It’s not all roses and sunshine in the Bluegrass. After close calls in what seems like every game since the blowout win against Louisville in Rupp Arena, the law of averages caught up with Kentucky. South Carolina burst the fragile bubble the Cats had played in and beat UK 76-68 in Columbia.
It would be very easy to give up on these Cats, but fret not. Your fearless sports guy is going to give you four valid and safe reasons why you as a fan of the Cats shouldn’t give up on this year’s edition of the Wildcats.
- They’re young. KenPom has the Cats average years of experience at 0.2 months. Think about that. The average experience isn’t even one year. Forward Wenyen Gabriel is the grey beard of the group as a sophomore. It takes time, lots of time, to develop any sense of experience. Kentucky is still figuring things out. If I were a coach who could face the baby Cats in the tournament, I would be very wary of this bunch.
- They’re not at full strength. The Cats have been bit by the injury bug or the sickness bug for most of the year. Starting point guard Quade Green has missed significant time due to injury. Center Tai Wynyard has missed time as well. As the Cats grow up, though, these missing minutes will become a gold mine of experience for several Cats, including but not limited to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Sacha Killeya-Jones, PJ Washington, and Nick Richards.
- Their RPI is really good. I know what your thinking; “RPI stats aren’t accurate.” In this case, I think it is spot on. The RPI has Kentucky 11th in the country. To date, the Cats have played Kansas, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Louisville, and at Tennessee. Florida invades Rupp Saturday, and UK has dates with West Virginia, Auburn, Tennessee, and at Texas A&M. So yes, the RPI is accurate and Kentucky is playing good competition. This will have a good impact for the Cats. The talent is there and the competition is stout. Sounds like a winner to me.
- Jarred Vanderbilt just came back. If this was my first game stat at the high D1 level, I would be tickled pink; 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block in 17 minutes. If he plays say 25 minutes with that type of production you’re looking at 9/8/6/3. I’d take that any day. Vanderbilt will open up the floor and create match up problems for opponents. He can handle like a guard, he’s left handed, and he shoots it well. Give him time to develop, and the team gets better in all areas.
So there you have it. Four reasons not to give up on Kentucky basketball. Hopefully you stick with this bunch and we see where the ride goes.