LEXINGTON – Advancing to postseason NCAA Tournament play has become an expectation on both sides of the ball on the Kentucky campus. During Big Blue Weekend, coach Matthew Mitchell’s team showed why we expect another deep run in the Big Dance next spring. Here is a look at five things that we came away with after spending time with the emerging women’s basketball power.
1) Heralded freshman Linnae Harper needs to play like a veteran.
Ranked No. 5 nationally in the class of 2013, Linnae Harper of Chicago, Ill., is supposed to be a star for the Wildcats. The 5-foot-8 swing perimeter threat is supposed to be a go-to player for the Big Blue Nation contingent before she finishes her career. That said Harper’s play right away in her debut season just might be the difference in whether the Wildcats find their way into the NCAA persuasive essay arguments Final Four after back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. The two-game All-American (McDonald’s and WBCA) is a special player capable of being consistently productive in multiple categories on both ends of the floor. With SEC All-League wing A’dia Mathies gone to graduation, look for Harper to get the majority of her team-leading 30 minutes per game. As a result, she’ll be asked to deliver a lot of Mathias production (16.1 points per, 4.5 rebounds per) from the 2012-13 season.
2) Janee Thompson and Jennifer O’Neill might be the best point guard duo in the SEC.
Any talk of Matthew Mitchell’s team finding their way to Final Four in Nashville next April without mentioning Thompson and O’Neill would not be a wise move. Based on observing their shooting mechanics this weekend, the speedy guards have improved their outside shooting during the offseason. That bodes well for the Cats and poorly for the rest of the country. A sophomore, Thompson is a catalyst capable of setting the table for any program in the how i do my homework 9gag country. Fortunately for the Wildcats, she’ll be suiting up for them spending plenty of time in the backcourt alongside O’Neill giving them two legitimate ball handlers to combat pressure. The more scoring minded of the two, O’Neill is a leader with her voice as well as her confidence to make a play on the offensive end anytime that Mitchell needs her too.
3) Samarie Walker could put up Victoria Dunlap numbers.
Since she was a underclass high school prospect, pundits predicted the type of consistent production from Walker – eight points and eight rebounds per – that she delivered during her junior year of action. We mentioned her in our season preview as a key returner based off of her 2012-13 production. Coming out of the weekend, we see now reason to amend that projection. Walker should have the most productive season for a Wildcat post player since the departure of Victoria Dunlap at the end of the 2011 season. Dunlap finished that season with graduate school research paper averages of 17 points and 8.7 rebounds a contest. If she can do that, look for her to be in contention for SEC First-Team honors and a possible Player of the Year award to go with it.
4) Matthew Mitchell is a superb dancer.
In what has become a yearly tradition to officially kick off Big Blue Madness, coach Mitchell pulled off another diverse dance routine mixing together James Brown and Britney Spears. Mitchell’s personality and willingness to couple hard work with fun has endeared him to the Big Blue faithful. In the process, he has quickly built a program that is more than good enough to warrant the hype and hoopla that comes along with 24,000 screaming fans in blue for the opening night celebration of what everyone involved believes could be a special season.
5) The future in Lexington is bright.
There were more than 10 ELITE 100 Watch List prospects on campus this weekend ranging from the class of 2014 to Mitchell’s newborn paid research paper writing daughter, Presley Blue, in the class of 2032. The Wildcats current freshman group were ranked No. 5 by ProspectsNation.com while the 2014 haul currently sits at No 17. The state is plentiful with preps in the 2015 and 2016. We’ve also seen enough in 2017 and 2018 to believe that those classes will be good as well. That means that Mitchell and his staff will have the option of staying close to home for at least a prospect or two a class for years to come.
Matthew Mitchell’s smooth moves at Big Blue Madness
Brandon Clay is the owner of the JumpOffPlus.com International Report, Peach State Basketball, Inc., and ProspectsNation.com. The JumpOffPlus.com is picked up by more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. He serves as the Executive Camp Director for the Elite Basketball Academy Camps. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001 as an evaluator, event operator and trainer. You can reach him at BrandonClay@PeachStateBasketball.com