The State of Basketball in the State of Kentucky

The State of Basketball in the State of Kentucky
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Bourbon and Basketball: two words that mean a lot to Kentuckians. There is not much more important than college basketball to many people in the state of Kentucky. The weather is heating up which can only mean one thing: March Madness is vastly approaching. There’s no better way to prepare for the tournament than with some hoops check-ins. Here are the eight Division One basketball schools in Kentucky, ranked based on their success this season.

  1. Kentucky Wildcats

Things that are guaranteed in life: death, taxes, and Kentucky freshmen. It was another year with another impressive recruiting class for the Wildcats. Led by head coach John Calipari the Cats are back this year with their high-powered offense. Freshmen recruits Robert Dillingham (15.5 PPG), Reed Sheppard (12.0 PPG), and DJ Wagner (12.0 PPG) have sparked this dormant offense from last season. Senior leaders Antonio Reeves (19.7 PPG) and Tre Mitchell (12.3 PPG) have brought much needed leadership to this young team. The Wildcats’ victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels proved to the nation that they are a legitimate national championship contender.

  1. Louisville Cardinals

Second year head coach Kenny Payne has struggled in his ability to coach at the college level. Nonetheless, the Cardinals are bringing in some new talent under Payne. Freshmen guard Ty-Laur Johnson (8.7 PPG) has brought versatility to this ball club. Payne has utilized the transfer portal to his benefit, bringing in transfer Skyy Clark (13.2 PPG) and Tre White (12.7 PPG). A rough season for the Cards definitely has some bright spots. Wins against Miami and Florida State have brought some excitement for one of the most passionate fan bases in the country.

  1. Morehead State Eagles

Led by hometown coach Preston Spradlin the Morehead State Eagles lead the Ohio Valley Conference in the standings with a record of 9-1 in conference play (18-5 overall). Spradlin has his team in this position due to the Eagles’ elite defense. The Eagles’ superstar transfer standout Riley Minix (18.9 PPG) is a big reason for their success this season. Redshirt Junior Drew Thelwell leads the OVC in assists, averaging just under seven assists per game. Transfer Guard Jordan Lathon (15.9 PPG) is the team’s leader in three-point percentage shooting, just under forty percent from behind the arc. Coach Spradlin took advantage of the portal this season, and it paid off, as the Eagles look for a late season push to the NCAA Tournament this spring.

  1. Eastern Kentucky Colonels

The duo in Eastern Kentucky between Sophomore Leland Walker (15.3 PPG) and second year transfer Isaiah Cozart (15.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG) has led the Colonels to first place in the ASUN conference. Although the Colonels have a mediocre overall record of 13-11, their conference record is an impressive 9-2. With this good record, the Colonels are guaranteed a top seed in the conference tournament. Winning the ASUN would send the Colonels dancing for just the eighth time in their history.

  1. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

After spending 22 years as an assistant, Western Kentucky head coach Steve Lutz finally got his opportunity to be a leader. The Hilltoppers hired Lutz March 18th, 2023. A new sort of success has come upon Lutz as he has his ball club playing great at the right time. With a record of 17-7 overall, (6-4 in conference play), the Hilltoppers look to go dancing when the time arrives in March. Led by former JUCO standout, Don McHenry (16.0 PPG) and Georgia Tech transfer Rodney Howard (10.3 PPG), the Hilltoppers are winners of three straight. With just a few games left in this 2023-24 season, the Hilltoppers may need some help to receive a bid into the NCAA tournament. With conference tournaments just a couple weeks away, WKU may need to receive an automatic bid from winning their conference (Conference USA).

  1. Northern Kentucky Norse

The Northern Kentucky Norse, led by NKU’s leader in all-time points Marque Warrick (19.2 PPG) have an overall record of 14-13 (9-7 in conference play). This record in conference play has the Norse fifth in the Horizon conference standings. A Cinderella story is needed for NKU for any chance of making the big dance in a couple of weeks. Head coach Darrin Horn is no stranger to talent as his top three scorers were recruited to Northern Kentucky and have played all their college ball there: Marque Warrick (senior), Sam Vinson (junior), and Trey Robinson (senior).

  1. Murray State Racers

Former Murray State superstar Ja Morant overshadows the poor performances of the past few years from the Racers. In 2023-24, the Racers are 11-16 in overall play (8-8 in MVC conference play). Led by senior Quincy Anderson (12.5 PPG) and senior Rob Perry (12.3 PPG), second year head coach Steve Prohm leads the Racers through a tough 2024 campaign. Prohm looks to rebuild the Racers after recent success from superstars such as Ja Morant and Cameron Payne.

  1. Bellarmine Knights

19th year head coach, Scotty Davenport, and the Bellarmine Knights are 6-21 overall (2-10 in ASUN conference play). After an impressive ASUN conference tournament showing from the 2021-22 season, the Knights have struggled the past two years. They are led by senior guard Bash Wieland (13.9 PPG) and sophomore Ben Johnson (12.7 PPG). A tough season for the Knights as coach Davenport tries to rebound for next year.

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