Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Cal's Cats are starting to wake up
Kentucky's Cason Wallace (22) shoots between Georgia's Braelen Bridges, left, and Terry Roberts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Kentucky won 85-71. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
David Wallace is one of those guys who is at church every time the doors open.
Need someone to help someone, he’s in.
Someone to lead the singing, he can be counted on.
David always dresses nice. He’s an integral part of Pinnacle Church of Christ.
So it was a bit of a shock when he showed up for a church event with a brown paper bag over his head, like the old New Orleans Aints fans when the Saints were horrible.
David is also a Kentucky basketball fan(atic). He was born there and he’s true to his roots.
The Kentucky Wildcats opened SEC play with a 99-75 loss to Missouri, got a 74-71 win over LSU and then lost at Alabama badly, 78-52.
What brought the brown bag out in David was the next game when the Wildcats, in Rupp Arena, lost to South Carolina 71-68. The Gamecocks are 1-9 in SEC play.
This is not what Kentucky fans have come to expect from its blue blood program. Some in the Bluegrass State still had not recovered from the No. 2-seeded Wildcats’ loss to No. 15 St. Peter’s 85-79 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Although St. Peter’s also beat No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue before falling to No. 8 North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Still, Kentucky is to SEC basketball what Alabama is to conference football and the Tide don’t lose nonconference games.
So there was some unrest in the world of the big blue.
When head coach John Calipari’s name came up as a possible hire for Texas, who has an interim coach after Chris Beard was fired, no one talked about going to the bank and getting more money to keep Calipari.
Calipari makes $8.5 million per season and he also has a $61 million buy-out, so firing him was never part of the talk.
Plus, he has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for next season with four five stars (Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 9 ranked players in the country), and a four star.
Since losing to South Carolina, the Wildcats have won six consecutive conference games.
They did lose to Kansas 77-68 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Before this season began it appeared tonight’s game with the Arkansas Razorbacks would be huge.
The Wildcats were voted by coaches and the media to win the SEC, and the Hogs were voted second.
Not that this game isn’t important, as both teams are trying to establish themselves for March Madness with a fantastic February.
Plus, the Wildcats are who every team in the SEC wants to beat, just like Alabama is everyone’s target in football.
Every game is huge for both teams the rest of this season.
Arkansas is No. 29 in the NCAA NET rankings and Kentucky is No. 31. The Razorbacks are 1-5 against Quad 1 teams and the Wildcats are 1-6, and their win was against No. 2 Tennessee.
Arkansas had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country last year, and Kentucky was No. 5, although the Hogs got bit hard by the injury bug.
The Razorbacks’ last five games, including the narrow loss at Baylor, have proven they are a team on a progressive path.
Last Saturday, they picked up their first road win of the season against five losses. Kentucky is 12-2 at home.
While Calipari prefers a man defense, he, like every other coach, will play zone, but the Hogs know they are going to see that. Against South Carolina, Jalen Graham was a different kind of zone buster. He did it in the paint while Davonte Davis hit four three pointers.
Both teams are trending up, and the winner tonight will be the one who plays the best defense and protects the ball like it was a Name, Image and Likeness deal with Nike.
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