It has been an interesting week for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.
After dominating Louisville and gutting out a win over a veteran Georgia squad, the Wildcats found themselves lower in the polls and the bracketology projections than the week before.
It is obvious that this team has very little respect nationally, and that is somewhat warranted with Kansas looking like a train wreck and UCLA being a bubble team at best. But tonight is Kentucky’s first real road test.
And if they are going to get any love from the media here are a few things they have to show.
Defend the three
Looking back at the last two games, you can see that the Wildcats held Georgia and Louisville to 9.5% and 12% shooting from behind the three point line, respectively. And you can make a case that the percentages were so low because the shots were better contested than previous games.
But do not be fooled, as opponents are still getting too many open looks. If that continues in Baton Rouge, it will be a long night for the Cats.
LSU shoots 38% from behind the arc as a team, and freshman star point guard Tremont Waters is shooting 45% from deep for the season. LSU may not be Florida in the realm of shooting, but Kentucky must show improvement in their three point defense to get a win tonight.
Find Kevin Knox
Where has the Wildcats’ star gone? In the last two games, he is a combined 4-18 (22%) from the field and 1-7 (14%) from three. For some reason, the guy who most believed would be Kentucky’s go-to guy has been relegated to nothing more than a spot-up jump shooter, who happens to be on a very cold streak.
Coach Calipari says Knox needs to work through this funk and that he will continue calling the freshman forward’s number. However, he needs to be called upon to drive the ball more. Kevin Knox has shot almost double the amount of three pointers (60) than Quade Green (27), who has the second most attempts on the team.
Many times he will settle for an off-balanced jumper rather than drive to the hoop. For Knox to be the star everyone expects and give the Wildcats what they need from him, he has to get to the basket. Hopefully he gets there more against LSU tonight.
There is no question that this athletic group of Wildcats is at its best when they are making plays in transition. After almost every turnover or rebound on the defensive end, you can hear “Run!” being exclaimed from Coach Cal as he himself starts running toward mid-court.
It would be great to see the Cats go with a small lineup of Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Hamidou Diallo with Kevin Knox as the four. That would be a fast team that could run, shoot, and defend against virtually any lineup in the SEC.
Regardless of whether or not they go small, Kentucky has to make plays in transition and run the court more to control the pace of the game. That is when they are at their best, and the more comfortable they get with running the more dangerous they become.
The Wildcats tip-off tonight against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge at 8:30 p.m. EST. You can watch the game on the SEC Network and follow along here with A Sea or Blue on our game thread.