KSR Gameday: Bradshaw debut, Sweet 16 for Volleyball, and Kentucky HS Football Championships

On3 imageby:Adam Stratton12/02/23

AdamStrattonKSR

Good morning and happy Aaron-Bradshaw-will-play-basketball-for-the-Kentucky-Wildcats Day to all those who celebrate. Barring a last-minute change of plans, after months of speculation, optimism, and sometimes outright doubt, one of the Wildcats’ three seven-footers will finally play in an actual game.

Bradshaw began practicing with the team last week, having sat out for what felt like eons due to a fractured foot. However, the 4th ranked player in the 2023 class will most likely make his Wildcat debut against UNC Willmington this afternoon in Rupp Arena, though it might be in limited minutes.

One of the biggest questions surrounding his return is how it will affect Kentucky’s style of play. Thanks in part to their new assistant coach, John Welch, the ‘Cats have leaped into the 21st century when it comes to offensive strategy, something Kentucky fans do not want to see go away anytime soon.

Aaron Bradshaw will be the first of Kentucky’s three sidelined seven-footers to see the court, but according to Cal, the No. 1 ranked center in his class may slide into the power forward position. This would lend well to maintaining the same offensive plan that has led to 94.4 points per game thus far this season, third-best in the country.

Kentucky vs. UNC Wilmington Game Info

There was some confusion around the start time of today’s game, as many folks had it marked down for 7:00 pm, however, tip-off will commence at the extremely normal time of 4:00 p.m. Don’t miss it.

No. 12 Kentucky (6-1) vs. UNC Wilmington (5-2)
4 p.m. ET | Saturday, December 2 | Rupp Arena

Tale of the Tape

DJ Wagner Ankle Watch

Kentucky’s starting point guard went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the team’s win over No. 8 Miami (FL) earlier this week. There hasn’t been any sort of substantial update regarding his status going into today’s game, but don’t be surprised to see the staff play this one safe. The ‘Cats play Saturday, then don’t hit the floor again until the following Saturday against Penn in Philadelphia — a homecoming game for Wagner, Bradshaw, and Justin Edwards.

Holding Wagner out against UNC Wilmington wouldn’t be the worst idea to get him back on his feet next week and pick momentum back up ahead of the CBS Sports Classic the following weekend. Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham will do just fine holding down the fort.

What Vegas says about the game

Kentucky opened as a 17.5-point favorite over UNC-Wilmington on FanDuel, with a total of 152.5. That abnormally high over-under is because the Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington average 82.9 points per game themselves.

The ‘Cats are 4-3 against the spread (ATS) this year, while the over has hit in five straight contests. The Seahawks are 2-3 ATS and just came off a loss to East Carolina on Thursday, where they coughed up a double-digit lead.

As always, gamble responsibly, kids.

The first game on the new floor

Aaron Bradshaw isn’t the only Kentucky star that will make their Rupp Arena debut today. Now that volleyball has wrapped up its at-home play, we have reached the end of an era that lasted entirely too long. The wretched, ugly, and asymmetrical Central Bank stickers on the floor of Rupp Arena have now officially been retired.

The new, much, much sexier floor will be christened for the UNC Wilmington game, much to the delight of literally every single member of the Big Blue Nation. The fresh court design will feature substantially more subtle advertising logos and a huge outline of the state. Get familiar with your county geography so you can join the fun of shouting, “Reed Sheppard shot that one from Muhlenberg County!”

UK Athletics

Kentucky volleyball advances to the Sweet 16

Speaking of volleyball, the Wildcats defeated No. 23 Baylor on Friday night 3-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament, cementing their spot in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time since 2017. This game also marked the team’s eighth sweep of the season.

Emma Grome, who leads the entire country in assists per set and added 45 more during this match, said humbly, “We did a good job of spreading it around. Everyone is firing on all cylinders at the right time.” She continued, “The fans did an amazing job of filling [Rupp] and making it feel just like Memorial.”

They will now face the winner of Arkansas and Florida State, who are scheduled to play at 8:00 pm tonight. If it is the Hogs, it will the the third time the two teams have faced each other this year, with the ‘Cats having won both matches.

Keep on dancing, ladies!

High School Football State Championships

Yours truly’s alma mater, Pikeville, shut out Raceland on Friday 21-0 to win the Class 1A championship. This is their third consecutive state title, fifth since 2018, and eighth overall. They have created a heck of a dynasty in the mountains.

The Class 2A championship was an absolute barnburner. Nearly two years after the community suffered a deadly tornado, Mayfield won their 13th state title, defeating Owensboro Catholic 53-48. KSR’s Troy Howell was on site and called it the best state title game since the Brohm-Bush game in 2002.

In the nightcap, Boyle County handily took down Covington Catholic 41-0 to win their fourth straight state title and 12th in program history. They are the first school in Kentucky to ever complete a four-peat and have shown to be perhaps the best team, regardless of class.

The second half of the championship slate kicks off today at Kroger Field:

  • 3A | 12:00 pm: Christian Academy-Louisville vs. Bell County
  • 5A | 8:00 pm: Bowling Green vs. Cooper 
  • 6A | 4:00 pm: Louisville Trinity vs. Bryan Station

The football transfer portal is revving up

I’m not sure who coined the phrase transfer portal, or if everyone organically just simultaneously and universally decided to run with it. Regardless, the portal has been beaming players around the country for a couple of years now and this football offseason is no different.

Although it does not officially open until Monday, December 4, grad transfers and FCS players get a one-week head start on the rest of college football.

As of now, five Kentucky players have announced their early departure, including tight end Izayah Cummings, offensive lineman Grant Bingham, defensive lineman Jamarius Dinkins, wide receiver Dekel Crowdus, running back JuTahn McClain, linebacker Luke Fulton, and safety Jalen Geiger.

As for names coming into the program, wide receiver Donaven McCulley has shown interest in moving one state south and is reportedly planning to visit Kentucky soon. There is also scuttlebutt that Liam Coen is confident he has found his next quarterback. Things are happening.

Follow all the action on KSR’s transfer portal tracker and get early intel, discussion, and speculations on decisions over at KSBoard.

Got thoughts? Continue the conversation on KSBoard, the KSR Message Board. New members can try 1 month for $1.

The ‘Cats are going bowling…but where?

Kentucky football will learn its 2023 bowl fate on Sunday, but nearly every expert predicts the ‘Cats will represent the SEC in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte. Of course, anything could happen. Sometimes teams shift around during championship weekend or simply have strange destination preferences.

If Kentucky does wind up in Charlotte, their three most likely opponents are Virginia Tech, Duke, and Georgia Tech in that order. A potential Duke matchup would create the most storylines between the basketball school angle and the Mark Stoops and Mike Elko to Texas A&M drama.

All speculation will end somewhere between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm tomorrow.

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2024-03-02