Aug 12, 2014, 3:46 PM EST
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.
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.
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.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:01 PM EST
All of Tuesday’s bubble action, right here.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Cincinnati could be losing an experienced guard for next season.
Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell among 10 finalists for Wayman Tisdale Award as nation’s best freshman
Mar 3, 2015, 6:00 PM EST
A lot of productive players on the Wayman Tisdale Award finalist list, led by Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell.
Mar 3, 2015, 4:52 PM EST
Albany is looking for its third NCAA tournament appearance in as many years. Stony Brook is attempting to once again get over that conference tournament hump.
Mar 3, 2015, 3:47 PM EST
Kaminsky has all but locked up the award in my mind.
Mar 3, 2015, 2:32 PM EST
Murray State rolled through the OVC unbeaten and enters the conference tournament as the heavy favorite.
Mar 3, 2015, 1:36 PM EST
Rasheed Sulaimon was reportedly publicly accused of sexual assault.
Mar 3, 2015, 1:24 PM EST
This is the last true road game for the Wildcats this season.
Mar 3, 2015, 12:54 PM EST
Andrew Chrabascz had missed the last two weeks with a broken hand
Mar 3, 2015, 12:05 PM EST
A three-game margin separated the top seven teams, so don’t be surprised if things don’t go according to the seeds in Conway, South Carolina.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:42 AM EST
The National Player of the Year talks hoops, soccer and senior years.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:12 AM EST
Last year, the college hoops 30 for 30 was “Requiem for the Big East”.
Mar 3, 2015, 9:15 AM EST
Can St. Francis (NY) land their first-ever NCAA tournament berth?
Late Night Snacks: Texas gets huge win over Baylor, Iowa State comeback win on Oklahoma; No. 2 Virginia wins on road
Mar 2, 2015, 11:18 PM EST
No. 2 Virginia earned a big road win.
Mar 2, 2015, 9:33 PM EST
Texas survived to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
Seton Hall added to its 2015 recruiting haul on Monday.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:20 PM EST
Alabama loses another starter as the regular season winds down.
Mar 2, 2015, 6:19 PM EST
Bucknell will be looking to make their third NCAA tournament appearance under Dave Paulsen.
Mar 2, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
The Big 12 and the ACC will both be in action.
Mar 2, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
The Atlantic Sun Tournament should be an exciting one as Florida Gulf Coast attempts to dethrone regular season champ North Florida.
- Bubble Banter: Whose tournament hopes are on the line on Tuesday night? 0
- Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Kaminsky’s award to win 1
- Ohio Valley Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards 0
- Mike Krzyzewski refuses comment on Rasheed Sulaimon sexual assault allegations 10
- Bracketology: Villanova takes ahold of the fourth No. 1 seed 3
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: How far will Wisconsin and Gonzaga fall? 20
- Bubble Banter: Oregon lands a key win, but Purdue, Stanford and Pitt lose 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: How far will Wisconsin and Gonzaga fall? (20)
- You Make the Call: Was Texas guard Isaiah Taylor fouled on this drive? (16)
- Report: Former Louisville guard Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy (13)
- Mike Krzyzewski refuses comment on Rasheed Sulaimon sexual assault allegations (10)
- Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings apologizes for postgame outburst directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV (9)