With the Governor's Cup game now only 6 days away, we here at A Sea of Blue have been non-stop football. Another good reason for that is because there is precious little meaningful basketball information to discuss.
However, when I was perusing Rivals the other day, I came across this Rivals piece debating whether or not Kentucky is ready to contend for the SEC in basketball this year. As you might expect, one pundit (Bob McClellan) takes the "yes" side and another (Andrew Skwara) takes the "no." So I'd like to comment on this debate a bit.
First of all, there are legitimate doubts about Kentucky's back court this season. Even with Galloway and Liggins eligible, we have to keep in mind that we are asking a freshman to run the point with Porter as his likely backup. I don't see Galloway spending a lot of time at point guard as others apparently do, because I don't think it is really his natural position. Liggins, to my mind, is a natural point despite his size, whereas Galloway just has the kind of skills that point guards need in abundance.
But in the end, it doesn't matter much who mans the spot. What matters is, can our personnel be effective at that position? Skwara's point is that there are too many questions about our team, from point guard to scoring to back court depth. What he doesn't really address is our size, length and strength as a team. This is among the tallest, thickest and most athletic Kentucky teams in my memory from one to five, and among the most flexible when it comes to personnel. We have four back-court players who can play any position from the point to the wing forward, and plenty of size and depth in the front court. Scoring will come, of course, from Meeks and Patterson, but also from Stephenson. The 6'5" - 6'7" guys will provide all the athleticism, ballhandling and depth we will need, as well as defensive pressure that will surely be frightening before the season is out.
When you compare Kentucky to the best teams in the SEC, you find that, questions aside, we have lots of big bodies we can put almost anywhere. No other team in the SEC is as flexible as Kentucky, and if, as we can safely assume, the team takes to Gillispie's defensive mindset earlier than last year, our opponents can look forward to a lot of 30% nights shooting the ball, and to Patrick Patterson dunking on their heads. If this team can develop a bit of a nasty attitude, I can imagine the fear returning to Florida and Tennessee's eyes as they take the Rupp Arena floor. That may not happen, but with this mix of personnel and the right attitude, it certainly could.
It was not that long ago that the Kentucky Wildcats utterly dominated this league with a defense of terrifying efficiency. Those 'Cats emasculated teams, routing them like the Redeem Team did most of it's opponents in the Olympics. In those days, Kentucky did not field even one player as talented as Patrick Patterson, and I submit that the combination of Meeks, Patterson and Stephenson will be more than enough scoring for this year's team, combined with chip-ins from the rest of the players. It isn't the offense that teams should be worried about next year. It's the defense, size and athleticism that will take the floor.