Everything That’s Wrong With Kentucky Basketball

It’s been a historic season for the Kentucky Wildcats. Just not the kind of history the Big Blue Nation is used to. For the first time in almost two decades Tennessee swept the Cats, and Kentucky is barely treading  in the thick of the SEC. After falling to Tennessee at home Tuesday, John Calipari and company find themselves in unfamiliar territory. This team is barely .500 (6-5) in a above average conference at best. They made their way back in the AP polls the past two weeks after watching from the outside in. It was the first time the school was unranked since 2014.

So what’s going on?

You can blame youth, as this is Calipari’s youngest team of his tenure in Kentucky, and thee youngest group in the entire NCAA. That’s not a great excuse for a man all too familiar with a constant flow of faces fresh off the AAU circuit though. Big Blue Nation has been (barely) hanging on in recent weeks as their beloved Cats look like a shell of a team they can be on paper. The win in West Virginia was for sure a statement win, but the problem seems to be bringing the same style of play to the next game.
Inconsistency is the only consistent thing for the group. And it is apparent in games. Whether or not the green crop is lacking because of the big stage or not, fundamentals seem out of the window.

Their last win? It was a struggle against a team holding steady at the bottom of the conference in last place. How they got there? Two made free throws to force OT. It was a celebration and seeming miracle to force the extra play. At the end of the day it’s called a charity stripe for good reason. Nothing was done extraordinary, yet you would think it was a three ball with the clock running out.

BBN isn’t used to losing, but this too shall pass. And there are two different courses this team can take from here on out. Two different roads to season end points. Just six years removed since a title and three since their historic win streak…Kentucky’s season is far from over. It’s just the odds aren’t stacked in their favor.
Kentucky hits the road for its next two contest – a trip to College Station for Texas A&M Saturday before visiting a No. 8 ranked Auburn Wednesday in prime time.

UCLA Notches Resume Win in CBS Sports Classic

It’s been a roller coaster season for UCLA, and it’s only December. The Bruins stole headlines right out of the gate on their opening season trip to China, when three of their players were arrested for shoplifting. Weeks later they were back on the front pages when Lavar Ball pulled his son LiAngelo out of school. That headline isn’t necessarily the worst news for Steve Alford. Through all the off the court drama however, the Bruins struggled to find that signature win on the court. Until Saturday, when UCLA beat #7 Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.

Prior to Saturday’s win, UCLA had been 0-3 in “resume boosting” wins this year. They gave up 100 in a loss to Creighton, blew a 15 point lead at Michigan, and lost by double digits to Cincinnati. UCLA was a game away from going into conference play with their best non conference win coming against South Dakota (12-4). And they only won that game by three, at home.

That changed Saturday. The day after announcing full season suspensions for Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, UCLA came out and played the best game of their season. Aaron Holiday and Kris Wilkes were sensational, and the Bruins put together a complete game to beat Kentucky on a neutral court in New Orleans. Holiday and Wilkes each scored 20, and senior Thomas Welsh also chipped in 13 and 11 rebounds. The win moved UCLA to 9-3 heading into Pac 12 play.

It’s rare that wins in December are called monumental, or significant. However, this UCLA win is definitely important for Steve Alford and company. The Bruins roster is shorter than expected with the suspensions of Riley and Hill, two freshman who were expected to be contributors to a team that lost a bulk of it’s production last season. As a result, UCLA has had to adjust on the fly. This worked against lesser opponents, but against NCAA caliber teams, it was not good enough to win.

This weekend however, UCLA put it all together. Their senior leaders led, their un-suspended freshman shined and the result was a win over the #7 team in the country. The upset showed what UCLA needs this season to compete with the top competition. Their stars need to play at a high level consistently, and role players need to step up. An easy task? No, but it’s doable. The season is still young.

For Kentucky, the loss only add question marks to a team that was filled with them. Will this young team find consistency? Do they have a point guard who can run the show? Can someone make outside shots? They are no doubt a talented and athletic group. They got up and down against UCLA, and Hamidou Diallo excelled. But in tight games, they’ve shown carelessness with the ball and, outside Kevin Knox, an inability to make shots from outside. SEC play will be a test for John Calipari this year.

