After a disappointing loss to UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic, Big Blue Nation’s frustration appears to be at an all time high during the John Calipari era. However, the Kentucky Wildcats will be looking to get back on track against one of the worst teams in college basketball, the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Whether you’re looking at KenPom, Bart Torvik, or the NET Rankings, the Rattlers are ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the country. Sitting at just 2-7, both of the team’s wins have come against non-D1 opponents.
Wednesday’s game will be the second time the two teams have met and the first since they met in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The matchup will also be the second game of the Unity Series, a five-year partnership. with the Southwestern Athletic Conference to play an annual game between Kentucky and one of SWAC’s member institutions.
In what should be Kentucky’s easiest game of the season, let’s look at a few things to watch out for.
Experiment with lineups
Through ten games this season, the “big three” have split for Kentucky: Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler.
In the month of December, Tshiebwe-Wallace-Wheeler accounted for more than 56% of the points scored for Kentucky, averaging 36.7 points per game. The rest of the team? While they obviously make up for the rest of the points, they are shooting only 38%
That being said, Kentucky’s offense has been far from consistent and much of this is down to lineups. While the best players on a team will and should score the most points, Kentucky has depth and needs some players to step up and contribute consistently.
In a game like this, the Wildcats need to use it to find lineups that work. After UCLA, one move that could prove beneficial, especially with the space, is to play Chris Livingston at power forward along with three guards.
On his Monday call-in show, Cal suggested he might. Here’s hoping we get to see it in action on Wednesday.
Get Fredrick, Reeves and Toppin to build your confidence
At the start of the season, with injuries keeping Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler limited, Kentucky’s offense consisted of CJ Fredrick, Antonio Reeves, and Jacob Toppin.
Through two games (albeit against lesser competition), the trio did not disappoint as they combined for an average of nearly 50 points per game (48.5). Lately, that has been far from the case. In December, they’re averaging just 17.7 points per game on putrid 32.2 percent shooting from the field.
With Tshiebwe and Wheeler returning to full strength, it was inevitable that their production would decline, but it is their drop in efficiency that is worrying. Without these three playing at a high level, this team will not reach its full potential.
Looking to be shaken, Wednesday night’s game should give a chance to give each player enough run to gain some much-needed confidence as Kentucky nears SEC play.
Give the fanbase some hope
As mentioned in the introduction to this article, fan morale may currently be at its worst in the Calipari Era.
Burn me at the stake for this, but this isn’t all Cal’s fault. Yes, he’s the head coach and he deserves some of the blame and his offensive philosophy needs to change big. However, I believe this is the release of years of pent up frustration from a fan base that desperately wants something to cheer about.
- 2018: Lost in the Elite Eight in OT to an Auburn team the UK had beaten twice. Two Auburn players went for 20+.
- 2019: COVID shut down a Final-Four caliber team, won SEC by 3 games.
- 2020: worst season in UK history; Lost tournament, weird year in college basketball (Duke also missed, UNC and Kansas out first weekend)
- 2021: Injury-plagued team at its peak; The worst loss in postseason history; Saga Shaedon Sharpe.
With that being said, the Big Blue Nation wants to support this team and have a successful season, but they need something to look forward to. Florida A&M may not be a quality opponent, but a decisive landslide victory could provide a springboard.
Time Date: 7:00 pm ET on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
Television channel: SEC Network
Announcers: Tom Hart, Dane Bradshaw
Online streaming: watch ESPN, ESPN+SEC+ network or espn app
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK sports radio network.
Repetition: SEC Network (check local listings).
Lists: United Kingdom | FAMU
team sheets: United Kingdom | FAMU
Statistics to know: United Kingdom | FAMU
Possibilities: The betting line for the game has yet to be announced. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives Kentucky a 99% chance of winning while KenPom has a 99.9% chance, and bart torvik guarantees a 100% Kentucky win.
predictions: bart torvik picked the Wildcats to win 80-49, while KenPom projects an 82-47 win, Kentucky!