Big Man Update for 2019

We have entered the dog days of summer where it’s basically just baseball for the next few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Reds fan, but with college football just around the corner it’s hard to stay focused. College Football I love, but for the sole reason that Basketball is just a few more months away. When Calipari came to Kentucky, he brought the program back to where it should be and this year is no different. With the number two recruiting class and a ton of players returning, Kentucky is set out to do what it did in 2012 and this is the team to do so.

The role that maybe scares me the most, the big men. The bigs are definitely improved. Not only do we return Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery but Kentucky adds special talent to help them out. Kahlil Whitney is the player I am most excited for next season. After watching hours of his highlights, he reminds me of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the jumping ability of Hamidou Diallo. Expect two alley-oops a game and several players’ careers being ended by getting dunked on. Along with Whitney, Kentucky brings in Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Johnny Juzang, and Nate Sestina. Allen could be a legit player once he is healthy, and Keion brings on a special skill set including rim protector. Juzang could be this years Tyler Herro will his shooting ability and Sestina brings the experience and the shooting/defensive ability needed. But when we look at the 5, only three people can play it: EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and Nate Sestina.

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First off, the most important piece is Nick Richards. He is probably the biggest question mark mainly because he is just so damn inconsistent. If he can play like Bam did where he’d get 10-15 rebounds scoring a few here and there that’s about all we can ask for, but we’ve seen how much fouling comes into play with him but as a Junior let’s hope he can work on that. EJ is going to be different. Much like Hagans, EJ added some muscle and has been in the gym daily. I think he’ll play like a peak WCS with glimpses of KAT on the shooting end. Nate Sestina is going to be a lot like Kyle Wiltjer just imagine more height, more athleticism and the ability to actually play defense. Dude can shoot and defend, so he’ll be a solid option for when Richards or Montgomery inevitably get into foul trouble. I think it’s definitely our weakness, but our plethora of forwards (3/4 position) allow this team to hide it if need be.

For only the second time in the Calipari era, Kentucky returns four players who averaged double digits in minutes and more than 4 points per game. The last time that happened? Kentucky went 38-1* and got screwed in the Final Four with a non call on a shot clock violation. Now to sit here and say this team will go 40-0 is just outrageous, but they can make a run. They return their guards in Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley who both improved tremendously as the season progressed. They both could be apart of the best backcourt in college basketball next season along with Tyrese Maxey. Tyrese Maxey has an uncanny ability to get to the rim. Think of John Wall with the ability to shoot outside of 15 feet. He’s going to be a special player and I can see him assuming the starting role at point guard if Hagans is underperforming but they’ll be a great mix.

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Obviously there is one more option: N’Faly Dante. While Dante is 6’11”, he has a wingspan of 7’5” which just makes him a beast. Watching some of his highlights, I feel like Dante is the closest to Bam. Bam was an absolute tank but he wasn’t the best shooter. His defense will set him apart from the others as he is a complete package with shot-blocking and rebounding and the ability to switch off the pick. The issue Dante may have is his outside shot. While he drains threes in his videos, his shot is just so inconsistent. With his height, he has the ability to again rebound and dunk but he’ll need to develop an outside shot and it will take patience from everyone. He has the peak of a Karl Anthony Towns with his athleticism and he can grow into a shot and with Kenny Payne, this is possible. With the Jam coming to an end, N’Faly showed he is college ready with his shot blocking and dunking ability. Now we just wait for him.

My thoughts stay the same, N’Faly will be a Wildcat just give him some time to get everything sorted out. This week showed he’s ready to go and he’ll add a much needed depth in the 5 spot. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @soft7sports and on Facebook.

2019 Louisville vs. Kentucky Basketball Date Is Set

The date has been set for one of the best rivalries in college basketball. The Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Louisville Cardinals on Satuday, December 28th, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. The game will air on CBS

This will be the 53rd time installment of the rivalry. Kentucky currently leads the all time series 36-16. Calipari has never lost to Louisville in Rupp and is 10-1 against UofL since he arrived at Kentucky (10-2 depending on your stance on vacated wins). This includes a 71-58 win last year in the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky should prevail in defending their home court, but Chris Mack may have something up his sleeve with his “Super Six” recruiting class.

Let us know your predictions in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook and follow us for more content from the Bluegrass.

2019 Roster Update, N’Faly Latest

We have entered the dog days of summer where it’s basically just baseball for the next few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Reds fan, but with college football just around the corner it’s hard to stay focused. College Football I love, but for the sole reason that Basketball is just a few more months away. When Calipari came to Kentucky, he brought the program back to where it should be and this year is no different. With the number two recruiting class and a ton of players returning, Kentucky is set out to do what it did in 2012 and this is the team to do so.

