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New Year’s Resolutions: Kentucky Wildcats

Dec 27, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

Belmont v Kentucky Getty Images

Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.

Who else made Resolutions? Click here to find out.

WHAT DOES KENTUCKY PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Play defense

  • Why it will happen: With the exception of last season’s disaster, John Calipari’s staple as a basketball coach has been his ability to get his teams to defend. During the seven season stretch from 2005-2006 through 2011-2012 — when Cal’s Memphis and Kentucky teams were in the top ten of KenPom’s rankings every season — the Wildcats only once had a defense that was worse than 9th in defensive efficiency: the 2011 team that finished 15th. This season Kentucky is currently sitting at 46th.
  • Why it won’t happen: Who on this Kentucky team is a defensive stopper? When Kentucky desperately needs a stop, who does Coach Cal know will lock his man up? Willie Cauley-Stein is a shotblocker and a game-changing presence around the rim. Everyone else? Do you really think the Harrison twins are willing and able to be lockdown defenders? James Young? Can Dominique Hawkins stay with someone like Jahii Carson or Semaj Christon? The issue with Kentucky isn’t a stylistic one — they’ve never really forced turnovers under Calipari and they’ve always been susceptible to offensive rebounders — it’s an effort one. Chasing someone around a screen or laying out to get that loose ball. That’s not a skill that can be learned.

WHAT DOES KENTUCKY SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Ignore Julius Randle in the post

  • Why it will happen: Outside of Jabari Parker and Doug McDermott, Randle may be the best offensive weapon in the country. He’s a bull in a china shop on the block, scoring and getting rebounds and drawing fouls. He doesn’t have the kind of offensive repertoire that Georges Niang does and he’s not the kind of athlete that Joel Embiid is, but as Randle is relentless. Good things happen when he touches the ball, and they will only happen more often as he learns to read double-teams better.
  • Why it won’t happen: Randle needs to have the ball given to him on the block. He’s not Kobe or LeBron. He’s not simply going to dribble into a post-up. He needs to seal his man and have one of Kentucky’s perimeter players throw him an entry pass. But those perimeter players aren’t always willing to make that pass. Both Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and James Young as well, are score-first players. If they get into a rhythm and Kentucky is struggling, they’ve already shown a tendency to try to take over instead of continuing to pound the ball where their breads gets buttered.

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