Much of Kentucky’s success this year has come from their ability to spread the wealth. At different times, Reid Travis, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Ashton Hagans, and PJ Washington have all looked like Kentucky’s best player. With all these guys able to singlehandedly impact a game’s result, the Cats have been able to survive off nights from one, even two of their best players and still win.
Perhaps no two players are as capable of taking over a game than PJ Washington and Tyler Herro. Until last week, it looked as if PJ might overtake Tennessee’s Grant Williams as the SEC player of the year. With ten games of 20 or more points, PJ is still Kentucky’s leading scorer at just a shade under 15 a game. Right behind PJ, Tyler averages 14.1 points a game and has scored 20 or more in five games, including two of the last three.
Both players are having a good year from beyond the arc. Tyler leads the team in three-point makes with 53, and shoots it at a 37.1 percent clip; PJ has made 30 and leads the team in three-point percentage at 43.5 — good enough for second in the SEC. But it doesn’t always feel like these two guys have shot the ball as well from three as their numbers indicate. Why? Because both of them have been inconsistent.
The ups and downs from three for Tyler Herro and PJ Washington are evident, and they have directly correlated with Kentucky’s ups and downs as a team. I’m afraid this might provide a recipe for opposing teams to knock off the Cats in the tournament.
Let’s boil the sample size down to just teams ranked in the top 100 of the NET, as Kentucky likely won’t see a team outside of the top 100 for the rest of the year. Kentucky has played 19 games against top 100 teams, and boasts a solid 14-5 record in those games. PJ has made 21 out of 51 threes in those games; Tyler has made 37 of 98. The two collectively have shot 39 percent from long range against top 100 teams.
But when we break down the wins and losses, it gets interesting. When the two players combine for three or more made three pointers, Kentucky is 11-0, including wins against North Carolina, Louisville, Auburn (twice), and Mississippi St. (twice). When the two combine for two or fewer made threes, Kentucky is only 3-5. All five of Kentucky’s losses have come in games where PJ Washington and Tyler Herro have combined for two or fewer made threes
It gets even more interesting. In Kentucky’s 14 wins against top 100 teams, Tyler and PJ are 51 out of 109 threes — a remarkable 46.8 percent. In our five losses, the two are a combined seven out of 40, an embarrassing 17.5 percent.
I think this is a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty situation. On the bright side, if these guys combine for three or more made threes in a game, it seems like a guaranteed win, no matter the opponent. But if they go cold, we’re likely looking at a loss as early as the second round.
What do you think? Will the guys get hot and run the table, or is our streaky three-point shooting going to get the best of us?