Skip to content

Five thoughts on Kentucky after their third straight win in the Bahamas

Aug 12, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

source:

Kentucky Athletics

Kentucky has now played three games in the Bahamas, winning all three in impressive fashion. I’ve watched all three games. Here are five takeaways from those three games:

1. I did not see this coming: I knew Kentucky was going to be good this season. Everyone with a pulse knew that Kentucky was going to be good this season. There’s a reason they are going to be the preseason No. 1 team in any poll worth paying attention to. But after just 10 practices this summer, and with two potential starters sitting out with injuries, I did not expect to see these Wildcats steamroll their way through the first three games the way that they have. The Wildcats have now won their three games — two against Puerto Rico and one against French club Chalon-Reims — by an average of 28 points, demoralizing their opponents in the second half.

Now keep in mind, while these are professional basketball players, they don’t have all that much to play for. This isn’t Puerto Rico’s A-squad. Chalon-Reims has had even less time to prepare than Kentucky. Those players have their livelihood on the line if they hurt themselves in a game like this; Kentucky’s kids are competing to earn playing time this season. That’s an important distinction when it comes to effort, especially in the second half of these games.

But still: I’ve been impressed.

RELATED: How Louisville pickpocketing Providence for a recruit proves hierarchy

2. The key sentence in Part 1: “Competing to earn playing time this season”: The single biggest issue that John Calipari is going to face this season is from a playing time perspective. He doesn’t really have a small forward on this roster; he essentially has four guards, three power forward and three centers, plus Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis. That’s a lot of talent, but it’s also a lot of people to keep happy without a lot of minutes available to give them. Will Marcus Lee be happy if he gets relegated to sitting the bench again this season? How will Willie Cauley-Stein or Dakari Johnson react if Karl Towns comes in and steals their minutes at center? If Trey Lyles and Lee out play Alex Poythress, will the junior be OK with seeing his minutes cut?

Who knows. At this point, we don’t know how healthy Cauley-Stein and Lyles are, let alone what the breakdown of front court minutes will look like. And Cal has proven that he is adept at getting his players to buy into a role and put the team first when it comes to playing time. This season will be his toughest challenge yet.

3. Alex Poythress finally playing with energy: For the past two seasons, Calipari has been trying to get Poythress — a 6-foot-7 forward with all the physical tools that you could ask for — to consistently play with energy and aggression. In the three games in the Bahamas, Poythress has done just that. He’s crashing the offensive glass, he’s getting out and running in transition, he’s making plays defensively. If he continues to do that, he becomes a completely different player for the Wildcats. And while he hasn’t quite added those perimeter skills that everyone was looking for out of him, it’s important to remember that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t exactly the most-skilled perimeter player when he donned a Kentucky uniform. With the versatility of Lyles and Towns, Kentucky should be able to get by with Poythress at the three … assuming he consistently brings that junkyard dog mentality.

RELATED: How Power 5 autonomy changes college basketball. Hint: not much.

4. Kentucky will be at their best with Tyler Ulis on the floor: Andrew Harrison has gotten better at the point guard spot. Aaron Harrison has gotten better, too, and I think it’s fair to say that both of them are better players, in a vacuum, than Ulis is at this point. But what Ulis brings to the table will make this Kentucky team that much better. For starters, he is a nightmare on the defensive end of the floor, one of those tough, quick little pests that always cause trouble for opposing ball-handlers. He’s also a pure point guard offensively, a kid that can read pick-and-rolls and can run offensive sets equally well. He doesn’t need to “get his”. He doesn’t need to score. He’s satisfied setting the table for his teammates, which is something that needs to happen with the talent Kentucky has on the floor.

Don’t be surprised if Calipari eventually favors a lineup that features three guards, even if that means that Ulis will be on the floor at the same time as both of the Harrisons.

5. Karl Towns is going to be Kentucky’s best freshman, if not their best player: He’s just so talented. He can score in the post. He can hit threes. He’s a very good passer. He just has a terrific feel for the game offensively. On the defensive end there are some question marks, but if he plays as a center and is asked to, essentially, defend the rim and rebound the ball, he should be more than adequate on that end of the floor.

Latest Posts
  1. Nebraska guard Tarin Smith to transfer

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska is losing another player from the roster.

  2. Ohio State lands a top 50 Class of 2016 commitment

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Harrison Heath, Derek Funderburk AP

    Ohio State landed an impact forward in the 2016 class on Wednesday.

  3. Wisconsin stops selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirt in campus bookstore over potential NCAA violation

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Wisconsin stopped selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirts at a campus bookstore.

  4. Kevin Ollie, UConn coaching staff won’t attend Final Four in Indianapolis over state travel ban

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Kevin Ollie and UConn will stay away from the Final Four in Indianapolis as the state of Connecticut has banned state-funded travel to the state.

  5. San Diego hires New Mexico assistant Lamont Smith as new head coach

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Lamont Smith, right, is San Diego's new head coach (Getty Images) Getty Images

    San Diego turned to a former player to lead the basketball program.

  6. Washington State losing three players to transfer

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Jackie Davis, Brett Boese, Lucas O'Brien AP

    Head coach Ernie Kent is losing three first-year players after his first season at the helm.

  7. Report: Murray State guard Cameron Payne heavily considering NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    Cameron Payne, Reece Chamberlain AP

    Could Murray State guard Cameron Payne enter the NBA Draft?

  8. UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn signs an agent and enters NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:40 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    UNLV officially loses Rashad Vaughn to the NBA Draft.

  9. Rhode Island lands impact transfer from Towson

    Mar 31, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    BB&T Classic Getty Images

    Rhode Island landed an impact transfer on Tuesday.

  10. Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera heading to NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Georgetown takes a major hit with the loss of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

  11. Southern Illinois loses five to transfer, coach rips the decisions

    Mar 31, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Barry Hinson is not happy about losing the players he brought into the program.

  12. Highlights of the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT

    Dwayne Bacon, Jalen Rose Dwayne Bacon, Jalen Rose

    It wasn’t as good as the last two years, but there were still some impressive dunks.

  13. Kentucky, Wisconsin join short list of Final Four rematches

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT

    So we meet again... (AP Photo) AP

    Teams that won the first meeting have won three of the four Final Four/title game rematches, with Duke (1990-91) being the lone exception.

  14. LSU’s Jordan Mickey to enter the NBA Draft

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Mickey is the second player from LSU to declare this month.

  15. Indiana’s 1976 undefeated team is rooting for Kentucky to go 40-0

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Bobby Knight would probably not approve of that.

  16. Cleveland State to lose Trey Lewis to transfer

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Lewis will have some well known suitors this offseason.

  17. Rick Barnes will be the next head coach at Tennessee

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes spent the last 17 seasons at Texas.