All season, Kentucky has appeared a step away from taking a leap to the next step in their ascension as a very young team. The Wildcats have nearly beaten Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida despite subpar efforts for long periods of time or bad games from key players.
But if the young and talented core of Kentucky ever figures things out, it could be nasty.
“I think that’s the biggest question for all of us. We all, all of our lives, have just been worrying about ourselves. When you put that group of people all together, it’s really hard. Coach said it’s impossible, really,” Harrison said to Kentucky Courier-Journal. “So, I mean, we’re just trying to do the impossible and see where it goes. We’re really getting better at it.”
Harrison has to brush off a mediocre effort against Florida in which he went 1-for-7 for three points. It seems like all season if one Kentucky freshman plays well, then someone else plays poorly and so-on.
It’s troubling that Harrison would be ready to admit this, but probably a good thing if the young Wildcats want to move on from it. If they all buy in for this next month, it will benefit all of them greatly.
If Kentucky’s freshmen can share the ball and take good shots and get some impact contributions from the sophomores, they’ll be in good shape for the postseason.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.