While most of the college basketball world will be stuck on Kentucky losing ANOTHER game on Saturday, their third of the season, I think it’s more productive to look at the good that came out of the loss to Baylor, namely, the pro prospects that were on hand. While some guys continued to build a name for themselves, others weren’t as impressive as advertised, and some were just straight up blah. Let’s recap:
Kentucky: Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin
I listed the Kentucky prospects in order of who impressed me the most to the least. Of the three freshmen, I have to say I was really wowed by Noel’s performance. Playing against a tough team, Noel really showed off the motor that basketball fans have been hearing about for some time now, going for a career-high 16 rebounds and matching a career-high six steals. What we saw Saturday were two things we sort of expected heading into the game: that Noel isn’t the most refined player on the offensive end, and that he’s extremely active. He’ll only get better at putting the ball in the basket, especially in the post, but it’s encouraging to see him constantly attack the rim, and never be outhustled on either end.
Poythress has been one of the most impressive Wildcats so far this season, and really continued to show off his inside-outside game on Saturday. However, after four-straight 20-point games, Poythress has struggled to stay involved in the Wildcats offense the last two games, and made his biggest impact Saturday by committing a career-worst five turnovers. He also missed the front-end of a crucial one-and-one free throw opportunity at the 2:50 mark with Kentucky surging to come back. Poythress needs to be one of the guys to step up and make big baskets for this young team struggling to find their identity.
Speaking of trying to find their identity, guard Archie Goodwin is as guilty as it comes for not being sure what role he plays on this team. While it isn’t exactly Goodwin’s fault – starting point guard Ryan Harrow hasn’t exactly been the team’s starting point guard – that he’s been caught in between being the teams best scorer and facilitator, it seems that he is in fact both, and can’t force his game the way he did today. As difficult as it is to get on a guy who finishes with a 17 point, six rebound, five assist stat line, Goodwin’s five foul/five turnover night spoke louder. The Wildcats offense needed his composure, and got the opposite, especially down the stretch.
Baylor: Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Austin
OK, this article was less written for Baylor’s players, but they do have two guys who could be selected in June’s NBA Draft, one of whom, is a potential lottery pick. Baylor won Saturday doing what they do, getting their points from the sharpshooting backcourt of Jackson and Brady Heslip (shout-out to A.J. Walton too), and causing turnovers on defense. Jackson did his thing, scoring 17 points in a not overly efficient manner, but he added 4 steals and went 5-5 from the free-throw line, including two huge free-throws with just under two minutes to go in the game, to help hold off the Wildcats comeback.
Austin also was a bit of a mixed bag on Saturday. I get that Austin’s made a three in each game that he’s attempted three or more this season, but I don’t get why a legit seven footer is taking five three pointers in a game unless his last name is Nowitzki. Austin was relatively successful in the paint, especially in blocking a Goodwin dunk in the first half, and hung tough with Noel in the paint in the second half as well. Austin looked relatively raw, and his seemingly allergic approach to the paint is pretty bothersome. The talent’s there, the awareness and toughness need to follow, quickly.
Also of note were Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, and Baylor junior big man Cory Jefferson. Those two guys are most definitely on my radar, and will be on most scouts’ over the next couple of weeks.
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth