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. Florida guard continues to work towards full recovery from leg injury

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT

    Southern v Florida Southern v Florida

    Redshirting helped Eli Carter as he looks to recover from a broken leg suffered in 2013, but he still isn’t at the level he was prior to the injury.

  2. Reports: Former Memphis center to enroll at Tennessee

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:59 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    According to reports Dominic Woodson will be enrolling at Tennessee in time for the start of classes Thursday.

  3. Florida State lands its first 2015 verbal commitment

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    D1Circuit/Nike Basketball D1Circuit/Nike Basketball

    Four-star shooting guard Terance Mann picked Florida State over Arizona State, Boston College, Indiana, Marquette and Rhode Island.

  4. Assigned Reading: The rise and fall of Curtis Malone

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    dc-assault.org dc-assault.org

    Curtis Malone is serving a 100-month sentence after pleading guilty to being a part of a drug ring that brought in $80,000 in profits per month.

  5. Oregon State freshman hospitalized after collapsing during workout Tuesday

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

    Jesse Skoubo/Corvallis Gazette-Times Jesse Skoubo/Corvallis Gazette-Times

    A report stated that a blood clot in Chai Baker’s leg may have resulted in his collapsing during a workout on Tuesday.

  6. Report: Former UNLV guard transfers to UT Martin

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:38 PM EDT

    Deville Smith, Skylar Spencer AP

    Deville Smith averaged 9.7 points and 2.7 assists in 32 games last season, making 18 starts.

  7. Mixtape for Duke-bound guard Luke Kennard (VIDEO)

    Aug 20, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Luke Kennard AP

    Kennard is the No. 19 recruit in the Rivals top 150.

  8. New addition to Michigan State program granted immediate eligibility

    Aug 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Bryn Forbes, Andrew Harrison AP

    Bryn Forbes averaged 15.6 points per game last season, shooting 43.4% from the field and 42.4% from three-point range.

  9. Expectations have changed for Nebraska after surprise run to 2014 NCAA tournament

    Aug 20, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    How can Nebraska build on their surprising, successful 2013-2014 season?

  10. Report: College star won’t suit up for Dominican Republic in World Cup

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Karl Towns AP

    Kentucky made the decision not to allow one of their stars to head to Spain for two weeks while they’re supposed to be in class.

  11. Nebraska hires new graduate manager, trolls Kansas in the process?

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Think Jayhawk fans remember the name Ali Farokhmanesh?

  12. Memphis lands a key transfer to boost their back court experience

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

    SEC Basketball Tournament: Arkansas v Vanderbilt Getty Images

    The Tigers have zero minutes of experience in their back court.

  13. Indiana lands a final piece in their 2014 recruiting class

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Tom Crean AP

    Indiana now has six commitments in the Class of 2014.

  14. Oakland head coach Greg Kampe with a unique #icebucketchallenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:24 AM EDT

    Greg Kampe AP

    Kampe over came his fear of heights but still got hit with ice water.

  15. The Ray Kasongo saga takes another turn on Wednesday

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    kasongo

    Ray Kasongo was denied admission from Oregon on July 30, reopening his recruitment.

  16. Northern Illinois unveils its new basketball floor (PHOTO)

    Aug 19, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT

    Twitter/NIUAthletics Twitter/NIUAthletics

    This new court design is interesting to say the least.

  17. Report: Wichita State to play in early season tournaments in 2015, 2016, 2017

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Take a look at what tournaments the Shockers will appear in over the next few years.

  18. Four-star 2015 guard Jimmy Whitt commits to Arkansas

    Aug 19, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

    Under Armour Under Armour

    Jimmy Whitt is ranked just outside the top 50 in the Class of 2015.