Where has the time gone?
We are 20 games into what everyone hope to be a 40 game season with the Cats sitting on a 16-4 record. There have been highs and lows half way through this season although mostly highs in the last several games and hopefully moving forward that will continue.
With the NBA All-Star Game approaching and all the talk of who deserves to be awarded a spot in the game, it got us thinking about which Cats deserve awards at the midway point of this season.
MVP: Tyler Ulis
This should come as no surprise to anyone that has watched Kentucky at any point in this season. Ulis has been the Cats' leader since the beginning of the season and has played consistently well. He is averaging 15.5 points a game, good for 14th in the SEC, and 6.1 assists, which is second in the SEC and 17th in the country.
Not only does Ulis distribute the ball at an extremely high level, he also protects the ball only having 38 turnovers this season giving his the 29th best assist/turnover ratio in the country at 3.05. However, Ulis' importance to the team is much deeper than just stat related. He is a true floor general and an extension of Coach Cal on the floor putting people in the spots that they need to be at times and providing toughness to the team which is beginning to become contagious.
Rookie of the Year: Jamal Murray
This award was easier than even the MVP since an argument could be made for Murray to be the team MVP. Murray leads the team and is fifth in the SEC averaging 17.5 points a game while also grabbing 4.8 rebounds and shooting 38% from the three point line good for second on the team.
The only issue with him this season is that he can force shots at times and not make the extra pass. This shows with his team leading 53 turnovers on the season. However, Murray has shown the ability to be a star at times this season, none more than the Performance of the Year against Ohio State.
Although it was a losing effort for the Cats, Murray was outstanding scoring 27 second half points and 33 for the game including 7-9 from three point range. Also, Ulis' performance against Auburn is an honorable mention for Performance of the Year.
Most Improved: Derek Willis
Willis has been playing amazing as of late for the Cats averaging a double-double of twelve points and ten rebounds in the last four games. Throughout the other 16 games, this season Willis was averaging five points and two rebounds including seeing no time against Ohio State.
And in the last four games, Willis has averaged 30 minutes a game compared to under twelve in the first 16 games. He has made a huge difference for the team since entering the starting lineup helping the Cats to three of their best performances of the season.
Willis stretches the floor shooting a team leading and eighth in the SEC 42% from three point range. Not only have his stats improved, but the things that don't show up on the stat sheet have improved as well such as his defense, hustle, and passion for the game.
Most Underrated: Isaiah Briscoe
Everyone knows about how good Kentucky's backcourt is with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray but many people leave Briscoe out when talking about the backcourt. Briscoe is not only the third leading scorer on the team averaging ten points a game but is also the third leading rebounder on the team averaging over five a game.
Many people feel that Briscoe is out of control at times, and as a freshman, of course he is. However, he actually has one less turnover (37) on the season than Tyler Ulis (38). Obviously Briscoe doesn't handle the ball as much as Ulis but still as a guard that's an impressive stat. If he can get his jump shot to fall as it was against Missouri it makes Kentucky much more dangerous especially if the free throws start falling as well with his slashing ability.
Go Big Blue.