Kentucky Basketball: On Willie Cauley-Stein

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Willie Cauley-Stein is in a slump, it seems. Should Kentucky fans worry?

Okay, it's now the new thing to speculate on why Willie Caluey-Stein seems to be in a funk. Every season we see players do things like this — make a sudden regression below the mean to the point that people are wondering what could have possibly caused such a slide.

So how bad is Willie's current decline? This convenient chart from shows it vividly:

On January 11th against the Vanderbilt Commodores, WCS had a very good game, one that left many, including me, wondering if the Wildcats shouldn't be looking for Willie as more of a primary offensive post option. But immediately after Vandy, you can see the sudden production, and minutes, drop off.

It's also a fact that Willie's minutes have been in decline since the game against the Louisville Cardinals. Dakari Johnson has been the direct and most obvious beneficiary of WCS's diminution, as you can see by this Statsheet chart:

At virtually the same time Willie began his slide, Dakari stepped in and saw his minutes increase. Now, Dakari's production hasn't exactly zoomed up in terms of points and rebounds — he was getting almost as much done in 6 or 7 minutes as he is now in 15 or 20. But points and rebounds don't really measure Dakari's impact properly, since he also provides a consistent serious post scoring threat that WCS only occasionally provides, and that opens up driving lanes for the slashing perimeter guys and Julius Randle. He's very hard to account for man-to-man, where as WCS is lighter and much easier to put a body on inside.

As to why Willie is having this issue, I would simply postulate that it is the sophomore slump. We have seen this so many times, it's crazy. Consider this chart from Terrence Jones back in 2011-12:

Yeah, you remember this — Jones' decline began with the Indiana Hoosiers game, where he produced next to nothing. He wend into the deep freeze from December 10th to the end of 2011. When SEC play hit, he returned to form and the rest is history.

We've seen it before, we'll see it again, and to me, it's just something some players go through. What Willie is seeing now is peanuts compared to what Kyle Wiltjer went through his sophomore year. You get whiplash looking at his chart; it is quite literally depressing.

So don't worry about Willie, I'm pretty sure he'll be fine. He's hitting a phenomenon that many a sophomore has had to pass through to get to their destination, and in the meantime, we are likely to get a much-improved Dakari Johnson in the bargain. A worthy trade, I think.

Administrative Note: The Quickies will be late again today. The weather is taking a terrible toll on my time, as I have to taxi Petra back and forth from work when it's this bad — she refuses to drive in the snow, and her car is a rear-wheel drive. The Suburban is getting a workout this winter. - Ed.

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