The game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Albany Great Danes last night ushered in the 2015-16 basketball season, and there was a lot of good things and bad things to see there. Superficially, the guard play continues to be exciting, the overall size of the team is not significantly worse than last season, and the skill level is arguably higher. Kentucky has the pieces to be really good, perhaps even great this season, although I doubt if anyone is thinking in historically great terms like most of us were last season.
So let’s take a quick look a the things that went right, went wrong, and … just went.
Note: Just so you know, I don’t know how often I’ll be offering analysis on games, but I’ll certainly be offering some. It all depends on my time and motivation, which can vary, so don’t count on this every game.
Defensive efficiency was a bit of a disappointment at 0.93 points per possession. Albany is a good team, currently ranked around 134th in the land by Kenpom.com and projected to win 20 games this season. But in Rupp Arena with the length that Kentucky has, I would’ve expected better.
The big deal with DE in this game was 2-point FG percentage. Kentucky allowed the Great Danes to make 54.5% of their 2-point field goals. If Albany had made any kind of reasonable 3-point and free throw percentage, they would’ve been right in this game at the end.
We can’t really complain about Kentucky’s shooting. They made 67% of their 2-point field goals and 35% of threes. Free throw accuracy was poor, but that was mostly because of who was taking them. Marcus Lee has to improve his free throws or his minutes will suffer.
Really liked what I saw from Charles Matthews and Derek Willis. Willis still has to toughen up, but his skill is obvious and he can really steal minutes at the three.
Alex Poythress still lacks that certain something.
My player of the game was Jamal Murray. Five turnovers was a bit much, but Tyler Ulis also had that many. I don’t expect turnovers to be a problem, though, except early in the year.
Defensive intensity wasn’t really there except from Matthews and Ulis. We need more players to be determined on defense, especially in the back court.
Skal Labissiere was a non-factor. I doubt we’ll see that very often, but they double-teamed him every time he touched the ball. Kentucky has to learn to make teams pay for doing that, and they did a decent job of that last night from everywhere but the arc.
Marcus Lee did a great job on the glass, and shooting the ball.
Shot selection was mostly pretty good, but there was too much standing around on offense and too little communication on defense.
Gotta love 57% assists. Thats a continuation of last season’s outstanding numbers.
I’m kind of impressed at how the officials are calling the game when it comes to allowing freedom of movement. Will it continue?
Below you’ll find a few of my comments on the four factors for this game, and my comments on some of them.
(Four Factors data courtesy of Kenpom.com)
I didn’t comment on the shooting, but it was self-evidently excellent. Offensive rebounding and FTR were both good as well, I’d take those numbers every game. Obviously, some of the other numbers weren’t so great, and I’ve noted them thus.
Overall, this was kind of a typical first game for Kentucky. They did some things well (shooting, offensive rebounding, assists), some things poorly (defense, turnovers) and they won the game comfortably. Albany was a solid team, and Kentucky’s lack of Isaiah Briscoe as a precaution surely helped make the game closer than we might have wished.
I don’t think Kentucky this season is not going to be a dominant team early, Guard play is going to advance very quickly, and as we all know, college basketball is a guard-dominated game and good play in the backcourt will get you very deep into the NCAA Tournament, particularly when your team also has legitimate inside threats, which Kentucky definitely does.
Overall, this game was a solid effort that highlighted some areas for improvement. That’s what early games are for, and I’m glad to see us playing some higher competition this season than we normally do at the outset. It will probably pay dividends down the road.