Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, another Blue/White scrimmage has come and gone. This is kind of a rite of passage for Kentucky from true adolescence into adulthood, and a stepping stone to the exhibition season.
This was a particularly competitive scrimmage, nearly going into overtime. Had Archie Goodwin not missed his only free throw attempt all night long at the end of the game, with a chance to shoot 3 to tie, we could have seen the first OT Blue/White scrimmage in my memory. Alas, it was not to be, but part of me rebels at the idea of an overtime Blue/White scrimmage. It seems a bit too much.
Overall, we saw what we see almost every year -- a bunch of new guys, running around at random, making some boneheaded plays along with some spectacular ones. Even the scorekeepers got into the laid-back attitude, registering Kyle Wiltjer as 1-1 on 3-point shots when I counted at least four attempts from three in the second half alone, and I know he had at least one in the first. Maybe they should promote me to official B/W scrimmage scorekeeper.
Be that as it may, here is my take on the good and the bad, starting with the bad:
- Twany Beckham's back injury. I hope he gets over that, because we are going to need him at times.
- Ballhandling. The official score had turnovers at 9 and 12 apiece, but I'd say there were at least 30 between the two teams.
- Toughness. This team needs to be a lot tougher, but of course, in a scrimmage, you don't want them to be tough. Still, I sense that these kids are not really ready for the contact they are about to get.
- Fitness. Nerlens Noel is still out of shape, and Willie Cauley-Stein also showed some fitness questions, as did Wiltjer and Harrow.
- Togetherness. This is still a work in progress, but it should be at this point. Too much "Me" going on out there.
- Wow, is this team athletic. It may have more raw athleticism than last year. It is notably less skilled, though.
- Attack. I saw a lot of attacking the rim, and that's what we want here.
- Shot-blocking. Both Cauley-Stein and Noel are threats to reject everything.
- Togetherness. I noted that as a bad because of where it is right now. It is a good because they are trying very hard, and will succeed.
- Cauley-Stein was a revelation. I thought Calipari might have been blowing smoke up our backside, but no, he was telling it like it is. He noticeably slowed down in the second half, though.
- Archie Goodwin. That kid is going to be great. He has some characteristics of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and some of John Wall. He defended far better than anyone else. You have got to love that.
- Jarrod Polson. What's not to love? He played very well in almost every aspect. He shot the ball, he showed good judgment, and he was modestly effective on defense.
- Nerlens Noel. Some will think he didn't do that much, but he blocked 6 shots (even though the apparently catatonic official scorekeeper showed him with only 3) and affected several others. He is not a good offensive player, but he is astonishingly quick for a man his size and his hops are otherworldly.
- Jon Hood. It was good to see him play so well.
- Julius Mays. He can flat shoot it, and we need that.
Overall, this was a lot of fun. I could have put some praise on everybody, but six is enough. I liked what I saw, and even though we have a lot of work to do, it is the kind of work that is definitely doable.
Kentucky isn't Final Four material yet, but you can see the potential. Let's hope it is realized.