Rupp Arena is opening its door to heathens Saturday afternoon. The most vile creatures on Earth will be in Lexington for a top 25 matchup as Tennessee takes on No. 18 Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 1 pm ET on ESPN.
Rick Barnes’ squad is ranked No. 22, entering the rivalry game off a 20-point win over South Carolina. Barnes is one of the most successful head coaches against Kentucky, 8-6 against John Calipari’s Cats at Tennessee.
“His teams are physical,” Calipari said Friday morning. “They’re well coached, their shot selection, their ability to rebound when you see it, it’s a cross-body block-out. I mean, they’re coming at bodies, and that’s been his game. If you’re not ready to physically play, you’ll stand out in this game.”
Physicality is the name of Oscar Tshiebwe‘s game. The Kentucky center is on a tear, racking up 59 points and 30 rebounds over his previous two games to firmly place his name at the center of the National Player of the Year conversation.
“When you’re getting that many rebounds, when other teams are playing against them, they’re saying, ‘We have to work hard at keeping him off the offensive boards,'” Barnes said ahead of the matchup. “Oscar has a tremendous passion and a drive to go get it and you admire it, because you want that from people. I think he understands the importance of it anyways. With what he’s doing, he has to. I’d like to get some of our guys to do that with that mindset.”
Hopefully Oscar’s hot streak continues against John Fulkerson and Co. in this highly anticipated Top 25 matchup that could give the Wildcats a resume building victory.
Sahvir Wheeler Returns
Although not officially official, Calipari revealed Friday afternoon that Sahvir Wheeler returned to practice Thursday, opening the door for him to return to action against Tennessee. UK’s point guard missed the last 2.5 games with a neck injury. His absence hurt in the short term, but Kentucky will benefit in the long-term by empowering TyTy Washington.
Somebody Show Fulky the Scoreboard
It might make him cry by the end of the day, but he needs to know how many points the Vols are losing by at any given moment.
TV, Radio Info
The game tips off at 1 p.m. ET with ESPN’s top shelf broadcasters in the house for the big game: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Holly Rowe. If you can’t watch it, you can listen in a variety of ways:
- AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
- FM: 98.1 WBUL
- Satellite: XM 190, Sirius 134, SXM App: 961
- Online: iHeart Radio
Vegas, KenPom Prediction
The Wildcats opened as 5.5-point favorites over the Volunteers, but that number was quickly bet down to 4.5. You’ll currently find the total at 142. The under has hit in two of the last three Kentucky games and four of the five last Tennessee games. KenPom calls for a 74-69 win, giving UK a 66% chance to win this afternoon.
Calipari, Washington, Mintz Preview Tennessee Matchup
Significant Recruiting Weekend
It’s an eventful weekend for the Kentucky football and basketball programs. After Orlando Antigua watched Skyy Clark take on DJ Wagner, Jack Pilgrim and Zack Geoghegan are in Springfield to watch UK targets in the Hoophall Classic.
Back at home in the Bluegrass, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are hosting dozens of talented underclassmen for UK Junior Day. There’s a 99.9% chance the football team will bring the Citrus Bowl trophy to Rupp Arena. The question is, which player(s) will be a mid-court to present the new hardware and receive a standing ovation?
SUPER Wild Card Weekend
The Kentucky-Tennessee game will lead into ESPN’s coverage of Super Wild Card Weekend. It’s the most super it’s even been with six games spread out over three days, starting with the Bengals hosting the Raiders at 4:15 pm ET. It will be followed by an AFC East matchup between the Bills and the Patriots in the frozen tundra of Orchard Park at approximately 8 pm ET. I cannot wait to watch and hopefully win some money (Bengals -4.5, Patriots ML). The biggest Bengals fan on the KSR staff, Adam Luckett, will be at KSBar for the watch party and I’m worried about the nervous energy this Football Guy is bringing into the game.