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Four Lessons from the NIT Season of 2013


This is normally the spot where we do our review of the news of the weekend, but in this case the weekend has provided us little. The UK Softball team won its regional in Lexington (for only the second time in school history) and is now headed to the Super-Regionals with a chance to make its first ever College Softball World Series. But besides that good news, UK land has provided us with little news as the Andrew Wiggins’ decision has officially closed the book on 2012-2013 and has set us on the path to one of the most highly anticipated school years in the history of UK Athletics. With the door having finally closed on this past year (one of the worst in the last 25 when looking at football/basketball collectively), it is worth noting what we learned from last season that can best be applied to next. We will start tonight with basketball and five lessons John Calipari has taken from the NIT disappointment that he will apply in future years. In some way Calipari has addressed each of these and they will be important trends to follow in the years to come:

1. Calipari Must Have a Talented, Hard-Nosed Point Guard:

There were a number of problems on last year’s team that if fixed, could have guaranteed a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s group was riddled with at least a dozen deficiencies that if they had been corrected, could have helped win or two more games and ultimately snuck the Cats into March Madness. But at Kentucky the standard is much harder and ultimately last year’s season was doomed by the decision to install Ryan Harrow as the starting point guard. This conclusion of course can only be made in hindsight, as most of the early signs for Harrow were very good. Even though many NC State fans and media questioned the kid’s toughness, when he came to Kentucky he looked up to the task for a better part of a year. He held his own daily in practice, going against a national championship team and often rising to the challenge. Going into the season, he said all the right things, was utilizing his tremendous athleticism and looked ready to make the leap to the Wall/Knight/Teague level of UK point guard leadership. But once the bright lights went on, Harrow went south. He was never able to handle the UK spotlight or the focus by Calipari on his play. From early on, his struggles became the team’s struggles, leading to a time in which he left the team and a number of behind-the-scenes issues that plagued last year’s group. Harrow is still a good kid but is an example that what Calipari always says, mainly that Kentucky isn’t for everyone, is certainly true. And more than any other person, the requirement that a player have extreme confidence in himself and top-notch ability, must apply to the point guard position. Calipari teams will go as far as the point guard takes them. He can either be a transcendent star (Rose/Wall), a great college scorer (Knight) or a solid all-around player with upside leading a great team (Teague). But what he can’t be is someone who can’t fit into Calipari’s system and is intimidated by the UK spotlight. Calipari learned in 2013 that he can’t turn every player, even those with talent, into a viable starting point guard for him at Kentucky. Judging mental and physical toughness will now be a prerequisite for all future selections at the position.

2. Toughness Must Be a Majority Quality:

Nearly every basketball team has a player that struggles with confidence or is more comfortable playing a supporting rather than a leadership role. John Calipari said on our show this week that such players are almost required, because a team full of “alpha males” may simply not work. But the 2013 team proved that even if a few of those players exist in the locker room, for a team to be a contender, toughness must be a quality possessed by the vast majority of the group. Over the years, John Calipari has been possessed by great players who not only were talented, but had the confidence and desire to dominate. Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, Knight, Lamb, Liggins, Davis, MKG and others all believed that even if they were playing poorly, on the next possession they could score on you and then stop you on the defensive end. This team simply didn’t have that. Archie Goodwin possessed supreme self-confidence, but his eyes were often bigger than his talent at key moments. However Calipari had to live with Archie’s aggression, because without it, he had no players willing to put it on the line and take the big shot. By the end of the season, the player who should have been the sixth man, Julius Mays, was taking the big shots because no one else had the courage to attempt them. Passive play became the norm and Kentucky withered against teams with far less talent. The old adage about a “crazy” player in the NBA now also applies to a Calipari team and toughness at Kentucky. You can have one guy, maybe two, that struggle with toughness…but any more than that and it infects and plagues your team.

