Kentucky set to face no. 1 team in the country against UT


Freshman guard Immanuel Quickley shakes hands with Seth Greenberg during ESPN College GameDay at Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 16, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. No. 5 Kentucky will tip off with No.1 Tennessee at 8:00pm. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Alex Weber

For the second time in the past month, Lexington, Kentucky has played host for ESPN’s College GameDay. In January’s edition, Kentucky outplayed the Kansas Jayhawks 71-63. This time around, the College GameDay Saturday presence brings along yet another mighty task, as a battle with the No. 1 team in the country looms large.

The Tennessee Volunteers, a condemned rival of Kentucky faithful, makes the brief trip to Lexington to have its top-ranked throne challenged for the first time by a ranked opponent, and tickets were sold out within seconds. This is the biggest home tilt of the 2019 season for the Wildcats, and one of the premier games of the year in all of College Basketball. Two elite, physical squads going head-to-head for 40 minutes: a must-watch for any basketball fan. 

Tennessee enters the matchup in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the program and is firing on all cylinders lately, having won 19 consecutive games. Led by brute forwards Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams, head coach Rick Barnes’ club spares no team from 40 minutes of total physical trauma. They’re ferocious yet disciplined, hard-nosed yet skilled, and accomplished yet hungry. 

These Vols aren’t the ones Kentucky has traditionally taken over when it comes to men’s basketball. Throw the 152-71 all-time record out the window– instead, not one player on this roster has experienced a season which didn’t include a win against Kentucky. With elite scoring ability and defensive versatility throughout the roster, Tennessee presents the toughest challenge yet in conference play. 

Likewise, a road battle versus Kentucky will be one of the toughest conference outings of the year for the Vols, despite the Cats falling to LSU Tuesday night.  Sophomore P.J. Washington has been a force in league play, and the matchup between him and Grant Williams may very well feature the lead candidates for SEC Player of the Year honors.  

GameDay, Jay Bilas’ abrasive commentary, Jay Williams’ dress-shirt prediction reveal (in which he chose the Wildcats), Memorial Coliseum’s historic presence, a shrieking crowd, and transcendent basketball. Saturday night in Lexington, Kentucky– and more specifically, in Rupp Arena– will be a grand celebration of “the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball.”