Every year, Kentucky fans sit back and listen to John Calipari talk about how the season is “a process” and may be ugly at times, but he always likes his team.
At this point, Big Blue Nation pays little attention to these comments. But if you listen closely this year, there is been more talk about he process and very little talk about liking this team.
That is certainly not to say that he does not like the guys on the roster. However, it could be an indication of how Coach Cal really feels about the ceiling for this group.
Yes, they are 9-2. However, the two losses have been ugly. Not the score necessarily, but the young Wildcats have been obviously outmatched by these other blue-blood schools, even though they are having off years of their own.
Based on my observations, here are the four biggest concerns for this team at this point in the season.
Let’s start with the obvious. Of Coach Cal’s nine teams in Lexington, this group is 8th in scoring defense (70.5 points per game) and dead last in defensive field goal percentage (40.5%). For a group with this type of athleticism and length, they should be embarrassed by these numbers.
Numbers aside, something just looks off about this group at the defensive end. The guards can’t seem to stay in front of anyone, and the help defense is completely lost. The helper always seems to be a step too late, and nobody ever helps the helper which leaves anyone who wants a look a wide open three pointer.
The defense is a complete mess, and there really is no excuse for that with this group.
Now this may seem like it’s directed at Hamidou Diallo, and that’s not entirely inaccurate. But it seems like several players on this team would rather make a tough play and look good than take the easy bucket.
How many times has Hami missed an earth-shattering dunk when he could have likely gotten an easy lay-in?
How many off-balance shots has Kevin Knox taken when passing it back out for a reset would have been the better option?
How many turnovers has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had when trying to dribble his way through traffic?
I do not recall a single Kentucky play that has ended up on the SportsCenter Top 10 this season. Maybe somebody will finally make it and they can move on.
But for now, the lack of efficiency is staggering.
I know they have only lost twice, and they were in both games right up until the end. But there was never a moment when the opponent was on a run and the Cats just dug their heels in and said, “enough.” While they have not completely rolled over, they certainly have not responded the way you would hope after getting punched in the mouth.
Coach Cal has openly criticized this team’s will to win, and it is tough to argue with him. Until they show they have some heart, though, it’s a fair point.
Who is the man?
I realize this has been largely negative. It is a “concerns” post after all. But let me be clear that I think these guys are really good. Hami is very fun to watch and has been looking like this team’s best player. Knox is a stud and he will be a great pro. SGA has a huge upside, and Quade Green has all the makings of a long-term fan favorite.
But who is the man? Who is the guy? When the Wildcats need a bucket, I have no idea who hey go to. I have always assumed Knox, but he has not proven to be the best at creating his own shot. Hami is the best at that, but it is not always a shot you want him to take.
This is a huge question for end-of-game scenarios. But it is also important to have go-to guy to stop the bleeding when the opponent is on a run. You need someone that is automatic in scoring out of a time out and can close out a half for you. On this team, I have no idea who that guy is.
Of course there are other issues. This team has a long way to go. But these are the most important questions moving forward in my opinion. Hopefully we will get some more answers this weekend as the Wildcats host both the Louisville Cardinals and the Georgia Bulldogs.
What other concerns do you have about this team?