Kentucky Wildcats

De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point game was to ‘shut LaVar up’

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In one of the best individual performances of the college basketball season, Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox scored 39 points in the Wildcats’ 86-75 Sweet 16 victory over UCLA and his counterpart for that evening, Lonzo Ball.

Even though Ball had picked up a win earlier that season at Kentucky, it was the second time Fox had gotten the better of his fellow floor general.

The second meeting had three months of build up, as Ball went on have an All-American season while his father, LaVar, became a media sensation with his outlandish comments. Fox went on to have a notable season as well but that was in the shadow of the Balls’ frequent radio and television appearances.

In an interview with Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated, Fox revealed that the patriarch of the Ball household helped inspire his incredible tournament performance.

“Kill mode all the time,” is how Fox described his mindset before the UCLA game in March. “Shut Lavar Ball up,” is how he explains it a few months later.

In addition to his 39 points, he had three boards, four assists (to one turnover) and two steals. His defense also helped limit Ball to 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting and 1-of-6 from three and eight assists (to four turnovers).

Of course, Fox was mainly motivated by the chance to avenge an earlier a loss — one in which Lonzo shushed the Rupp Arena fans — earn a spot in the Elite Eight and bolster his draft stock against a projected top-2 pick. The comment he made to SI is harmless, especially when you look at LaVar’s well-documented claims and personal attacks. If anything, this could be laying the groundworks for a one-on-one rivalry at the next level with Lonzo, especially if they wind up in the same division, as some are currently predicting.

Ball, a Southern California native, is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox the first lead guard after Markelle Fultz and Ball to be selected. DraftExpress.com currently has him going to the Sacramento Kings with the No. 5 overall pick.

John Calipari reaches out to cop in Scalise shooting

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It was an incredibly tragic morning in Virginia and across the United State on Wednesday as a gunman opened fire on a baseball practice of Republican congressmen preparing for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game, an event that raises money for charity.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three other people were wounded while the gunman was shot by police and later died.

Later Wednesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari reached out to one of the two Capitol Police officers whom President Trump credited for saving “many lives” with their actions Wednesday morning.

Calipari relayed the info through a series of tweets, one of which states he invited David Bailey to a game and commended him, as well as the other officer, Crystal Griner, for their actions.

 

Calipari says TV pushing for 20-game league schedules, imperiling premier non-conference games

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College basketball’s non-conference portion of the season has drawn considerable criticism in recent years. Too few on-campus games between heavyweights and too many cupcakes populating the schedule, is the typical refrain.

What marquee matchups the months of November and December do bring could be imperiled by major conferences transitioning to 20-game league schedules and television networks are to blame, according to Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“They need more inventory for their own network so you just play more league games and then you have more inventory for your network to put on,” Calipari said on a teleconference Tuesday, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Hopefully in our case in this league (the Southeastern Conference) we stay where we are and if we don’t, we’ll make it work.”

The argument Calipari makes is that the two extra league games will come at the expense of high-major opponents in the non-con, rather than the buy-games that make up the bulk of many teams’ schedules.

“I think teams can use those last two games to put their own schedule together,” Calipari said. “If you need a tougher game, if you have a rivalry game, if you need an easier game, if your team needs a team they can beat or a team they’re challenged by, if they need a road game, you can do it with those two games.”

Calipari probably isn’t wrong here, in some regard. Coaches are likely to be less aggressive with their scheduling with two additional games against high-major competition built into the schedule. Coaches, on the whole, are risk averse, and putting more games that are in doubt – or at least considerably more difficult than scheduling a couple of SWAC teams – isn’t something they’ll be inclined to do, most likely.

There are a couple of curious points here, though. First off, the bulk of non-conference scheduling is awful and boring. Subtracting two games from programs’ scheduling discretion probably isn’t going to cost the sport a ton of non-conference matchups, anyway. Sure, there may be fewer of them, but the ACC and, potentially, the Big Ten adding two more league games should offset that on the whole. To the point about TV, that seems like an odd finger to point given that some of the best non-conference matchups year-in and year-out are facilitated by TV networks.

Putting another two games on the league schedule also insures an extra game at home against high-major opponents, something that some programs don’t offer at all in their non-conference schedules.

While putting an extra two conference games on the schedule may have some unintended consequences, on the whole it’s providing college basketball with more high-level games on campus. Hard to argue against that.

Did Utah Valley schedule the toughest 24 hours in college basketball?

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Utah Valley released its non-conference schedule early this week, billing it as, “the toughest 24 hours in NCAA basketball history.” That’s not really an exaggeration either.

The Wolverines open the 2017-18 season against Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 11 in Lexington. Less than 24 hours later, they will be prepping for a matchup with Duke inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Wildcats and Blue Devils are both pegged as top-5 teams entering next season.

