1) If Rajon Rondo were a football player, he would be listed as an Athlete, not a position player. As I said on KSR this past summer — and was promptly crucified for — his point guard skills (vision, passing, ability to run a half-court offense) are totally unrefined. He is a tremendous penetrator, can be a terror on defense (kudos to Stallings for taking Rondo out of the game defensively), and is creative and difficult to stop in the open court. Because Pitino is stubborn and wanted to stop Sparks, who effectively stops himself most nights, all of these talents were on display in the UL game. Watching the game last night, I tried to decide whether he’d become selfish or whether the deficiencies I had seen in him were merely more noticeable because UK’s offense was more half-court. I think it is the latter. I look at him, and I see someone who has been handed the keys of an offense he doesn’t understand (whether that’s his fault or Orlando’s, I will not speculate) and asked to display skills he doesn’t necessarily have. He’s probably one of the top 10 or 15 players in the country, but if I wanted someone to run my offense, he wouldn’t be near the top of my list.
2) Morris looked really, really good. He looked to be in good shape, he was much quicker than I remember him being, and he was a shot-blocking force underneath. Most importantly, he hustled and showed a ton of emotion. He’ll end up being a huge force inside for the Cats. Like last year, though, he is a dreadful passer. If he could improve that aspect of his game, it really might open things up for people like Moss, Bradley and Sparks (if on).
3) Joe Crawford did some really nice things off the dribble, but he also over-penetrated several times. I think he has a ton of talent, but he needs to play within himself. Those passes off the dribble to Moss reminded me a ton of UofL’s offense with Jenkins or Dean driving to the middle and kicking to a shooter. He’s a dangerous enough penetrator that he can draw defenders down and kick out to an open shooter. I’d like to see more of that in the future.
4) Celebrations after baskets were strangely individual only. When Ravi Moss went on his little streak, he did this whole bob-the-head, you can’t guard me routine, but the rest of the team seemed unenthused. Randolph Morris’ late tip-in was the same way; he pounded his chest, while his teammates just kind of sat there.
5) This is still a good team and one that can get better. As Morris gets game experience and Patrick Sparks pulls out of his winter blahs (I honestly think he is clinically depressed and that is affecting his play), this team will begin to round into form. Don’t abandon ship — this is still a tourney team, and a good performance there will make you forget about Indiana, Kansas and Vandy.