Kentucky Wildcats: Grasping at Straws on a Sunday Morning

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Jan 12, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts in the game against the Texas A

I really can’t enjoy my Sunday morning coffee as I am still stunned at the Kentucky Wildcats’ loss to Texas A&M yesterday afternoon at Rupp Arena. Losing is one thing, but the manner in which the Wildcats lost is what is bothering me the most. Many, including your humble blogger, had thought that we would see an improved team after the harrowing comeback against Louisville. We thought that the SEC would provide an easy path to victories as the conference seems to be considerably weak.

Kentucky is 10-5. They currently have the look and the record of an NCAA tournament bubble team. They have  a home game coming up against SEC-winless Tennessee on Tuesday and an away game against 2-0 SEC team Auburn on Saturday. Needless to say this week is absolutely huge for confidence.

But last week proved that the SEC will not be a cake walk. Kentucky needed a no-call on a shot clock violation to beat a terrible Vanderbilt team. And they were flat-out demoralized late in the game by a good, but by no means great, Texas A&M team. What’s going on? Here is what I have noticed this season thus far:

  • For whatever reason this team cannot hold a lead against quality opposition. Kentucky had a four point lead with five minutes left and had defensive break down after defensive break down. Which leads me to my next point…
  • This isn’t a very good defensive team. Outside of Nerlens Noel, there isn’t a defensive stopper in the bunch. MKG or DeAndre Liggins aren’t walking through that door.
  • The lack of a seasoned upperclassman is hurting much worse than we anticipated. I know Julius Mays is an upperclassman, but he’s spent the bulk of his college career at schools with Kentucky not in their names.
  • Where for art thou Kyle Wiltjer?
  • Ditto for Alex Poythress.
  • Someone needs to pull Archie Goodwin aside and tell him that dribbling into the paint without a plan works about 30% of the time. The risk/reward of that offensive mentality favors heavily the risk column.
  • There isn’t a sense of urgency. We see a lot of clapping and the occasional chest bump, but when the chips are down emotion seems to leave the players. It seems as if they zone out, so afraid to make a mistake that they become preoccupied with it, and then they make a mistake.
  • There is no way in hell a team starting two seven-foot guys and Alex Poythress should be out-rebounded by any team. Yet, for some reason, this team is routinely out-rebounded: the latest loss included.

Jan 12, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari gives instructions to his team during the game against the Texas A

Coach Cal, thoughts?

I think it was 63-59 with about 4:00 something to go, and it was a situation that I talked to the team yesterday about, gut time, stop the runs, stop the bleeding.

And they were listening to what I was saying, but I don’t think they heard me, what you do defensively, what you do offensively, because we had Maryland do it to us; we had Duke do it to us; we had Vanderbilt the other night do it to us. We had other teams and this team went on a 16-1 run, and you’re not winning that way and it’s both on defense and offense.

I like my team. I wish we could get Alex with more, you know, scream, yell: “Ahh, I want to win, stopping this guy.” That’s what the guy was talking about. I’m looking at the dude and he’s got his head down. I mean, that’s — you know, we need him to play better. We need — you know, Archie (Goodwin), he’s got to play in better control.

But these guys, they are all freshmen. We are expecting them to be finished products. It’s still early January. It’s going to be another month before this team comes together. I just hope we are winning enough games as we learn to do this. To win on the road against Vandy ends up being a big game now.

Think about it: Any road win in this league is a good game.

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