Skip to content

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

Aug 12, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

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. Late Night Snacks: Iowa State tops Texas in top-25 Big 12 battle; North Carolina beats Syracuse

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:45 PM EST

    Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Marcus Paige AP

    North Carolina and Iowa State earned conference home wins on Monday night.

  2. No. 15 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 19 Texas

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:22 PM EST

    Isaiah Taylor, Monte Morris AP

    Iowa State bounced back from a loss against Texas Tech with a big home win over Texas.

  3. Ineligible UCLA freshman forward now allowed to practice with the team

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    FIBA FIBA

    UCLA should get a boost in practice with the addition of a four-star freshman forward to its roster.

  4. BYU starting forward could be held out for the rest of 2014-15 season

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    Nate Austin AP

    BYU might be without a key frontcourt piece for the rest of the season.

  5. Report: Wake Forest transfer finds a new spot in the CAA

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Wake Forest Demon Deacons v Arkansas Razorbacks Getty Images

    The son of a former NBA veteran is moving on to a CAA program from Wake Forest.

  6. Washington kicks talented shot blocking big man off the team

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EST

    Robert Upshaw (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Washington loses one of the most talented shot blockers in the nation.

  7. Winter Storms postponing a few college basketball games (UPDATED)

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:16 PM EST

    Ed Cooley (AP Photo) AP

    DePaul may have to reschedule their trip to Providence.

  8. Pregame Shootaround: A top-25 Big 12 clash highlights a slow Monday night

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrjywuxywyyywu3mjy5mddjotbkn2i1nzqynjq3zdhk AP

    Not a lot going on Monday night, but still some great games to check out.

  9. Maryland gets a commitment from top-150 point guard in 2016 class

    Jan 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Mark Turgeon AP

    Maryland grabs an impact point guard in the 2016 class.

  10. Indiana’s Robert Johnson injured, cheerleaders’ folders to blame?

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:52 PM EST

    Maryland v Indiana Getty Images

    Johnson landed awkwardly against Ohio State and may have to miss some time.

  11. Videos of all the wild finishes from an insane weekend in college hoops

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    A recap of the nine craziest finishes from your college hoops weekend.

  12. Wichita State guard Conner Frankamp arrested on Saturday night

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:28 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Frankamp spent a little more than a year at Kansas before transferring.

  13. Weekly Awards: D’Angelo Russell’s ascension, Kansas takes the next step

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    D'Angelo Russell (AP Photo) D'Angelo Russell (AP Photo)

    The best players and most impressive teams from the last week of college hoops.

  14. College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:54 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    We have a new member in our Top Ten.

  15. Dez Wells’ game-winner caps wild sequence in No. 13 Maryland’s win over Northwestern (VIDEO)

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Dez Wells AP

    Northwestern has lost its last three games by a total of five points.

  16. Four-star 2016 big man verbally commits to Arizona State

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:36 PM EST

    Herb Sendek, Jonathan Gilling Herb Sendek, Jonathan Gilling

    Lucas Siewert joins small forward Brendan Bailey as Arizona State’s second four-star verbal commitment in the 2016 class.

  17. Better shot selection, distribution helps No. 10 Louisville take care of Pittsburgh

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Louisville v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Eight days after attempting 25 three-pointers in their loss to No. 5 Duke, the Cardinals attempted just 12 and scored 40 points in the paint against Pittsburgh.

  18. Three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining completes second-half rally for No. 20 Northern Iowa (VIDEO)

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:24 PM EST

    Northern Iowa v Iowa Northern Iowa v Iowa

    UNI erased a 12-point second half deficit to win at Illinois State, and they remain a game behind No. 14 Wichita State in the Missouri Valley standings.

  19. Chest pains experienced Saturday lead to USF forward missing Sunday’s game

    Jan 25, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    Chris Perry Chris Perry

    Chris Perry leads the Bulls in rebounding, and chest pains suffered during the team’s workout Saturday resulted in his having to be hospitalized.