Conference play starts this week. Both the SEC and Pac 12 are filled with teams that can enhance both teams’ resumes. We learned from Saturday that Kentucky may still have a few question marks heading into SEC play. On the other hand, UCLA may have found momentum as they get ready for Pac 12 action.

 

NBA Draft Lottery Prediction: Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic – #6 Pick 2017 NBA Draft

The Pick: Malik Monk – Kentucky

Other Possible Picks: Jonathan Isaac – Florida State, Lauri Markkanen – Arizona

The Orlando Magic were hit with the injury bug last season that found them the winners of the sixth overall pick in this years draft. A youthful front court of Nikola Vucevic, and high-flyer Aaron Gordon give them a solid foundation to build on. With this pick, the Magic should look to add to a back court that averaged 27 points a game last season. Thus, we get to the pick: Malik Monk, out of the University of Kentucky.

Let me start by saying I think Jonathan Isaac is a better player than Malik Monk, but Orlando’s shooting woes will have them looking at Monk with the sixth pick in the draft. We saw Monk put up big numbers at Kentucky, including 47 against North Carolina and 33 against Florida. Monk was good for 39% from behind the arc in Kentucky. Only one Magic player was able to top that last season (Jodie Meeks shot 40%.) Monk’s ability to catch fire from deep and score in bunches will give Orlando something they have lacked for quite sometime. Questions about his defensive ability remain an issue, but the Magic could find themselves their next leading scorer with this pick.

Isaiah Briscoe: Destined to be Elite from Day One


For the past few years, Isaiah Briscoe has been regarded as the best point guard in the class of 2015. ESPN.com has ranked him the 13th best player in the country and Rivals.com has him as high as nine in their ranking. Tomorrow, Briscoe will announce his college commitment on national television. After listening to the countless pitches and carefully evaluating every program, the list has been narrowed down to Kentucky, St. John’s and Connecticut.

Isaiah Briscoe was an all-star at Future All-American Camp before he even took a high school class

Isaiah Briscoe was an all-star at Future All-American Camp before he even took a high school class

Briscoe, who started his high school career at St. Benedict’s Prep before transferring to Roselle Catholic, averaged 22 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and nearly 2 steals a game for the Lions last season. With the start of the 2014-15 high school season quickly approaching, Briscoe gets set to help lead a talented Roselle team on a State Championship run. Many have their guesses as to where the New Jersey guard will land, but only one thing is for sure: we know where he came from.

Before the scholarship offers piled up, before countless days were spent traveling from AAU event to AAU event, Briscoe was a budding star at Hoop Group Future All-American Camp. Only a rising freshman at camp, the point guard was not shy to admit that even at an early age, he felt he can bring a little bit of everything to the table for a team, and he’s not wrong. The point guard is a terrific scorer and possesses a good shooting touch. He makes those around him better, dropping crisp, on time passes for assists; he’s even increased his presence in the rebounding department. As a 14 year old at camp, he particularly impressed with his ability to distribute the basketball and deliver passes with both hands, as well as get to the hoop and score.

A New Jersey State Championship is the goal for Briscoe and his talented Roselle Catholic teammates this season.

A New Jersey State Championship is the goal for Briscoe and his talented Roselle Catholic teammates this season.

You could tell from an early age that Isiah Briscoe was destined for big things on the hardwood. Playing for the New Jersey Playaz AAU program, Briscoe played for their 17U team as a rising freshman. Competing alongside other great NJ guards, like former Hoop Grouper and now San Antonio Spur, Kyle Anderson, Briscoe was able to learn lessons and gain experience that very few players his age get the chance to do. “I take a lot of stuff from Kyle’s game,” Briscoe said. “I look up to him like a big brother. Every time he’s playing I always want to watch him play so I can help my game.”

His game certainly has skyrocketed to another level since Future All-American Camp, and at 6:00 pm EST tomorrow, he will become a prize recruit in one coach’s recruiting class. The question on everyone’s minds right now is which school that will be. Will he choose the defending National Champion Connecticut Huskies? Will he become the newest piece to another powerhouse recruiting class for Kentucky? Or will he opt to stay close to home and represent New York City with St. John’s? As the hype and speculation continues to mount, one thing is for certain: no matter what school he chooses, Isaiah Briscoe will be the most recent Hoop Group Alum to achieve his basketball dream.