Given their unprecedented youth and recent struggles, a common comparison for this Kentucky team is the 2013-14 squad, which feels especially appropriate considering the Cats dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since March 2014 earlier today; however, John Calipari pointed out some key differences between this year’s team and that team, which made a surprise run to the National Championship game.
“Julius [Randle], physically gave you something that maybe this team doesn’t have. He could just bulldoze you. But PJ [Washington], at times, does the same, gives you some of that. The [Harrison] twins had come in and didn’t get it until late February; when they got it, they were pretty good. We’ll see how this plays out. James Young and Dakari [Johnson] and Willie [Cauley-Stein], but we had some veteran guys too. Alex [Poythress]. They’re all different.”
BTI touched on this earlier, but one thing this team also doesn’t have is a consistent outside threat ala James Young. Young and Aaron Harrison kept teams honest from the outside, and while Quade Green, Wenyen Gabriel, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Kevin Knox are all capable of hitting threes, none are hitting them with the consistency that Young did. Young’s three-point percentage (34.9%) is lower than Shai’s (47.8%), Wenyen’s (39.6%), and Quade’s (36.7%), but that’s only because he attempted more shots. During his year at Kentucky, Young averaged 2.05 threes per game on 6.3 attempts; right now, Kentucky’s most frequent three-point shooter is Kevin Knox, who is making only 1.3 of his 4.4 attempts per game. Calipari’s said it all season, but those numbers must go up.
Basically, for this Kentucky team to have a chance of replicating the 2014 team’s success, PJ Washington must be more consistent inside and somebody must be more consistent outside. Then, we’ll see if this can be another great story.