The Kentucky Wildcats were dominant in their international wins on the Big Blue Bahamas tour, and they really didn’t show many weaknesses.
But as John Calipari said many times over the last week, it’s just a starting point (albeit a really, really good starting point). There are still ways for the Wildcats to improve. Here are five of them.
Fewer turnovers from the bigs
PJ Washington and Reid Travis were both pretty impressive, especially with Travis coming on strong in game four. But the two turned the ball over way too much. Washington had a team-high eight turnovers for the week, and Travis had another five, the second-most among big men.
In order for Kentucky to be dominant down low, as they’re now expected to be with these two at the forefront, the Wildcats will need to hold onto the ball in the paint.
The two certainly still had a successful series of games. Washington was second on the team in points and rebounds, and Travis averaged a double double.
Kentucky has a ton of length, with five players standing 6-6 or taller. With that size, the Wildcats can block a lot of shots. But they didn’t do that in the Bahamas.
Nick Richards led the team with six total blocks, and Washington had five. The team posted a total of 15 blocks, 3.75 per game. That would have ranked 118th in the country last year.
UK ranked 28th in the country in that category last year, averaging 4.85 blocks per game. The Wildcats will need to see improvement in this aspect if they want to be as physically imposing as they can be.
Shoot more 3-pointers
Kentucky has had several bad 3-point shooting teams in the Calipari era. This is not one of them. The Wildcats are a far better shooting team than what they had last year, and they have to take advantage of that.
The Wildcats shot 38.2 percent from deep and had six players shoot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. So with a team that good at shooting, UK should be taking a lot more than 26 percent of its shots from beyond the 3-point line.
Sure, it’s hard to argue with a team that was averaging over 90 points a game in the Bahamas, but balance will be key to winning consistently in the regular season. They’re not going to beat teams like Tennessee by trying to get most of their offense in the paint. They need to be able to spread teams out better and prevents opponents from using a lot of zone defense.
Once the team returns to practice, it’s likely that Calipari will work on that, and put more of an emphasis on shooting from deep, especially in sets where Tyler Herro is on the floor.
Commit fewer fouls
This goes back to Kentucky using its size effectively. The Wildcats will have to learn to defend without fouling, and they’ll have to learn how to do it better than they did in the Bahamas.
UK committed 18.8 fouls per game, which would have ranked them tied for 225th in the nation in fouls per game last year. The Wildcats will get killed at the foul line if they give up that many opportunities.
Richards was the worst offender, committing 17 fouls over the course of the week. Washington also picked up quite a few, committing 11 fouls.
Who is the go-to guy?
The biggest reason we don’t have an answer to this is that there wasn’t a situation in which the Cats needed a go-to guy in the four Bahamas games. There weren’t any clutch, down to the wire situations. Still, there wasn’t anyone who flat-out took over the game at any point during the four-game slate.
The closest we came to seeing that was probably when Herro scored 22 points in game two against San Lorenzo De Almagro, going 7 for 10 from the field and 4 for 5 from deep.
We’ll find out who the go-to guy is as soon as Kentucky needs one (or, we’ll find out that they don’t yet have one).