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Kentucky Basketball: Fix One Problem, and the Rest Will Follow

Kentucky has a lot of problems right now, and fixing them all is a fool's errand, but there is one very fixable problem that will mitigate them all.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The gnashing of teeth among Big Blue Nation to this point has been loud, however, it is nothing compared to the added heartburn of what a home loss to the hated Cardinals would do.

For the record, not only do I think we beat Louisville, I think it is by double digits, and I think it will be because of what I think is the solution to all of Kentucky's problems.

If you wanted to, we could cover a litany of problems as to why this team is one of Calipari's worst teams:

  • Skal is playing terrible and actually hurting the team and he is supposed to be our best player
  • Our guards could not hit water if they fell out of a boat
  • There is no flow to the offense
  • Our interior defense is putrid
  • One of the guys who is the best at getting fouled is one of our worst free throw shooters of all time
  • This team is not tough, they are easily pushed around and will not fight for the rebounds
  • It seems like every game there is someone out with an injury
  • This team cannot hit free throws (although really they can, sans Briscoe and Lee UK shoots 79%)

I am sure there are more I am missing, but in my opinion there is only ONE real problem with this team and it is also the easiest to fix: MAKE SHOTS.  If this team just makes a few more jumpers, a few more three pointers, I think almost everything else will be a moot point.

The reason it is the easiest to fix is because we have players that can shoot, they are just not shooting well.  Jamal Murray is streaky, but he should be shooting around a 40% clip from three (and after Saturday he is at 39%).  Tyler Ulis shot greater than 40% from three last year, I am confident he is much closer to being a 40% three point shooter than the 26% shooter he is now.

Briscoe is simply not a three point shooter, but there is no reason he should not be at least a 30% three point shooter (24%).  Derek Willis just needs playing time and he is a 35-40% three point shooter with confidence.  We have skilled players, but they are not shooting with any skill.

Shooting is also more mental than it is physical, you can see it in Isaiah Briscoe's rigidity and body language that he almost dreads shooting a three, Tyler Ulis seems to be pressing to be perfect, and Willis simply has erratic playing time. Murray seems to be that guy that might be coming out of this funk.

All of the reasons I listed above are mostly true as to why we are not a good team, but when you hit shots at just a normal clip, they almost all go away:

  • Skal: right now teams are sagging on us and quickly doubling him to take advantage of his weaknesses.  We make shots, they cannot sag, they cannot run to Skal and he is going to see much more 1 on 1s.  His game improves, his confidence improves and it becomes an exponential benefit at that point
  • If Briscoe starts hitting his free throws even at a 70% clip he turns into so much more of a threat.  Being as good as he is at getting in and through the lane and to the rim, if you add in a 70% free throw clip, he adds 3-4 points per game to his total.
  • The team is not a tough team, at least from the banging standpoint, but they are tough when things are rolling (see the second half of OSU).  Also, if teams have to respect our shooting more, it is much easier to take a guy one on one vs. driving into a sagging zone or fighting through a double team with another guy arms length away.
  • We do not fight for rebounds, this is true and I am not sure it can be fixed, but I do know that more made shots = less need to try and get offensive rebounds, which hides that deficiency a little more.
  • It certainly helps with the flow as well, if all three guards are looking for a spot to drop a dagger instead of hoping to not be the one that has to shoot a three, then they become so much more dangerous.

Teams that have 3-4 legitimate three point threats open everything else up.  Much like in Football if you have no passing game, it is easy for teams to stuff the box and stop the run/bring the house.  The same applies in Basketball, if you cannot shoot over a defense, why bother extended out?  You can sit back and dare us to shoot and likely miss, or force us to drive into a quasi-brick wall, hoping for the best.

This team has the added advantage of guard play, and we all know that in today's game, guard play is what wins championships. Once Tyler Ulis gets back to his normal shooting, Briscoe attains ANY glimmer of confidence in his shot, and Murray continues his progression we are going to be fine, and scary.

The old saying goes that ‘winning cures all', well I am of the thought that with this latest iteration of Coach Cal's team, ‘making shots cures all', as well.