It’s not too late for Kentucky Wildcat Basketball to get it all together

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Jan. 22, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari reacts to action on the court during the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama won 59-55. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of times we take what John Calipari says with a grain of salt. Remember the whole “we should be 5-5″ when his previous teams were steamrolling the competition? Well, if one thing, John Calipari usually speaks the truth and a lot of times, we choose not to listen. John Clay reminds us of Calipari’s earlier statements that this team “may not figure it out until February” and he thinks this team still can get it together:

 

My calendar says it’s January. My SEC basketball schedule says Kentucky has 13 conference games to play.

And despite the frustration and hand-wringing after UK’s second-half collapse and 59-55 loss at Alabama on Tuesday night, my hunch says it’s too early to pull the plug on the hope machine when it comes to this year’s team.

Doubts are justified. This UK basketball team has been a mismatched lot. The roster is short a player. It’s a recipe minus ingredients. As soon as one problem is solved, another arises. One step forward, two steps back.

Last Saturday night at Auburn, the Cats appeared to finally have figured some things out. After a bad offensive first half, they clicked in the second, shooting a high percentage to whip the chilly Tigers with ease. There were grins, chest bumps and hope for a carryover Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa.

That happened for a half. Up nine at the break, Kentucky didn’t bother to start the second half until about eight minutes had run off the clock. In the meantime, Alabama owned an 11-1 spurt and all the momentum. Calipari’s club ended up scoring just 22 points and losing by four.

Big Blue Nation took to Twitter to point the finger at guard Archie Goodwin, who appeared consumed with driving to the basket no matter the success rate. Others shared blame, however. Ryan Harrow failed to direct any second-half offensive flow. Down the stretch, the Cats failed on needed box-outs. That old bugaboo of missed free throws returned.

“We took a step back,” said Calipari afterward.

Then again, the Cats were without Willie Cauley-Stein, the 7-foot freshman who had earned a starting spot before a minor knee procedure left him at home for both games in Alabama. Not to say UK would have won Tuesday with Cauley-Stein, but the presence of another body would have aided Calipari’s rotation.

 

Jan 19, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA: Kentucky Wildcats guard Archie Goodwin (10) beats Auburn Tigers guard Frankie Sullivan (23) to the ball during the first half at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I don’t think this team can wait until February to get it together and am calling the rest of January (Saturday vs LSU and Tuesday at Ole Miss) as MUST WIN GAMES. And of course, the main theme the rest of the year is whether Calipari’s players are buying into his system. There still was evidence at Alabama that they were not:

 

More than halfway through the season, Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t think his team has fully supported his system. Without mentioning names, Calipari said following the loss to Alabama that certain players aren’t on the same page as the coaching staff. Kentucky had appeared to be headed in the right direction following wins over Tennessee and at Auburn last week, but reverted to past problems against the Crimson Tide.

“(It was a) tough game, but we still haven’t totally bought in — individual players haven’t,” Calipari said. “Obviously late in the game, we took chances, we left our feet, we fouled and we let them get offensive rebounds.

“It’s all that we talked about late in the game — give them one tough shot, do not foul, do not leave your feet and if they beat us that way, we will go home and say, ‘hey, they just haven’t bought in and that is what we are doing.’ This is a team that is growing and getting better, we showed signs of that and now we took a step back – this is a hard place to play.”

Kentucky’s main issue against Alabama turned out to be a problem that has plagued the squad the entire season — lack of consistency in the backcourt and an inexperienced go-to player in a close game

 

Jan 23, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) dribbles toward the basket during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Now that John Wall is healthy and playing buzz for the Wizards, is there is a “MVP type” buzz about him? Let’s not go quite that far, but Washington fans are excited about Wall being back:

 

John Wall may be the NBA’s player of the year.

The Washington Wizards have won five of their last seven games headed into Wednesday’s late contest at Utah, including four of six since the guard returned from offseason knee surgery. That’s Herculean after they started the year 4-28. The former 2010 top pick was once deemed an underachiever, but rallying this sorry crew to more than just a few fluke wins is Jordanesque.

StubHub doesn’t even have Wizards tickets for less than $1 anymore.

Forget Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Wall is pulling off an MVP-type season if Washington posts a winning record the remainder of the season.

 

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