I meant to post this last week, but time got the best of me. Once again, we are doing a short, two-question round table for our front-page authors. As usual, I offered my response before I read the others.
Now that last year’s results have had time to cool, what is your single biggest criticism of John Calipari from last season’s campaign?
A2D2: My biggest criticism of Cal is not giving the bench players more playing time. In the early games against Lafayette or Eastern Michigan I think the game was 100% safe around the 10 minute marks of the second half. Did he sub the bench in before the two minute mark? I don’t think so. Would it have made a difference at season’s end? I don’t think so. The prime example of why I’m the blogger and he is the coach. :-)
JC25: After years of elite recruiting classes, a lack of depth finally came back to bite Coach Cal. His 2010 to 2012 teams were buoyed by upperclassmen contributions left from the Gillispie era (Patrick Patterson, Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller), but Calipari failed to add future complementary pieces in his Kentucky recruiting classes. Potential upperclassmen contributors like Darnell Dodson and Stacey Poole quickly flamed out, leaving Calipari to rely on transfers (Julius Mays) and walkons (Jarrod Polson). Incredibly, out of all of Coach Cal’s UK recruits, only Kyle Wiltjer will have played past his sophomore season. I expect that trend to start changing next year. Cal seems more cognizant of the value of depth, and Kentuckians Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis should bolster rosters down the road.
Greg: My only criticism, and this is probably minor, because some will not see it as a criticism, is how he stuck with players that obviously were not getting the job done. Admittedly a short bench was probably the overall deciding factor, however, in my mind at least, had some of those guys spent more time on the bench early on, and players who needed developing been played, it might have meant for a longer ( and better) post season.
Some folks will see this as loyalty, and I have no argument there. Cal is insanely loyal to his guys. But there were some people on this squad that needed someone to get their attention early on. Cal tried to let them play through that. He’s the coach and not me, but my fuse isn’t that long.
Hank: Encouraging Teague to enter the Draft. That cost us dearly. I’ve still not cooled off from last season’s team and maybe never will. I don’t ever want to see that kind of attitude again. Noel was, of course, the exception. Loved him. He was never part of the problem.
Glenn: I think Calipari rested on his laurels a bit last year, and wound up not getting enough players into the program. We needed one more athletic wing player to make it theoretically possible to sit somebody. Calipari thought he could get it right every time like he did last year, and learned that he was not quite that good.
Considering our 2012-13 results, what one thing will you be watching for during Big Blue Madness as a signpost for how 2013-14 will go?
A2D2: Easy. I’m looking for cheers for their other teammates and FUN! They must have FUN! This year’s team didn’t have a lot of fun.
JC25: Leadership is the obvious choice, and incoming recruits like the Harrison twins and Julius Randle have that in spades. But one thing I’ll be looking for is a major uptick in defensive intensity. Beyond the intimidating presence of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky really had little to boast about defensively last year. The backcourt was severely undersized, UK lacked a true 3, and Wiltjer was a sieve at the 4. Next year, the Harrisons come ready-made to stifle opposing guards, while a mix-and-match frontcourt of Cauley-Stein, Randle, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson should give opposing bigs fits. And if Poythress can embrace being a true 3 (his likely NBA position), this team could really go places. Big Blue Madness isn’t exactly a defensive showcase, but check out the sheer size and athleticism of next year’s team. They should be fun to watch.
Greg: Energy, effort, and accuracy. I want to see some shooting. Baskets being made. Hustle is fine, and the one thing I want most from my team, but I want to see skill and plenty of it.
Hank: Hopefully, we’ll find out who has leadership qualities that might be able to carry the team. Other than that, about the only things you can determine from BBM is who loves performing in front of large crowds and who can dance. :-P
Glenn: Shooting. Shooting killed us last year, especially perimeter shooting. I’ll be looking for a sufficient number of players who can consistently shoot the three point shot, and the range at which they shoot it. If we don’t have confident 3-point shooters next year, I’m going to worry.
So now, it’s time for you to weigh in with your thoughts on the matter. What do you think?