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. Arizona State cuts ties with junior college recruit following arrest

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    jordan washington

    Arizona State has cut ties with a junior college forward and 2015 recruit was who arrested over the weekend.

  2. Bo Ryan hits golf balls into Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium (PHOTO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Bo Ryan shows he’s a big man on campus at Wisconsin following his Final Four appearance.

  3. Jalen Rose believes Chris Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan

    Sep 16, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Jalen Rose says that former teammates Chris Webber needs to apologize.

  4. Texas lands impact four-star guard in 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    The Longhorns pull in a commitment from a good guard in 2015.

  5. Vanderbilt fills out 2015 class with top 150 forward

    Sep 16, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kevin Stallings has earned four commitments in 2015.

  6. Thoughts on Antonio Blakeney, shoe companies and decommitments

    Sep 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Antonio Blakeney (Nike) Antonio Blakeney (Nike)

    The five-star recruit decommitted from Louisville, and what it has to do with shoe companies.

  7. Pac-12’s conference schedule features Arizona-UCLA just once

    Sep 16, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    Arizona v UCLA Getty Images

    There are also a limited number of ugly road weeks.

  8. Report: Doug Wojcik’s settlement with Charleston worth six figures

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Wojcik was fired with cause for allegedly abusing his players.

  9. Top prospect in Class of 2014 signs endorsement deal with Under Armour

    Sep 16, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT

    BxqWQrkCcAAi0S1

    Mudiays $1.2 million deal with a team in China will now be significantly supplemented.

  10. Boston College point-shaving scandal portrayed in upcoming 30 for 30

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    0216_large

    Have you ever seen ‘Goodfellas’? You’ll recognize one of the main players in this story.

  11. Mixtape of elite 2015 big man Ivan Rabb (VIDEO)

    Sep 16, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    Ivan Rabb is one of the best centers in the country.

  12. Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney decommits from Louisville

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel

    Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney has opened it back up.

  13. Cincinnati adds commitment in 2015 class from forward

    Sep 15, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Mick Cronin AP

    The Bearcats added a 2015 recruit on Monday night.

  14. Kansas begins Bill Self’s two-week Boot Camp

    Sep 15, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Bill Self AP

    Kansas begins a two-week Boot Camp today.

  15. Richard Pitino warns Minnesota fans not to trust his dad before Louisville opener

    Sep 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Billy Minardi Classic - Florida International v Louisville Getty Images

    Things are getting interesting between the Pitinos as we get closer to the Minnesota and Louisville game.

  16. Florida International’s court destroyed by exercise competition

    Sep 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Norfolk State v Illinois Getty Images

    Florida International had some bad luck over the weekend.

  17. Charlotte head coach Alan Major returns from medical leave of absense

    Sep 15, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte v Richmond Getty Images

    Charlotte head coach Alan Major has returned to the team.

  18. Another mixtape for Jaylen Brown, No. 2 prospect in 2015 (VIDEO)

    Sep 15, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Brown is a 6-foot-7 powerhouse that has drawn some comparisons to Stanley Johnson.