Kentucky Basketball: Are the Wildcats Over-Thinking the Game?

Terrence Jones is going to have to deal with pain in his hand for the rest of the year.

One of the things that you learn fairly early on in sports, and by that I mean by the time you get into you twenties, usually, is that "paralysis by analysis" is not just a term that applies to business. Over-thinking the game ... any game, really ... makes it harder to play, less fun, and generally produces poor results.

Because of the speed of basketball, and the tiny little things that go into making a particular play a success or failure, it's pretty easy to "over-think" the game. Classic signs of this problem are hesitations or careful approaches to something that should be more of a reaction than a deliberate act.

Terrence Jones discusses just this problem with Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

"I'm just not thinking as much," Jones said after UK beat Arkansas on Tuesday night.

When asked to elaborate, Jones noted the distraction of more than one preoccupation.

"Just being less conscious about my hand," he said, a reference to the finger he dislocated against Chattanooga on Dec. 17. "Worrying about messing up because I wasn't playing like I was" as a freshman. "Just thinking too much about every little play."

Jones is right. Trying to think too much about the game is counterproductive, especially in basketball, where instinctive decisions are often required. As you play the game for years and years, you learn the fundamentals -- blocking out your man, two handed rebounds, the easy pass, the open shot -- and you practice them so that they become second nature.

But it's absolutely critical to trust your instincts in basketball. Sometimes instincts are wrong, but usually only in a very limited set of circumstances. Basketball, despite the complexity of some of the patterns coaches run to get shots and defend certain situations, is a very simple game -- run, jump, dribble, shoot, and pass. If you do all these things as hard as you can, take a limited number of risks, be unselfish, and just have fun playing the game, you will usually play well. Sometimes not in every way, of course -- all players have off nights -- but if one thing isn't working and you are working hard at everything else, it usually takes care of itself.

So kudos to Terrence for thinking less and playing more, and it would be useful if everyone on the team took note -- it's possible that Jones is not the only one with this problem, and I'm looking at you, Marquis Teague. I'm really excited by what Teague did against the Arkansas Razorbacks, and I hope he has finally reached the tipping point in his freshman season where it all starts to make sense.

Enjoy the game, play hard, and react. Players must trust their coaching, and themselves, equally. They didn't get to be Kentucky basketball players by doing bad things on the basketball court, but rather by doing good things.

One other note -- that finger is still an issue for Jones, and will be for the rest of the season. Dislocations like that take many months to heal completely. You can play through it, but dislocated fingers are highly subject to re-injury. It won't be 100% healed until summer at the least, assuming he doesn't hurt it again between now and then.

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