With 17 ranked teams in action on Wednesday during college basketball's opening day, keeping up with all the on-court play was a challenge, let alone the post-game press conferences. But after No. 10 Kentucky thrashed Morehead State 81-45 to open the season, John Calipari offered an ominous forecast of what lied ahead for his young Wildcats team.
Calipari claimed he did his team "a disservice" with the schedule he assembled amid the mayhem of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was easy to tune Calipari out after a 36-point victory on a busy day in college basketball, but after Kentucky's 76-64 loss to Richmond on Sunday at Rupp Arena, it's clear what he meant.
A Wildcats team playing six freshmen, three transfers and zero players from last season's 25-6 team turned the ball over 21 times and did not make a single 3-pointer as it withered in the second half against a Richmond team picked to win the Atlantic 10. The game ended just after 3 p.m. on Sunday, about 54 hours before Kentucky is scheduled to play Kansas in the Champions Classic.
So what was that about Calipari doing his team a disservice with scheduling again?
"No one's doing what we're doing," Calipari said. "We're playing all these teams from here until we start our league. I'm going to have be as positive and patient as I've ever been. We didn't have exhibition games to get going, we didn't have three or four or five games that we should have. It's going to be a tough road."
Kentucky's promise was on display at times against Richmond, with freshman guard Brandon Boston scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds and fellow five-star freshman wing Terrence Clarke scoring 15 points on an efficient 10 shots. But the team's outside shooting woes and turnover problems showed why Calipari believes UK's unusually challenging schedule is a "disservice" to his team.
Younger than expected
Kentucky's only returning contributor from last year's team is Keion Brooks Jr., a sophomore who played 15 minutes per game off the bench last season and is expected to be a key contributor this year. But he's missed the first two games with a calf injury. Kentucky's six-man recruiting class was ranked No. 1 nationally by 247Sports. But with four of them in the starting lineup, this is a young UK team even by Calipari's standards.
"Without Keion, it makes this schedule totally a different deal, and basically not really fair for these guys," Calipari said. "No one's doing what we're doing."
Aside from Morehead State, everyone else on Kentucky's nonconference schedule began the season as a top-80 team in the KenPom preseason ranking. That includes Kansas, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, UCLA and Louisville.
As Calipari pointed out after the Morehead State game, there are no easy wins on the schedule to get the six freshmen Wildcats acclimated to college basketball.
Richmond is for real
The Spiders were on the NCAA Tournament bubble last season before the event's cancellation. They finished the year 24-7 (14-4 A-10) and returned all of their starters. Richmond lost one to a knee injury before the season when Nick Sherod went down. But the Spiders started four seniors on Sunday.
Guard Blake Francis and forward Nathan Cayo led the way with 18 points apiece against the Wildcats. The Spiders received 40 votes in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and are likely to crack the rankings on Monday. It won't be their last chance to take the spotlight during the regular season, either. Richmond is scheduled to play No. 15 West Virginia on Dec. 13 and another SEC foe in Vanderbilt on Dec. 16.