Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Kentucky’s playing its best basketball in March. Since the regular season ended, the Cats have been on a tear, winning five straight heading into this weekend’s Sweet 16.
Without Jarred Vanderbilt, role players have elevated their game, with Wenyen Gabriel turning into a three-point specialist and Sacha Killeya-Jones coming alive in the paint. Even Hamidou Diallo has broken through, putting up 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks vs. Buffalo, the most he’s scored in a game since December 9.
Kentucky’s improvement is clear when you see them play, but it’s even more apparent when you look at the numbers. Although the biggest changes have happened in the postseason, some of the trends go back to the end of the Cats’ notorious four-game losing streak (we’ll treat the loss at Florida as an anomaly):
• In the last four games, Kentucky has shot over 50% from the field. The season average is 47.3%.
• In the last four games, Kentucky has averaged 76.4% from the free-throw line. The season average is 69.7%.
• In the last five games, Kentucky has held opponents to less than 40% from the field.
• In the last five games (since Jarred Vanderbilt has been out), Sacha Killeya-Jones is averaging 58% from the field in 16.4 minutes per game.
• In the last five games, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 21.8 points, 6.6 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals.
• In five of the last seven games, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has reached double figures in the first 20 minutes.
• In the last seven games, Wenyen Gabriel is shooting 60.7% (17-28) from three-point range.
• In the last eight games, Kentucky has a plus-1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio after going most of the season with more turnovers than assists.
Keep trending up, Cats.