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.
Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.
The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.
While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.
Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.
Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.
The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.
Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.
Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.
Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.
Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.
The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.
On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.
Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.
The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.
Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.
Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.
Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.
Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.
Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.
While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.
That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.
But there’s not enough money to pay the players.
Everyone is broke.
Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.