As sure as fall becomes winter gradually, the Kentucky Wildcats are becoming better as well a little at a time.
After their victory over Indiana-Fort Wayne which pushed their record to 5-1, we have a small sample size of where Kentucky basketball has progressed to as of now.
I wanted to wait before I wrote a column about the Cats. The reasoning is simple. As a teacher and a coach for over 20 years, I have found that to gain a valid insight into your kids (or players), you need a solid sample size of their work. The same goes for UK. To properly evaluate where the young Cats are currently, you have to look at their work as a whole.
As an educator, it was helpful to evaluate using a KWL chart. I know what you’re thinking.
KWL? What language are you speaking?
Really, it’s simple. KWL is short for Knowledge, What do we want to know, and what we Learned. KWL. To get an overall picture of the Cats progress thus far, we will look at them through 6 games, or roughly 1/5 of their season to date.
Let’s begin, shall we?
We know that this bunch has loads of ability. Their talent and length on the floor is staggering. We also know that at 5-1, UK has had to find ways to win in each game. Each game has shown flashes of brilliance, and each game has had its struggles. We have seen the Cats compete at the highest level with Kansas on the road, and we have also seen that same group fight to survive against solid veteran groups like Utah Valley and Vermont. Testing the Cats mettle now is a good, if not necessary, thing for this group to be ready for March.
Individually, we know that guard Hamidou Diallo and forward Kevin Knox will hear their names called in the lottery portion of the NBA Draft this coming summer. Both are having great years so far, so enjoy them now Cat fans. We also know that lead guards Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are doing a pretty good job running the team and they too could be in the NBA Draft as well. Big men Nick Richards, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and PJ Washington have their moments as well, and they too could be in that draft. Talent indeed abounds in Lexington.
WHAT DO WE WANT TO KNOW
I think there are some valid questions as far as how this year will carry out. Let’s examine a couple.
1. Will Jarred Vanderbilt be able to contribute this year?
I hope so, but I don’t want it rushed, and it won’t be I know. The addition of Vanderbilt to an already deep Wildcat front court makes the Cats even more long and athletic.
2. What happens when a team packs a zone on defense and doesn’t play the run game with Kentucky?
This scenario could play out sometime this year. If it does, who steps up and is able to consistently knock down jumpers? The answer could be Brad Calipari. He is the best marksman from distance. Don’t be surprised when his name is called more often.
3. Can this team be a good man to man defensive team?
It’s still early to tell, but the answer is yes. Right now a 2-3 zone from Kentucky is very scary for opponents (long and athletic, see a pattern?) But good zones have solid man to man principles (cue Bill Raferty.) Once the Cats figure things out in the man scheme, look out. But right now, the Cats and the 2-3 zone are a good match.
I’m sure there are more questions out there, so feel free to let them rip!
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED
Again, 2 scrimmages and 6 games are hardly an accurate portrait of the Cats. But we have learned a few things.
1. The Cats are very talented, and for right now, very young. The first won’t change and the second will. That’s a good thing.
2. Knox and Diallo are legit All-American candidates. Their potential is unreal, and their production should only increase in time.
3. Veteran teams with veteran guard play poses the Cats some problems, for now. The great thing about the Cats guards is they will only improve over time and reps. That’s a really good thing.
4. UK has the best big man rotation in the country. They’re deep, they’re athletic, and each has a special skill set.
Overall, it has been a good start for Kentucky. Yes, this team has some flaws. But, this team has a very high ceiling and a long time till March Madness. So for the time being, let’s enjoy the development of this group of young Wildcats.