Many teams have had them. For some it was merely improvement at a position or the development of the team on one side of the ball. For this team, it may be one player and the diversity they could bring to the team.
There are few teams that have the ability to change their stripes from this point in the season. The Kentucky Wildcats are among those that can.
It's always a work in progress when you're talking about Calipari coached teams anyway. This year the work will progress later into the season. The freshman have been taking more time to get started (likely because there are so many), but now seem to be revving up their development by leaps and bounds.
Just a few weeks into this season, the team looked little different than last season. Just a few weeks ago, it looked like the Cats might not improve over last year's disappointing results. A few speculated as recently as the last 10 days that there was little hope for a banner year. With talent this raw, things can change in a hurry.
Kentucky is looking at times like a team that can dominate. It's also looking at times like a team that could beat itself against a lesser opponent. What this team's identity will be still remains to be seen, making everyone less comfortable than they'd like, but it's within their power to be a title team. What can be done from here?
There are several key components to a title run that can still be brought along even this late:
Derek Willis - Cal has been dogged for weeks about his inability to get Willis meaningful minutes, and for good reason. Where UK is struggling most at key, momentum building moments in a game, is on the offensive side of the ball. They get some great stops several trips down the court to build a decent margin, yet they have struggled to keep the offense flowing and push the lead out further, when their opponent is backed up against a wall.
Derek Willis could be a difference maker at just such moments.
What seems to stall the UK offense more than anything is the lack of a consistent inside-outside threat. Willis is big enough to bang for rebounds at both ends, he can finish at the rim, but more important than that, is that he can shoot from long range. The first thing defenses do when they get down a little bit against the Cats is back into a zone (the achilles heal of the DDMO?). It's a position of strength if the UK offense can't hit the 3.
Right now, there are options for three point production, but not consistent ones or ones that can also finish in the paint against bigger defenders. Derek Willis can be that option, although it remains to be seen how he will play defensively. He cannot be as bad at defense as Wiltjer, even if he may not shoot as well, and that is a good tradeoff for Cal.
There may be other key factors, but this may be the biggest by far. It remains to be seen if it proves accurate.
(Was upgrading my OS's yesterday and no time to double-check or post it, so I apologize if this has been talked about elsewhere.)