All in all, it was a good weekend for John Calipari and the young Kentucky Wildcats.
Even after falling in a heartbreaker to Florida in the SEC championship game, there are nothing but positives to take away from the trip to Atlanta.
Consider the following:
• In wins over LSU and Georgia, Kentucky showed considerably more energy, hustle and team chemistry than they have for most of the season.
• The offense showed flashes of explosiveness in all three SEC tournament games. In the LSU and Georgia games, the Cats turned close matches into blowouts. And vs. Florida, Kentucky was left for dead, down 16 in the second half, before storming back and having a chance to win the game as time expired.
• The Harrison twins are still hard to watch at times, but they showed scoring punch and were very effective when attacking.
• Willie Cauley-Stein looked like a beast against Florida, blocking shots, protecting the rim, ripping down boards and catching alley-oops left and right. If he takes that kind of aggressive mentality into the tournament, Kentucky is going to beat someone it shouldn’t.
• The product on the floor was something Cat fans can be proud of. UK looked like a team that wanted to win and wanted to play together. There was much more unselfishness than usual and they took care of the ball pretty well.
At the end of the weekend, Kentucky made the best team in the country look mortal and served notice that they will not be an easy out in the big dance. But here are some constructive critiques.
• This has not been one of John Calipari’s better coaching jobs. Kentucky’s rotations are still a bit puzzling. It would be nice to see more of the bench at times, and possibly some different lineup combos. Moreover, Calipari should take better use of his timeouts, work on scripting more plays and take advantage of “teaching moments” for these kids. There were times this past weekend when he just let them play and it wasn’t pretty.
• Kentucky’s offense is much more crisp when it is attempting to involve the bigs. Instead of a one dimensional offense where everyone stands around until a Harrison jacks up a poor shot, the Wildcats should focus more on running screens for Young, giving the ball to Randle on clearouts and trying to get Poythress and Cauley-Stein more looks on the block. Part of the problem is that Andrew Harrison is just not a table setter. But part of it has been selfishness and stagnant offensive sets. Hopefully, Calipari can draw up a few plays for next week.
• UK has to find a way to generate more transition offense. When Cauley-Stein blocks a shot and sends them running down the floor, good things happen. This is a team of gazelles, many of whom will be playing for pay some day. Kentucky has a physical advantage over almost everyone they will see. Gotta turn up the pressure and force more turnovers to turn on the fast break.
The season is still not over and despite the letdown of an 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, Kentucky can still do some damage. We will be back with more thoughts on the tourney later this week.go back