With the Wildcats sitting at 9-2 and Louisville coming up before entering into SEC play, here are five questions facing Kentucky Basketball.
1. Will Skal improve?
He simply has to if Kentucky wants to make a run in March. Kentucky will need Skal to toughen up inside in order for the Wildcats to improve on both sides of the ball. He is being pushed around and out-rebounded by opposing big men at an alarming rate. Skal's 3.6 rebounds per game are equal to Tyler Ulis' rebounding averages, good for fifth on the team. His 9.8 points per game are not too troubling but Skal simply has to improve in nearly every facet of his game to make Kentucky a contender going forward.
2. Can Skal play the five?
That's a highly-debated question. Being labeled as "soft", and justly so, Skal has earned a lot of criticism for failing to bang with other post players to grab rebounds and make contested shots in the paint. Because of this, many are saying that he should become more of a perimeter-oriented player, focusing on mid-range jumpshots. Kentucky is severely lacking a strong post presence right now, and after being spoiled with the big men who came before him, Wildcat fans are becoming very frustrated with his play right now.
3. Can Kentucky afford to have Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe on the floor late in close games?
This is a question I have pondered a lot lately. Late in close games, free throw shooting is essential and right now, Lee and Briscoe are struggling severely in that department. Combined, the two have made 28-60 free throws this year. Marcus Lee is the team's second leading rebounder and has shown much improvement in that area. Couple that with his defense and shot blocking ability, and you can see why having Lee on the floor during crunch time would be valuable. However, his free throw shooting makes him a liability on the offensive end.
The same goes for Briscoe. I love his ability to attack the rim, but attacking the rim results in a lot of fouls. Late in the game, Kentucky cannot afford to miss opportunities at the free throw line late. Briscoe also really struggles with three-point shooting, which also is often needed in late-game scenarios especially if trailing. Lee and Briscoe could be valuable to have late in the game, but without much-improved free throw shooting, Coach Calipari may have a hard time allowing them to stay on the floor.
4. What can Tai Wynyard provide?
Many Wildcat fans are hoping he can provide a post presence, or someone who can get in the paint and bang for rebounds and loose balls, while scoring easy buckets around the rim. However, it is really hard to say what Wynyard will really bring to this team.
Most of us have seen very little of his on-court play. Wynyard should be a welcome addition to this team, but fans should probably temper their expectations for him, as he is still very young and raw in terms of basketball skills. However, Cal will welcome the added front court depth.
5. How far can this team go?
The question that Kentucky fans talk about from Big Blue Madness (and sometimes before) all the way through the season. It's still way too early to tell. Many are already giving up hope on this season (an exaggerated stance to take), while some still believe this team can put it together to make a championship run.
Kentucky looks like a mess on offense right now, period. However, with regular improvement like we have seen from other Calipari teams at Kentucky, I expect the Cats to make a run in the tournament. I may be proven wrong, but this team has pieces in place that could make them a tough out come March. Right now, it is just so hard to say. They could be in the Final Four or be a second round exit. This will be a question more easily answered around February.