3. You Must Have a Bench:

John Calipari has generally always believed that you find 7-8 guys and you stick with them as a rotation. Even though UK might go 11 deep next year, I would still expect at any given time to only see 8 or so get significant minutes during the course of the year. But Calipari learned this year that a bench is required, even if not to get huge minutes in games, but to push the players you do have to perform. When Kentucky saw players such as Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin make mistakes of a significant nature, Calipari often had to leave them in as he had no viable options coming off the bench to replace them. If Poythress was not mentally into the game, he still had to stand in the corner on offense, because there was simply no one who could even do an adequate job replacing his defense. If Wiltjer wasn’t shooting well (and then not rebounding or guarding either), Calipari couldn’t yank him without losing nearly all ability to have a consistent second three point option. The bench was so thin that even in practice, a player who wasn’t even on the team when the year began (Tod Lanter), was forced to run against the first team and try to replicate its opponents. That doesn’t happen this year. No matter who the player is for Kentucky, if they are unable to perform, there will be a replacement on the bench that can have success. This will hopefully drive all the starters to reach higher levels and competition will make the strong either survive or sit…an option that Kentucky had at no points during last season.

4. UK Must Have Guys Who Can Hit Outside Shots:

From moment one of last season, outside shooting was a concern of mine and the problem ended up being worse than I would have imagined. While Alex Poythress provided some surprising help (he was much more effective from behind the three point line than anyone imagined), those expected to open up the offensive end by making threes were disappointing. Kyle Wiltjer went through long slumps as he was the focus of the defense for the first time of his career. Virtually any team that made stopping Wiltjer a focus (and increasingly more teams did) was able to neutralize his shooting and he was unable to find other ways to contribute. Archie Goodwin shot poorly nearly all season from three point land and Ryan Harrow’s inconsistent shooting followed his overall play. Julius Mays hit big shots during the season, but because he was unable to create his own space, he was forced to make them off the moves of others. Calipari did not have the “knockdown” three point shooter that he had with guys like Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. The shooting was even worse than his first year, when the athleticism of Wall/Bledsoe often overcame some inconsistent outside looks (at least until the West Virginia game). With no one except Julius Mays seemingly willing and able to make open threes on a consistent basis, UK’s offense grew stagnant, teams packed the lanes and the penetration of Goodwin/Harrow/Poythress became ineffective. One more three point shooting threat and this would have been solved. That is why so much of this season will depend on if the trio of Aaron Harrison, James Young and Kyle Wiltjer can provide those consistent shots. With Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle taking people off the dribble, these three will get open looks. Calipari has learned from last year, that making those shots will be crucial to the team’s success.

Other lessons exist as well, but Calipari sees these four as takeaways that I think will have a major impact on recruiting going forward. He won’t get caught again in a situation like he had this past season. A good week of radio begins tomorrow and we will have Patrick Patterson, Matthew Mitchell and the “Biggest UK Fan Couple” contest though the course of the week. Until then, watch a singer named Miguel (he isn’t big enough to just have one name in my view) accidentally kick some poor woman in the head as his jump comes up just a bit short at the Billboard Awards:


Article written by Matt Jones

52 Comments for Four Lessons from the NIT Season of 2013

  1. Hudson
    11:10 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    Also known as: Qualities that make any team successful, regardless of who they are.

  2. Blue Jesus
    11:23 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    I think this post would have been better right after the season. At this point with all the excitement for next year I don’t think the fanbase really wants to talk about what went wrong last year. Also maybe some tangible examples would be good too, like what recruits you think wont get much attention because they lack some of these qualities. But all in all a good post, thanks Matt.

  3. NKY_UK_fan
    11:25 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    Two chicks in that .gif are gonna get paid. Look at the girl’s head the lands under his thigh on the left plus the girl that takes his shoe on the right.

  4. 5 is right
    11:44 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    The tea-bag chick will get paid nicely.

  5. Syrin
    11:44 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    I said at the beginning of the season that the guy we’d miss the most would be Doron Lamb. I still believe that’s true.

    I have asked several times if this team coming in has a consistent shooter in the group. No one seems to know.

  6. 5 is right
    11:45 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    Are those Adidas or Reebok?

