Myron Medcalf over at ESPN took some time yesterday to break down the fast-approaching SEC season, and like any time SEC basketball is discussed, Kentucky got more than its fair share of attention.
Though Myron picked Florida to win the league (let’s see if that prediction changes in a couple weeks), there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Cats’ chances entering league play, especially with so many crucial confidence builders early on.
Now, the Wildcats don’t seem to realize yet that they can be the SEC’s best team if they overcome their struggles with continuity and chemistry, two traits that have propelled past Kentucky squads to the Final Four. And this team’s recent acceleration — the Wildcats have won five of their past six games — is tied to Ryan Harrow’s growth.
Phil Pressey of Mizzou got most of the consideration for the Player of the Year, but when it comes to freshman of the year? Please. Pretty sure we got that on lock. Naturally, three of the four freshmen named were Wildcats, with Archie Goodwin at the forefront:
[H]e shines under the bright lights. He had 22 points against Louisville and 16 points against Duke. Yes, the Wildcats lost those games. But Goodwin has already proved that he’s the kind of kid whom opposing coaches need to monitor at all times. He’s dangerous.
Also mentioned, of course, was Nerlens Noel; somewhat surprisingly, Alex Poythress got the third shout out, even though to many it seems like Willie Cauley-Stein has been the one to really exceed expectations so far. Hopefully Poythress goes all Brandon Knight and puts together a string of ridiculous performances after a somewhat shaky start to really solidify his place on this list (and in the draft).
Going down the list to the “Biggest Disappointments” department, Medcalf mentions that ” you could write this entire section about Kentucky.” Ouch. But he’s not entirely wrong. It’s half high standards, half tough losses, but he’s sort of right. The preseason #3 Cats are currently unranked for the first time entering SEC play under Calipari, and while there’s hope they can improve, this is an unprecedented situation post-BCG. However, I will disagree with MM’s assertion that “chemistry issues have led to Kentucky’s 9-4 start.” Chemistry issues implies a lack of camaraderie or teamwork, and I don’t think that’s the case. A lack of focus and execution, though, certainly. This team has a lot of affection for each other, but sometimes they just get a little crazy. And jump at every fake. All of them. They all jump.
Finally, the burning question: Will Kentucky improve enough to win the SEC. Myron forms a controversial opinion and says, “Maybe.” Solid. But if I were Myron, and the the question was “Can Kentucky win the SEC?” the answer would have to be “Yes.” Will they is another matter. Myron cites the Louisville game in particular as evidence that the Cats can compete with anyone in the SEC.
Ultimately, it looks like this is at least going to finally be an interesting year in conference play. Last year, for all of its dominance, got a little boring when we did nothing but win, win, win against SEC teams. Actually no it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that this year, for all its struggles, can’t be interesting, too.
It really is a race this year, and we’ll know starting tomorrow whether the Cats are going to make like poor little Tink-Tink and do more than anybody expected.