Judging from the body language of John Calipari, you would think that the Kentucky Wildcats have timewarped back into the days of Billie Clyde Gillispie and that Kentucky would struggle to win another game … ever. By now, we have learned to shrug aside the Calipari-isms and lamenting about how bad his teams are. Tonight’s 93-61 win over Northwood may not have been perfect, but even a common blogger can see that this team is going to be scary good. The keyword for tonight is POTENTIAL.
Earlier I thought that Alex Poythress may lead the team is scoring, but I have to say that as of this game, Archie Goodwin is pure offense. He is very good under control and at creating his own scoring opportunities. He drives to the basket so well and reminds me of Brandon Knight the way he drives. In the first half, he was the offense for Kentucky, going 6-9 for 14 points in the first half. He kept that up in the second half and finished with 22 points with 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. The only downside was the 5 turnovers and a lot of that was just missed connections and passes with his team mates. That will go away with practice and more chemistry with his teammates. Goodwin showed his versatility as he will also see time at the point.
This is Ryan Harrow’s team, but he has to become more assertive and get more physical. He can be a dynamic playmaker and is good at getting to the basket, but he has to get much more physical than he is now. As it is now, other teams are going to challenge him and make him beat them one on one. Harrow was inconsistent at times tonight. At times he looked great, and at others he looked lost. There is not a lot of place for Harrow to hide as Kentucky once again is not deep at the point. But this is an annual thing for the Calipari point guards to start slow. Harrow will improve every game.
Willie Cauley – Stein is nothing what I expected. Perhaps it is the wide receiver in him, but he moves so fluidly. I thought he would be big and lumbering and an incarnation of Eloy Vargas, but he runs like a gazelle and has very quick feet. He also has very good hands for a big man and will be a very good passer. He had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. I did not expect to see him as the defensive game changer so early, but the combination of he and Noel is just plain scary.
Nerlens Noel is a rebounding machine and had seven in the first half. He is very solid defensively but is a bit limited offensively. No problem though as he is very good around the basket and can correct a lot of errors by his teammates. He has better hands than I though and looks like he is going to influence shots just like Davis did. The Noel/Cauley – Stein lineup will be brutal for opposing defenses and you can tell that already they are impacting shots. Stein-Cauley had a block from 18 feet and that may just be a mental hangover of the opponents from the Anthony Davis era. Noel really came on strong in the second half and had 17 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots. He is still way ahead defensively, but the offensive potential is there.
Alex Poythress was not spectacular but was steady. He has a good motor like MKG but seemed to lose his energy in the later parts of the game. He finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds but also turned the ball over four times. Like MKG, he does a lot of great things that do not show on the scorecard. Kyle Wiltjer seemed to be very slow and out of position defensively. Maybe part of it was that Calipari had so many combinations on the floor, but Wiltjer will find his role on this team. Wiltjer had 12 points but just one rebound. Thing is, Kentucky will need his three point stroke this year, but he must fill up the scorecard in more than just points.
Elsewhere, Julius Mays is going to be the glue that holds it together. He just had 6 points but plays very solid defense (4 steals) and needs to be able to be that sharpshooter coming off the bench. I think that Calipari and the team are very comfortable with him on the floor and he plays well with the other guards. Mays does a lot of things that Daris Miller used to do, and I don’t think there are any concerns abouat whether he will actually produce this year.
Finally, it was kind of disappointing to not see Jon Hood that much, but Calipari has already said that Hood will see some time next exhibition and I think that he has a legitimate shot to work his way into the rotation this year. This years team seems to be a lot deeper than last year and once they start clicking as a team, this will get scary.