  7. SoCal Will
    11:45 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    Ok, so the starting back court is a given and physically dominant and Young will play major minutes . It is a mouthful to say Julius is the most talented in the front court but probably true. To be dominant physically at all five starting positions why not put Julius at the 3, where he will play two years from now, WCS at the 4 and Johnson at the 5?
    An NBA athletic 7’1″, 7’0″,6’9″, 6’5′, 6’5″ will give the entire BBN a lustful swagger….

  8. SeoulCat
    11:47 pm May 19, 2013 Permalink

    #6 teabag? More like heel tag.

    Jared Carter scoffs at your vertical, Miguel.

  9. SoCalCat
    12:08 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

  10. Platinum Unis
    12:12 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    What happened to the 5th lesson Matt mentioned in his intro? #KSRmath

  11. Pete
    12:15 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Looks like Miguel about broke his ankle or leg. Look at how it bends.

  12. Scooby
    12:18 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Miguel isn’t big enough? Matt just because he doesn’t sing your whack ass country and alternative crap doesn’t mean he isn’t big. Both of his cds sold like crazy and he is one of the best true r&b artists out right now so please don’t talk unless you know something… Oh wait, if you did that you’d be mute…

  13. Have a Scooby snack
    12:32 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    #12 – he isn’t big enough to go by ONE name. Not bashing his accomplishments, but he is not at that particular level. Most normal sports fans likely think of Cabrera when they hear that first name anyway.

  14. Buck Masters
    12:38 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Scooby – do you ever have anything nice to say? Why even comment?

    My question is: how did last year’s bench end up so thin? Most people expected all the early entries from the championship team; do you think Cal was expecting Shabazz, Bennett, or Oriakhi to be on the roster? Even though it didn’t work out, it was still a great recruiting class.

  15. Syrin
    12:39 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Scooby, never heard of this guy. “Sold like crazy” means, what, 20 people?

  16. Syrin
    12:41 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    #14 – Our bench was even thinner his first year, but our starters were talented enough to compensate. This year’s bench was better than that year’s bench, but the starters, aside from the AMAZING Nerlens Noel, were average players at BEST. If Poythress averaged 19 and 10, Archie shot 48%, Harrow had 6 assists a game, then the thin bench would have been there, but not noticed NEARLY as much.

  17. Blue Jesus
    12:51 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    16. I thought the bench was pretty decent the first year with some of the BCG holdovers, specifically Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, Deandre Liggins, plus Daniel Orton and Darnell Dodson. I know Harris and Stevenson weren’t super talented kids but they were seniors that provided solid minutes, and they weren’t being required to carry the load ever. The second year was much thinner, especially with the loss of Enes Kanter. Vargas was the eighth man, now that’s thin.

  18. Syrin
    12:55 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    #17 You may be right. I think Cal coached those bench players up because they got much better under him than BCG.

  19. SeaCat
    12:58 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, 1,2,3 are OK
    but 4?
    Cal has never had outside shooters at UK.
    Lamb sorta, but not really, based on his NBA flop.
    If Young and Aaron H. aren’t top guns we are in trouble.
    This article appears to have been fed to you from Cal and you
    swallowed it hook, line and stinker…

  20. Scooby
    1:02 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    The 4 people that haven’t heard of this guy I bet like that “pick’n and grin’n don’t ya. His 1st album spent 45 weeks on the chart,and sold 804,000 copies in the US . all this and it was an independent label. He then switched labels, released his 2nd album that has well over a million record sells. He has had 6 different songs in the billboard top 100….Power trip at 21, #beautiful at 24 and his newest single just started at 80 and is one of the most downloaded songs on iTunes. Plus he has a ton of collars with ppl like Chris Brown and Kendrick Lamar (whom you probably don’t know either)…

  21. Scooby
    1:04 am May 20, 2013 Permalink


  22. Troy
    1:32 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    No, we know Chris Brown. He beat Rhianna, right? So who does this guy like to beat?

  23. Wildcatsteeler
    1:55 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Wow he dropped kicked one chick in the head then his other leg slammed another chicks head into the stage.

  24. Wildcatsteeler
    1:56 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    @20 Good. Because there are 2 huge lawsuits to settle now. Seriously smashed two girls in the head with each leg.

