Five things you need to know from the No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats’ 85-57 win over Central Michigan at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center:
1. Another double-double for Oscar. The nation’s leader in rebounding (16 a contest) and double-doubles (five) entering the game, Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe did it again.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound junior from the Democratic Republic of Congo went for 20 points and 16 rebounds against the overmatched Chippewas.
The West Virginia transfer has now been in double figures in rebounds in all seven games he has played for Kentucky.
Freshman guard TyTy Washington (15 points, 3-of-5 three-pointers, six rebounds) also played well for UK (6-1).
2. Empty seats galore. In an early season filled with unused seats in Rupp Arena, Monday night’s game looked like the least-attended yet.
While there are many factors creating the smallish crowds to watch Kentucky basketball so far in 2021-22, the level of competition on the home schedule to date clearly seems like the main one.
Which leads us to ...
Kentucky basketball fans are among the best in the nation but this crowd is what happens when you schedule awful teams at home and the marquee matchups in neutral sites.
It happens almost everywhere. https://t.co/rTbYWipOai
— Brian Stultz (@brianjstultz) November 30, 2021
3. “Cupcake season” grinds on. Central Michigan Coach Tony Barbee played and coached for John Calipari at Massachusetts and was a UK aide from 2014 through last season.
So it is certainly understandable why Calipari would want to help Barbee by giving his new program the visibility of playing in Rupp.
But Barbee’s first team at CMU (now 1-5) was one of the weaker teams I’ve seen play Kentucky in Rupp.
Meanwhile, if it seems like, even by the standards of recent early-season Kentucky schedules, this year’s UK non-league slate is especially light in terms of competitiveness, you are right.
Using the kenpom.com rankings (through Sunday’s games), the Wildcats have now played in Rupp Arena the teams ranked No. 101 (Ohio U.), No. 261 (North Florida), No. 291 (Robert Morris), No. 305 (Albany), No. 312 (Mount St. Mary’s) and No. 315 (Central Michigan).
There are 358 teams in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.
Still ahead for Kentucky are games with the teams that stand No. 267 in the Kenpom rankings (High Point on New Year’s Eve) and No. 296 (Southern on Dec. 7).
Those teams, coached by ex-Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith and former Unforgettables point guard Sean Woods, respectively, at least bring sentimental interest for the Big Blue Nation.
4. A “coaching tree” win for Calipari. With the victory over Barbee, John Calipari is now 18-1 as a college head coach against former assistants.
The one loss came last season when UK fell 79-62 to Georgia Tech in Atlanta last Dec. 6.
Yellow Jackets head man Josh Pastner was an assistant under Calipari at Memphis in 2008-09.
5. All-time wins race. With the victory, Kentucky pushed its margin in the all-time men’s college hoops victories race with Kansas to five.
The up-to-the-minute standings are: 1. Kentucky 2,333; 2. Kansas 2,328.
UK brought a four-game lead in the wins chase into this season.
The Wildcats’ next game is Dec. 7 vs. Southern.
Kansas will next play on Friday at St. John’s.