Free throw shooting is still an issue.  But nobody could look at these two games and think that the ‘Cats did not play a lot better tonight.

Observations:

  • Terrance Jones — game ball.  Jones had a double-double in points and rebounds, and threw in six blocks, four assists and three steals against only one turnover for good measure.  That’s an unbelievable line.
  • Brandon Knight was great as always, and was much better at spreading the ball around.  Brandon has to quit worrying about how many points he scores, and remember that point guards set up teammates for easy buckets.  Brandon is an effortless scorer, but he has to let that take a back seat to good distribution most of the time.
  • Josh Harrellson was really good the first half, just about average in the second.  Seven total rebounds against Dillard is not going to strike fear in the hearts of SEC foes.
  • Jon Hood was terrific, and if he can continue to make plays like he did tonight, his role on this team will only expand.
  • Once again, Doron Lamb was not himself.  He didn’t miss a shot, but he made a couple of silly offensive fouls and just didn’t get his defense anywhere near where it needs to be.
  • Eloy Vargas is still a step slow and way too soft.  He had a couple of moments, but he still has some conditioning and toughness issues.  Two total rebounds for a 6’10″/250# guy against the tiny Dillard Bleu Devils?  Not nearly good enough.
  • Darius Miller played better, but not nearly as well as he did in Canada.  Miller has got to be more aggressive as a scorer.  But his defense was better, and his rebounding was solid.
  • DeAndre Liggins brought terrific energy at times, but at other times seemed to play out of control.  He had a team-high 4 turnovers against only 3 assists, but defensively he was the best player out there all night.
  • Stacey Poole put his nose into the middle and got six big rebounds in only 8 minutes.  That is some really good production from a guy his size.  If he keeps up that kind of work on the little things, he will see more minutes.
  • I loved the passing tonight.  28 assists is getting it done, and shooting 70% will beat anyone.

Terrance Jones reminded me why I was so high on him after watching him in the McDonald’s All-American game.  He is such a tough matchup with his length, ballhandling, and ability to run the floor.  All those things were on full display tonight, and he was much the best of all the young men.

I hope Darius Miller does not let himself disappear like he did last year.  He had it on cruise control through most of the second half, and I would appreciate a more consistent effort from him.  But it’s hard to really fault his production, I just know he is capable of more.

Brandon Knight is a completely different kind of threat than John Wall.  Knight has such a complete game, it’s sometimes hard to recognize that he’s only a freshman — he just doesn’t play like one.  Nobody plays harder, more often, than Brandon Knight.

Overall, the Wildcats tonight gave us back the hopes that some of us surrendered a bit of last game.  This is the kind of drubbing you should deliver to an NAIA school if you are going to be a top 25 basketball team, and tonight, Kentucky looked every bit the part on causal inspection.  I’m sure Coach Cal will look deeper and find plenty of hidden flaws, but overall, this was an effort to be proud of.

Go, ‘Cats!


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Video: Darius Miller on his quiet double-double

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Not much was made of the fact that Darius Miller posted a double-double last night, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also made 11 of 12 free throws. Here is his post-game chat with the media.

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