Skip to content

Kentucky’s got the talent, but here’s why they will not win a title this year

Jan 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

source:

Back in December, when Kentucky got dropped by North Carolina on their visit to Chapel Hill, I wrote this column and this sidebar taking stock of Kentucky’s status and potential this season.

I think it’s worth revisiting now. If you don’t feel like reading through 1,000 words of two month-old writing, here’s a summary of what I wrote:

  • Kentucky’s three best perimeter players — Aaron and Andrew Harrison and James Young — are all shoot-first scorers. There is no point guard and there is no distributor.
  • There is also no perimeter depth. Alex Poythress is not a small forward, and Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins should not be getting playing time on this team.
  • Outside of Willie Cauley-Stein, there is no one on this team that is a good defender.
  • Kentucky doesn’t have any leadership. There is no vocal leader on that roster. The players that lead by example do it with awful body language and effort.

I think it’s safe to say that after last night’s drubbing — the final score of 87-82 doesn’t do justice to the beatdown that Kentucky took — at LSU, most of those points have been reinforced.

The bottom-line is this: last season, the Wildcats were a flawed basketball team even before they lost Nerlens Noel to the knee injury. The pieces just didn’t fit together well, Ryan Harrow wasn’t ready to run a team facing the scrutiny of a program like Kentucky and, quite frankly, that team just wasn’t talented enough.

This team is.

I think it’s inarguable at this point that we overrated the Harrison twins, particularly Andrew’s ability to run the point. But Julius Randle has been as good as advertised, Willie Cauley-Stein had been playing his role very well until the last two weeks, James Young can get buckets and Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson finally seem to be turning a corner.

In other words, this issue with this team isn’t the talent on the roster. The issue is what that talent is missing.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Kentucky got punked last night. LSU came out and punched them in the mouth to start the game and to start the second half, and the Wildcats didn’t have what it took to complete a comeback.

Simply put, the Wildcats were atrocious defensively last night.

Ah. Tro. Shuss.

Johnny O’Bryant got position anywhere he wanted it in the paint, post-doubles and help-side rotations were slow, and LSU was able to get to the rim on straight-line drives whenever they decided to put the ball on the floor. That never would have happened with the 2012 National Title team. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn’t have allowed it. Darius Miller wouldn’t have allowed it. None of those guys would have allowed it.

Instead of coming together and fighting through what was clearly an off-night, Kentucky looked like they splintered. There were the confused looks after every defensive breakdown. There was Cauley-Stein yelling at Kenny Payne on the bench. There was John Calipari, clearly frustrated, shoving one of the Harrisons to try to get him to move into the right position. Their body language was simply awful, to the point where it looked like those guys don’t even like each other.

And that’s only what came through on TV.

I can’t even imagine how bad it looked in person.

That is why I think we can write Kentucky off as a national title contender. It’s not because they lack a point guard; running an offense through Randle and allowing their three perimeter players to create when teams are forced to double him could work. It’s not because they’re mediocre defensively, because they have the athletes to improve on that end if they really wanted to. It’s not because they lack perimeter depth or because they don’t have any role players.

They have the talent to make up for that.

What their talent can’t make up for is the fact that this group does not appear to have the leadership or the mental toughness to come together and play through adversity.

You need to win six straight games against good teams to win a national title. At some point, Kentucky will get burned.

Latest Posts
  1. Wisconsin receives Final Four rings (PHOTOS)

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Wisconsin got some pretty cool rings for making the Final Four.

  2. Five-star 2016 forward Harry Giles looks healthy after knee injury (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Harry Giles

    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.

  3. Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will coach USA Basketball Select Team

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Chris Collins AP

    Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will be working with pros this summer.

  4. Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    Seven thoughts are a weekend at AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.

  5. Washington lands a commitment from Jermaine Haley

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    DRIVE Basketball DRIVE Basketball

    Haley is the first member of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class.

  6. Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Our Raphielle Johnson spent five days at the tournaments out in Vegas last week. Here are his thoughts on them.

  7. One college coach’s unique connection to the Peach Jam

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan

    Miami of Ohio assistant coach Trey Meyer is a native of North Augusta and grew up working, playing and coaching at Peach Jam.

  8. Kwe’Shaun Parker could win the NBA dunk contest right now (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.34.37 PM

    The scary part? The rising junior’s game is finally starting to develop.

  9. Report: Houston transfer Valentine Izundu is heading west

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Izundu played very limited minutes as a sophomore

  10. Kentucky’s budget for chartered jets is massive

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway Kentucky Speedway

    Want to guess how much they spend on planes for recruiting?

  11. July Live Period Week Three Superlatives

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    The best of the best from the final week of the July live evaluation period from Las Vegas and Louisville.

  12. Ben Simmons does not make Australia’s national team

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Thon Maker won’t be on the team either, but it is loaded with former college stars.

  13. Skal Labissiere is considering Europe, but that doesn’t mean there’s a market for him

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    "NBPA Top 100 Camp"

    Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.

  14. Official visit schedule set for five-star 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.

  15. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell breaks his second backboard of the summer

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Nearly three months after breaking a backboard during a pickup game, the rising junior took out another one this weekend.

  16. Arizona commit Ray Smith calls ACL tear ‘a blessing’

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    ray-smith

    Ray Smith tore his ACL earlier this month.

  17. Assigned Reading: Michael Hausfeld, the man taking on the NCAA

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ed O’Bannon’s lead attorney didn’t even know who he was when he first met him.

  18. Kwe Parker throws down 360 cradle dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    picresized_th_1406475062_Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 11.28.23 AM

    It’s been a summer of viral dunks for the 6-foot-2 recruit

  19. Las Vegas Saturday Recap: Bennie Boatwright, Justin Simon lead Dream Vision into adidas Super 64 semis

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Also some notes on junior college guard Andre Spight and 2015 guard Justin Foreman.