Coach Calipari's Wildcats sit at 12-3 after administering a solid beatdown in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. However, it could possibly be the most frustrating 12-3 record in UK history.
Hyperbole aside, sort of, it has become increasingly clear that this team will only go as far as its frontcourt will take it.
It would be very easy to spout off stats about how the frontcourt must produce for us to win and proclaim that as the magical solution to our problems. That is a very shortsighted, albeit true, way to look at it.
My goal here was to figure out what we actually need from the frontcourt on a nightly basis to win. You could try to make the same argument about the backcourt needing to get ___ production every night to win and you would be right.
However, the backcourt has been the more consistent group, and Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray consistently produce at often high levels.
I looked at Alex Poythress, Skal Labissiere, and Marcus Lee. I took their points, rebounds, and blocks for 9 games (the three losses, Duke, UL, ASU, Illinois St., Ole Miss, and Bama). Here is what came out the other end:
So, what did I learn? The biggest takeaway for me is how consistent Marcus Lee has been. I know we have all felt it and watched it, but to see it on paper like this is amazing.
Even in the Ohio State loss, he showed up. We simply could not overcome Tyler Ulis' likely worst performance as a ‘Cat combined with the Buckeyes shooting it like the ‘HE'S ON FIRE' mode on NBA Jam.
It also seems clear we need scoring from those three. There is not a giant difference in blocks or rebounds in wins or losses, but averaging 14 less points per game is clearly a big problem.
Therefore, what is the magic formula for those three? Looking at our three most impressive wins (Duke, Ole Miss, Bama IMO) it appears that would be 26 points, 20 rebounds, and 3 blocks from the big guys. That is, of course, assuming the backcourt brings it too.
Knowing what gets us home for a win, what could send us home during the NCAA Tournament if we play poorly? Based on the three losses and the UL home game, it appears that would be 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks from the frontcourt trio.
Knowing that Marcus Lee is usually good for right at a double-double, you would think the other 16 and 10 could EASILY come from Skal and Poythress. When Poythress is playing the role of Dr. Jekyll, he can and will usually get that on his own, but when Mr. Hyde shows up, it is on Skal to make that up.
So, in my opinion, the chance at a Final Four run depends on two things: Marcus Lee not fouling out and getting his norm, along with Poythress and Skal finding a way to score 16-20 points, and grab 8-10 rebounds between them.
Here is hoping that becomes the norm more than the exception going forward.