Jan 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
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.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
One of the best passers in the Class of 2016, Howard Washington, committed to Butler on Tuesday.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT
Rick Barnes spoke publicly for the first time about accusations levied against Texas.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
A very weak class has some decent guards.
Jun 30, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
Sindarius Thornwell and TeMarcus Blanton both underwent surgery this offseason.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT
Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum led the way for the Americans.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT
Cal’s name seems to always pop up in the NBA.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
It will be expanded into a full-length movie.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
It’s fun to watch Tacko Fall dominate high school competition.
Jun 29, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT
Maverick Rowan is reportedly focused on three schools.
Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
UCF is losing its third-leading scorer from last season to transfer.
Jun 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Xavier landed a three-star forward on Monday.
Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg returned to Hilton Coliseum to give one final pre-game speech before a fantasy camp.
Jun 29, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT
It should not be a surprise who the best player from this class ended up being.
Jun 29, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Tony Hawk approves this court.
Jun 29, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
Ryan has never finished below fourth in the Big Ten.
Jun 29, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Mullin has completely turned over the St. John’s roster.
Jun 29, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT
Knight’s most famous outburst may be lost to history.
Jun 29, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
There are 22 total players participating in the trials.
Jun 29, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Steve Alford now has a pair of 2017 commitments.
Jun 28, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT
This is a very well thought-out statement from Martin.
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