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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Post-Troy Edition

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Kentucky escapes Troy, but defense seems to be improving. Football prepares for the Cardinals as Governor’s Cup looms.

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Troy v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Kentucky managed to defeat the Troy Trojans in Rupp Arena last night, but looked very vulnerable doing so. Calipari’s latest youth project continues to look very much like a high-school all-American team, although we are starting to see signs that the defense is improving.

Let me explain what I mean by that — Five games into the season, Kentucky has allowed only one opponent, Vermont, to score more than 1 point per possession. In fact, with that single exception, they have held every opponent under 0.9 points per possession.

What they have failed to do is run anything resembling an offense. Their offensive efficiency is roughly comparable to a 1978 AMC Pacer, when we’re all hoping for a 1978 Corvette official Indy pace car.

To date, Kentucky’s best offensive efficiency has been a shockingly anemic 1.09 PPP versus Vermont. The culprit has not really been bad shooting, it has been a combination of poor offensive rebounding and high turnovers. Kentucky is currently averaging well over 20% turnovers per game, which is to say one in five possessions are ended by giving the ball to the other team without attempting a shot.

One bit of good news is that Kentucky’s defensive rebounding is generally not horrible. In fact, last night it was outstanding — they yielded a meager 14% of available defensive rebounds to the Trojans. That’s good against anybody, and they had a similar effort against Vermont.

Another bit of good news is that despite giving up a huge number of threes so far this season (opponents are averaging way over 20 3-point shots per game), opposing teams have only once shot better than 30% from the arc. I don’t know whether that’s good defense or bad luck (probably both), but I’d like to see fewer shots from opponents out there just to be sure.

We all know Kentucky is young, and last night, I watched seemingly innumerable hero passes, soft passes, ill-advised cross-court passes, and enough bad decisions with the ball to last me a lifetime. However, we’re just getting started, and that’s what gives us all hope. UK has four more games against weaker competition before running into Virginia Tech at home, followed by UCLA and Louisville. How much better they can get between now and December 16th is anybody’s guess, but we are seeing some hopeful signs as well as troubling ones.

Tweet of the Morning

To the annoyance of some, I can only say, “This!”

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