Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: What to Watch for in Nassau


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All week, members of the media have been giving non-specific accounts of several Kentucky basketball practices as the team prepares for its pre-season trip to the Bahamas. And the reports are enough to make any ‘Cats fan wish Big Blue Madness was tomorrow instead of 2 months away.

On Sunday, the Wildcats unofficially tip-off the 2014-2015 college basketball season, providing fans with their own opportunity to see what the media have been privy to all week long. And, while the outcomes of these games in Nassau are relatively meaningless (who, aside from UofL fans, will really remember or care if Kentucky wins or loses in the Bahamas) the games—against some pretty decent competition—give fans plenty to chew on from now until mid-October.

With that in mind, this is what I’ll be looking for while Kentucky is in the Bahamas (which, by the way, is the only other country besides The Gambia whose official name begins with “The”):

1. Body Language: Stop me if you’ve this before, but Kentucky’s body language last year, especially from the Harrison Twins, was, at times, terrible. At this point, body language and the Harrison Twins is a broken record. It’s the story that has been repeated as often as “WCS was a wide receiver in high school”. To their detractors, it was evidence that they were entitled overhyped prima donnas. But Aaron and Andrew have put in a lot of work this summer, not just to be better physically but mentally as well. From Brett Dawson, at

"“In fact, in practices this week the twins have been noticeably more vocal. Andrew Harrison said he’s enjoyed having freshmen teammates ask him questions, and he’s tried to take on a more active leadership role.The result of all this changes — of bodies and body language — has led to another significant switch.The dynamic between the twins and Calipari, too, differs dramatically from a year ago.”"

Calipari has been vocal in saying the games in the Bahamas won’t be easy. So when they make a mistake or the team struggles, how do the Twins respond?

2. Poythress BEAST mode: Alex Poythress has been one of the more difficult players to get a read on, frustrating fans and Cal alike. He has all of the tools to be one of the most dominant players in college basketball but too often, as if often written, he seems content to linger in the shadows and let others take over. In Nassau, I want to see a confident Poythress doing what he does best—hitting the mid-range jumper, taking it strong inside, and rebounding with authority. Kentucky should have matchup advantages at every position this season but if Poythress doesn’t bring it every night, the team could concede an advantage at small forward. Poythress, as a junior, is—along with WCS—the old man of this group. It’s time for him to step up and be the player everyone believes he can be.

3. Freshman Learning Curve: As many others have written—and as Calipari, himself, has said—the advantage he has from so many guys returning this season is fewer number of new guys who have to learn his system. Calipari has the advantage of starting 5 guys who already know how to play “Cal ball”, lessening the impact the new guys have to have for Kentucky to be successful. But, no one expects Ulis or Booker or Towns or Lyles to sit at the end of the bench and play garbage minutes. All 4 freshmen are expected to be contributors this season and all 4 could, at one point this season, find themselves in the starting lineup. So the faster they learn how to play Cal’s way, the faster they become an integral part of this year’s team. There will be growing pains along the way, there always are. But in the Bahamas, do we see freshmen (not including Lyles who is out recovering from a leg injury) who seem well on their way to understanding how to play in Cal’s system or do we see freshmen who still have a long ways to go?

These are the 3 things I’m looking for while the ‘Cats play some August basketball. And, for me, it will tell me how far along they are to winning #9 this season. Ultimately, does Cal have a lot of work to do before the season begins for real in November or can he spend his time until then fine tuning the edges?