Amidst much fanfare the Kentucky Wildcats played their first regular season game on Friday night against UNC Asheville, and it took John Calipari’s team just over a half to impose its will in the 89-54 victory. Energy can be an issue for any team, especially one as young as this talented group of Wildcats.
Part of the process of becoming an elite team is to learn from those experiences and on Sunday, Kentucky played with improved effort from the start in their 93-63 win over Northern Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Julius Randle posted another double-double, finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds, with Aaron (16 points) and Andrew Harrison (13) also reaching double figures.
Kentucky’s superior size and skill resulted in a 51-24 edge on the glass (including an offensive rebounding percentage of 53.3%) and 54.5% shooting from the field (66.7% on two-pointers), and that can make it difficult to take away too many lessons from the result. But the fact that Kentucky came out of the gate ready to go bodes well two days ahead of their showdown in Chicago against No. 2 Michigan State.
Through two games (and the exhibitions) it can be said that Randle’s set himself apart from the pack, especially when considering what other Wildcat freshmen have done during Calipari’s tenure.
Ultimately, Kentucky’s chances of winning a national title will depend on whether or not everyone both understands and accepts their roles. Despite two blowout victories Kentucky’s still growing in that regard, and that will be the case regardless of what happens on Tuesday night.
Ten of the 12 Kentucky players who saw action on Sunday scored, and defensively they limited the Norse to 32.8% shooting (9-for-35 3PT). But ultimately games like these aren’t going to be the contests by which the Wildcats are judged. While Sunday’s result certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, the lessons learned on Tuesday night will be of more value as the season rolls on.
Last month the NCAA announced that due to rules violations found in their investigation of the SMU men’s basketball program, the team would be banned from postseason play in 2015-16 and head coach Larry Brown would be suspended for the first nine games of the 2015-16 season. With a team led by seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy and just one player (Keith Frazier) being the subject of the investigation, it was assumed that SMU would at the very least appeal the postseason ban.
Friday, the school announced that while it will appeal some of the penalties handed down by the NCAA to the men’s basketball and men’s golf programs they will not appeal the postseason ban or Brown’s suspension.
“After careful consideration, however, we will not appeal the NCAA post-season ban on men’s basketball or partial season suspension of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown,” SMU president R. Gerald Turner stated in the release. “Although we regret the severe impact on our student-athletes, the simple fact is that the NCAA penalty structure mandates at minimum a one-year post-season ban for the level of misconduct that occurred, in our case, when a former staff member completed an online high school course for a prospective student-athlete, committing academic misconduct.
“In addition, should we appeal this matter, the lengthy process and uncertainty during this period could harm many aspects of the program. Coach Brown and his staff also agree that it is in the best interests of the program to accept these sanctions and move forward.”
Among the penalties the school will appeal (with regards to the basketball program) are the “duration of scholarship losses” and how long the recruiting restrictions placed on the program will last, and the vacating of games Frazier played in during the 2013-14 season.
This a tough turn of events for players who had nothing to do with the violations, as they see their opportunity to return to the NCAA tournament taken away. As a result of the school’s decision, SMU’s season will end March 9 following their regular season finale against Cincinnati.
Kevin Marfo committed to George Washington on Friday evening, announcing his decision on Twitter.
“I am grateful and appreciative to all the schools that recruited me. But I will be spending the next four years at George Washington University,” he tweeted.
This caps a successful week for Mike Lonergan on the recruiting trail. On Tuesday, GW landed a commitment from Darnell Rogers, a 5-foot-3 point guard. He is the son of former GW guard Shawnta Rogers, the 1999 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. GW ends the week by adding a tenacious rebounder to a front court that graduates top rebounder Kevin Larsen after this season. Rogers and Marfo join power forward Collin Smith in the Class of 2016. Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina will also be eligible in 2016-17.
He cut his list to 10 in August with Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Boston College, UMass, Saint Joseph’s, DePaul, Rhode Island and Providence all making the cut along wit the Colonials. He later trimmed the list to five finalists: BC, Providence, DePaul, GW and Rhode Island.
The Worcester Academy (Mass.) forward played for BABC this summer in the Nike EYBL, averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Marfo is listed as the No. 148 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.