No Need to Panic at Kentucky
So what’s wrong with Kentucky? It’s simple: This past June six players were selected in the NBA Draft.
The 2011-12 Wildcats were not only very talented, but they were also very willing to sacrifice individual accolades for the good of the team. If you win everything will take care of itself and that was the 2011-12 Wildcats in a nutshell.
The comparisons between that team and the 2012-13 team began immediately. Given the level of incoming talent it was inevitable but probably unfair. This team must find its’ own identity. Unlike last year’s squad, this group doesn’t have the returning players that the eventual National Champions had.
With comparisons often come expectations. Kentucky was preseason No. 3. And one week after dropping to No. 8 Kentucky has fallen completely out of the latest AP Top 25. According to reports it’s the biggest single-week drop from the rankings since the poll was expanded to 25 teams in 1990.
Dropping out of the rankings prompted many to conclude that this group is overrated. Considering the influx of new faces and the lack of returning players with a lot of experience, Kentucky was ranked a little high in the preseason rankings. Many of those who voted them so high are now writing their epitaph.
You may want to re-read that opening paragraph above again.
Time is on Kentucky side. It’s only early December. Conference play is still about a month away so there is plenty of time for this group to grow.
Julius Mays does bring some experience to a youthful group. His career began at NC State, with a stop at Wright State where he was named the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year after leading WSU with 14 points per game. He’s a newcomer but he does bring a steady and calming influence to the floor.
Highly-touted freshman Nerlens Noel is a little better offensive player than I think people gave him credit for. He’s an excellent passer. He is not just a shot blocker.
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein looks like he is going to be a very good player. The 7-footer was WR in high school so he has good hands. And now he is focused only basketball.
Alex Poythress brought a monster body to Lexington. The freshman scored 20-plus in four of the first five games. He has shown steady improvement.
Sophomore Ryan Harrow is a good point guard who can push the pace. I thought his absence, for most of the month of November, hurt their progress. Kentucky did win 3-of-4 without Harrow, but they struggled to get easy points in transition.
Ultimately UK will better with Harrow at the point and freshman Archie Goodwin at the two spot, where he is better suited.
Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer has shown that he can shoot. Now he needs to rebound better and be better on the defensive end.
Despite falling out of the rankings there are more pluses than minuses. Right now this team is learning the offense and learning pace of one another. It’s a process. Coach Calipari will have this team playing a lot better in the days and weeks that follow.