Sidelines with John Clay

SEC basketball openers, football news and more Big Blue Links

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari encouraged his team in the first half of last Sunday’s exhibition romp over Asbury at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky, on Nov. 6, 2016.
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari encouraged his team in the first half of last Sunday’s exhibition romp over Asbury at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky, on Nov. 6, 2016. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Friday:

▪ Kentucky basketball picked up a pair of commitments from five-star recruits on Thursday. You probably already knew that. Nick Richards and P.J. Washington both pledged to the Cats. Richards is a 6-foot-11 center from Queens, New York. Washington is a 6-8 forward who was born in Louisville and raised in Texas.

▪ The Kentucky men’s basketball team opens its season Friday night against Stephen F. Austin at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network. John Calipari said Friday his team will find its identity through an organic process. “A new team every year, you’re guessing early,” Calipari said. “And then it kind of organically rolls into what it should be.”

▪ The Kentucky women’s basketball team also opens its season Friday night at home. Matthew Mitchell’s team plays Miami of Florida at 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. You can find that game on SEC Network plus. Sophomore guard Maci Morris has prepared for a heavier load this season.

▪ UK quarterback Drew Barker will have back surgery and miss the rest of the season. Barker hasn’t played since the first series of the season’s game. Mark Stoops announcement on Thursday was not a surprise. The bet all along was that Barker would need surgery and not return in 2016.

▪ Could Kentucky get Butch Jones fired? If that’s what Tennessee fans are asking, then John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel says no. The reason, writes Johns, “There’s nobody to fire him. UT is Lame Duck U.” Besides, Tennessee has had so much back luck this season it’s unreasonable to believe the Vols would make a coaching change.

▪ With Alvin Kamara banged up and Jalen Hurd no longer with the program, Tennessee has turned to running back John Kelly, who has given a different vibe to the Vols. The 5-foot-9, 212- pound back has rushed for 313 yards on just 40 carries, an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. Over UT’s past two games, Kelly has 198 yards on just 21 carries.

▪ Alabama basketball has signed the nation’s No. 3 class in the early period. So far, the Tide has signed five-star guard Collin Sexton and four-star guard John Petty on Thursday. Those two join four-star forward Alex Reese and three-star guard Galin Smith as signees. As we predicted, Avery Johnson is making waves inn Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa News columnist Cecil Hurt called Thursday, “perhaps the greatest recruiting daily double in program history.”

▪ Auburn’s top two backs, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, are both hurting heading into Saturday’s game against Georgia in Athens. In fact, Auburn coaches have been giving conflicting reports on the health of Pettway, who injured his leg on a 60-yard run in the Tigers’ 23-16 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday.

▪ The same Arkansas run defense that stuffed Florida matches up with LSU this Saturday. Florida gained just 12 rushing yards in 14 carries in the 31-10 loss to the Hogs. Meanwhile, LSU’s rushing attack struggled against No. 1-ranked Alabama last week.

▪ Brian Johnson, who as Utah’s quarterback beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, will take on more of the play-calling duties when Mississippi State plays No. 1-ranked Alabama on Saturday. State is coming off a 35-28 upset win over Texas A&M last Saturday.

▪ Vanderbilt men and women’s basketball kick off a new era on Friday. It’s the debut for Vandy men’s coach Bryce Drew as the Commodores play Marquette in Annapolis. That game is at 6:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. It’s the debut for Vandy women’s coach Stephanie White when the Commodores play host to Kennesaw State at 8 p.m. at Memorial Gym.

▪ With the O’Dome undergoing a $64.5 million renovation, Florida has to start its basketball season on the road. The Gators will play their first 11 games away from campus. The renovation on the O’Connell Center will be finished by Dec. 21 when the Gators play Arkansas-Little Rock. Meanwhile, UF opens play Friday night against Florida Gulf Coast in Jacksonville.

▪ Georgia opens with a tough game at Clemson on Friday night. This is Mark Fox’s deepest team at Georgia and the Bulldogs have high hopes for 2016-17. “There’s another level out there so that’s what we’re shooting for,” said coach Mark Fox. Georgia will be playing Clemson in new Littlejohn Arena.

▪ South Carolina basketball opens its season with three games in five days. After playing Louisiana Tech on Friday, the Gamecocks play host to Holy Cross on Sunday and Monmouth on Tuesday.

▪ Texas A&M is starting its season with a young core. Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Anthony Collins have moved on. Freshman Robert Williams and Eric Vila join Tyler Davis in the frontcourt for the Aggies, who open against Northwestern State on Friday night.

SEC basketball schedule for Friday

  • 6:30 - Louisiana Tech at South Carolina (SEC+)
  • 6:30 - Vanderbilt vs. Marquette (CBS Sports)
  • 7:00 - Stephen F. Austin at Kentucky (SEC)
  • 7:00 - UT-Martin at Ole Miss (SEC+)
  • 7:00 - Chattanooga at Tennessee (SEC+)
  • 7:00 - Georgia at Clemson (ACC Extra)
  • 7:30 - Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida (SEC+)
  • 8:00 - Fort Wayne at Arkansas (SEC+)
  • 8:00 - Norfolk State at Mississippi State (SEC+)
  • 9:00 - Coastal Carolina at Alabama (SEC+)
  • 9:00 - Northwestern State at Texas A&M (SEC)
  • 9:30 - North Florida at Auburn (SEC+)
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