After an impressive victory over Auburn on the road, the Kentucky Wildcats continue to grow as a complete unit.
A lot of the questions from early in the season have already been answered. They’re not a team with one star player that will take over every night. They win with excellent defense, rebounding, and transition offense.
Since breaking off a four-game winning streak after losing on the road to Alabama, most of the team’s individual stock is trending upward. Here are the biggest upward and downward trends to this point in the season.
The improvements Ashton Hagans has made since their first game is unfathomable. He’s developed into a lock-down defender and a floor general on offense. You could argue he’s Kentucky’s best player at the moment.
Kentucky can hardly survive the few minutes a game Hagans is on the bench. Hagans has become the guy who runs this team on offense, and he’s become one of the best defenders in college basketball. He’s recorded 3+ steals in seven straight games, one of the best stretches ever in Kentucky’s proud history.
If he can continue to develop his jump shot, he could finish this season as one of the top all-around point guards in the country. He’s also putting himself in great shape to be a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
Keldon began the year as Kentucky’s biggest offensive threat. In a few games prior to their matchup against Auburn, he entered a little bit of a slump. The entire team was struggling to shoot the ball with any consistency, which resulted in less production out of Keldon.
Johnson returned to his top form against Auburn. He finished with 20 points, tied for the game-high with Tyler Herro. Thanks a to a wake-up call from Hagans, Johnson got back to being the force we’ve seen him be for much of the season.
Make no mistake about it: Kentucky won’t go far in March if Johnson doesn’t play like he did Saturday. His early slump in SEC was concerning, but he ended that in a big way down in the Plains.
Herro’s stock chart will forever be up and down all season. He’s definitely not the most consistent player on the court. He began the season in a serious shooting slump, and has been game to game as far as his production ever since.
His stock is back up though after his performance against Auburn. Herro hit big shot after big shot and was able to ice the game with clutch free throw shooting. He finished with 20 points and went 5-5 behind the free throw line.
Going back to the Louisville game, Herro has hit 32 of his last 64 shots from the field, good for 50%. That’s even more impressive when you remember a lot of Herro’s offense comes off jumpers, though he is getting better at finishing at the rim.
EJ didn’t have his best game against Auburn, but he wasn’t absolutely terrible by any means. He fills a great role player position on the team. He brings instant energy, can make a few plays and snag a few boards while Reid or PJ are on the bench.
It’s just hard to find any minutes for him, especially when Nick Richards is playing well. Montgomery has struggled to find any rhythm when he is on the floor, hitting just six of his last 16 from the field.
Jemarl Baker Jr.
Kentucky’s defeat of Auburn was a top-to-bottom team performance. So, is it entirely fair to nitpick the ninth man in the rotation?
Probably not. But, Baker did have the worst turnover of the night and struggled to contribute at all when he was on the floor against Auburn. He wasn’t expected to play much at all this season, he’s only been asked to step up with the departure of Quade Green.
Still, he’s far from being a consistent contributor on the team. He’s now hit just four of his last 18 shoots, which is only 22.2%. He needs to find more consistency, or he’ll risk falling out of the rotation when it tightens up in March.