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It is absolutely ridiculous to compare the 2017-18 squad to the 2012-13 NIT team


Through four games, the Wildcats are 3-1 on the year, though each game has left more questions than answers about what this team really is.

Following Kentucky’s slow start, I’ve read several media analysts and countless fans compare the 2017-18 Wildcats to Calipari’s lone NIT team at Kentucky in 2012-13. Lack of consistency from the point guard spot, shooting concerns, and up-and-down frontcourt play has led to these wild claims.

The Wildcats haven’t crushed anybody yet, and a lot of that has to do with the team not finding their identity on offense.

Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have taken over as the team’s primary scorers, but Coach Cal has no idea how to handle late-game situations. He’s still dealing with teaching basic fundamentals, and crunch-time basketball is not on the top of his priority list.

When the game is on the line, who has the ball in their hands? This was the 2012-13 team’s biggest issue, as Archie Goodwin wasn’t a dominant scorer, yet he was the only one with the will to take over a game.

Alex Poythress was far too inconsistent, Nerlens Noel wasn’t a primary offensive target, and Ryan Harrow just wasn’t the right fit at point guard. Kyle Wiltjer was a solid shooter, but couldn’t defend to save his life, making him a liability on the floor.

Willie Cauley-Stein was a pleasant surprise, but like Noel, you aren’t going to run an offense through him. Julius Mays? Jarrod Polson? None of those guys quite had that “it” factor on offense, and it hurt the team.

This year’s Kentucky team, however, has a surplus of talent just looking to find their groove. Quade Green was quiet to start the year, but had a breakout offensive performance against ETSU. Knox hit big shots under the bright lights at the Champions Classic. Diallo looked like a true superstar in the season opener against Utah Valley. PJ Washington was a force in the middle and bullied defenders against Vermont. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a stud on defense in just about every outing. Etc.

Great individual efforts on various occasions, but not one where everyone was able to put it all together.

Even still, Nick Richards and Wenyen Gabriel, two five-star talents out of high school, have yet to have breakout games for the Wildcats this season. Sacha Killeya-Jones is just now finding his groove, and Tai Wynyard has made an impact in minimal minutes against big opponents.

The pieces are all there. The next step for this Wildcat team is about putting it all together and letting that potential come to fruition.

Beyond current on-court talent, Jarred Vanderbilt has yet to play a minute for the Wildcats due to injury, and he was a top-ten recruit coming out of high school. Recruiting analysts look at him as a young Lamar Odom, a unique combination of size, athleticism, and scoring ability. He’ll be joining the lineup in the next month or so, providing a massive addition for the Wildcats on both ends of the court.

Jemarl Baker is easily the team’s best three-point shooter, and will become a spark off the bench when he returns to the court. Kentucky needs shooting, and their best one still hasn’t seen the floor yet. It’ll come.

The Wildcats have 10 consistent contributors in the current rotation with the ability to make plays at any given time, along with two more still waiting for their time to shine out with injury. The NIT team had seven main rotation guys, with Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood used at various points, as well. Following the Nerlens Noel injury, we’re talking about a THIN rotation.

When the 2012-13 team got down after Noel’s season ended, they didn’t have the offensive firepower to make easy comebacks or the defensive presence to make crucial stops. This team has proven to make massive runs to erase deficits when the pressure is on, and we still haven’t seen just how talented these guys actually are.

This team is a work in progress, and they’re going to be frustrating for a while, but slow down on the NIT talk. They’ll be just fine.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

14 responses to “It is absolutely ridiculous to compare the 2017-18 squad to the 2012-13 NIT team”

  1. timewilltell

    You are the same dude that posted KY football turned heads on Saturday. Advice- don’t give up your day job!

  2. UKPROF

    “It is absolutely ridiculous to compare the 2017-18 squad to the 2012-13 NIT team”. No, it is not Pilgrim, Jack Pilgrim that is. The ONLY way to avoid it? Tell me now who is going to greatly improve and play point guard the remainder of the season? And are the ‘next 5 best players’ on the team also improve, substantially, over the next 4-6 weeks? If things in Lexington stay status quo, then you better bet your buttocks that they WILL be another 2012-13 NIT team.

