No. 8 Miami faces off against No. 12 Kentucky in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge

Junior guard Matthew Cleveland drives to the basket in the first half of Miami's game against NJIT at the Watsco Center on Nov. 6, 2023. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Head Coach Jim Larranaga and his Hurricanes will take on John Calipari and his star-studded Wildcats on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky. The eighth-ranked Hurricanes enter this game undefeated (5-0) and are coming in hot after winning the Baha Mar Bahamas Championship, downing Georgia and Kansas State.

Kentucky has begun the season strong, currently standing as the 12th-ranked team in the country with a 5-1 record. The Wildcats’ only loss was in a blue-blood battle with top-ranked Kansas.

Kentucky entered the season with the number one recruiting class in the country, adding four five-star recruits to their young roster. Kentucky’s offense is one to look out for, as it ranks fourth nationally, averaging 94.3 points per game and is shooting the three-ball effectively, draining 42.5% of its long-range attempts.

The Hurricanes and Wildcats both feature a fast-paced offense and elite guard play. While Kentucky shoots the three well, the Hurricanes have shot it even better, knocking down 45.8% of their attempts to lead the country. It will be critical for both defenses to close out shooters beyond the arc.

“Ultimately, it will be our defense and our rebounding that will determine our success,” Larrañaga said to reporters.

For the Wildcats, freshman Rob Dillingham and D.J. Wagner are going to be two guards to look out for. Both have played effectively in their first six games with the Wildcats and will continue to improve their NBA draft campaigns.

“Every one of their players pose a challenge because they’re all like NBA-type guys,” Larrañaga told reporters.

The Hurricanes will hope to see a continuation of an exploding offense led by Wooga Poplar, Matthew Cleveland and Nijel Pack.

“I think everybody has seen it, you know he has been hooping, all the work that he’s been putting in is just showing, he just keeps growing more and more and getting better and better,” fourth-year forward Norchad Omier said about Poplar.

Omier will be an x-factor in this one in hopes of grabbing rebounds to limit second-chance points for the Wildcats while also extending Miami’s offensive possessions.

This all-time matchup dates back to 1956, and in the four times that these programs have met, Kentucky has sealed three of the wins.