clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Welcome to Kentucky, Zvonimir Ivisic: ‘Cats now-eligible big man dominates Georgia

The NCAA finally makes the Croatian eligible, and it could be a massive shakeup in the college basketball power structure.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Zvonimir Ivisic celebrates during the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.  Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats were rolling right along before Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs and folks, they may be even stronger now. How did they get stronger you may ask? How about suddenly adding a 7’2” freshman from Croatia to the mix?

Zvonimir Ivisic made his debut for the Cats on Saturday and immediately got to work off the bench, putting up 13 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in just 16 minutes of the 105-96 victory. Kentucky fans waited three months for Big Z to debut and if Saturday’s any indicator, the Wildcats will be a really tough out come March.

Ivisic has popped up on international radars over the past few seasons and is being projected as a potential second-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. After averaging 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks for Croatia in the FIBA U20 European Championship last summer, he committed to Kentucky in August, but couldn’t officially enroll until October. That began a long, arduous process of waiting for the NCAA to clear him, spurring Kentucky fans to create #FreeBigZ billboards.

And he got cleared to play on Saturday morning, making his debut just hours later even that more impressive.

UK now has three rim protectors over 7’0”, with Ivisic, Aaron Bradshaw, and Ugonna Onyenso all now active and playing. His ability to stretch the floor adds a new dimension to a Wildcats team that already boasted one of the most efficient offenses in the entire country. It will take a few games for John Calipari to figure out how to best utilize him in their rotations and when that happens, the rest of the SEC needs to look out.

Kentucky is currently listed at +1300 to win the national championship at DraftKings Sportsbook, the fifth-shortest odds in the country. They were listed at +1500 before tip-off, meaning bettors came flooding in based on this performance as well. If this machine gets fully operation in the coming weeks, those odds will be shorter.