Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, tonight is the first official "competition" we will see for the 2013-14 iteration of the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team. This is an exciting time in the Bluegrass, and this will be an exciting night.
I love Big Blue Madness. It is fun and full of rah-rah, all that home-team bric-a-brac we all love about college sports. But Big Blue Madness is just a big production, aimed mainly at a kind of entertainment with basketball, not really so much about basketball itself. The Blue-White scrimmage is more of the latter and less of the former, although it still has little to do with the real world.
Last year's Blue-White scrimmage was where we got an inkling of how good Willie Cauley-Stein could be, and where we saw the harbingers that, if we had properly examined them in context, might have given us the idea that last year's team just wasn't going to be quite cricket in the sense of a championship-caliber team. Let's look back at a few of the significant observations from last season's Blue-White game postmortem and how they turned out.
I noted that Archie Goodwin was "going to be great," and he manifestly was not. I got caught up in the fact that he was hard to stop going to the rim in a man-to-man scrimmage, but had no inkling he would turn into a one-trick pony during the season.
But I do wonder — what if he were back, and facing the new version of the college rules? At least half, and probably more like 2/3 of the charges he got whistled for last year would have been fouls on the defense this season, if the referees do what is being demanded of them.
Ballhandling was a big issue last year. That's something I'm going to look very carefully at this time in the scrimmage. Ballhandling was a problem for Kentucky all year last season.
I observed that there was "too much 'Me'" going on out there. That never completely got eliminated. I'll be watching for that again
I observed the team lacked toughness. That didn't change, and it was a constant criticism last year.
Here are some observations made in the comments from last year's postmortem for your consideration:
- I wish I could recall how I felt after this scrimmage last year. Was I thinking these guys have a lot of work to do? - LyricSmith
- Goodwin played the best (if not the only) defense. I am pleased with his play after he got warmed up. I thought Poythress laid back too much, but he played better offensively in the second half. Harrow has not yet accepted the pass-first mentality, but I’m sure Cal will convince him. - Jdogblue
- Not sure Goodwin had that good of a night in Cal’s system He took 22 shots, the most of anyone on the team. Assists 3 and Turnovers 4. What we saw last night was a heck of an athlete playing HS ball. Not somebody who has got the idea of shared sacrifice yet. He’ll get there. .... Harrow, I like a lot. I just like him. He seems like a really cool kid! But it’d be even cooler if he would pick his head up and look around when he drives. 6 Assists to 2 TO’s is a good ratio. Ryan, I’m rooting for you big time. And, please avoid the hard picks. - cincyblue
- I like the athleticism, like everyone else, but the skill level and bball IQ drop-off from last year is staggering to me. Hope this bunch are quick learners, cuz they’ll need to be. - kcgard2
- I think all we learned on that front is that the Wiltjer abosolutely cannot guard wings. - KDH2011
- Could Polson start for another team? If so, do you think he should transfer after his junior year for that one last opportunity? - Wheatgerm
Just for a little comparison and contrast, here are some excerpts from comments made in the 2011-12 Blue-White scrimmage postmortem:
- Kidd-Gilchrist is Liggins 2.0. Not only will be be a great glue guy, he’s going to get buckets. - Alex Scutchfield
- Call me crazy, but in my mind Polson is the backup for PG. Kid looked like he belonged. - darkandbloody
- I see 5 potential A-A players and 7 potential All-SEC players on this UK team. - FortyYearCatFan
Overall, the comments were a lot more doubtful in 2012-13 than 2011-12, which is unsurprising. Most people marveled over last year's team's athleticism, but there were early doubts about Harrow, which as it turns out, was a major problem last season.
In 2011-12, the doubts were a lot fewer, and mostly ran to the bench guys rather than the starters. If you go read the threads, you saw that Terrence Jones was very much the man of the hour, and I think his impact on the championship team is consistently underrated. Everyone still talks about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, because he was the "soul" of that team, and Anthony Davis, because he was so extraordinary as a presence, but Terrence Jones was a huge factor on that team.
So will we see Poythress step into the role of Jones? Whither Willie Cauley-Stein? Who from the returners will be able to decisively displace the incoming young guns, if anyone?
As in years before, we'll begin to get answers to all these questions, and probably several more tonight. It's kind of amazing, when you look back, how much of the future you can see in a team at this point in the season.
What gives me great confidence is John Calipari, and the way he is reacting publicly. I have never seen him more calm, more self-assured, and more confident in his players. Even 2012 had more warnings out of Calipari than this year. To be honest, though, that could be because of the reduced NCAA practice restrictions, which ought to give us a better product on the floor tonight than we saw in either of the last two years. If not, we may have some legitimate reasons for concern.
Okay, enough food for thought. We've got all day to get our minds right for the big event tonight, and as usual, we'll have the game thread, postmortem, and all that business.