After the first loss in Rupp Arena during the Coach Calipari era to the unranked bears of Baylor, Kentucky fans are left scratching their heads.
We're talking about the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball, the arena where legends have played, top recruiting classes year after year, first school to reach 2,000 wins, most players drafted in the NBA in one draft...the list goes on and on. Coaches, players, analysts, fans, have all been stunned with Kentucky's basketball performance thus far this season.
The Kentucky Wildcats are missing three aspects to the game of college basketball: leadership, team play and a point guard.
The defending National Champs have looked mediocre even with the top recruit, Nerlens Noel. Previously, UK has had a veteran on the team to help support the freshmen who have made up the majority of the UK team since the Calipari era but this year, that aspect is lacking. Last season, the cats had Kentuckian Darius Miller in the drivers seat who was the best 6th man in the country. His support and will to win for the name on the front of his jersey took the Cats to NOLA. But who do they have for leadership this season? The team has two seniors. One of which doesn't see playing time, Twany Beckham, and the other who is scrappy but inconsistent, Julius Mays. If you look at a team thriving right now like Duke, Seth Curry is 5th year senior who serves as a veteran for the Blue Devils that the rest of the team can depend on.
Just by watching the UK games, it's obvious that they don't play as a team. Archie Goodwin would rather drive the ball down the middle than see the court and pass the ball to someone open on the wing. Granted, Goodwin was the player of the game against Baylor, but he fouled out with just minutes left when the Cats needed him the most. There isn't one player on the team that can consistently hit a shot. The state turned blue in the face after watching Kyle Wiltjer miss 8 out of 9 shots. Watching them play against Baylor was sickening. I lost count of how many times they turned the ball over or missed a rebound or missed a shot in the paint. It's not about who can score the most or who can beat Anthony Davis's records, it's about heart and brotherhood. Coach Cal has repeatedly said at press conferences that it's still his team when it needs to be "their team."
The Wildcats also don't have a point guard. Even though Ryan Harrow returned last week, his lost weight and lack of practice with the team has really affected his playing ability. Since Harrow has been out, Archie Goodwin has swapped in and out with junior, Jarrod Polson, in the point guard position. Goodwin serves better as a shooting guard who can drive and take outside shots, but he needs a PG to feed him those balls to create those offensive plays. Polson has definitely improved, but as soon as he subbed in for the Baylor game, he committed a foul and started missing shots. For the Cats to be able to run their plays and actually have an offense, they need a solid, healthy point guard.
If Kentucky wants to compete with teams like Duke and Indiana, someone has to step up, they have to play for the name on the front of their jerseys and they need Ryan Harrow to be healthy.