“This is what college basketball is supposed to be,” Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to go out and play two of the best teams in the entire country in a 24-hour period. Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be at the end of the season. We had great success with that last year and part of doing that is putting together the hardest non-conference schedule we can and we’ve accomplished that.”

Utah Valley finished 17-17 (6-8 WAC) last year but did close out the 2016-17 campaign strong by winning six of its last eight, reaching the College Basketball Invitational semifinals. The Wolverines return three double-digit scorers, including Conner Toolson, who led them in scoring at 11.9 points per game, as well as top rebounder and shot blocker Isaac Neilson.

Still, they figure to a tomato can for two heavyweights in their first two bouts. Nevertheless, Pope and his program should gain some considerable attention for this scheduling. Utah Valley will likely be on television (or at least be available for streaming) for both contests. The only time I can recall the Wolverines even getting national mention last season was when CSU Bakersfield needed four overtimes to get past them in the WAC semifinals. For Pope, it also shows recruits two things: a. we aren’t afraid to play anyone and b. while you may not be the five-star recruit you hoped for, you will likely play in some of the cathedrals of college basketball in your four years in Orem.

The season opener will be a homecoming of sorts for Pope. He played for Kentucky from 1994-96 and was a member of a national championship team as a senior.

Kentucky releases non-conference slate

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Kentucky’s newly-unveiled non-conference schedule features a stretch of three-straight games against high-major opponents to end December as well as its annual date in the Champion’s Classic. The Wildcats, though, won’t play a true road game against a non-conference opponent until the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in January, though they do have three neutral-site games on the slate.

“We are going to have what could be the youngest team in the history of college basketball,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a statement. “We had to take that into account when building this year’s schedule. How do we prepare our guys to be at our best at the end of the season – which we’ve done nearly every year – while also putting them in a position to grow and succeed? I think we’ve done that with this schedule.

“When you look at who we will play, you’re talking about experienced teams that were in the postseason a year ago and bring back the core of their teams. This schedule is going to be a challenge for us, but my hope is it sets us up for a run at the end of the season.”

Kentucky will open on Nov. 12, against Vermont, at Rupp Arena before heading to Chicago and the United Center to face Kansas in what will no-doubt be one of the month’s most anticipated matchups. The Wildcats will then entertain five-straight mid-major teams in Lexington before facing Monmouth at Madison Square Garden.

Then comes the most challenging stretch, with Virginia Tech at home, followed by UCLA in New Orleans and Louisville back in Lexington.

Kentucky’s non-conference slate will probably rank among the more difficult for Power 5 schools, though the lack of true road games keeps the degree of difficulty depressed some. Still, games against Kansas, Virginia Tech, UCLA and Louisville – not to mention the later tip against a likely top-15 Mountaineers game – provides plenty of competition for the Wildcats.

 

Kentucky 2017-18 non-conference schedule

 

Nov. 10 Utah Valley Lexington Rupp Arena
Nov. 12 Vermont Lexington Rupp Arena
Nov. 14 Kansas Chicago United Center
Nov. 17 East Tennessee State Lexington Rupp Arena
Nov. 20 Troy Lexington Rupp Arena
Nov. 22 Fort Wayne Lexington Rupp Arena
Nov. 26 UIC Lexington Rupp Arena
Dec. 2 Harvard Lexington Rupp Arena
Dec. 9 Monmouth New York Madison Square Garden
Dec. 16 Virginia Tech Lexington Rupp Arena
Dec. 23 UCLA New Orleans Smoothie King Center
Dec. 29 Louisville Lexington Rupp Arena
Jan. 27 West Virginia Morgantown, W.Va. WVU Coliseum

WATCH: Hamidou Diallo’s vertical jump at the NBA Draft Combine

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Kentucky redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo is the NBA Draft mystery man.

But after the first day of the NBA Combine, Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, offered up some answers for the dozens of front office executives on hand in Chicago.

Diallo set the highest mark in the vertical jump, maxing out at 44.5″ inches. This is after he was measured with a 6’11.25″ wingspan.

His leaping ability after his first attempt was so impressive, they had to raise the bar.

Diallo is a fascinating storyline as we inch closer and closer to the NBA Draft deadline on May 24. The five-star recruit from the Class of 2017 began the school year at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut before he enrolled at Kentucky for the second semester. After redshirting, he declared for the draft but elected not to sign with an agent, giving him the ability to return to Lexington for the 2017-18 season. In an era when John Calipari revolutionized the game by embracing one-and-dones, he may be on the verge of having a one (semester)-and-done; a none-and-done.

Coming into the combine, DraftExpress.com projected Diallo to be an early second round selection.