If you watch the Cats play this season, there are times when they look great, then there are times when they look as though something is missing. It’s hard to point out one single aspect that is lacking on this season’s team, but the things that seem to stand out the most are the lack of communication, lack of hustle and some players whether it be from the bench or starters simply don’t show up to play. Last night’s game against Boise State gave us some insight of why that the Cats are struggling early.
The best teams in college basketball talk to one another, the 2011-12 national championship did as well many other great championship teams from the past, but this season’s team simply isn’t talking to one other during games. Jimmy Dykes of ESPN mentioned several times during last night’s game broadcast about how Kentucky isn’t communicating. An interesting point from Dykes was that the crowd simply wasn’t into the game and that he believed that it was because of the lack of communication on the court. Dyke’s point was nearly proven when the players started to yell and get fired up after each big play or dunk. The audience started to get fired up as well simply because the players were.
But, communication isn’t the only issue, numerous times during last night’s game, Coach Cal could be hear yelling “go, run” or “play” over and over to players. But, that’s put of what comes with such a young team and the fact that many of these players are fresh out of high school. It seems as though when Coach Cal is yelling to his players, he is simply trying to get them used to the college game. As Coach Cal has said before, each season is different and it’s not fair to compare this season to any other. However, if you watch this team, they show signs of being a great team and soon, providing some of the mistakes are cleaned up. But, nothing that wasn’t expected from the start of the season.
Finally, players contributing, this seemed to be more of an issue during last night’s game than those previous, simply because not one bench player scored a single point in last night’s win. An easy explanation to this could simply be that the players had an off night against a very good and veteran Boise State team. With any basketball team, players could have an off night, whether it be starters or bench players. The main thing is not to have the majority of the team have an off night and despite two losses to Michigan State and Baylor, most of Kentucky’s players have contributed thus far.
Let’s not forget, one of Kentucky’s biggest surprises in Dominique Hawkins out of Richmond, Kentucky, as he has added some key depth to this season’s team. No one really thought that Hawkins would play much this season simply because of the star-studed #1 recruiting class coming-in to Lexington. But Hawkins proved everyone wrong, just as he did at Madison Central High School during his senior season. At Madison Central, Hawkins lead his Indians to their first state title in school history. Therefore, for Kentucky, there is more depth to choose from besides the McDonald’s All-Americans and Jordan-Brand players. Sure, players will have a bad night, but for the most part, they’ve been fairly consistent.
Besides Hawkins, the only other players that have consistently came off of the bench have been Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jarrod Polson, Derek Willis or Jon Hood (once he is well) to jump into the line-up. Kentucky has a ton of talent to work with and it takes time to gel together. Which could explain why there is some ‘issues’ during the start of the season. However, each game tells us something different about this season’s team.
So far, we know that Kentucky appears to be a pretty good foul shooting team, have dependable players in James Young, Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Hawkins, as well as they can make some key blocks when needed. While it may be frustrating to watch some of the struggles now, it could be a completely different story going into February. I personally believe that it is just a phase that Kentucky is going through and will be fine as the season progresses. There is still plenty to be optimistic about, it’s only December 11th, the Cats are resolving their issues early and they’re still ranked 11th after two losses. There is still plenty of time for the Cats to prove themselves and gel together more efficiently.