How Good is Kentucky?

John Calipari’s developing Kentucky squad continues to grow. But the freshmen-laden Wildcats continue to show signs of immaturity to counter their flashes of brilliance.

In Tuesday’s 87-82 loss to LSU on the road, Kentucky was outplayed in an area that was supposed to be a strong suit. UK’s frontcourt of Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle combined for just nine points and 11 rebounds. And the Wildcats’ post players struggled even more defensively, failing to stop LSU star big man Johnny O’Bryant III, who finished with 29 points and nine rebounds.

As far as Kentucky’s NCAA tournament credentials go, this isn’t that serious of a résumé stain but it still gives the program four losses against teams outside the RPI top 50 with only one RPI top 40 win.

What to take from this loss in the grand scheme of things: First is that it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. The Wildcats struggle, especially on the road, to counter an opponent’s high energy and momentum swings. Second is that this wasn’t that bad of a loss considering this game was as much of the Tigers playing to their potential as it was the Wildcats falling far short of theirs. LSU (13-6, 4-3) was projected to make the NCAA tournament. Additionally, the Tigers’ record is deceiving: An overtime loss plus three losses decided by four points or fewer.

Calipari continues to reject negativity with this team and embraces the adversity, figuring losses build character for the teenagers on his roster. And there were positives: Calipari plans to use bench players Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson more. James Young made up for lackluster performances from the Harrison twins with 23 points and seven rebounds.

“This is the best group of kids I’ve ever coached,” Calipari told USA TODAY Sports in a previous interview. “Their basketball habits are awful, just awful. I’m more concerned with what kind of hearts they have. …We lose some games and we easily could have won them all. Either way, we’re the same team. The biggest things I look at are winning and learning.”

The NCAA tournament committee, however, doesn’t necessarily care much for a team’s learning curve. What the Wildcats need is a winning streak and to challenge for the SEC title. But as of now, late January, we’re still waiting — as we have all season — for Kentucky’s liftoff. Time is running out.

Written by Nick


Nick the Quick White is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?

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