Luke Winn loves Kentucky right now. He reportedly told SI’s Seth Davis that the Cats were “hotter than that Hansel.” While that may be going a bit far, Winn definitely expressed his respect for UK in his latest and greatest post, “Making a few New Year’s revisions to my preseason presumptions.”
Preseason Presumption No. 2: That North Carolina was on a tier above every other team.
Reality: The elite tier of title contenders consists of four teams: Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina and Syracuse. And probably in that order, even though the Orange are No. 1 in the polls, and the only one of the four that’s undefeated.
The fact that Kentucky is on par with these teams — beating the Tar Heels narrowly in Lexington on Dec. 3, and with one, respectable loss to IU — despite having so much growth potential should make the Wildcats a slight favorite. Freshmen forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis, both All-America candidates, have carried the team while fellow frosh Marquis Teague is still figuring out how to be an effective point guard, and the guy who was expected to be their best player in the preseason, Terrence Jones, has been either injured or shell-shocked. Jones should wake up. Teague should get better. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist have yet to hit their peaks. Once everyone gets in sync, UK could start to pull away from the pack.
I realize that most of you are nursing the headache you received after repeatedly banging your head against the wall last night, but Luke’s right. Kentucky is clearly not in sync. I could make some 98 degrees or Backstreet Boys joke, but that would just subtract from his point.
As Ian Eagle expressed yesterday, it is difficult to carry over any realistic assumptions about Kentucky from year to year. Given their youth and inexperience, both the end result and the means by which they get there is unique to each team. Like Cal seemingly says every year (or three times a year), the young guys don’t listen to him until they see with their own eyes that they will fail without him. After shooting 29% from the field against Louisville, Kentucky came out against the People’s Republic of Arkansas Little-Rock and shot 39% in the first half. (h/t @johnclayiv). However, after Cal addressed his team during halftime, the Cats improved to 60%. Hopefully last night was a turning point for this team.
Bottom line: this team will be breathtaking when they get on the same page. Maybe the Breakfast Club is lacking its Emilio Estevez. Maybe Teague needs to have a chat with Lil’ Penny. Or maybe they need Chad Sanders back on the bench. Either way, this team will be very good. They just won’t become great until they find a way to reach their potential together.