By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
We have seen the 2018-19 Cats play four times in the Bahamas in August against an array of strong opponents, at the Big Blue Madness and Blue-White game against each other, and last Friday against Transy in the first of two exhibition games. In my mind, the team’s performance against Transy was the weakest of these seven public displays. However, I also believe this was an aberration for this group rather than a trend or the sounding of an alarm bell for the Big Blue Nation.
The 94-66 win is quite weak considering the Calipari Cats have defeated their first exhibition opponents by an average of 42 points. However, this is NOT the weakest exhibition performance by a Calipari team. That distinction belongs to the 2013-14 group that only defeated Montevallo by 23 points, 95-72 in their second exhibition game.
Seven of Calipari’s previous nine teams improved between Exhibitions 1 and 2. In addition to the 2013-14 group that declined by 11 point on the margin, the 2015-16 group declined by 6 points. The seven that improved between #1 and #2, the margin gains were 29 points (2010), 37 points (2011), 41 points (2012), 14 points (2013), 21 points (2015), 36 points (2017), and 1 point (2018). Calipari’s teams have generally shown great improvement between their first and last exhibition games. I expect this team will improve from their 28 point win over Transy when they take the floor against IUP this Friday.
This will be IUP’s first ever appearance in Rupp against a Kentucky team. This game shapes up to be a 47 point game, 97-50. However, if the Cats are angry about their game, I will not be surprised by a margin at some point during the game in excess of 60 points.