No one is quite sure what this Kentucky team is thus far into the college basketball season.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats head into SEC-play with a 10-2 record. With ugly losses to UCLA and Ohio State, but very impressive wins against Top-15 teams in Duke and Louisville, questions most definitely surround this team from fans, critics, John Calipari and the players themselves.
So what areas must Kentucky improve on in order to survive against the much-improved SEC?
Just Be Consistent
First things first, Kentucky needs consistent play from everybody on the team. Every other game has consisted of someone different contributing big time, which is nice.
However, when one game Jamal Murray puts up 33 points, then doesn't get to 10 the next game it doesn't help. Kentucky's most consistent player has been Marcus Lee, and he can only do so much.
Tyler Ulis had been affected by the elbow contusion until the Louisville game, Isaiah Briscoe has been streaky, and Skal Labissiere has been completely non-existent. All three of those guys have shown they can explode offensively while also doing other things consistently enough to make a positive impact each game.
There is so much talent on this roster, but they have to learn to all contribute game in and game out in order to survive.
While the offense has shown it can be very explosive, the defense has to improve for Kentucky. The SEC is bringing in major offensive firepower this year. Texas A&M has shooters that can spread the floor against anyone while leading the SEC in field-goal percentage (48.3%).
Vanderbilt can kill you in many different ways, LSU brings in Ben Simmons, one of the most dynamic and all-around great college players we have seen in years. Ole Miss has Stefan Moody, who is averaging 24 points per game so far, and Mississippi State has Malik Newman, who's catching fire after an ankle injury slowed him earlier this season.
Teams like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee are all going to play UK tough as well. Kentucky's defense got completely exposed in the losses to UCLA (in the paint) and Ohio State (from three-point range). Kentucky is more than likely going to drop a few in conference play, but defense is going to be key in coming out on top come March, not to mention getting a good seed on Selection Sunday.
Skal Must Come Out Of Hibernation
If Kentucky wants to remain relevant throughout the rest of the season, Skal Labissiere is going to HAVE to start producing. Whether bringing Skal off the bench to help ease the pressure off of him works or whatever it is going to take; Skal has to start playing tougher or we may see him fall off the map.
To be fair to Skal, he is averaging 1.9 blocks per game, good for fourth best in the SEC, so he is making an impact around the rim, but not enough that he's not been a liability more often than not as of late. With Kentucky struggling around the rim, it is a MUST that Labissiere gets it together.
But he also has to get his offensive game going after averaging just 3.67 points per game over his last six contests. He's not doing much on the boards either with just 2.5 rebounds per game over that same span. That's simply not going to cut it for this Kentucky team to come out of SEC play with less than seven losses, the most conference games UK has lost in a season under Calipari.
What do you think Kentucky must improve upon most to survive SEC play?