Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: One last hurrah for walk ons and others

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Get out the tissues and get ready to cry.  It’s Senior Day for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.  In addition to the quest for perfection, it is time  for the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” and the chance to honor the departing seniors.  Under John Calipari, four-year seniors seem as rare and a berth in the Elite Eight for the Indiana Hoosiers. but this year, there are three seniors on the team.  In addition, this will be the last home team for several Wildcats as they get ready to depart for the NBA.

Their job is not finished yet however as they still have that perfect season and possible ninth national title on their agenda.  But for a few minutes at least, the Big Blue Nation will appreciate Tod Lanter, Brian Long, and Sam Malone.  It’s time to say goodbye to the last remaining players from the 2012 title in Malone and Long while the current Wildcats are heavy favorites for the 2015 title.  Sam Malone shared some of his thoughts on this team.

"“Nah, I don’t think anyone can destroy this team,” Long said when told that his former teammate and current NBA star Anthony Davis had said the 2012 team would destroy the current one. “We’re really deep and very unselfish and we’ve played real well all year. I mean, we don’t have Anthony Davis on this team, but still, nonetheless. And this year the story’s not over yet. Ask me in a couple months.” Malone thinks the depth is what separates the two teams. “Well, obviously our team is a lot deeper,” Malone said about the 2014-15 Cats. “I think our chemistry got going a lot earlier than it did in 2012. We had some great players on 2012, but I think it’s a different team, especially with the amount of guys we play.” “We’ve had a lot of teams here that have done that,” UK head coach John Calipari said about his current team rising to the occasion. “This isn’t the only team. I think, again, the differences that you have are there are a lot of guys and a lot of room for error. What I mean is I only need five guys to play well. You have nine guys that you are playing and you have another guy or two if you need them. I only need five of you to play well. If five are playing well then that’s OK too. If you want to play get in there and ball.”"

Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know, the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is 30-0.  There have been numerous theories on how to defeat this team yet all have failed.  The Wildcats have been outrebounded in some games, yet won.  Some teams have tried to slow the game down and lost.  Others have tried to run with the Cats.  One theory is that Kentucky has to have a horrible shooting night, but they have won.  John Clay takes a look at the numbers behind that theory and the occasions when teams have had better shooting nights than UK.

"Tuesday night down at star-studded Athens marked the sixth time this season in which a Kentucky opponent has shot a higher field goal percentage than the Cats. Only there’s the thing: Kentucky has won all six of those games. Compare that to last year when the Cats were out-shot 14 times. The Cats went 5-9 in those 14 games. They were able to beat Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama, Wichita State and Louisville (in the NCAA Tournament), despite shooting a lower percentage. Here’s another thing to consider: Over the past two years, Kentucky has been out-shot at home just four times — Baylor and Arkansas last season (both Kentucky losses) and Columbia and Ole Miss this season (both UK wins). UK was out-shot in four of its nine conference road games this season — at Texas A&M, at Florida, at LSU and at Georgia — yet managed to win all four."

Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the fact that some recruiting analysts are now switching their pick of Malik Newman from the Kentucky WIldcats to the LSU Tigers. Newman in the Bayou would definitely give the Tigers perhaps the top class in the country and depending on who stays in Baton Rouge, could make the Tigers a Final Four contender.

"247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer changed his prediction Wednesday to a school that hadn’t previously received much attention in Newman’s recruitment: Louisiana State. The Tigers already have commitments from Ben Simmons — arguably the No. 1 high school player in the country — and Antonio Blakeney, a five-star shooting guard. Both players have been trying to recruit Newman to LSU. “Malik has a really strong relationship with the incoming recruits at LSU,” Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “He’s dead-set on playing point guard. LSU gives him the best opportunity for him to be the guy at the point. “Just from what I’m hearing, and putting everything together — I’m not saying it’s a done deal or anything. It just seems like the best fit.” Newman was actually born in Louisiana, and Meyer noted that his mother still lives in the state. LSU most likely would give him all the minutes he could want at point guard. He has said several times in the past few months that that’s the position he wants to play in college, though all of the major recruiting services consider him a shooting guard. Those who have watched him in high school and AAU might not see the fit. In those settings, he is always in attack mode and often looks to score first. Meyer has seen a different side of Newman, who he first evaluated during a USA Basketball trials weekend when the 6-foot-3 prospect was running the point."