Kentucky Basketball: Coming Together

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Allow me  to interrupt College Football’s National Signing Day to talk about something that doesn’t get nearly enough coverage around these parts: University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball.  In all seriousness, I’m thrilled about the excitement surrounding UK Football and with the staff Head Coach Mark Stoops has assembled and looking at his first foray into recruiting in Lexington, the excitement is warranted.

However, there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played in the 2012-2013 season.  And don’t be surprised, but it looks as if this current edition of the Wildcats is finally starting to come together.  I’ve said for awhile that this team isn’t going to go out and beat every team by 20 points. I just don’t think the pieces are in place to do that. What this team needed and what we’re starting to see is how everyone’s roles are becoming more and more defined. Let’s take a look at the key players.

The Backcourt:

Obviously, this team goes as Ryan Harrow goes. When he’s on (Louisville), the Cats are stout on defense and efficient on defense. But when he’s off (Texas A&M,Baylor), the Cats are a rather unimpressive, disjointed mess.  Early in the season, when he was trying to work himself back into shape, it was obvious that he was looking for his place on the team.  Would he need to be more of a facilitator like Marquis Teague or a scoring point guard like Brandon Knight or would he just have to be a showman like John Wall?  At this point in the season, it appears like he’s going to have to be a mixture of all three, which is a very large burden, but one that he seems to have accepted and is beginning to excel at. Last night, Harrow was 5 for 5 from the field in the first half for 10 points, which set the pace for the Cats.  And that’s definitely a performance he can build on going forward.

Feb 5, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Archie Goodwin (10) shoots the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 77-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Has there been a more polarizing player in recent Kentucky Basketball history as Archie Goodwin? Some members of the Big Blue Nation are downright hostile toward him.  At this point, in a lot of people’s minds, Goodwin can’t buy right.  His every mistake is magnified and, in my opinion, blown out of proportion.  Archie knows and I think Coach Cal agrees, that he’s one of the few current Cats that can put the ball on the floor and get his own shot. Like almost every young guard with a quick first step, Goodwin’s first, and sometimes only, thought is to attack the basket relentlessly. At this level, however, Goodwin needs to learn when and how to make the right play. Archie has shown flashes of this understanding, but I think even he’d admit that he needs to continue working on.

The Frontcourt:

If Goodwin frustrates half of the fan base, then Alex Poythress frustrates the other half.  Physically, he’s probably the most ready for the NBA as anyone on the roster, but most people are left wondering how someone so gifted can literally disappear during long stretches of game action.  A lot as to do with Poythress’ ability to pick up two first half fouls in a relatively quick manner, which leads to banishment on the bench. But, I think the bigger reason is that Alex Poythress is the type of player that needs his “touches” on the offensive end to really get engaged in the game. Right or wrong, it’s evident that Cal believes the same because at the start of the South Carolina game, Poythress was down in the post, ready to work, which lead to 7 points and 9 rebounds. While 7 points may not be flashy, the 9 rebounds indicates that Poythress is finally ready to put that big, athletic body to work in the paint.


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