After each Kentucky game, everyone seems to want to check the NCAA tournament pulse of this team. Following yesterday’s narrow victory over LSU at home, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan does not feel like Kentucky looks like a tournament team…unless you’re talking about the NIT. Brennan had some harsh words and criticisms about this team’s current status this late in the year.
“There’s still some time left for this young Kentucky team to figure it all out. But it’s clear, at least right now, that the Wildcats have some pretty significant flaws, flaws that could put their already tenuous tournament position in even greater jeopardy the rest of the way.
Chief among them? Defense. The Wildcats have allowed .97 points per possession in SEC play prior to Saturday, seventh-best in a league that most certainly does not have seven good teams. (Maybe three) It ranked last in the league in forced-turnover rate, and it had allowed SEC opponents to grab 32.1 percent of available offensive rebounds, 10th best in the conference. These same flaws were apparent Saturday, too. Kentucky scored efficiently throughout the game; it shot 52 percent from the field and a tidy 61 percent from inside the arc (it shot 11 3-pointers and made just tw0). And still, the Wildcats allowed the Tigers– a 10-7 team with a 1-5 SEC record and the 209th-ranked offense in the country per KenPom.com– to put up 70 points at Rupp Arena, to push for a game-tying play until the final possession, to make Ashley Judd a nervous wreck on live television.”
Brennan seems to take a common stance, that this team still has some time to get where it needs to before the NCAA selection committee solidifies the brackets. The key issues for the Wildcats on defense though don’t seem to be easy fixes. Even with a guy like Alex Poythress getting on track after months of waiting, the underlying defensive flaws are not masked through efficient offense.
Brennan says that if he were a betting man, even though Kentucky does not look the part of a tournament team, he would still take them making the tournament field. “But if it can’t at least get some separation from the worst teams in its own down league at home, John Calipari’s team will find itself at serious risk of missing the tournament just 11 months after winning it all. Heck, that risk is already there.”
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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