    We do hope that these guys will continue to improve, with every game, exponentially, don’t we Jack?

  3. AGSlater

    Absurd really? They both arent good.

  4. chris43

    I don’t think they’re a NIT team as they should continue to improve and gel as a team as the season progresses. The no having a PG is highly worrying as that’s usually Cal’s forte. Green can score some but can’t defend. The other can defend a bit but can’t score and has lots of TO. I expected A LOT more out of Diallo considering he was the #1 SG last year and has had a year working in the program. But not having an elite PG or a big guy to go to down low will hurt us.

  5. UKLugo

    I like the confidence, but I can see their points!

  6. TJY

    I watched the 2012-2103 team and this team, my friend, is not the 2012-2013 team. The issue I see is these guys haven’t figured out how they fit together yet. We don’t have the upperclassmen to run the offense through and to show these guys how Cal likes it done. So that means Cal has to try and teach them some each practice. I think we need to focus on Defense and give these guys a few more games to figure out how they each fit into the offense. So let’s table this discussion and come back to it after the Va Tech game. 6 more games and then let’s compare.

    Is that a deal? Great…see you then.

  7. Jiminy Crickets

    I said this after the Kansas game and got scorched. SGA has NO HANDLE and no concept of running the team offensively, but plays decent defense. Green is too small, and doesnt have the fire of a Ulis to overcome it. No one is afraid of Green driving the basket, and his outside shot is mediocre. Calipari said Green was supposed to lob in the Kansas game but took the shot. The reason is people back off him when he drives because they know he cant get to the rim, which stops the lob from being open.

    This is an issue.

  8. Sentient Third Eye

    Does “positionless basketball” diminish the importance of a true point guard, since most of the guys on the floor can run the break anyway? To answer my own question, I guess the only place it’s a real issue is in half-court offense, and probably as the season advances we will see more teams get us into slow, half court “meat grinder” games until we prove we can be efficient in the half court, and that requires someone to step up at point.

  9. Alec

    Everybody is negative towards KY basketball unless they go 40-0 and blow everybody out. They are 18 year old freshman who have played 4 games together against 4 teams full of veterans and NCAA tournament experience. They are 3-1 with a 4 point loss to a top 5 team on a neutral cite in Chicago.
    This team is young and will make mistakes early but come march they will be very scary. They will improve defensively and will be extremely tough to score on in march. They will come together and learn how to dominate the boards by march. They will limit the amount of dumb mistakes by march. They will struggle to score at times but will be able to do enough to make a run in march. This point guard talk… we have 2 point guards who can score 20 points on any given night. These kids did not play defense in high school. High school basketball and summer circuits are all about selling themselves on the offensive side of the ball. They now have to learn how to become good defensively and they certainly will by march because they are too long and athletic not to be. Defense wins championships and this team will be very good in march like most of Cal’s teams.
    On top of all of this, KY has 2 highly regarded recruits who have yet to step onto the court this season. Calm down and enjoy the ride as a fan. Calling this team an NIT team is fullish.

    1. GM1978

      Very well said…..i simply do not understand the early-season criticism, especially considering that we’ve seen year after year that the development takes awhile.

      The available practice days have been few and far between. By the time the semester finishes, and ‘Camp Cal’ begins this will look like a very different team—add into that Vanderbilt should be active (watch out for him, dynamic player)

      Cal says “trust the process”, and since the proof is definitely in the pudding that’s exactly what we all should do…..

  10. BonnieTayshaunBilly

    Green is better than Teague.

    1. UKLugo

      Umm. No.

    2. Luether

      Noooo…

  11. Luether

    You make some good points, Jack, but I don’t think it’s “ridiculous” to compare this Team to the NIT Team…