He’s the best spot-up jump shooter in the country. His high release on a nearly 7 foot frame is hard to bother. What inquiring minds have wanted to know about Kyle Wiltjer is can he get to the rim? And of late, Wiltjer has shown that, while not fast, he can be crafty and get to the paint and, yes, create his own shot. Teaming up with Ryan Harrow with the free-throw line extended, ball screening action (especially prevalent during the Ole Miss game), Kyle has shown a knack for getting to the open spot for his own look or passing to an open teammate. The more he learns the skills he does have, the more people might overlook some of the skills he doesn’t.
Nerlens Noel. After 22 games, he’s still on pace to break Anthony Davis’ block record and Rajon Rondo’s steals record. That pretty much covers it. The kid is amazing and in 10 years, we’ll sit back and tell stories how we watched him play.
The X Factors:
Obviously, he’s the oldest player on the team and Julius Mays is no doubt on the receiving end of a lot teasing from his teammates. But, as the game at Texas A&M showed, Mays seems to be ready to pick up where Darius Miller left off last year. When the team needs a play, when the team needs the big free throws to be made, Mays seems to be the one to make the play. His three point stroke has returned and, even more than that, his shots come when the Cats have needed him the most. More often than not, Mays is involved in the plays at critical junctures of the game and the Cats have been winning as a result.
Perhaps the best thing to happen during the South Carolina game was the return of Willie Cauley-Stein (or however ESPN color commentator Dino Gaudio referred to him during the game). After missing four games after a knee procedure and in limited action against Texas A&M, Cauley-Stein returned to score 13 points and grab six rebounds in 22 minutes. With is overall play, it’s evident that his athleticism will be welcome asset as the Cats enter the meat of the SEC schedule and get ready to head into March.
As the ESPN broadcast crew pointed out last night, in his last 100 games in February, March and April, Coach John Calipari is 90-10. The diehards of the Big Blue Nation have been saying since the dreadful loss at Notre Dame, “Wait until March.” Well, flipping the calendar to February we can all see that March is on the horizon. Perhaps it has taken longer than expected for this team to get it and for their collective light to get turned on. But, as they continue to improve, it’s getting harder and harder not to like this team’s chances to put together another deep NCAA Tourney run. Because, after all, the pieces are all starting to come together.