  25. Wildcatsteeler
    2:00 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    @19 Apparently you didn’t watch the 2012 Championship game. Lamb did okay there didn’t he? You’re a complete imbecile if you think the 2 guard will determine if we’re a great team this season.

  26. Jimmy "Supafly"
    2:09 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Is it me or did he just missile drop kick that girls wig off her head?

  27. Ridge Runner
    3:26 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Can’t argue really with any of the reasons posted or even some others that aren’t posted but to me, it really comes down to… “point guard”. We can compensate (and have) with other issues, but not PG.

    Anyway, it kinda depends how stoned the girl is if she even remembered the footsie to the head and how it happened.

  28. Ridge Runner
    3:29 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Oh… and Miguel is seriously considering more prep-time in his future performances as he contemplates just what went wrong.

  29. Beavis606
    6:51 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Scobey, that guy sucks. Selling a million doesn’t mean you are great. Tayor Swift? I be you liked those curtains that Beiber tried to make pants out of?

    And MJ, you basically say that Harrow and Poythress need tampons. What makes anyone think Poythress will have monthly bleeding again this fall?

  30. SexnNursinHomes
    6:57 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    22- haha

    Scooby, thanks for the recommendation. I think I will go out and buy Miguel’s new album. I bet hit bumps!!

  31. LionGeneral
    7:10 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    You could say this for any team in America. Calipari doesn’t need these assets any more or any less than any other Division I coach striving for a title. Nevertheless, a very well written post.

  32. Superfly
    7:35 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    “If that year’s high school class is good, we will be good. If not, we will struggle.”


  33. barn
    7:44 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    our team was dead in the water when harrow went home with his mysterious illness and missed 7 games.

  34. John
    8:36 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, don’t forget having guards who can defend.

  35. ForgettingSomething?
    8:48 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    FREE THROWS! The truth that no one talks about is that if we were even an average foul shooting team we would have won two, maybe three, more games and walked into the tourney. Cal had better realize the importance of foul shooting and right soon, or else people will beat us simply by being deep and hacking.

  36. I Say
    8:54 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    20 Scooby I bet you also think Future and Waka are good lyrical rappers too.

  37. dude
    8:58 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    who the eff is Miguel

  38. Bulldawg
    9:17 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Scooby, Since you are such a big fan of Manuel, maybe you should tell him to pursue a career in wrestling as Ray Mysterio the 3rd. He definitely has an effective leg drop from the top rope. Oh and about that wack ass country and alternative? Well you can go to any street corner in the city and almost everyone on the corner can beat box and rap (including me) but how many of those “talented” people can actually play a musical instrument like a guitar and sing at the same time? That’s what I thought. I like all genres of music. I RESPECT any musician that actually has talent whether I like it or not. I won’t call them wack just because I can’t do what they do. But these rappers that auto tune all their rap songs and get very talented women or Justin Beiber sing their “hooks” for them are not even real musicians. Almost anyone can rhyme words and put it to a beat. It takes real talent to play an instrument and sing. Having said all of this. I actually like Miguel, but for you to think this guy is worthy of polishing Conway Twitty’s boots is laughable at best. Oh and a million records? Do you realize how many people are on this planet? A million seems like a lot, but as Matt Jones would say, “In the grand scheme of things” that really ain’t that shit.

    GO CATS!!!!!

  39. eh...
    9:23 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    “There were a number of problems on last year’s team that if fixed, could have guaranteed a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s group was riddled with at least a dozen deficiencies that if they had been corrected, could have helped win or two more games and ultimately snuck the Cats into March Madness. ”

    hope the guy that wants all-access to write a book can get a decent editor.

