University of Kentucky: Growing Pains

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Three games into the season and what do we know about the 2012-2013 University of Kentucky Wildcats? Well, not a lot, but we’re learning more. And over the next few games, as Coach Calipari and the rest of the coaching staff figure out everyone’s roles on the team, we will learn a lot more.  With the way the schedule has worked out lately, the Cats get a few marquee matchups early in the season, some games to really work on some concepts and understand roles, a few rivalry games and then the SEC schedule begins leading toward March. And this year isn’t any different. The one thing that we all want to see from the perennially young Kentucky teams? Improvement. And with that improvement, there’s bound to be some growing pains (minus Alan Thicke) and a few losses along the way.

Nov 16, 2012; Lexington , KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Julius Mays (34) dribbles the ball against the Lafayette Leopards at Rupp Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

One of the glaring issues during the loss to Duke this week was the lack of strong play at the point. Now, I understand that Lafayette isn’t Duke or Michigan State, but to see the improvement, you have to look a little deeper than just the boxscore.  I’ve said that the toughest role to fill under Calipari is that of point guard.  So much of the offense that Coach Cal runs is based on the point guard making good decisions and making the right play at the right time.  On Tuesday against Duke, the point guard position was not effectively played by anyone that stepped into that role. Tonight was a little different, partly because of the level of competition, but also the guys seemed more comfortable and at ease.  Julius Mays scored five points and had 10 assists without a turnover and Jarrod Polson added seven points, three turnovers with just one turnover.  And that is how an offense can go from erratic to efficient.  With Ryan Harrow on the shelf with his illness, the Cats are going to need to Mays and Polson and, to some extent, Archie Goodwin to continue with their effective play.

Kyle Wiltjer is going to need to shoot 15 shots a game for this team to be successful.  The Wildcats can’t afford for him to disappear from the offense like what happened against Duke.  Even though he’s still a bit of a liability on the defensive end (much improved over last season), he can be a matchup nightmare on the offensive end. Most people will point to his 7-11 shooting from three point range as his highlight, but I like the fact that he grabbed four rebounds and looked even more comfortable putting the ball on the floor than he did against Duke or Maryland.  As this team works to find its own identity, it’s going to have to Wiltjer to step up and take the lead, especially on the offensive end.

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