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.
Mar 12, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
Weber State is the presumptive favorite, but as many Big Sky teams are on equal footing, the Wildcats may again miss the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT
I’m not sure there is a conference in the country where there is more at stake in the conference tournament. Even with Sunday’s loss at Nebraska, Wisconsin has a chance to play their was into a No. 1 seed if they can win the conference tournament. Michigan probably can’t be a No. 1 seed, but…
Mar 12, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT
GAME OF THE DAY: American at Boston U., 7:30 p.m. The Patriot League’s automatic bid will be handed out this evening as the two best teams in the conference square off. BU has the best back court in the conference with Maurice Watson and D.J. Irving while American sputtered down the stretch, losing five of…
Mar 12, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT
Zach Lederer, a manager on the Maryland men’s basketball team, passed away last night after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 20. Zach was an inspiration to the basketball team and sparked a meme that went nationwide called ‘Zaching’. Maryland posted this picture of the team ‘Zaching’ this morning in his honor. CSN…
Mar 12, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Regular season champion UC Irvine may have gone 13-3 in Big West play, but look for this tournament to provide a surprise or two.
Mar 12, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT
Doug McDermott’s SI cover pays homage to a man that he passed on the career scoring list weeks ago.
Mar 12, 2014, 9:09 AM EDT
A couple of quick notes about today’s bracket (March 12) update: After securing another West Coast Conference title Tuesday night, the Gonzaga Bulldogs can rest easy while waiting for the 68-team bracket to be revealed on Sunday night. The same can’t be said for Brigham Young. It’s going to be a tense few days for…
Mar 12, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
While there’s a clear favorite in the Pac-12 tournament, there will be plenty of drama with multiple teams looking to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Mar 12, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
No. 8 San Diego State, No. 20 New Mexico are the clear favorites in Las Vegas. But don’t expect those two teams to simply coast to the title game, either.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:38 AM EDT
Four autobids were decided on Tuesday as the NCAA Tournament has some new entrants into the field of 68. Find out who made the Big Dance and see how BYU is looking after its WCC title game loss.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Gonzaga is back in the tournament for what feels like the 100th straight year, but this team is a bit different than Gonzaga teams of old.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Meet the North Dakota State Bison, the winners of the Summit League and one of the — likely — trendy upset picks in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT
The coaching carousel continued to spin on Tuesday night as Loyola Marymount opted not to renew the contract of head coach Max Good.
Mar 11, 2014, 10:06 PM EDT
Get to know the Northeast Conference tournament champs!
Mar 11, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
The Milwaukee Panthers are dancing after winning four games in the Horizon League Conference Tournament. Meet one of the NCAA Tournament’s more dangerous double-digit seeds here.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
After only two seasons as head coach, Tennessee State has opted to fire head coach Travis Williams.
Mar 11, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
The Southland’s top team has been upset in the conference tournament for the past three seasons. Will the trend continue? Or has the arrival of Stephen F. Austin’s new coach, Brad Underwood, altered the trajectory?
Mar 11, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
UNC Wilmington on Tuesday announced that head coach Buzz Peterson is out after four years at the school.
Mar 11, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
Every year, there are a handful of teams that could use a couple of wins in their respective league tournaments to gain entry into the field of 68. Here are five schools that need to string some wins together this week to feel comfortable making NCAA Tournament.
- 2014 Big Ten Tournament Preview: Can Michigan State turn things around? 0
- Bracketology: Gonzaga grabs WCC title, BYU waits 0
- 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Preview: No. 4 Arizona looks to cap dominant campaign 1
- 2014 Mountain West Tournament Preview: San Diego State, New Mexico clear favorites in Las Vegas 0
- 2014 American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview: Louisville looks to win its only year in the AAC 1
- NBCSports.com National Player of the Year: Doug McDermott, Creighton 2
- 2014 ACC Tournament Preview: Will a newcomer crash the party in Greensboro? 1
- NBCSports.com’s 2014 College Basketball All-Americans (12)
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed (12)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)
- No. 1 Florida’s undefeated SEC season not just a by-product of their league (6)
- South Carolina suspends Frank Martin for regular season finale at Mississippi State (5)