  40. Scooby
    9:31 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    I actually am a musician pursuing a degree at NKU. You think the other singes don’t auto tune? Lol almost every artist auto tunes their voice. That’s why there are only a handful of people that sound halfway decent live. So almost anyone can rap? Rap takes no talent? Are you serious? Some aren’t as good as others but what guys like jay-z and Kendrick Lamar make it an art for… So Biggie and Pacific have no talent? Tupac went to juliard… What about snoop and dreams? You can drop a beat at any moment and they can freestyle and tell a story. Eminem, and a few others can do the same…. No talent to rap? I wanna hear you freestyle lol

  41. Scooby
    9:32 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Pac*… Dang autocorrect!

  42. TimeFor9
    9:36 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    leave Scooby alone…he is clearly Miguel

  43. KcMunk
    10:06 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Is that Dakari Johnson?

  44. Bulldawg
    10:31 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Actually I would love to free style for you or play you one of my songs. I have played in public many, many times. I have written a few songs and I play the guitar. I ain’t skeert!!! Tupac is my favorite wrapper and he was very talented. It does take talent to be able to freestyle and make words rhyme without being corny. However, just because someone can rhyme and talk fast doesn’t really make them a musician. Now, if you can play music, and sing, as well as rap, then in my opinion, you are a musician. In my post I said that I like ALL genres of music. Yes, that does include rap. Although I am more old school (Ghetto Boys, Easy E, Snoop, Dre, Bone Thugs). I know now days a lot of artists use auto tune. You said country and alternative are wack. My point is, it takes MORE talent to actually sing and play an instrument and yet you put it down. That’s just hatin’ to hate. I guess this would be an easy way to some it up for you. Go to most rap concerts and the main guy raps into his mic and dances around. I went to a Kid Rock (which raps! and sings! plus uses auto tune! and I still like him) concert and he was all over the place and ended up playing almost every instrument on the stage. That is a musician!!!!! Again I say, I like some rap. However, I am not closed and feeble minded enough to like only one genre of music. I enjoy all types of music that are performed by actual musicians. You don’t have to hate country just because you like rap. A lot of rap songs are entwined with country songs now a days. If you truly want to be a musician, and you probably want to perform as a rapper, but if you want to be next level, you should broaden your horizons and take little things from each type of music. Otherwise, you will sound like just another rapper… To quote a legend “I ain’t mad atcha, got nuttin but love for ya, do yo thang boy.” Just don’t hate on other people doing their thing just because it’s different. You might hate 90% of country songs, but if you actually listened to some of it, you mind find that some of it relates to you too. Everybody falls in love. Open your mind.

  45. UKBlue1!
    10:48 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    This is about the 10 article which playing time has been mentioned. This should not be a huge issue. We have about 10 players that will/should receive action. There are 200 minutes in a game. If the starters all average 25 minutes a game. This still leaves. 15 minutes per games for the remaining 5. I wouldn’t be suprised to see a redshirt thrown on a freshman or two either.

  46. Absolutely
    11:07 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    #35- you are absolutely correct. More games are won and lost at the free throw line than any other way. If you go back and look at the 2012 team, as good as they were, there were a lot of games they very easily could have lost had they not hit their free throws. More times than not your NC team is a good free throw shooting team. If you have the talent to put an opponent down, then you need to be able to hit free throws when they start fouling to stop the clock and not give them the chance or the confidence to think they can come back. Free throws, especially late game as mentioned, are just extra daggers in the heart.

  47. BigJoeBlue
    11:33 am May 20, 2013 Permalink

    Lessons learned self centered prima donnas will never work and Caliparri is a recruiter not a coach.

  48. harry
    12:25 pm May 20, 2013 Permalink

    that we should never lose to a law firm

  49. harry
    12:25 pm May 20, 2013 Permalink

    of Robert Morris

  50. Jordan
    3:04 pm May 20, 2013 Permalink

    26- LMAO i thought the same thing! plus I believe he gave the girl to his right a super Hulk Hogan leg drop

  51. jake
    3:32 pm May 20, 2013 Permalink

    did that dude break his leg hahaha

  52. Linda Taylor
    4:41 pm May 20, 2013 Permalink

    40(Scooby) – Tupac went to juliard? Really? Have enough respect to spell the name of the top arts school in the country correctly, Julliard. I can find zero evidence he ever went there. There have been plays in his honor performed there, but from everything I can find, he was not a student there.