Jan 11, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
With 13:48 left in Thursday night’s game at Vanderbilt, Kentucky was up 47-31 on the Commodores.
It was the kind of performance — dominating at times, inconsistent at others — that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the Wildcats. But regardless of the issues that Vanderbilt has had this season, the bottom line was that Kentucky was getting ready to win an SEC road game, more-or-less a first for everyone on this roster.
But then Vanderbilt switched to a zone. And Kentucky completely lost the ability to function offensively.
The Wildcats missed their next 12 shots. Vanderbilt scored the next 18 points. By the time that Ryan Harrow finally hit a three to give UK the lead back at the 4:58 mark, it was quite clear that this was no longer going to be a laugher. The team that lost by 17 to Marist would be giving Kentucky everything they could handle.
Kentucky would eventually survive 60-58 — thanks, in large part, to a bucket with 17.3 seconds left from Nerlens Noel that quite clearly came after the shot clock had expired — but some wins mean more than others.
Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that Kentucky was completely and utterly lost against the zone. They needed to hit their last three field goals just to finish 4-17 from the floor against the Vanderbilt zone. They turned the ball over seven times during that stretch.
At the same time, they got abused on the defensive end of the floor because Vanderbilt targeted the defensively-challenged Kyle Wiltjer. But UK needed Wiltjer on the floor because of his zone-busting ability.
While Wiltjer clearly has value on the offensive end, if he can’t improve defensively John Calipari will have a decision to make: either play the sophomore knowing that he’s a matchup opponents will look (and be able) to exploit, or have one of his better offensive weapons sit because of those defensive issues.
“So now I told him: ‘You don’t think anybody was watching the tape, right? No one watched that game? Don’t think every team now is going to go right at you. Good luck.’ And I think he can do it, but he’s got to make his mind up that, ‘I’m not settling for this.’ There’s a couple plays where he broke down; then just rebound. He didn’t rebound, and they scored on him. I mean, fight man. Come on. Where is it?”
And given the value that Calipari places on the defensive end of the floor, there’s a better chance of Wiltjer sitting than Kentucky simply deciding that they’ll accept his defensive struggles in exchange for points on the other end.
“Figure it out. You either don’t stay in the game or figure it out. Fight or we’ll figure it out,” Calipari said according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Add to this the prolonged slump that Alex Poythress has been mired in and that opened the door for Vanderbilt to scrap their way back into a game that should have been a blowout.
Another concern here is that Kentucky doesn’t have much room to spare in terms of the NCAA tournament. This win was just their third RPI top 215 win this season (Maryland and Eastern Michigan), and given how weak the SEC is this season — there just aren’t going to be many chances for the Cats to pick up RPI boosting wins — we could be looking at a situation where UK is sitting somewhere around an eight or a nine seed.
And if they slip up against a Vanderbilt or a South Carolina or a Mississippi State?
I won’t go there.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
May 23, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
With four departures (Butler, Charlotte, Temple and Xavier) and one arrival (George Mason), the Atlantic 10 Conference will have 13 members for the 2013-14 academic year with Davidson joining in 2014. Those changes have brought about another for the conference: beginning next season, all members will play in the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays…
May 23, 2013, 5:26 PM EDT
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May 23, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official on Thursday afternoon: he’ll be coaching Team USA basketball through at least the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. That’s been known for almost a week now. The interesting bit of news that came out of his press conference on Thursday afternoon had nothing to do with…
May 23, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT
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May 23, 2013, 1:05 PM EDT
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May 23, 2013, 12:02 PM EDT
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May 23, 2013, 11:13 AM EDT
Vanderbilt has made a change to their coaching staff, as Kevin Stallings went out and plucked Yanni Hufnagel off of Tommy Amaker’s staff at Harvard. “I couldn’t be more excited to join Coach Stallings and the rest of his outstanding staff here at Vanderbilt,” said Hufnagel. “Coach Stallings is not only recognized as one of…
May 23, 2013, 10:33 AM EDT
Michigan has no plans to part ways with Adidas at any point in the near future, according to a report from MLive.com. There had been some speculation in the last month that the Wolverines would end their contract with the apparel company because of the way that Adidas had handled a worker’s rights issue at…
May 22, 2013, 10:04 PM EDT
As a recruiting class that has been hailed by some as the best in the history of college basketball, Kentucky’s incoming freshmen will receive a lot of attention throughout the 2013-14 campaign. And with the skills that players such as Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young possess a number of…
May 22, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT
A third player with eligibility remaining will not return to the BYU program next season, as it was reported that 6-8 forward Agustin Ambrosino will not be a member of the basketball program in 2013-14. Ambrosino, who played an average of 6.2 minutes in 31 games last season, joins Raul Delgado (transferring to Metro State)…
May 22, 2013, 7:07 PM EDT
One week ago UMKC announced the addition of a fourth player to the program, as 6-10 forward/center Isaac Kreuer will return to the Kansas City metropolitan area after spending last year at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas. According to the Kansas City Star, first-year head coach Kareem Richardson has filled out his coaching…
May 22, 2013, 5:55 PM EDT
With the loss of four institutions the Colonial Athletic Association has some work to do on the realignment front. Apparently the league has found a new member, as it was reported by the Wilmington Star-News that Elon will officially join the CAA on Thursday. Elon has announced a press conference for 2:00 p.m. EST Thursday…
May 22, 2013, 4:44 PM EDT
On Tuesday, the University of Washington announced plans for an alumni basketball game to be held on June 23. Returning for the game will be former Husky stars such as Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson and Jon Brockman among many. Festivities will begin at 1:00 p.m., with there also being three-point and slam dunk competitions for…
May 22, 2013, 3:10 PM EDT
Will Yeguete just cannot get healthy. The Florida forward missed the final nine games of his sophomore season with a broken foot and then had to sit out much of February after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee as a junior. He returned to play the final six games of the season. Yeguete underwent more…
May 22, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT
On Monday afternoon, former Memphis big man Tarik Black announced that he would transferring to Kansas where he’ll team up with Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid to give Bill Self the nation’s best non-Kentucky recruiting class and a shot at a national title. Black, who will be eligible immediately, may never end up…
May 22, 2013, 1:37 PM EDT
USA Basketball has released a list of 24 players that will be attending training camp in Colorado Springs from June 14th-19th to try and earn a spot on Team USA for the U19 championships, which take place in Prague from June 27th-July 7th. While there is some solid talent on that roster, it’s not necessarily…
May 22, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT
It’s all-but official now: Mike Krzyzewski will be returning to coach Team USA in the 2014 World Championships in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. That’s according to a report from Pete Thamel of SI, who reported over the weekend that Coach K was strongly considering returning to head up the stars…
May 22, 2013, 12:34 PM EDT
On Wednesday afternoon, five-star small forward Theo Pinson officially announced his intentions to stay in-state and attend North Carolina. The Greensboro, NC, native picked the Tar Heels over Indiana, Louisville, Georgetown and Duke. A 6-foot-6 athlete on the wing, Pinson is known for his ability to get up and down the floor and finish around…
May 22, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT
Back in March, former San Diego Torero Brandon Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in points and assists, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for his role in a point-shaving scheme during the 2009-2010 season back in March. Johnson was lucky; the state wanted to give him a year. He’ll begin serving his sentence…
May 22, 2013, 10:38 AM EDT
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