As the season progressed, much was made over Kentucky’s shaky hands when playing away from Rupp Arena. Losers of seven of 10 on the road, the Wildcats had only two SEC road victories this season, leading many to believe this latest crop of precocious freshman weren’t cut out for a deep run in March.
Au contraire, mon frère.
Taking a more defensive approach in which they kept all opponents under 70 points (highlighted by a 54 point output by Florida this afternoon) Kentucky won the SEC Conference Tournament in convincing fashion, erasing any doubt that John Calipari’s kids don’t have the cajones to win at the most important time of the season.
While in Atlanta, the Wildcats looked their sharpest all season, holding opponents to 38 percent shooting from the floor, coughing up the ball only 24 times all long-weekend. Additionally, each of the Wildcats three conference games were played at substantially different paces – but all resulted in a W for Big Blue, something fans have to take solace in. Somewhat overlooked as part of this team’s season record is their 7-1 neutral court record. That lone loss was way back in November in the Maui Invitational to UConn. And nobody was slowing down Kemba in Lahiana.
Road woes aside, UK’s lack of depth has also been a topic of concern among pundits. They only go about seven deep and with Doron Lamb not at 100 percent, calling Cal’s options limited would be a grave understatement. Somehow, however, this team was able to maintain composure, and avert foul trouble – a sure sign that’s this team’s defense has made great strides in recent weeks in preparation for the NCAA Tournament
I’m impressed watching this all come together for Kentucky club. It’s clear that the talent level just simply isn’t there when compared to when John Wall ran rickshaw all over the court and DeMarcus Cousins threw his weight around down low. Cal has had to be much more tactful with his approach this season, ensuring that his players are given the ball where they can be effective, and maximizing the gas tank on all these kids.
Now that the nets have been cut down in Atlanta, it’s fairly inconsequential to me that these guys couldn’t get a win in arenas like Coleman Coliseum or the Tad Smith Center. Kentucky fans ability to travel is unparalleled in college basketball, and these upcoming “neutral court” match-ups will have a strong bias towards the Bluegrass State, preventing any sort of crowd intimidation factor and making the Wildcats almost feel right at home.
Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.
A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.
Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.
Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.
Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.
And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.
The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.
“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”
Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.
“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.
Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.
Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.
He also happens to be pretty athletic.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:
Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.
Not bad, young fella.
After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.
The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.
A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.
“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”
While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.
Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.
Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.
The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.
Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.
(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)