News and notes for Friday:
▪ The best college basketball player in Kentucky does not necessarily for UK or U of L. According to NBA scouts, it’s Murray State’s Ja Morant, the 6-3 sophomore who is projected as a lottery pick in the 2019 draft.
The marvelous Morant scored 29 points as Murray State rolled 82-61 at Eastern Illinois on Thursday night. Morant was credited with nine assists while making 11 of 16 shots, including four of his five three-point attempts. The Racers are now 14-2 overall and 5-0 in the OVC.
▪ The big matchup in Saturday’s big Kentucky-Auburn basketball game is between point guards Jared Harper (Auburn) and Ashton Hagans (Kentucky). Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader examines the showdown. Hagans scored a career-high 23 points in the Cats’ Tuesday takedown of Georgia in Athens. Harper makes things go for Bruce Pearl’s Tigers.
▪ We examine the Hagans-Harper showdown, plus much more, on my podcast with Jay Tate of auburnsports.com and Jerry. As Jay points out, Auburn fans still have no love for current UK assistant and former Tigers head coach Tony Barbee. Check it out on Soundcloud or Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review.
▪ Auburn is now No. 11 in kenpom rankings. Kentucky is 13th. Auburn is ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency, 35th in adjusted defense efficiency. UK is 26th on offense, 16th on defense.
▪ KeKe McKinney hit a three-pointer with 19 seconds let to help UK women’s basketball team win 64-60 at LSU on Thursday night. Maci Morris, who missed last Sunday’s upset loss to Ole Miss, scored 20 points in her return. Matthew Mitchell’s Cats are now 16-3 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. They welcome Missouri to Memorial Coliseum next Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
▪ In a battle of two unbeaten SEC women’s teams, No. 7 Mississippi State knocked off No. 15 South Carolina 89-74 in Starkville. MSU is now 18-1 overall and 5-0 in the league. South Carolina dropped to 12-5 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
▪ Tre Jones’ shoulder injury is not season-ending, reports the Raleigh News and Observer. Duke’s point guards should miss only a few games. He played just six minutes before injuring the AC join in his shoulder during the Blue Devils’ 95-91 overtime loss to Syracuse on Monday night. Duke was also without Cam Reddish, who missed the game because of illness. Reddish is expected back for Saturday’s showdown with Virginia.
▪ Mel Kiper’s first NFL 2019 mock draft is out for ESPN. And Mel has Josh Allen going to the San Francisco 49ers as the No. 2 overall pick. Mel has Arizona taking Ohio State defensive end Nick Boss with the first pick. By the way, Kentucky football has had just one No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick. That was quarterback Tim Couch, taken by the expansion Cleveland Browns with the first pick in 1999.
▪ John DeFilippo, the son of former UK Associate AD Gene DeFilippo, has a new gig as offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. John was unceremoniously dumped as the OC of the Minnesota Vikings during the season by head coach Mike Zimmer. But DeFilippo did a terrific job as quarterbacks coach at Philadelphia during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run last year. And could the Jags be interested in Nick Foles?
▪ Looks like Neal Brown is going to get his quarterback at West Virginia. The former UK assistant and Troy head coach is welcoming former Oklahoma backup quarterback Austin Kendall to Morgantown, and OU has reportedly dropped its threat to block Kendall from playing immediately.
▪ And Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts will be competing for the starting job at Oklahoma.
▪ Ex-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is reportedly joining Fox Sports as a college football analyst. Meyer worked at ESPN after “retiring” at Florida before taking the job in Columbus.
Top 25 college basketball games Saturday
- 12:00 - No. 2 Michigan at Wisconsin (ESPN)
- 12:00 - No. 13 North Carolina at Miami (ESPN2)
- 1:00 - Arkansas at No. 18 Ole Miss (SEC)
- 2:00 - Alabama at No. 3 Tennessee (ESPN2)
- 2:00 - No. 7 Kansas at West Virginia (ESPN)
- 2:00 - No. 17 NC State at Notre Dame (ACC)
- 2:00 - No. 25 Indiana at Purdue (Fox)
- 4:00 - Wake Forest at No. 9 Virginia Tech (ACC)
- 4:00 - No. 12 Kentucky at No. 14 Auburn (ESPN)
- 6:00 - No. 4 Virginia at No. 1 Duke (ESPN)
- 6:00 - No. 8 Texas Tech at Baylor (ESPN2)
- 8:00 - No. 20 Oklahoma at Texas (LHN)
- 8:00 - No. 21 Houston at South Florida (ESPNU)
- 8:30 - No. 24 Mississippi State at Vanderbilt (SEC)
- 10:00 - No. 5 Gonzaga at Portland
- 10:00 - Air Force at No. 10 Nevada (ESPNU)