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Kentucky vs. Utah: 4 things to watch for vs. the Utes

This will be another opportunity for the Cats to improve and get back on track

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Seton Hall Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Just nine games into the 2018-19 season, the Kentucky Wildcats sit at 7-2 on the year and are coming off an overtime loss to Seton Hall, 84-83. Despite the rough start and the recent loss, the Cats have been showing signs of improvement.

Saturday, the 4-4 Utah Utes make a trip into Rupp Arena where the Cats will be looking to get back on track.

Here are some things to watch for in the game this weekend.

Three-point defense

So far this season, teams have been able to light it up from behind the three-point line against the Wildcats. That is mostly due to the fact that the majority of those shots have been wide open due to the lack of defense.

In the game against Seton Hall, the Cats played their best defense of the season and did a great job of getting out on shooters for most of the game. The only problem is, that Seton Hall still managed to get them to fall, but that is just basketball and sometimes all you can do is shake their hand and say, “good shot.”

Utah sits in the top 100 (81st) in three-pointers attempted per game as they average 25 attempts per contest. They also sit at 106th in percentage, making 36% of their attempts. Needless to say, the Cats will need to continue to show improvement in this area and keep Utah off the three-point line.

Three-point attempts

It's not a secret that modern college basketball is changing into a shooting league just like the NBA has. The recipe for winning (unless you have the elite guys) is to shoot threes.

Unfortunately, Kentucky doesn’t shoot many.

Out of 353 teams, Kentucky sits 338th in average three-pointers attempted with 16 per game. For comparison, Savannah State leads the county with 45 attempts per game.

The thing with Kentucky is that they make them at a decent rate. Sitting in 181st place, the Cats convert from outside at 34%. That number isn’t great, but it is good enough to where they should be shooting more than 16 threes per game.

Earlier this week, coach Cal said that he wants this team to be shooting around 20-25 threes per game which would put them in the top 90 in the country. So pay attention to the attempts and see if Cal has told his guys to look for the three more.

Maybe one of the “tweaks” he mentioned is getting more threes off.

Has PJ Washington flipped the switch?

This team cannot reach their potential unless PJ Washington is the sophomore beast that he can be. In the first 8 games, he would have moments where you saw his potential but then he would disappear.

Against Seton Hall, PJ was the beast we all expected. He had 29 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. He also shot 12 of 13 from the free throw line. It was the monstrous performance that we have all been waiting for.

Saturday will be interesting to watch and see if PJ can come out and have yet another great performance or if he will disappear again. Hopefully, the last game is what gets him going and he comes out with the same mentality that he had last week.

Will Jemarl Baker play extended minutes?

We all know the news of the week - that Quade Green has decided to transfer from the program and will no longer be on the team.

With that happening, it could be the case that Baker will now get his golden opportunity to fill that role and start seeing a big jump in his minutes.

Baker made his Wildcat debut in the Seton Hall game Saturday as he played 1 minute, but he didn’t record a stat. Now with Quade leaving, Baker could play a big part in this team’s success, especially if he can come into a game and knock down a couple shots since he is supposed to be a very talented shooter.

Keep an eye out for Jemarl Baker to see if his minutes rise and what he can do when he takes the floor Saturday.

At this point in the season, fans shouldn’t worry too much. But they should look to see improvements in the areas that the team is struggling with the most as those are the things that will make this team hit the next level.

Go Cats!