Nov 14, 2012, 2:37 PM EDT
ATLANTA – This wasn’t how the season was supposed to begin.
Coming off of a national title and with a roster made up of yet another ungodly recruiting class, this season was supposed to be proof that John Calipari had built the Kentucky program into a dynasty. They weren’t supposed to struggle against a borderline top 25 team in Maryland while watching Alex Len torch twin towers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. And they certainly weren’t supposed to get dropped by arch-nemesis Duke while allowing a beat up and out-of-shape Seth Curry got for 23 points.
But six days into the season, that’s precisely where we find ourselves after the Blue Devils hung on to win a scintillating, 75-68 slugfest in the nightcap of the Champions Classic.
Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not a trait that’s in high supply in Big Blue Nation.
It is, however, a state of mind that Kentucky fans are going to have to come to grips with, because as of right now, this team is not a national title contender yet. I emphasize ‘right now’ and ‘yet’ for a reason, because they will get there. They will improve as the season progresses.
“We’re still trying to figure out our team,” Calipari said after the game. “It’s all new to this team. We’re trying to figure out how we’re playing. We don’t play hard enough yet. We don’t compete on every possession yet. We don’t go after every rebound yet. We don’t know how to finish off games yet. We haven’t really figured out totally how we’re going to play.”
This is one of Cal’s more interesting rosters simply because nothing about it is standard. When his best five players are on the floor, he has two seven-foot centers (Noel and Cauley-Stein) playing with a guy who is ideally suited to be a four (Alex Poythress) and a pair of guards (Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow) who aren’t exactly known for their shooting ability. If you factor Kyle Wiltjer into the mix, than you’re including a player whose athleticism and defensive ability doesn’t exactly make him a perfect fit with the rest of this group.
Perhaps the most important note that needs to be made about Tuesday night’s game is that Harrow didn’t play. “We need him,” Calipari said of Harrow. “It hurt us today. It’s obvious.” Kentucky’s point guard play consisted of former walk-on Jarrod Polson and out-of-position Goodwin and Julius Mays. And Goodwin actually looked pretty good in the role, resembling Tyreke Evans with his aggressiveness and athleticism. But it certainly wasn’t ideal; Duke made their run when Kentucky had about three or four horrendous offensive possessions in a row.
“We had about three spells of a minute and a half where we did something dumb on our end and, like what a good team is going to do, they capitalized,” Cal said. “There were probably two or three spells of a minute or a minute and a half that cost us the game.”
And it’s not just the players that need to figure out how to play together. Calipari needs to learn this group and what situations he can put them into.
“The only guy I needed to get in there more was Willie,” Cal said. “I didn’t know if I could put him back in there and he’d be ok, because he missed a shot and he missed a rebound and he fumbled a ball back-to-back. I don’t know him well enough yet. Do I take him out and put him back in or is he rattled? This isn’t the game to figure that out.”
Kentucky will get there eventually. They’ll make plenty of noise once the calender turns.
But until then, have patience.
Jul 29, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT
UCLA reopened Pauley Pavilion in 2012 after $136 million worth of renovations.
Jul 29, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT
The UCLA campus became flooded on Tuesday afternoon.
Jul 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Mike Krzyzewski is entering his 40th season as a head coach.
Jul 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Doug Wojcik has been investigated twice by the College of Charleston.
Jul 29, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Cal told The Sporting News that he couldn’t leave behind the guys that decided to return to school. Do you buy it?
Jul 29, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT
A former UK coach gave his listeners some new details about Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury.
Jul 29, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT
Malik Monk is a dream come true for the mixtape makers.
Jul 29, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
And now they’re considering selling it at football games.
Jul 29, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
The Bruins will be tested by the time Pac-12 play rolls around.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Chad Frazier was arrested back in April.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Another surprise cut was made at the point guard spot
Jul 29, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT
Beyond the glitz and glamour of the highest levels of AAU basketball are kids fighting to land one of a few coveted scholarships.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT
The procedure wasn’t know until Agau took to social media.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Richard Pitino likes that he can feed his players now.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Wisconsin got some pretty cool rings for making the Final Four.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
After tearing his ACL less than a year ago, Harry Giles looks healthy and prepared to battle for No. 1 in the Class of 2016.
Jul 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will be working with pros this summer.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
Seven thoughts are a weekend at AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT
Haley is the first member of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Our Raphielle Johnson spent five days at the tournaments out in Vegas last week. Here are his thoughts on them.
- UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion flooded after water main break on Sunset Boulevard (PHOTOS/VIDEOS) 0
- John Calipari’s return to Kentucky ‘solely’ due to loyalty to his players 0
- The other side of the July live period: Recruits continue to strive for attention and offers 0
- Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase 0
- Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014 0
- One college coach’s unique connection to the Peach Jam 0
- July Live Period Week Three Superlatives 0
- Marcus Foster still hasn’t forgotten, or forgiven, those pulled scholarships (3)
- Two surprises after first cuts at Team USA U17 trials (3)
- Top 15 recruit Antonio Blakeney has made the ‘jump’ — literally — to elite status (2)
- The latest allegations against Doug Wojcik involve a physical confrontation (2)
- Coach K: ‘I do not see an end of my road in my college coaching’ (1)