For only the second time in the Calipari era, Kentucky returns four players who averaged double digits in minutes and more than 4 points per game. The last time that happened? Kentucky went 38-1* and got screwed in the Final Four with a non call on a shot clock violation. Now to sit here and say this team will go 40-0 is just outrageous, but they can make a run. They return their guards in Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley who both improved tremendously as the season progressed. They both could be apart of the best backcourt in college basketball next season along with Tyrese Maxey. Tyrese Maxey has an uncanny ability to get to the rim. Think of John Wall with the ability to shoot outside of 15 feet. He’s going to be a special player and I can see him assuming the starting role at point guard if Hagans is underperforming but they’ll be a great mix.

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The bigs are definitely improved. Not only do we return Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery but Kentucky adds special talent to help them out. Kahlil Whitney is the player I am most excited for next season. After watching hours of his highlights, he reminds me of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the jumping ability of Hamidou Diallo. Expect two alley-oops a game and several players’ careers being ended by getting dunked on. Along with Whitney, Kentucky brings in Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Johnny Juzang, and Nate Sestina. Allen could be a legit player once he is healthy, and Keion brings on a special skill set including rim protector. Juzang could be this years Tyler Herro will his shooting ability and Sestina brings the experience and the shooting/defensive ability needed.

I do think Kentucky is missing a piece and his name is N’Faly Dante. While Dante is 6’11”, he has a wingspan of 7’5” which just makes him a beast. Watching some of his highlights, I feel like Dante is the closest to Bam. Bam was an absolute tank but he wasn’t the best shooter. His defense will set him apart from the others as he is a complete package with shot-blocking and rebounding and the ability to switch off the pick. The issue Dante may have is his outside shot. While he drains threes in his videos, his shot is just so inconsistent. With his height, he has the ability to again rebound and dunk but he’ll need to develop an outside shot and it will take patience from everyone. He has the peak of a Karl Anthony Towns with his athleticism and he can grow into a shot and with Kenny Payne, this is possible.

But there is a holdup around N’Faly. From an interview with the Athletic, Dante’s AAU director claims that they are doing everything possible to reclassify. The hardest thing to do is reclassify but it is even harder when English is not your primary language. His family wants him to reclassify and they love Kentucky, but again it will take time and it won’t likely happen until the end of the summer, if at all. They claim they are working “around the clock” to make it possible and by all accounts, he wants it to happen. Oregon and Kansas are possible contenders but I really think if he reclassifies, he is Kentucky’s to lose. We’ll find out more with Peach Jam this week.

My guess, N’Faly will be a member of the 2019 recruiting class and will bring us into the top 3 and possibly the #1 team in the nation. We’ll have the 2nd recruiting class behind Memphis still, but we will be a much deeper and a much more athletic team. #9 is looming, let’s get ready.

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Why Joe Lundardi’s Early Bracketology Is Absurd

Joe Lundardi is ESPN’s resident Bracketologist. And if that sounds like a made up position, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. How does one even become a bracketologist? Do you have to have a fake degree from a fake school like Hogwarts, Trump University or South Harmon Institute of Technology? Anyway, I digress.

Lunardi has released is way too early predictions for what 68 teams will populate the 2020 NCAA Tournament bracket. You can see the full bracket and previous predictions here. Picture below.

Now, the Kentucky homer in me doesn’t care about Kentucky being a 2 seed or even that Louisville is too. The casual college basketball fan can usually guess at least 7 of the top 8 teams. There are two problems with this early bracket though: why is coming out 2 months before football season even starts and how can Joey Brackets realistically predict the low seeds?

The problem is with the 11-16 seeds. How in the world can this guy predict what teams will be there? He is essentially picking conference tournament winners since that is the only way teams from the SWAC, MEAC, MIVA, or SoCon will get into the tournament.

Nobody can actually predict who the double digits seeds will be 4 months before the season. And the people that think they can probably didn’t realize that one of the four conferences above is actually a men’s volleyball conference. Basically, don’t make a prediction on a conference champion when a 5’10” white dude could get hot from three and wreak havoc on a tournament. So, let’s pump the brakes and let football have at least one month of spotlight before we start making such bold predictions.

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A Closer Look at N’Faly Dante

Unless news breaks anytime soon, this is probably the last update on N’Faly for a long while. N’Faly Dante is a stud. We all know him as the 6’11” center from Mali, but currently living in Wichita. Dante is an absolute stud who currently plays for Willie Cauley Stein’s old team and his coach constantly says how Kenny Payne helped shaped WCS into the player he became and basically includes Kenny Payne in his family. While he sees so many comparables between the two, he thinks Dante may have the higher ceiling and I tend to agree with that.

