Kentucky basketball will play Mississippi State on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Find game time, TV channel and how to watch online below.
The Wildcats are unranked in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 2014 — a season that started a lot like this one (mounting losses for a team led by six freshmen and two sophomores) but ended in the national championship game. Naturally, after back-to-back losses and a growing sense of panic in the fan base, head coach John Calipari was asked Monday to compare this team to that group.
“I don’t know, I mean, Julius [Randle] physically gave you something that maybe this team doesn’t have. He could just bulldoze you,” Calipari said, reassuring absolutely no one, but he wasn’t finished. “PJ [Washington] at times does the same, gives you some of that. The twins [Andrew and Aaron Harrison] didn’t get it until late February. When they got it, they were pretty good. We’ll see how this plays out.”
A little more than a month from now will mark the 4-year anniversary of The Tweak — when Calipari rebooted that 2014 squad before the SEC Tournament and those Cats took flight.
“Every team I have here is different, and it’s a different process, it’s different steps,” he said Monday. “The lesson plan at the end of the year is thrown out. We start with a new lesson plan, and then as you’re going through the lesson plan, ‘I don’t like this. We’ve gotta try something different. They’re not getting it.’ So you go in another direction, and they’re still not quite getting it. ‘Then let’s try some of this.’
“You tweak some stuff, you try some stuff, and you look and you say, ‘Man, they’re way better.’ ”
Calipari already sees major improvements on defense, where UK held high-scoring Florida to just 6-of-30 shooting from 3-point range on Saturday. And now he’s playing with a deeper bench after the return of injured point guard Quade Green (back) and forward Jarred Vanderbilt (foot).
Any lingering issues are “all fixable,” Calipari said. “Look, I’m the coach at Kentucky. This is what you deal with. I’m not shying away from it. It’s not overwhelming me. I’m not panicked. There have been years it has taken us until the end of February, and guess what? I woke up every morning, got ready to go, did my thing, coached my team, and eventually they got it.
“I fully expect that from this team, but there are growing pains. This may be the youngest team in the history of the NCAA trying to do something unique and special.”
Or at least the youngest since … Kentucky in 2014.
Kentucky-Mississippi State game time, details
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018
- Location: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington, Ky.
- Records: Kentucky 14-4, 4-3 SEC; Mississippi State 14-5, 2-4 SEC
- Favorite: Kentucky by 8 1/2
What TV channel is Kentucky-Mississippi State on?
You can watch Kentucky vs. Mississippi State on ESPN. Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham and Laura Rutledge will be on the call.
How can I watch Kentucky-Mississippi State online?
Stream Kentucky vs. Mississippi State on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app.
How can I listen to Kentucky-Mississippi State on the radio?
Kentucky and Mississippi State will be broadcast on the UK Sports Network. That’s 630-AM on Lexington radio and can be streamed at iHeart Radio. You can also listen on XM channel 190 and Sirius channel 137.
Kentucky-Mississippi State preview
- The Bulldogs raced out to a 12-1 start this season, but they hadn’t really played anyone. Their strength of schedule ranks 144th nationally. And now they’ve lost four of their last five games in SEC play. Still, Calipari sang MSU and coach Ben Howland’s praises Monday. “They’re capable of beating us,” he said. “They’ve lost some games, but they’ve been in every game. Alabama had them down 20 and they came back and should have won the game. They’re really good.” (The Bulldogs’ only RPI top-100 win in non-conference play was against 10-loss Dayton.)
- Kentucky’s 1,032-game streak of making at least one 3-pointer has been seriously threatened in each of the last two games. The Wildcats are rank 344th out of 351 Division I teams in made 3s this season. “I would say we’ve got to make 6 to 7 3s a game,” Calipari said. “That means [attempt] between 15 and 18 threes and you’ve got to make 6 or 7 3s. Who are the guys making them? We make those, we are fine if you defend and do the stuff we did [against Florida].”
- If you think Calipari isn’t worried about this team’s struggles, well, he’s really not worried about Duke’s recent run of dominance in recruiting. Or at least that was the image he aimed to portray Monday when asked generally: Hey, what’s up with recruiting? Kentucky hasn’t landed a top-5 prospect in the last three classes, while Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils are going to sign the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 players in the 2018 class alone.