It’s no secret I haven’t been a major fan of this year’s Kentucky Wildcats squad. To me, John Calipari is just biding time until next year’s recruiting class comes in which could be an all timer. Saying all that, the way they competed today with the Louisville Cardinals gives me hope they could make a run to at least the Sweet 16. I know that’s not what Wildcats fans want to hear but I saw little to nothing before today that even showed a glimmer of hope for this year’s program.
Give Archie Goodwin some serious credit. He’s not your prototypical point guard but he showed in spurts what he gives this unit. The ability to get to the rim at will. His first step was explosive although he needs to learn to finish with his left hand. Without that, he will become very predictable at the basket.
Willie Cauley-Stein is an enigma, no doubt. He’s out of shape and lacks focus on the defensive end but is a beast around the rim. He shows that NBA potential with the ability to finish. Problem is he can’t make free throws and Rick Pitino a admitted that he was being targeted to go to the line late. Can you blame him? Of course, it’s not just Cauley-Stein that can’t make a free throw on this Kentucky squad. That’s got to be rectified quickly.
Ryan Harrow is finally back to where this team needs him. You could blame his slow start on a lot of off the court issues but now he isn’t holding this team back. His ability to make the mid range jumper is huge because that allows the bigs like Nerlens Noel and Cauley-Stein to work the offensive boards. For an unpolished offensive team those “junk points” are massive.
What was up with Alex Poythress? He’s a killer in transition and can do some work around the rim but Calipari clearly doesn’t fully trust him yet. That’s partially not his problem though. He’s a tweener without a real position. When they go small he gets trapped because he isn’t quick enough for a guard and then in a big lineup he doesn’t bang well inside. I want to see Kentucky play with even more pace in SEC play. Few teams can give you the pressure Louisville can. Work through the mistakes and don’t slow it down which actually plays into the hands of your opponent. That’s where he can succeed ala Shabazz Muhammad of the UCLA Bruins.
Overall, this Kentucky team isn’t a vintage squad, not close. However, they can still grow and do some damage in March. Coach Cal is probably the best in the land at getting his team ready. He’ll get whatever he can out of this bunch and the talent is still there. Increasing the tempo, perhaps using Noel and Cauley-Stein on the floor at the same time and Harrow exerting some leadership would certainly help. Don’t count ‘em out just yet.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.