While Dante is 6’11”, he has a wingspan of 7’5” which just makes him a beast. Watching some of his highlights, I feel like Dante is the closest to Bam. Bam was an absolute tank but he wasn’t the best shooter. His defense will set him apart from the others as he is a complete package with shot-blocking and rebounding and the ability to switch off the pick. The issue Dante may have is his outside shot. While he drains threes in his videos, his shot is just so inconsistent. With his height, he has the ability to again rebound and dunk but he’ll need to develop an outside shot and it will take patience from everyone. He has the peak of a Karl Anthony Towns with his athleticism and he can grow into a shot and with Kenny Payne, this is possible.

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But there is a holdup around N’Faly. From an interview with the Athletic, Dante’s AAU director claims that they are doing everything possible to reclassify. The hardest thing to do is reclassify but it is even harder when English is not your primary language. His family wants him to reclassify and they love Kentucky, but again it will take time and it won’t likely happen until the end of the summer, if at all. They claim they are working “around the clock” to make it possible and by all accounts, he wants it to happen. Oregon and Kansas are possible contenders but I really think if he reclassifies, he is Kentucky’s to lose.

Here are my thoughts…if and it’s about 50/50 right now, IF N’Faly reclassifies Kentucky is in the driver’s seat. He could potentially stay home at Kansas and even Oregon is atop of is list, but Kentucky is the school he has his eyes on and his host family feels the exact same way. If I had to take a guess, I think he will reclassify but it would happen after Peach Jam and those AAU events. This gives him more time to visit, work on school work, and show off his skills against the elite of the elite. It may be a waiting process, but I think the Cats wrap up their 2019 recruiting class with N’Faly.

Top 5 Players in the Calipari Era

Last night at dinner, I was focused in on a conversation where people were rating the best players in the Calipari Era and I feel like everyone has the same 5 but just in a different order. So I decided to do my own ranking and I want feedback. Feel free to respond to this post or tweet me (here), I’m always open to discussion and arguing if need be. So let’s get to it…here are my top 5.

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#5 Karl Anthony Towns

Karl Anthony Towns was the 2nd ranked recruit in the 2014 class behind Emmanuel Mudiay. KAT was apart of one of the greatest teams ever assembled in college basketball and he averaged 10.3 Pts, 6.7 Reb, 1.1 Ast per game. Keep in mind, his stats would have been a ton higher if Kentucky had not platooned, but he sacrificed for a chance to win a title and he should have won one if they allowed reviews or if they had called a damn shot clock violation against Wisconsin but whatever, I’m not mad. KAT was taken #1 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves and is continuing to find his place and lead his less than average team. Towns was a huge part of the success in the 38-1 season and was set on Kentucky from day one in his recruiting. He may not have averaged a ton of anything or even had a record but his sacrifices and his love for the school are shown every day. How could you not like KAT?

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#4 Demarcus Cousins

Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins was the first to follow Calipari to Kentucky days after he signed his contract. Previously committed to Memphis, Cousins came to Kentucky only for Calipari but he grew into one of the most beloved Wildcats of all time. For me, when he fought Louisville single handedly and won, I knew he’d be remembered forever. His passion for the game and his antics against Mississippi State saying “call me” after they called him all week then having an unreal game was just unreal. And then the best moment…The moment that ranks in my top 5 was the SEC title game against Mississippi State. Throughout the year, Mississippi State had talked shit to the Cats and especially Demarcus Cousins when they found his phone number and called him hundred of thousands of times before the game in Starkville which Kentucky won 81-75 and the famous “call me” moment from Cousins was there. They met again in the SEC final and it came down to a missed free throw, missed 3, then a miraculous tap in by Boogie as time expired. The best part about this was the team ran around like they won and piled on Demarcus. Once they calmed, they won the game in OT and it is a memory that is forever sketched in Kentucky history.

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#3 Brandon Knight

This is where I may lose a few of you all, but here me out. After the 2009-2010 season where we had Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe…everyone thought Kentucky would be taken down and really had no chance but we made it to the Final Four and a huge part of the reason was Brandon Knight. Knight came out of Florida and was a presumed 4 year player, stating that education was first and foremost…but while he was at Kentucky he evolved into a star averaging 17.3 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 4.2 assist. Knight was then selected in the lottery the following year but there is one moment that stands out and cements him in history…First off, this team was built for March. It was Calipari’s first “be patient” team with Kentucky and he set the bar high. Coming in as a four seed, the Cats barely moved past Princeton (again thanks to Knight) then had to beat the team that eliminated them in 2010…West Virginia. The matchup with Ohio State was supposed to be a slide through for the Buckeyes, yet Kentucky fought every single second and then the beauty happened. As Ohio State just tied it up, Kentucky dribbles down and you hear “he’ll wait till about 8 seconds” and sure enough he did. Knight pulls up on Craft and sinks in. No celebration and then Craft passes it to Buford who then bricks a three and Harrellson taps it as hard as possible. This moment was everything for Kentucky and it makes Brandon Knight a legend.

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#2 John Wall

Wall was the next domino that fell after Calipari and Cousins and boy was it an important one. John Wall was as dominant as you could hope for out of a college point guard and it was shown from his first game. After being suspended at the beginning, Wall played his first game against Miami where he pulled up and sunk the game winner…and boom a legend was born. John Wall led this team all the way to the Elite 8 and we all know what happened there. He averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game while also bringing a certain swagger back to Kentucky. On Big Blue Madness, Wall unveiled his signature “John Wall Dance” and it got the Wildcat fans stirring. Everyone in the BBN was doing the dance and a song even came from it.

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#1 Anthony Davis

This has to be a consensus #1 in the Calipari Era. Anthony Davis led Kentucky back to the promised land and he did it while changing what Calipari is known for. Cal was always a point guard guy but when Davis came he turned to big men and Davis was the perfect one to start with. He averaged 14.2 points per game along with 10.4 rebounds and he won the Wooden Player of the Year, the 2nd freshman behind KD. Davis was drafted number one overall to the Pelicans and has since joined the Lakers. He could become the first Calipari Era player to win an NBA title and doing it with the King by his side. Davis had probably the best moment against Louisville as he screamed “this is my state” after knocking them off in the Final Four. While he struggled from the field in the National Championship, he led the way with 16 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 5 assists. While he shot 1/10 from the field, he made sure he impacted in every other way. Kentucky won it all and a huge part of it was because of him which lands him at #1.

Let me know what you think, feel free to tweet me @soft7juice and make sure you follow us on Twitter @soft7sports and on Facebook.

N’Faly Latest, Thoughts After Visit

These past few days, the #2 center in the class of 2020 visited Kentucky with thoughts of reclassifying. Wic went on Everything College Basketball, the podcast, to discuss him as a player and where he stands now…check it out here. For those of you who do not know, he is from Wichita. Along with his family, Kentucky is also pushing for a reclassification due to his ability to own the paint and it doesn’t hurt that he is long as hell. While he is technically 6 foot 11 inches, his wingspan stretches to 7 foot 5 and some measurements even think it is bigger. His length allows him to have an elite shot blocking ability and there is no one better to teach him the game than Kentucky’s own Kenny Payne. You know, the guy who trained AD, KAT, Bam and pretty much every single big Calipari has ever produced. Payne can bring out the raw talent that Dante possesses and he could easily learn behind Montgomery and Richards. But as he wrapped up his visit with the Cats, here is where I think we stand.

According to all accounts, N’Faly loved his visit to Kentucky. In fact, his AAU director called Kenny Payne “family” and his host mom called Kentucky “extraordinary.” N’Faly Dante has the potential to be the next big man to successfully come out of Kentucky but it would take some building. He has the skills, the has the work ethic, and Kenny Payne and Calipari could bring him to his full potential. Right now, he is a more a Bam with his defense and lack of an outside shot…but with work and constant practice, Dante could transform into a KAT with the ability to play anywhere. I think Dante is a stud and he could possibly be a two year player which would just further enhance the roster.

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According to sources, N’Faly and his family want to reclassify. There is a huge hiccup though and it comes with the fact he is from Mali and english is his second language. As Wic discussed on the podcast, reclassifying is hard enough as it is but it is even harder when english isn’t your first language but Kyle Tucker (via the Athletic) claims that they are working around the clock to do everything they can to potentially bring him up.

Here are my thoughts…if and it’s about 50/50 right now, IF N’Faly reclassifies Kentucky is in the driver’s seat. He could potentially stay home at Kansas and even Oregon is atop of is list, but Kentucky is the school he has his eyes on and his host family feels the exact same way. If I had to take a guess, I think he will reclassify but it would happen after Peach Jam and those AAU events. This gives him more time to visit, work on school work, and show off his skills against the elite of the elite. It may be a waiting process, but I think the Cats wrap up their 2019 recruiting class with N’Faly.

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