When talking about blueblood men’s basketball programs, Kentucky’s blood is probably the bluest. The Wildcats have the most all-time victories with 2,322, and their eight national championships rank second, trailing only UCLA’s 11.
This season, however, the Wildcats are struggling more than in any time over coach John Calipari’s previous 11 seasons. Kentucky suffered its worst home loss in the Calipari era Tuesday night, losing 85-65 to Alabama, to see its record drop to 4-7.
- The Big East schedule maker has a tough job in this season of COVID, rescheduling games for Villanova and other teams
- La Salle’s poor shooting leads to 75-42 defeat at George Mason
- If the NCAA can’t have 68 teams at its 2021 men’s basketball tournament, bracketologist Joe Lunardi has contingency brackets at the ready
“Not one of our players played well,” Calipari said after the game. “I obviously didn’t coach well. But what I told them after is I’m going to find five guys that will fight and that’s who I’ll play. We got beat every which way but loose. We were backing away from players. They’re afraid (saying) ‘I’m going to get beat on the dribble and look bad. I’ll back away and give them a three.’”
Alabama made 14 three-pointers in the game, while the Wildcats were 4 of 18.
Calipari, who last won a national championship at Kentucky in 2012, came into the season averaging 30 wins over his 11 seasons. He has thrived over the years on one-and-done talent but the concept isn’t working this year. His six freshmen, plus a redshirt freshman, are talented but inexperienced and haven’t jelled.
The Wildcats have no deep shooting threat, ranking 275th in Division I in three-point shooting at 30.3%, and 316th in three made at 5.1 per game. They’ve also averaged 14.9 turnovers, tied for 251st.
Say hello to Hunter Dickinson, the 7-foot-1, 255-pound freshman center who has helped Michigan get off to a torrid start.
Dickinson is averaging 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots for the seventh-ranked Wolverines, who improved to 11-0 Tuesday night with a 77-54 win over Wisconsin that, believe it or not, wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Thanks to a 43-6 run that began in the first half and ended in the second, Michigan once led this game by 40.
A five-time Big Ten freshman of the week, Dickinson has scored in double figures in every game with three double-doubles. He has scored 20 points or more on three occasions, including a season-high 28 points earlier this month against Minnesota.
To listen to Wolverines associate head coach Phil Martelli, “In a lot of ways, he’s just scratching the surface.
“It’s fascinating to watch,” Martelli, the longtime former head coach at St. Joseph’s, said last month. “He hasn’t made a jumper and he has a nice stroke. We haven’t really seen all of his passing ability out of the low post. I hope he stays a freshman for a long time and doesn’t get tempted because there’s a lot of growth and there’s a lot to enjoy with him. He’s a remarkable personality.”
Michigan is one of seven Division I teams that were still undefeated through Wednesday’s games, joining No. 1 Gonzaga, Baylor, Drake, Winthrop, Siena and Alabama A&M. The Zags (12-0) and the Eagles (11-0) have games Thursday night.
Two members of Georgetown’s strong 2018 freshman class are leading their new teams in scoring.
Guard Mac McClung, who transferred to Texas Tech after last season ended, is averaging 15.3 points for the Red Raiders and knocked down the game-winning jumper in a 79-77 victory Wednesday night at No. 4 Texas. McClung had a storied high school career during which he broke Allen Iverson’s state scoring record in Virginia.
Guard James Akinjo, the 2019 Big East freshman of the year, left Georgetown after last season’s seventh game and wound up at Arizona. He leads the Wildcats with 13.9 points and 5.4 assists per game.
Two members of the 2019 The Inquirer’s All-City first team are impressing as sophomores at Maryland. Donta Scott, a 6-foot-7 forward from Imhotep Charter, leads the Terrapins in rebounding at 7.4 per game and his 13.2-point average ranks second. He is shooting 57.5% from the field and 53.5% from three-point range, including a 5-for-5 performance against Michigan. Former Roman Catholic star Hakim Hart, who exploded for 32 points in an early-season game against St. Peter’s, is averaging 9.2 points for the Terps.